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I am picky about my little boy's clothes. Ridiculously picky, actually. So many rules: no characters (with some limited exceptions), no slogans, nothing violent, nothing stupid, blah blah blah. And yes, I definitely have a soft spot for some of the higher end (and higher priced) kids' clothes retailers (Tea Collection, I am looking at you!). However, the majority of my baby's non-thrifted clothes come from moderate-to-low priced lines, and I'm pretty typically able to find many more options than he could ever wear for cute things to buy. Because of this, I find the complaints about the lack of nice, non-misogynistic clothes available for little boys puzzling. I seriously wonder if it's a difference in taste or in where we shop that puts me on one side of this question and the majority of my fellow small-boy-mom friends on the other. With the purpose of perhaps figuring it out, I pulled together a quick collection of moderately priced and currently available toddler boys' clothes, from common stores (Target, which is my favorite; Old Navy; and Kohl's). All of these things should be accessible either in-store or online, all are moderately priced (typically $8-$15), and I think all are crazy cute. There is, however, a caveat--unlike the more "upscale" brands, where I can pretty much pick up anything and think it's nice, finding these items does require a little bit of digging, either virtual or in-store. You have to get through the obnoxious character stuff to get to these more subdued and classic pieces. But lucky you, this time I did that for you!

Target

Old Navy

Kohl's

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Those are cute! I really like the choo choo one from Old Navy.

My 3 year old has some of those fake layered long sleeve shirts and the only thing I don't like about the light colored sleeves is he gets them really grubby. That might be a testament to my laundry abilities though.

Megan, it's not you, it's the shirts. Light colors just stain more when subjected to a child doing the things children are supposed to do.

I totally agree. What's not cute about stripes, trains, robots, cutesie monsters?

I have a harder time finding cute but not nauseating girls clothes, especially now that she loves frills, and dresses that spread out, and lace, and tulle. I swear, it all comes with butterflies AND sparkles AND ruffles. I think they need to follow that rule of thumb during design when you put all your girlie elements together and then remove 2.

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And the thrift gods smiled

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One of the "tips" I give to people who ask for advice on successful thrifting is this:

If you find one or two nice things in the size you're looking for, that could be a fluke. If you find three or more, you should consider it a set and keep digging.

Which is to say, typically people donate to thrift stores in bulk. You don't take just a few items, especially with kids' stuff--you take a big bag or a lot of big bags. And if you just brought in one or two things that are in the size/style I am after, chances are you brought more.

The other day, I had one of the most awesome thrift trips I've ever had, and it absolutely demonstrated this principle. I am after things for the next size/season for the baby (who really is a toddler these days...), so I started in the baby section. I immediately pulled a couple of 3T sized Tea Collection items off the rack. Oooh, I thought, this has potential. But alas, the rest of the baby section was bereft of anything that caught my fancy. Still, something told me there was more where the two shirts from Tea came from, and my store is really not good about having a clear line between what they consider "baby" clothes and what they consider "kids'" clothes, so I went to have a look at the big kids' racks.

And then it happened.

Y'all, my kid has a whole new wardrobe, from brands I'd never shell out for new. In his next three sizes. After I realized I'd found a goldmine, I sifted through all of the kids' clothes, then waiting as they brought out new racks. Someone had clearly dropped off their very well dressed young boy's wardrobe, and damned if I didn't leave that store with the majority of it.

From Jacadi, three polos, a button-down, a long-sleeved tee, a pair of long pants, and a pair of short pants:
Jacadi.jpg

From Mini Boden, five short-sleeved tees, three long-sleeved tees, a polo, a sweater, and a pair of shorts:
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From Tea Collection, one short-sleeved tee, two long-sleeved tees, one polo, three button downs (one new with tags), one sweatshirt, one pair of pants, one pair of shorts, and one jacket:
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Then, there were the one or two-offs. A Hatley raincoat. A new with tags Papo de Anjo button down shirt. An Olive Juice hoodie. Three Splendid polos. A pair of shorts and a t-shirt from Appaman. It just went on and on. In total, I got over 50 pieces!

This trip completely re-energized me for thrifting, and I once again really want to be able to say that all, or at least the great majority, of the clothes I buy for both myself and my son are secondhand. Has anybody out there done that--used clothes only? How did it go for you?

2 Comments

That's an awesome haul! I haven't been successful with individual thrift stores, but I do get the bulk of both kids' wardrobes at two different semi-annual consignment sales. I'll supplement here and there with new (sale) items, but most everything comes from these sales. My fave find from the last sale was a set of adorable Hanna Anderson PJs for $2.00. They were practically brand new. It's also fab for holiday and party outfits. I have a girl who really just wants "dresses that spread out" which can be pricey. I want her to be able to play and rough house and still wear her froofy frocks, so shopping used makes me happy to send her off to play in the mud in her "spread out" dresses.

I think the worst ratio we've gotten down to was 65% hand me downs/thrifted and 35% new - because for older kids, finding thrifted pants that still have KNEES is really hard. And because... we didn't plan well for cold weather so we ended up buying hoodies at the store, he likes red so we got him some red shorts and sweatpants new, pajamas for cold weather are also tough to thrift, and a cute t-shirt always jumps out at me at Target dammit. Otherwise it would have been like 80%+ used clothes for him around here, we've been very fortunate and I did some "stock up" shopping a couple of years ago.

But the hand me downs and the stock-up items are starting to run out and we're going to need to buy more, so I'm trying to figure out how to make the time to do enough thrifting to stock up.

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First birthday gift ideas

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Hard as it is for me to believe, I am about to have a one year-old. My kid's first birthday is only a couple of weeks away. And so, of course, I'm thinking about presents, and not just presents for my specific kid, but what make good gifts for this age group. I clearly remember all the times, pre-kid, when I would go shopping for a gift for a friend's child or a family member and look at all the possibilities and feel distinctly overwhelmed. So, I decided a blog post about first birthday gift ideas was in order.

And, lucky for me, I have an expert on hand to consult! My friend E., who gave me all that great advice about what I needed to have on hand for a new baby? She's back and better than ever, this time with advice about the best and most useful toys for those between one and two (her boys just turned two last month). And, as before, she's comprehensive, insightful, and all-around brilliant.

1. Musical instruments, especially percussion
I know a lot of people are shaking their heads already, and I won't pretend I'm not one of them. Just what my already loud kid needs, a drum! But the truth is that toddlers bang on things, and they might as well be getting early exposure to instruments in the process right? There are a million and one options in this category, but here are a few I like (click the picture to go to Polyvore for information on each item):

First Birthday #1: Instruments

2. Music to listen to
I'm not at all well-versed in this category, but I have gathered a few recommendations:

First Birthday #2: Music

3 Art stuff
I'm super excited about this category. There are lots of art supplies for which 1-2 is just too young, but some are safe for the younger set, as long as you don't mind a mess! Some ideas:

First Birthday #3: Art Supplies

4. Vehicles or stuff with wheels
Another category I am excited about. I don't know if it's my internal gender stereotyping coming out or what, but I am super drawn to vehicle-type toys for E. And there are so many great options!

First Birthday #4: AThings with Wheels

5. A big dishtub or something, for "washing" toys/dishes, and practicing pouring
This is one I never would have thought of, and I don't think it necessarily requires suggestions. My plan is a dish pan or two from the dollar store, or something re-purposed from around the house.

6. Tub toys, like boats
We're very into this category lately at my house, since the bath is E.'s favorite thing. We actually have a couple of these toys:

First Birthday #5: Bath Toys

7. A couple of really cool alphabet, colors, seasons/weather, vehicle, family, and parts-of-the-body books - toward the end of year one, books about feelings are good, too.
This is category in which I can see certain of E.'s grandparents going a bit nuts! And honestly, I'm tempted myself. There are amazing books available for small children these days. These are just a few:

First Birthday #7: Books

8. A couple of good stuffed animals/dolls.
A doll is something I never really thought about getting for E.--in truth, I'm a little bit creeped out by them--but he loves the ones in day care, so it's definitely on my list. None of the options I've seen thrill me overly much, but here are a few ideas:

First Birthday #8: Dolls

9. A small stepstool, for looking out of windows or reaching things
We actually have one of these that was Mark's when he was a kid, which I love. It has his name on it and everything. That said, if you were on the lookout for one, these are some I'd consider:

First Birthday #9: Stools

10. Cards with pictures on them (not necessarily flash cards) - photos or drawings of people or animals. (These get destroyed, so don't get too attached to them or spend too much money on them.)
Isn't this a crazy good idea? This is the kind of thing I never would have thought of, but I can totally see the appeal. And the possibilities are so endless. Another smart thing my friend does is puts flashcards in those pocket photo albums, creating sort of flip-books for her kids, who love them.

Here are a few ideas:

First Birthday #10: Cards

11. Jars and bottles
Here's one I wouldn't have believed had I not seen it with my own eyes--babies/toddlers LOVE jars, bottles, tubs, and tubes! And you can just give them a cleaned out version from whatever you've got--water, jam, peanut butter, shaving cream...the sky's the limit! You can also fill a bottle with glitter, water, food coloring, small toys, or a world of other things for sensory play--there are a couple of these in E's day care and he loves them. Just make sure the cap it on tightly!

12. Scarves and hats
Dress up clothes! I swear, the joy of dress up clothes was one of my Top 10 reasons for having a baby. I am so very, very excited about them. But again, there's no need to spend a ton of cash here, or even buy anything--the kid will be just as thrilled with old stuff you've got around, or thrift store stuff. I cannot wait for E. to get interested in this type of thing.

13. Kitchen stuff (doesn't have to be toy-kitchen stuff - Tupperware containers, silicone spatulas, old pots and pans, empty spice containers)
Once again, your cast-offs are probably going to be the best of these toys. That said, who can resist play food and dishes? Some of my favorites:

First Birthday #13: Play Food/Dishes

14. Big balls and little balls/bean bags for throwing
Over the past few weeks, balls have become HUGE at my house. E. can even say "ball" now. And there are so many varieties of balls to choose from!

First Birthday #14: Balls

15. Walker or push toy
This is another category that is growing in popularity at my house, and again, so many great options available! We have the one I show here with the blocks in it, and it is much loved.

First Birthday #15: Walkers/Push Toys

16. Blocks
Once again, a popular choice at my house, and something of which there are endless variations. Also, fun for adults! Some I like (several of which we have):

First Birthday #16: Blocks

Wow! Tell me that wasn't helpful!? I'm so excited to have this list to refer to, both for my kid and for future gift-giving. Thank you so much, E!

6 Comments

So much cute fun stuff! My Dh's favourite game for that age was to build a tower of blocks across the room before our eldest could crawl over and knock them over. lol

Under music, you have They Might Be Giants's Here Comes Science. That is an excellent CD but I think it is for older kids. For toddlers, I'd do their ABCs and 123s. Then be sure to buy Here Comes Science in a couple of years. :) A couple more recs: Gather Round: Songs for Kids and Other Folks, and the Fisher Price Sing Along Favorites.

Oh and the Haba blocks that you have pictured in the last picture, lower right - my kids both love them.

My go to gift for babies and toddlers before I had kids was always books. Now that I have kids (though mine are teens now), I have more ideas and can ask/gauge a kids interest a bit more. If in doubt though, I go back to the books because you can't have too many books.
Good wooden blocks are always a hit too, though I'd probably give those to an older kid. I'm keeping the blocks my kids have - my 14 yo still pulls them out and builds with them occasionally.
For kitchen toys, my kids had a set of plastic vegetables that came in 2 pieces, attached by Velcro. They could "cut" them in two with the plastic knife. It even came with a little cutting board. Those veggies even came in handy in preschool/kindergarten when they would have to bring in some number of items starting with the letter of the week.

Great suggestions. To add on: music. Ralph's World is great and we don't like Veggie Tales generally (too religious) but Silly Songs with Larry is a must have. Books: Dear Zoo is the best book ever for this age group. Also, Duplos! Fun for years!

Best one-year-old birthday gift, hands down? A harmonica. ALL toddlers (and big kids too) love them! I can't believe Emil is already 1. Excited to see how much he's grown since last summer. If you have time during your visit for Mitch's wedding, let's plan a cousin play date!

Another music recommendation: Laura Veirs - Tumble Bee. She went to my small college. I didn't know her then, but have heard her at reunions since and LOVE this kids album.

Totally ditto the harmonica suggestion! Pure joy.

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Nursing and convenience parenting

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I've posted before, here and elsewhere, about my extreme indifference, bordering on enmity, towards breastfeeding. It was just not something I looked forward to about being a mom. For years, I didn't think I'd even attempt it, and then, before my kid was born, I decided I would attempt it, but with no pressure on myself to do anything other than try. I had no "I'll nurse for X months" goal, and I had a stockpile of formula ready for when it didn't work out, or when I hated it too much to continue.

Ten months in to my child's life, I am still pretty indifferent. Breastfeeding has been easy and more or less painless for me. The baby took to it easily, I have plenty of milk, even pumping has never been a problem. The unused formula has long since been given away, never having been needed or even considered. But I don't like it. I don't feel it bonds us, at least not any more than any of the other million mundane parenting tasks I do every day. While I in no way find it gross, or uncomfortable, I do find it inconvenient, and, increasingly, intrusive. As I've heard so many women say over the years, I'm ready to have my body back.

But I'm not going to wean.

Why? Given my lack of a breastfeeding timeline goal, and my feeling that the negatives of doing it are starting to outweigh the positives, wouldn't weaning make sense? At this point, I don't think so. In only two more months, my baby will be a year old (wow, already?!). At that point, the American Academy of Pediatrics gives the OK to start giving cow's milk. He's eating an ever-increasing amount of food (and seems to prefer it to nursing), and only nursing/getting bottles of pumped milk 4-6 times a day. It seems to me, perhaps foolishly, that if I'm willing to wait a couple more months to start the process, I may be able to wean him so slowly and gradually that he'll not much know the difference. Or he may do it himself. That will make it one less thing that I have to put him through or "train" him into/out of, and that, unlike whatever health benefits he is still getting at this age, makes it worthwhile to me to wait. In short, I'm willing to wait because I think it will be easier.

This sheds light on one of the parts of parenthood I didn't necessarily expect. I expected to be willing to do things I don't want to do because they are what my baby needs--that seemed obvious from my first diaper change. I expected to prioritize his comfort and happiness over my own much of the time. But I didn't expect to be so willing to make compromises to my preferences for the sake of making things easier. Not necessarily better, just easier. It isn't in the books, but a lot of infant parenting, at least in my experience, comes down to maximizing utility and convenience. Were I to wean the baby at this point, I'd have to start dealing with formula--that would add a complication to my life. I'd have to deal with "explaining" to a pre-logic baby why he can't nurse anymore when he still wants to--another complication. It's worth the inconvenience of continuing to nurse and pump to avoid those inconveniences. At that end of the day, the metric isn't "what's best for him and best for me?" but rather "what's easiest for both of us?"

In the specific example of nursing, I assume that at some point, probably not too far down the road, the convenience metric will change and then nursing will cease (and I will quietly rejoice). But the more interesting thing, to me, is the window this provides into how parenting decisions are actually made on the ground. When this was all theoretical to me, I never would have expected to value the convenience of an established nursing relationship over my own complete body autonomy. Nor would I have expected that convenience to be, in reality, more important to me than the more tangible benefits of breast milk. It's one of those interesting ways in which the idea of parenting and the reality of it are just miles apart.

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Essential Baby Gear: 10 Months In

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The last time I made a post about baby gear we're finding essential, my baby was 10 weeks old. I'd intended to do one every couple of months, but time management and intentions rarely match up these days. So I'm coming back to it now, with a nearly ten month old baby. The only things mentioned in my ten week baby gear posts that are still in heavy rotation are the AppleTV and the Bravado Body Silk Seamless Nursing Bras--things for me more than for him (though the AppleTV has become a delivery vehicle for vintage Sesame Street episodes). Things change fast when you're a baby! Lately, we have a whole new bunch of essential items.

Essential Baby Gear at Ten Months

Essential Baby Gear at Ten Months on Polyvore

1. aden + anais Muslin Dribble Bibs/Burp Cloths: we received a bunch of these as gifts before Buzzy was born, and during the first few months, they were ostensibly to be used as burp cloths. They weren't all that useful then, because he almost never spit up and I rarely used burp cloths at all. Now, they are my best friends. As bibs, they have two important elements (besides just being cute)--they close with a snap instead of Velcro (my talented child has no problem ripping off a Velcro closure bib) and they wrap around, providing more coverage to his clothes. We pretty much never use any other bibs.

2. Evenflo Triumph Convertible Car Seat: I did a lot of research before I pulled the trigger on buying Buzzy's first non-bucket car seat, and considered a number of models that are significantly more expensive than the Triumph, but the Triumph ultimately seemed like the best value for the money and we're extremely pleased with it. So much so that we actually bought two, one for each vehicle! It's a sturdy seat, easy to install, with a reasonably high rear-facing weight and height limit. The best part, though, is the side knob you use for tightening the straps. Not hand-tightening the straps is so, so great. That alone makes this seat worth more than it costs.

3. cloud b Twilight Turtle Constellation Night Light: OK, so this one is a nice-to-have, but it's really nice to have it, and well worth the $25 or so it costs. This little guy sends a whole wall and ceiling full of light-up stars up for 45 minutes after we put Buzzy down in his crib, and looking at them definitely helps him go to sleep/back to sleep when he's not quite there. As any infant parent knows, things that help them go to sleep? Worth their weight in gold.

4. Carlson Extra-Wide Walk Through Gate with Pet Door: We tried a cheaper gate before we bought this one, but it was flimsy, hard to open and close, and the pet cut-out in it was nowhere near big enough for our largest cat. This gate, however, is perfect. It's super sturdy, easy to open and walk through, and the pet door is a real pet door--even a small dog could fit through it easily.

5. Ikea Antilop High Chair: This thing is a cult classic for a reason! It's not beautiful, but it's structurally sound, super easy to clean, and dirt cheap.

6. Infant's Advil Dye-Free Concentrated Drops: Four teeth and one ear infection in, I worship at the altar of Infant Advil. Three packs of it from Costco, dude.

7. Diono Easy View Back Seat Mirror: Some people think back seat mirrors are a distraction. I think not being able to see if the noises my kid is making mean he's choking or singing is a distraction, so I love this mirror. It attaches easily and is really maneuverable, so it works in both our small car and our mid-size SUV/crossover thing. We had another type of cheaper mirror for a while and it wouldn't stay in place and drove me nuts. This one doesn't do that. It makes life better when things just work, you know?

8. The First Years Gumdrop Slim Neck Bottles: Once the slow-flow of infant bottles started making Buzzy angry, it took us several tries to find a bottle he liked. I was so happy he decided these were the way to go, though--they're cute, cheap, don't have any dumb characters on them, and the mouths are the correct size to attach directly to the pump, so no pump bottles are needed. Yay for fewer bottles to wash!

9. Carter's 3-Piece Jersey PJs: Pajamas were a little bit of an issue around here for a while. Buzzy has a very long torso and was growing out of one-piece footed pajamas bizarrely fast, while simultaneously deciding that he hated having his clothes changed. Many two piece pajamas worn tight, to reduce fire danger or somesuch. These are almost impossible to get on to the body of a squirming, pissed off, chunky baby. Enter these wonderful, loose sets from Carter's, which come with a t-shirt style shirt and coordinating shorts and pants. They're lightweight, easy on and off, and also adorable. We seriously have five sets.

10. Plum Organics Baby Food Pouches: Buzzy has been eating an increasing amount of solid food, mostly in the form of purees, since he was about four months old. For the most part, I make it myself, but nothing beats the convenience of a shelf stable pouch, especially for traveling. There are several decent brands that use organic ingredients and nothing that sketches me out, but Plum is my favorite. They have some great combinations, including raspberry, spinach, and Greek yogurt (pictured), and my personal favorite, sweet potato, mango, and millet.

Add to my list! What are your essentials for a baby at this stage?

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Great post. Good baby stuff at 10 months.

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The Working Mom Mirage

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Catching sight of myself reflected in the glass door on the way out of the day care, I'm shocked. The woman is weighed down, a baby on one hip, lugging a diaper bag and a purse. Her keys dangle precariously off her finger. At first glance, she's what is often called "put-together," with office appropriate slacks and heels, everything fitting correctly, everything coordinated. If you look closely, though, you notice the makeup settling in the fine lines between her eyes. You notice errant strands of silver escaping the blown straight brown plane of her hair. You notice the kind of bags under her eyes that come from an undergrad pulling an all-nighter, or from the concentrated lack of sleep of infant parenthood. She looks like something in an ad, perhaps encouraging you to buy frozen food, a time-saving appliance, or a magic app to help you organize your busy day. You know, without seeing it, that her practical car is littered with Starbucks cups, that she's tried to remember to re-run the load of laundry that's molding in the washer for the last three nights running, that the baby on her hip will almost certainly get a balanced dinner tonight, but she's been hitting the drive through a lot lately. I hardly recognize myself, looking at her--she's so completely the Working Mom.


In my previous ignorance, I'd assumed the Working Mom was an intentional construct, something women decided to become. I saw them, at Target or the library or in cars I passed, their smooth veneers plucked and polished and ironed, the barely contained disorder underneath very rarely visible to my glance. Somewhere in the back of my consciousness I admired them for their ability, still theoretical to me, to balance the spheres of their lives and keep all the balls in the air. Much like one is often told childbirth and nursing will just come naturally, because they're "what you're made to do," I believed, in some dark and not well examined part of me, that they were what I was meant to become. I thought I'd have a baby, go back to work, and slip squarely into their not-too-high heels. Armed with my cell phone and my caffeine addiction, I'd flit from meetings to doctor's appointments to soccer games, always in an appropriate outfit. It wouldn't be without effort, but it would feel innate. There would be no learning curve.


To the strangers and acquaintances I pass as I'm hustling my kid from the day care to the car, calculating that if traffic isn't too bad, I'll have almost an hour once we get home to get him fed and bathed before bedtime, it probably looks as if I did slip naturally into this role. I'm not crying, I'm not babbling, I'm not even wearing stained yoga pants or leaking through my shirt. Sure, a close inspection will make clear I'm a little tired and in a bit of a rush, but who isn't? To the extent that success means convincing those around you that you're capable, competent, even thriving, I've got this. But the chaos underneath bubbles so vigorously that I'm not convinced it will ever feel normal. It certainly doesn't now. 


I don't really have trouble leaving my son at day care. I know he's well cared for, he seems to enjoy it, and our schedule means I don't often have to do drop off, so even if there were dramatics with that, I would mostly miss them. I don't feel guilty. I don't think strangers are raising my kid. The adjustment from seeing him all day every day to seeing him for only a couple of waking hours a day during the week is bracing, but I believe that if we're not both better for it already, we will be before too long. The part I expected to be hard isn't that hard at all. Unfortunately, the part I expected to be easy is pretty rough. Things that don't sound at all difficult--making sure all the fiddly pieces of my breast pump make it into my bag every morning, keeping my son's newly running nose wiped, buying dog food--are suddenly overwhelming. Days are no longer made up of hours, but of the mere minutes in between needing to be somewhere and needing to do something. It will be easier once we have a routine, I tell myself at least ten times a day. It will be easier once he's weaned. It will be easier once he sleeps through the night. Likely it will be. But time is needed, too, to make those things happen. Time and patience, concentration and effort, and all of these are things that are in shorter supply than I'd have guessed possible. 


I am, on the whole, enormously lucky. I have a job I like, which provides me with both a very good salary and the flexibility that is so important to parenting (and so hard to come by). I have a partner who loves his work, who has taken to parenting quicker and more completely than I'd expected, and who pulls much more of his weight than I'd feared. I have a day care provider whom I can afford (if barely...), who already loves my son. Most of all, I have an incredibly happy, healthy, adaptable baby. With the exception of our lack of local family support (which we feel keenly), my family's situation approaches the two -working parent ideal. But even in these prosaic circumstances, it is highly unlikely that I'll ever really become the Working Mom I appear to be. Things may well get easier over time, but they aren't ever going to get easy. We may well find our groove, but we'll never stay in it for very long before something inevitably changes. It's possible that I'll find time to cover the gray in my hair, or at least remember the laundry before it gets musty, but something else will come up. It's clear to me, even though I am only at the beginning of this journey, that the woman I thought I was meant to be, the Working Mom from the magazines, doesn't exist. We're all just doing the best we can, trying to keep the pieces together and give the impression of serenity. The trick, I think, is in learning to accept the behind the scenes bedlam, to consider it a messy junk drawer that isn't waiting for a free moment to be put to order, but rather is intended to stay that way. We try to remain unruffled, if unsleeping, and rediscover every day that all we can do has to be good enough.

7 Comments

Great post! The way time just disappears is amazing.

I especially appreciate the way you write you do not feel guilty about daycare. I don't at all and I feel like other people will give me the leery eye for that. But I like working and my kid is happy at his daycare.

Great post! Even though my girl was older when I went back to work, and I've been back at it for a couple of years, it's still a work in progress. The lack of time between getting home and bedtime is the worst.

So I have been a working mom for 8 years now and I've found that the difficulty of the mundane stuff is pretty cyclical. There are weeks when I have to go to my oldest's school and sneak food/gym clothes/homework into her backpack several times and there are weeks when I am on the ball and she has everything she needs, every day.

Usually I find myself off game when there is some change in routine. So you no longer need to bring the breast pump parts because baby weaned but you forget to bring the only kind of baby food that baby will eat. Routine makes these things easier.

I definitely agree that I am more scattered now than I was before kids. I'd like to think that I am also better at certain things. I do think it is important we talk about these things so moms don't feel so alone in their (imagined) incompetence.

Oh and my youngest loves daycare too and I don't feel a bit guilty about leaving him. He needs the different scenery and extra kids and since he is a super active little one, I need the time to regroup before we are together again. He does jump into my arms when I pick him up, but he also waves goodbye when I drop him off.

Your post really resonates with me. It's been a HUGE struggle to balance a growing baby, a busy full-time job, home life of playing, chores, meals, etc. and then helping my partner with his business and doing my own side business. I finally realized that I just can't do it all like I could pre-baby. It's had an impact on my personal and professional life that I never would have guessed.

I feel really conflicted about not having any time for my own hobbies or personal interests right now. In order to do anything creative, I either have to ask someone to watch the baby (and I already don't see him for 35+ hours a week) or it has to be something I can do in 20 minute bursts when he's content to play trains by himself or I have to motivate myself to do it after he's gone to bed. And by that time, I'm usually so wiped out, it's hard to care anymore.

I would like to hear more as you all settle (or not) into new routines. Has M felt any of these same things with you going back?

I'm interested in the answer to Julia's Q. Because in my house, it seems like I'm the one who's taken all the hit as far as becoming scatterbraained, keeping up (or not) with all the details and needing an ironclad routine including a checkoff list so everyone gets out the door with a lunch and a jacket if needed, in clean clothes.

What a beautiful and courageous post! If only it would have been available when I started the working mom journey it would have saved me a lot of beating myself up and feeling inadequate about the "junk drawer"!

Thanks for this. I hope all the new working moms out there will read this and save their energy for their relationships, and for remembering that they are still themselves and deserve to have fun once in a while - rather than wasting it on chasing an image of perfection that doesn't exist.

This is my life... totally my life. Two kids and a husband with a dog means everyday is a mad dash to the next activity and we just try to get by the best way we can making sure our babies come out on top even when we feel like we've been beat down. I think you've inspired a post.

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Notes on the return to work

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Things that are easier than I expected about returning to work:

  1. Figuring out what to wear.
  2. Feeling like my kid is being well taken care of in day care.
  3. Pumping.

Things that are harder than I expected about returning to work:

  1. Having to talk to people all day.
  2. Only spending an hour or so a day with my baby.
  3. Making my brain focus on one task at a time.
  4. The tightness of the get the schedule.
  5. Figuring out when the hell I am going to do all the things I was doing during the day while I was home.

Intellectually, I know that all of my current angst is completely typical newly back-to-work mom stuff. I feel like I'm missing out on the baby's life and not seeing him enough. I feel like there are no hours of my day that aren't spoken for. I feel like I'm divided at all times, with half my brain in my cube and half wondering how the baby is, what he's doing, etc. I feel constantly breathless and just on the verge of panic. I'm told this will all get easier as time passes, and I absolutely believe it will, but, like much of the rest of this first-year-of-motherhood roller coaster, the meantime is pretty overwhelming.

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"I feel like there are no hours of my day that aren't spoken for."

THIS.

As they get older, you get more time with them when they're awake, which is good because they are doing more of a variety of things then. But then they don't go to bed... and by the time they do, you're ready for bed yourself... and the whole thing starts over again at 6:45am.

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Nautical Baby Clothes for Spring

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So I have this obsession with baby clothes these days. Probably not surprising, given that I have a newish baby. But baby clothes are so much cuter than I thought! And so much more stylish! This spring, there is a ton of nautical-inspired stuff for babies, and I particularly love that. It's available in both the boys and girls sections, and, to me, it largely reads as gender neutral. The color scheme (navy, gray, red), the stripes, and the motifs themselves (anchors, boats) are refreshingly un-gendered, and also a little bit mature, while still being cute for kids. I just love it.

So, I picked out a few favorite things available right now for kids, at price points across the board. And I'm sitting on my hands not to buy numbers 2, 8, and 16 for my kid!

Nautical Baby Clothes for Spring

Nautical Baby Clothes for Spring by avengingophelia

Here's what we've got:

1. Carter's 2-Piece Tee and Short Set, $13.20
2. Trendy Twin Shop Baby Boy's Anchor Nautical Onesie, $20
3. Gymboree Button Stripe Top, $16.49
4. Boden Baby Applique Jersey Dress, $30
5. Circo Infant Toddler Girls' Pants in Navy Voyage, $5
6. Gymboree Tugboat Submarine Tee, $12.71
7. Cherokee Infant Toddler Girls' Stripe Blazer, $14
8. Boden Baby Vehicle Applique T-Shirt, $20
9. Hatley Infant Boys' Super Soft Day Romper, $29.99
10. Circo Infant Toddler Girls' Jean Shorts--Dark Chambray, $5
11. Le Top Nautical Stripe Tee with Canvas Shorts, $46
12. Circo Newborn Boys' Short-Sleeved Bodysuit--Gray, $5
13. Cherokee Infant Toddler Boys' Short-Sleeved Tee, $6
14. Burt's Bees Newborn Boys' Boat Print Bodysuit--Blue, $9.95
15. Hatley Anchor Long Sleeved Kids' Graphic Tee, $19.95
16. Hatley Blue Whales Boys' Short Set, $39.99
17. Cherokee Infant Toddler Boys' Long-Sleeved Top, $12

What do you think? Seen any awesome nautical baby clothes recently? What am I missing?

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Note: Please realize as you read this that I know breastfeeding is a sensitive and emotionally fraught topic and I am in no way interested in debating it or in hurting anybody's feelings. My thoughts are simply that anybody who wants to breastfeed her child should be supported in doing so. Alternately, anybody who does not want to breastfeed should not be pressured to do so. I also realize I am writing with the enormous privilege of someone for whom breastfeeding was and is extremely easy.

***

I was really unexcited about breastfeeding. I planned to try, but the idea was never appealing. However, six months in, having had pretty well the world's easiest time with it, I'm a big fan. I don't get any warm fuzzy feelings from it; it doesn't feel like a special type of bonding or anything like that, but is is extremely convenient and simple.

Except for the pumping and storing part. Incidentally, that part was pretty much skipped by every professional with whom I've spoken about lactation and most of the non-professionals. While at least two dozen people have given me positioning and latch advice, I don't think anybody every told me how to store breast milk. At least, not until I had been doing it wrong for a while. And so, in the interest of hopefully helping someone out there who is similarly ignorant, I'm going to tell you a couple of things about breast milk storage.

(Please note that this advice all assumes you have adequate supply to stockpile milk.)

The big thing is this: frozen milk takes up a lot of space. We have a small standing freezer, and it's nearly half full of frozen milk. That's with my pumping only once a day, for less than six months, and taking six weeks or so off from pumping completely. In part, my stockpile is taking up so much space because of bad storage practices early on. So much so, in fact, that I have seriously considered throwing out hundreds of ounces of pumped milk in order to free up space. Anybody who has ever felt like she spends her life lashed to a breast pump knows that's a complete travesty.

So you're going to build a pumped milk stockpile. Here's what you need:

Breast Milk Stockpile Supplies

People have all sorts of ideas about the best brands for these things, so I'm just showing you the set-up I use, with which I am quite satisfied. Some people are not at all fans of the Ameda Purely Yours pump, though, so do your own research there. If you're going to be pumping a lot, you definitely want a double electric pump of some kind. Also, if you're planning to pump on a daily or multiple times daily basis, do yourself a favor and get a hands-free pumping bra. Makes the whole task quite a lot less irritating.

I'm not going to go into the logistics of pumping, since that stuff that is both very individual and better shown than told. If you meet with a lactation consultant at the hospital/birth center/whathaveyou (and you definitely should, if you have the opportunity), ask her specifically about pumping. It's not, at least in my experience, completely self-explanatory.

I am interested specifically in talking about storage of your milk once you've pumped it.

Do not do this:
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When I got Snappies in my breastfeeding bag from the hospital, they seemed like such a good idea to my immediately post-partum brain. They were so cute! You could probably put some sort of nipple on them and feed right from them later when you thawed the milk! With an adapter, I could pump right into them! Fabulous!

Space hogs. If you need a large quantity (and if you're stockpiling you will), expensive. Didn't take me long to realize that was a bad idea.

But so was this:
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Breast milk storage bags come handily marked with ounce measurements. They are also those kind of bags that can stand up on their own, so you can stand them up and see how much is in them. That doesn't mean you should freeze them standing up. See those bags on the right in that picture? Those were frozen standing up. And they take up a ton of space, even when they're packed into containers as tightly as possible.

So, how should you do it? Well, here's the best way I've found:

1. Pump.

2. Using a funnel, fill freezer storage bags with milk. My preferred brand is Lansinoh, but other brands are fine, just keep using the same brand once you start with it, so your bags will all be uniform. There are lots of theories as to how much you should fill each bag, but I tend to just let it depend on how much I've pumped in a given session. I never put more than 4-5 oz in a single bag, and never less than 2 oz. So, for example, if I pumped 7 oz in a given session, I'd probably fill one bag to 4 oz and one to 3 oz.

3. Push the air out of the bag and seal it carefully. Make SURE it's sealed.

4. Label the bag with date and amount. Be sure and do this, because the next step will make it so that you can't judge the amount of milk in a frozen bag if it's not labeled, and you need to know when you pumped it so that you don't keep it for too long.

5. Place the bag carefully, flat, on the space you've designated in your freezer for immediate milk storage. It needs to be somewhere you can access quickly, and needs to be able to lie flat there without being disturbed. We already had this set up for freezing flat bags of homemade chicken stock, so I just commandeered it:

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6. Before your put your next bags in, put the ones you last froze (assuming they are frozen solid) in a plastic storage box. I have some from Sterlite that were cheap and are exactly the right size. Line them up sideways, by date:

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When you fill a container, stack it in whatever secondary freezer you have. Keep the oldest milk on top, so that when you need to use it, you'll use it first. According to the card the lactation consultant gave me, breast milk stored in a deep freezer is good for 12 months; 6 months for a refrigerator freezer.

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That's a good breakdown! I never figured that out with my first, but with my second kid, I used this thing. http://www.amazon.com/The-First-Years-Breastflow-Organizer/dp/B000K4YSVI/ref=pd_sim_hpc_3 There's a spring loaded panel that presses the most recent bag flat, and then when you go to put the next bag in, you rotate the newly frozen bag to the back.

Yes, I've never been able to build up a stash of more than a hundred ounces or so at a time. So I was able to just say, "Ooh, that looks handy!" when I saw the storage device, rather than, "Uhh, I guess I'd need a dozen or so of those..."

I don't know how accessible downtown DC is to you, but the Breastfeeding Center has a couple of free classes on pumping and going back to work: http://www.breastfeedingcenter.org/.

Also? You can use a pump horn as a funnel. :)

Oh, and one more thing--when you defrost, put your storage bags in a clean ziploc to defrost. I've dropped frozen bags on the floor, which can make little punctures in the bag, but if you defrost in a clean ziploc, you save any milk that leaks out.

Very informative post, Grace. As someone who EPed for 6 months, breastmilk storage was always a challenge for us.

I never had too much problem with storage, because I mostly pumped only once I went back to work. I only froze milk that was in excess of what my kid would drink the next day or on Fridays. Then I would pull out the oldest milk for Monday.

I think I used to freeze in the drop in liner bags at times and never had any trouble. I don't really remember though as my kids are both teens now. I did just fine with a double pump without a special bra and could still read or eat lunch while I pumped.

I pumped without a hands free bra and still did stuff (just held both horns with one hand or with my forearm), but it certainly is much easier with the hands free bra and I got one for my last baby.

Awesome tips! I have two of those spring loaded things Suzy mentioned as well. They're great for freezing your milk flat and temporary storage. One is actively pulled from for bottles. The other is actively filled as I pump. I use two freezers, so they don't get mixed up, but you can just label them if you only have one freezer. As the one with newer milk fills up, I take the now flat frozen bags out and put them in one of the empty boxes from my nursing pads and label with the date range. Lansinoh storage bags fit perfectly in Lansinoh breast pad boxes. I wonder if that wasn't a coincidence!

Nice! This is stuff I figured out along the way, but so nice of you to post it as a how-to.

I ended up using a shoebox to store the bags after they were frozen flat. I never really had the problem of running out of space, not enough supply.

When I had to wean V due to intolerance issues, I still had about 100 oz in the freezer. I ended up giving it to a friend whose baby tolerated it fine. Might be something to float out there on Facebook or wherever if you genuinely start running out of room to store, or the milk is approaching getting too old to use.

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Musings on thrifting for a baby

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It has come to my attention that I haven't been posting much about thrifting lately. It's not that I'm not doing any thrifting--I tend to hit the thrift store once a week, either with Buzzy in tow or when he's at home with Dad. My recent luck there has been fair-to-middling, I'd say; no amazing scores, but never coming home totally empty-handed. I've also be thrifting for far different things that I used to--namely, things for the baby.

Buzzy always needs clothes, so I always look at those, and I've gotten a few great things and a lot of useful things for $.99-$4.99/item. My best score on that front was an 18-month size Land's End parka, barely worn, found a mere week or so before we headed to the chilly climes of Minnesota for Christmas. Felt good about that one. I scored a $.99 Hanna Anderssen striped onesie that I love. I've snagged a number of pairs of Gymboree pants, which are my preferred brand right now, because they seem to fit him just right. Clothes are a fairly easy one, because I can tell at a glance what kind of shape something is in, and they are completely washable.

Toys are a bit harder. At this stage, when everything goes immediately into Buzzy's mouth, I'm only really willing to thrift toys for him if they are new-in-packaging, or can be completely washed. Basically, that means only hard surface stuff, like the vintage-esque Fisher Price pull phone I brought home recently. I so thought that thing was circa early 80s--it looked just like the one we had when I was a kid!--but the bottom says copyright 2009! I had no idea they still made those. Anyway, something like that can be fully submerged and soaked in hot water and vinegar, then scrubbed, so I feel OK about giving it to him. Things that can't get that treatment, though, I can't quite do yet. Hopefully I'll get over that when he's a bit bigger, as the toy section has always seemed to me to be one of a thrift store's high points.

Another easy-thrift, I've found, is baby linens--receiving blankets, crib sheets, etc. We don't actually need any of those things, having been very generously handed down and gifted a big stockpile, but I did buy him one crib sheet that I just couldn't resist--it has squirrels on it and was just too cute not to bring home. And again, completely hot water washable, so my germ fears are abated. I've also been checking out the fabric section of my thrift store lately, since we are just about out of blankets to use as backdrops for Buzzy's weekly photos, and I'm going to start needing to buy pieces of fabric. WAY cheaper to do that at the thrift store.

I've been thrifting a surprising number of super practical baby-related things new in the package. For example, I've found multiple unopened packages of breast milk storage freezer bags, and a number of unopened packages of pacifiers and bottle nipples. Those kinds of things can be very expensive. For example, a 50-ct box of milk storage bags is around $12 on Amazon, and they're generally $.99 at the thrift store, so if they are brands/varieties I think we'll use, I always grab them when I see them.

The biggest category of successful baby thrifting I've done, though, is for larger items. On my last trip, I came home with a little rocker type chair with a tray for Buzzy. Perfect for him right now, as he is loving sitting up, but isn't quite able to do it on his own yet, but also something that he'll only really use for a few weeks, so I wouldn't want to pay full price for it (probably around $50 for the kind I got). All of the fabric parts are removable/machine washable, so it was easy to clean up so Buzzy could use it, too. As I've mentioned before, Buzzy's pack n' play, changing table, and dresser are also thrifted. The pack n' play was a bit of a challenge, since is is fabric and can't be machine washed, but I satisfied myself with hot water, vinegar, and sunlight, and it has worked out great. Right now, I am on the lookout for three new higher ticket items--a foldable stroller (for the day, coming soon, when the bucket car seat caddy won't work anymore), an exersaucer/walker, and a high chair (I saw one of these for $5 the other day and I wish I'd bought it).

It has been interesting to me, as someone who has for more than a decade been willing to thrift just about anything I want or need, to realize that I do have different "rules" or "standards" when it comes to my baby. Would I thrift shoes for myself? Absolutely, if I could find any. For him? Probably not, unless they were new. Have I ever worried about the possible issues with thrifted furniture in the past? Honestly, no. Am I worried now? Absolutely. Which is probably good, honestly--I've been lucky so far, but that luck would have to run out eventually, and I'd end up with bed bugs or lice or scabies or something. Nothing like looking out for someone else to make you realize the ways in which you've neglected to look out for yourself.

How about you, fellow thrifters. Do you thrift a lot for your kids? What won't you buy? Any tips to make sure thrifted items are really clean before you give them to your baby? Leave a comment!

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I will thrift anything for my son except for car seats (of course). Toys don't bother me. Hard things can be wiped with bleach wipes and soft things can be machine washed. I am very non-paranoid about germs though--I expect most people disagree with me there!

I'm actually a huge fan of thrifting baby shoes - at this age, they put so little wear on them, and outgrow them so fast, it's hard to even tell whether they're brand new or not. I felt like such a sucker the day I bought some cheapie new shoes for $10 at a regular store, then went to the thrift store and found 4 pairs of very nice, like-new, name brand (Robeez, the cutest Converse you've ever seen) shoes that added up to $10 all together. I think I'm going to hold off on buying any new non-thrifted shoes till my kids are actually walking.

I bought our oldest his first non-thrifted shoes a year ago when his feet had outgrown the kids' sizes. Because they lose those things. They wear the shit out of them dragging them on the ground. They get muddy and trashed, and I'd much rather it was a $3 pair of thrifted See Kai Runs than a $42 pair.

As far as toys go, if he were in day care, would he be allowed to play with the toys? Probably, right? So I'm not seeing the difference. Worried about bed bugs? Throw it in the dryer on high. Worried about lice? Ditto. But sooner or later, that naive little immune system will be challenged, and trust me -- better now than in fourth grade.

You have different rules for yourself vs. Buzzy because you don't chew on furniture or suck on your clothes, probably. (Or at least I've never seen you do that.)

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What did Buzzy get??

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I have had a few requests to show you all how Buzzy did on his first Christmas on the outside, and really, how can I resist? I'm extraordinarily proud of our family/friends for getting the little dude such great stuff, in such moderation (remember, this represents a huge family, so even though it's a lot of stuff, it's not a ton per-person), and basically making the present aspect of his first Christmas fantastic. He didn't open a single thing that I cringed about, and most of what he was gifted I just plain love.

Buzzy's Christmas Haul

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Letter to Buzzy #5: Month Three in Oregon

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Dear Buzzy,

I swear, someday I will catch up on these. Now that you're four months old, it seems the least I can do is get your three month letter finished.

We spent a lot of your third month (September) in Oregon, visiting my family and some of our Oregon friends. It was a wonderful trip--so great, in fact, that you and I stayed an extra week, dragging it out to a three-week vacation. These are the perks to having an unemployed mama, I guess!

A lot of things changed while we were in Oregon. You started your sleeping decline (which we're right in the heart of now). You started interacting with people and toys in a completely new way. You met countless people for the first time--grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins...and you charmed everybody. By the time you and I got home, I think you seemed like a totally new baby to your dad.

Another new thing about the trip was my first experience having sole responsibility for you for a long period of time--not only the last two weeks of the trip, but the flight home. You were an absolute angel on both flights, barely crying at all and, on the way home, spending nearly the whole flight asleep in my lap. Flying by yourself with an infant isn't easy, though--I really wished I had more than two hands!

Early in the month, you started laughing, which is an amazing thing. One can never be sure what is going to strike you as funny, but the sound you make when something does is awesome. It makes all the sleepless nights and gritting my teeth through the screaming worth it.

I love you more every day,

Your Mom

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In October, I received three different subscription boxes meant for babies/parents of babies. Since the models of these three programs are so similar, they seemed to me to be screaming to be compared. And I'm just the blogger to do it!

Stork Stack

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Stork Stack's October theme was "Imaginative Play." The stack included:
-Box Play for Kids Caterpillar sticker, est. value $5
-My First Green Toys Twist Teether, est. value $10.50
-Blueberry Pecan Kind Plus Bar & Madagascar Vanilla Almond Kind Nuts & Spices Bar, est. value $1.50 each
-Tinie Dinies Topsey Squeaker, est. value $12
-The Harmonica Pocket Apple apple CD, est. value $8.99

Total est. value: $39.49, or 141% of cost

This month's Stork Stack box was the last of my three-month subscription, and I won't be renewing. Though Stork Stack's are meant to be tailored to the age of your baby, only two of the included items (the teether and the dinosaur) are things my baby is going to be able to play with anytime in the near future. The caterpillar box sticker is cool, but meant for a much older child, as is the CD, and the Kind bars are just an odd addition all around (and why two of them?). At the same time, the caterpillar sticker is the only part of the stack that seems to me to be in keeping with the "imaginative play" theme. For the price tag of $28/month, I just expect a bit more than this box delivers.

Teetheme

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Teethme's September theme (the box came at the end of the month, so I am putting it in with October's other boxes) was "Teethers on the GO!" The products were:
-Itzy Ritzy Snack Happened Reusable Snack Bag, est. value $9.99
-WarmZe Small Starter Kit & Large Starter Kit, est. value $16.95 each
-MAM Learn to Brush Set, est. value $5
-pbnj baby Paci Wipes, est. value $4.95
-$5 gift card to Plum District; and $10 gift code to ecomom

Total est. value (w/o gift cards/codes): $53.84, or 224% of cost

Teetheme is currently out of commission, which I learned before I even opened this box. I have no idea whether they'll be back or not. If they are, I may give them another try. I liked how the products in this box were in keeping with the theme and were useful things, and I especially enjoyed the Itzy Ritzy bag. However, I thought it was really strange that I got both the large and the small sized WarmZe kits, and I wonder if that was just done because there weren't enough age-appropriate items and the box value would have felt too low without the extra one? I thought the box could have used a toy or something interactive to round it out instead.

Citrus Lane

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The theme for the Citrus Lane box was "Fall Fun." It included:
-full-sized tube of BabyGanics Healin' Groovy balm, est. value $7.99
-Little Taggies by Taggies mini blanket, est. value $9.
-Munchkin Soft Shaker, est. value $6.49
-Little Spider from Chronicle Books, est. value $6.95
-DHC Deep Cleansing Oil Mini, est. value $4.99

Total est. value: $35.42, or 142% of cost

I thought this was a great box. Every item in it was/will be useful, and while nothing was over-the-top fantastic, none of it was junk, either. The theme was only loosely followed (not sure how the taggie blanket or the munchkin rattle are fall-centric), but I appreciated that everything was age appropriate to my 3-month old baby--Citrus Lane claims to tailor their boxes to "age and stage," and that was definitely true for this one. I also liked the little "mom treat" of the DHC oil, which I'm interested in trying out. Citrus Lane subscriptions are $25/month, so the value was decent, if not fantastic. I'd get this one again.

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Citrus Lane does seem to tailor their boxes to the baby's age--my 10-month old got a slightly different assortment of items, including a pouch of Ella's Kitchen baby food and a couple of Munchkin sippy cups (instead of the shaker and the blanket). I've been really impressed with the Citrus Lane boxes. It's almost always stuff that we can use, and it's a fun surprise in the mail every month.

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Baby clothes, bargain through boutique

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So one thing about having a little kid is that you are never not clothes shopping, at least as far as I can tell. Buzzy changes sizes approximately every three weeks, so we need a constant influx of clothes. We've been very lucky so far to have met almost all of our clothing needs with hand-me-downs, but we may soon be coming to the end of that (that's what happens when your kid is off-the-charts large). Obviously, my first choice is to thrift all of his clothes, but I know we'll be buying some new stuff as well, and even thrifted, I do look at brands. And, over the course of just three months, I've developed some definite brand preferences. Since these preferences run the gamut from bargain to boutique, I thought I'd share them with you.

Bargain

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Small Wonders Infant Boy's Hat, T-Shirt, and Pants--Tractor, $16.99
I mentioned this in a previous post, but for good, cheap baby clothes, I don't think you can beat K-Mart (note that this does NOT hold true for their bigger kids clothes, which look, at least from what I can tell, to be horrendous). Specifically, there are two lines, Small Wonders and Miniville, that we've had great success with. Our K-Mart clothes have so far all been hand-me-downs, so they've been through a set of twins before Buzzy, and everything has held up spectacularly well. At full price, the outfits, like the one above, aren't THAT cheap, but sales come often and clearance stuff gets very cheap. Basics are also really inexpensive, with good quality onesies costing only a few dollars and really cute sweatshirts and pants available for $5-$7.

Another spectacular bargain is one I have to thank my friend Jenny for turning me onto--YogaColors. YogaColors is the same stuff as American Apparel (the tag even says American Apparel), at a fraction of the price. I've mentioned our love for American Apparel's baby karate pants before--YogaColors has the exact same thing, in all the same colors, for $5-$6/pair. They also have American Apparel's baby lap tees for $5.

Mid-range

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Carter's Puppy Love 3-Piece Cardigan Set, $15

Carter's, I think, is the standard by which all other baby clothes should be measured. They're a classic for a reason. Reasonably priced (and with wonderful sales), good quality, and such cute stuff. I love how many of their little boys' lines are animal-themed, and I love that they are lines, with lots of mix-and-match stuff. We got a very generous big box of the Puppy Love line, shown above, as a gift and I have used the heck out of it--everything in it goes with everything else, and it makes it so easy--especially when traveling. My only complaint about Carter's is their silly reliance on shirts that say things like "Mommy's All-Star" or "Daddy's Best Bud"--we avoid those. Another great thing about Carter's is availability--besides Carter's stores and Carter's outlet stores, their stuff is also found in all of my local discount stores (TJ Maxx, Marshall's, Burlington), and, I recently found out, at Fred Meyer in the PNW. There is also the less expensive Carter's line at Target, though I am less of a fan of that one.

Higher End

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Tea Collection Baby Boy's Infant Hockey Bot Five Piece Set, $128

There are a lot of higher end baby brands, and a lot of them have really great stuff--for a really high price. I can't imagine paying full price for any of it, honestly. However, there are definitely brands that I look for at thrift stores, on Zulilly, etc. Tea Collection is probably the foremost among these. I love the aesthetic of the collection--lots of retro feeling stuff, patterns, fun graphics. The pants are a bit small-waisted, but I think Buzzy is already thinning out through the middle, so I don't think that is going to be a problem. Tea Collection also has really beautiful boxed layette stuff--great for gifts.

Another higher end line I love is BabySoy, specifically the fantastic animal-themed Janey Baby line. Again, great for gifts, and they're my go-to for friends with new babies.

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Zutano Baby-Boys Infant Foxtrot Hoodie Screen Long Sleeve Tee And Pant Set, $81.50

Finally, I have to mention Zutano. I love Zutano. Bright colors, cute patterns, soft cotton--just about perfect. The sizing is whacked out, though--the lower end of the range is really small, and then it starts running large.

Who have I missed? I'm thus far underwhelmed by Gymboree, Children's Place, and Target's baby clothes. Any other great brands I should check out?

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When he gets a bit bigger (so, ya know, next Tuesday) look at OshKosh. It's Carter's owned, so great quality. I find the OshKosh pjs to be nicer quality. And they have lots of fits. 90% of of my kids' stuff is from OshKosh.

Mini-Boden, but only on super-sale, second-hand, etc. They have really cute, animal themed stuff, and wear VERY well. I can also buy pink and purple things for the boys that don't have glitter or ruffles on them, which is nice, since purple is a popular color right now.

Baby Gap is hit-or-miss for us. My favorites seem consistently to be Zutano, Tea, and Mini-Boden.

We also find Baby Gap hit and miss for boys. The palette is VERY dark, which I don't like, but it does wear well, the fabrics are nice, and you can hit some really super sales (regular prices are high, IMO). I don't buy as much boy stuff there as girls' (I had a ton of baby Gap with #1) but we have some, generally more basic items.

I've also been underwhelmed by Target, but the "just one you" Carter's line has all-cotton PJs at a low price--so many of the cheaper ones are poly that does not wear well, so keep it in mind when he graduates from sleepers to pajamas.

I keep meaning to try Mini Boden. I hate stalking sales (Gap sends to my inbox), so wind up paying full price for the expensive stuff and resenting it.

Someone recommended Naartjie to me, but I was underwhelmed by the boys' clothes when I looked.

Funnily enough I was just whining about boys' clothes.

Janie and Jack are very solid and hold up well used. Jacadi, Oilily, and other European brands often show up in thrift stores locally, and are very high-quality. Cotton Caboodle is a PNW local brand of cotton basics that we loved -- their outlet store in Seattle is dirt cheap.

speesees is fantastic. In addition to those you list above, we like hanna andersson, babystyle, bon bebe, mini boden and baby boden. for outerwear, ll bean, columbia and lands' end are our go-tos when possible.

Thanks for the yoga colors tip--hadn't figured that one out yet.

yay kmart and yogacolors.

bigger kids: lands end overstocks. :)

I love that i am your baby clothes reference.

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Letter to Buzzy #4: How's my driving?

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Dear Buzzy,

We have got to decide on a new blog name for you. Buzzy just doesn't work at all with who you are shaping up to be. Maybe I should use one of our real life nicknames. Do you prefer Porkins, Squish, or Big Chief Little Weasel? Your Grandma Penny calls you Puppy; I suppose we could use that.

You're three months old, so I'm finally getting around to writing your two-month letter. Looks like this may be a project on which I am perpetually behind. Since your third month is almost up, I can barely remember what I wanted to write that was second-month specific. Let's see...

Your second month was August, and it was pretty warm. You spent most of it with me, at home, in just a onesie and a diaper. We watched a LOT of TV--House, The Tudors, The United States of Tara, Weeds, and Rescue Me. We went for walks with Daddy and Ata. One day, we got caught out in a downpour and were all soaked by the time we got home, which you seemed to enjoy. We realized, sometime this month, what a big little boy we had, and the doctor confirmed this at your two-month visit, when you weighed in at 15 lbs. 3 oz. and were 25" long--both in or above the 95th percentile for size.

We got a baby swing during your second month, and you took to it right away. Many days, you napped for hours in it, which made being home with you all day and attempting to look for a job quite a bit easier for me. You also just got to be more fun to hang out with--more smiling, grunting, flailing, and sleeping, not quite so much eating and pooping. We settled into a routine, and I started feeling a little bit less like a mommy imposter and more like I might, someday, figure out what I'm doing.

Towards the end of your second month, I started taking you places. Mostly, we went shopping--we didn't buy much, beyond groceries and stuff, but we went to lots of stores. At first, I put your car seat directly into the shopping cart, and then we got a stroller caddy for the car seat--much easier! You were really good in stores right from the beginning, often sleeping through whole shopping trips and almost never crying.

These early shopping trips were probably a bigger learning experience for me than for you. Not only did I have to learn how to manage you outside our safe house (not as hard as I'd expected), I also had to come to terms with being a mom in public. This feels a whole lot like wearing one of those signs that trucks sometimes have on their back ends--"How's my driving? Call..." Everybody has opinions and judgments for parents, especially moms, especially new moms, and even when people aren't judging, it feels like they are. It's really hard not to feel like you are doing everything wrong. I'd glance around nervously if you made the slightest peep, afraid you were disturbing somebody and they were going to yell at me, or at least glare. Were they clucking at your pacifier? At me using a stroller rather than a sling? At your clothes? Luckily, this stage didn't last too long, and after a half dozen trips I stopped worrying quite so much. I don't think I started actually being comfortable until Month 3 (which I will try very, very hard to write about sooner rather than later), but by the end of the month I was closer.

I think it was sometime during the second month that I started to realize that you are an exceptionally mellow and "easy" baby. You eat well, you sleep well, and you very rarely cry for no reason. You don't even fuss much. I was warned of a bad spell at the 8-10 week mark, but you didn't have one. Sure, you have an occasional more trying day (or night), but in general you're an absolute joy to have around. I really, really like being your mom.

Love,

Mama

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Wittlebee, I just can't quit you

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A while back, I reviewed the Wittlebee curated subscription box for kids' clothes. My thought, at that time, was that the service was a lot of fun, but probably not economically reasonable at $39.99 for each monthly shipment. However, a few months later, I snagged a two-month subscription to Wittlebee for $33.75 at Plum District. Much more reasonable. The first box I got was just OK, and I forgot to blog about it. The second, though, came last week, and it was so great that I am once again tempted to keep up a Wittlebee subscription.

Wanna see what we got?

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From top left:
-Sage Creek Organics Red Polo Tee (estimated value $10)
-American Apparel Infant Baby Rib Short Sleeve Lap T in Baby Blue (estimated value $10)
-Tiny Whales Away Anchor T-shirt in Turquoise Heather (estimated value $22)
-Kate Quinn Organics Long-Sleeved Kimono Bodysuit (estimated value $23)
-Wild & Cozy by Hatley Red Bear Romper (estimated value $15.75)
-Tea Collection Knit Playwear Pants (estimated value $30)

Total estimated value: $110.75

It isn't just the overall value or high quality of the items that made me really love this box, though--it's the items themselves. I couldn't have picked a more perfect collection of things I'd love for Buzzy to wear. Three high quality basics--the red polo, the blue lap tee, and the gray pants--are highlighted by three super cute statement items--the anchor tee, the geometric print body suit, and the red bear onesie, which is probably my favorite item of baby clothing ever at this point. The items are not only in keeping with the color and style preferences I laid out on the Wittlebee website, they're pretty well a perfect style match for the way I like to dress my son. There is also a good mix of high end brands of which I was aware (Kate Quinn Organics and Tea Collection) and ones of which I was not aware (Wild & Cozy, Tiny Whales, and Sage Creek Organics). Of the six items, only one reads as a "filler" item (the American Apparel t-shirt), and even it is of reasonably high quality and in keeping with my color preferences. This box is quite simply one of the best curated collections of any kind that I have yet seen. Excellent work, Wittlebee!

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A bit back, I wrote up a list of things we've found useful and not-so-useful in Buzzy's first few weeks. Now that we're nearly TEN weeks in, I thought I'd offer an update. It's amazing how preferential you get, and how quickly you develop those preferences. Having a new baby makes convenience and efficacy so important, there is just no time for shit that doesn't work. Things are tried and loved or tried and discarded at an alarming rate. And there's so much stuff to choose from, you know? So I figure anytime I can get our experiences out there, with the hope of it helping some other new mom sort through the options, I will.

Things that work

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American Apparel Infant Baby Rib Karate Pants: I don't shop at American Apparel, and never would have purchased these myself. However, I got several pairs of them in a Wittlebee box before Buzzy was born, and WOW have they been useful. They are pretty much the perfect baby pants. Soft, lightweight, easy to get on and off, come in lots of colors (we have red, black, navy, and olive), reasonably priced ($12 each)--they're just perfect. Now I have to decide whether to give in and buy them in larger sizes when Buzzy outgrows his current batch.

Bravado Body Silk Seamless Nursing Bra: In my last installment, I sang the praises of Gilligan & O'Malley Nursing Sleep Bras from Target and doubted I'd ever buy expensive nursing bras. Then my cheap bras started giving me plugged ducts and I shelled out for a couple of these, and I have not looked back. These bras are the most comfortable I have ever worn. They are amazing, look great under clothes, wash well, come in lots of colors...I just love them. Unfortunately, they are pretty spendy--I got a couple off Ebay for $10 or $15 less than the $49 list price, but still, not cheap.

Fisher-Price Cradle 'N Swing: A coworker of Mark's recommended this swing, as did several friends of mine. I hesitated to buy it, because $115 seemed like a lot, but wow am I ever glad we did. Buzzy spends hours in this thing every day. It's our #1 napping spot, and even when he's not asleep, he loves it. It's soft and snuggly, works great, and plugs in, so it doesn't eat batteries. To top it off, we had a problem with it early on (the power supply died in the second week we had it), and the company sent me a replacement with no questions asked in just a couple of days. I love good customer service!

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Chicco Keyfit Caddy Stroller Frame: This is a new addition to our baby stuff arsenal, and I am already in love. We have a Chicco Keyfit 30 car seat, and when I started taking Buzzy out to grocery shop and stuff, my solution for transporting him was to put his bucket seat in the cart. This was only very moderately successful--depending on the size of the cart, it could leave no room for groceries! With this caddy, though, I can easily move Buzzy through a store (or, in a couple of weeks, an airport) and still have some room to carry things. It folds easily, handles well, the seat slots right in--it's great.

Columbia Vertical Glide Diaper Bag: I have thrifted three diaper bags, and they all have their benefits, but this one, from Columbia (and apparently discontinued, too bad!), is my every day favorite. It's not big and stupid looking--it can pass for a regular bag a non-mommy might carry--it is completely gender neutral, and it is well put together, with a place for everything I need to carry around. I'd likely choose one of my bigger diaper bags for a long trip, but for running around and doing errands, this bag is great.

Children's Place Stretchie PJs: Buzzy has recently made the transition from sleep sacks to one-piece pajamas (too cute!), and so far, our favorites are the ones from Children's Place. They fit perfectly, they're super cute, and they are inexpensive. Mark, who is in charge of nighttime diaper changes, has a strong preference for zippers over snaps on pajamas, and these are all zipper. We have both the footed and the non-footed versions, and I think we slightly prefer the ones with feet. The very best ones are a set with WWII airplanes on them, but sadly those don't seem to be available anymore.

Apple TV: With the possible exception of my coffee cup, the single most important and helpful item of my post-partum period is the Apple TV I bought Mark for Father's Day. I LOVE this thing. From the spot on the couch to which I am often glued under a nursing baby, I can listen to music via my iPhone, stream Netflix or anything on my Macbook to my TV, look at my Flickr pictures, and even check out YouTube. It's super easy to use, the box is tiny, and the interface is great. LOVE this thing.

I think that just about wraps up the things we've loving right now. What are we missing that we just have to try? Leave me a comment!

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I have issues ordering from AmApparel too. But I found that whomever is making AA clothes also distributes them at wholesale prices on Amazon under the name YogaColors. See here:
http://www.amazon.com/BabyLuxe-YogaColors-Emoticon-Karate-Pants/dp/B003F7H224/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1347049138&sr=8-1&keywords=baby+karate+pants

it's always the same stuff.

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Letter to Buzzy #3: The First Month

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Dear Buzzy,

You are only six weeks old and I am already behind--I had such good intentions of writing these letters every month. Hopefully I will catch up after this non-auspicious start.
The first few weeks of your life were as intense as I'd expected, and then some. We started out with a brief hospitalization for your jaundice, which managed to completely freak me out, but turned out to be not that big a deal. Since then, though, pretty well everything has gone far better than I'd expected it would. I know it's a jinx to say this, but I have to put it down for prosperity anyway--you're a blessedly easy baby. From the beginning, you've eaten well, slept well, and been a generally happy little guy. You like to eat often and plenty, you do not like being wet or dirty, and you have no problem making your demands known. You prefer, as one would expect, to be held, and you'll tell us about it if you aren't where you want to be, but you do very little fussing for no reason, and almost no crying without a reason. I didn't expect to be getting as much sleep as I am right now, and I certainly didn't expect to be spending as little time as I am pulling out my hair. Even if you make up for this peaceful period with brutal teenaged years, I'm still grateful.

Which isn't to say that the transition to parenthood isn't stressful, and frightening, and exhausting--it is. Your Grandma Penny was here for the first three weeks, and there is really no way to overstate how much easier that made everything. Seriously, if you get one thing out of this month's letter, get that--your mom's mom is a saint. It's nearly unimaginable that someone could be so helpful, loving, and wonderful, and simultaneously be completely unjudgemental and un-overbearing. If there is a perfect balance for a parent to take when helping her child become a parent herself, my mother found it. I wish every new parent could have a mom like her. She's also more than a little bit smitten with you. My mom is not a mushy person (and I'm not particularly, either, but I'll get to that later), but she is just gaga over you. She was more affectionate and enamored than I've ever seen her, for sure. You'll always have an ally in her--and I can tell you from experience that makes you a very, very lucky little boy.

After Grandma Penny left, Grandma Irene and Grandpa John came to visit us--or, really, to visit you. They, too, were instantly in love. They even babysat while your dad and I went out to dinner--the first time we'd been away from you, together. It went great. Every time I've left you with anybody (just them, Grandma Penny, and your dad) it has gone great. I expected to have anxiety about it, but I just don't, and I'm really grateful for that--I think it's better for both of us if we spend occasional time apart, even this early. You're completely willing to take my milk from a bottle and actually seem to be even mellower and amenable for other people than you are for me, so I'm guessing you agree.

Because I have so far completely failed in keeping any sort of record of your behavior or milestones, I guess I should use this letter to record a few of those:

Sleep: You tend to sleep from between 10-12 PM to between 3-5 AM, then nurse/get changed, then sleep until 6-7AM, then nurse/get changed, then sleep until 8-9AM. You started this schedule pretty much as soon as I stopped waking you up to nurse every three hours--so at about 2 or 2.5 weeks. I find it pretty amazing, compared to a lot of the horror stories I've heard. Sure, I'd love it if you slept an 8-hour stretch, but you aren't ready to do that yet, and that's fine. You sleep in a co-sleeper next to my side of the bed, but I sneak you into bed with us in the morning, typically between the 6-7AM and 8-9AM waking/feedings. I didn't think I would want to or feel comfortable doing that, but I do. You aren't much into naps at this point--you snooze for a few minutes at a stretch all day long, but the substantial morning and afternoon naps I've heard about haven't kicked in yet. We're working on that.

Eating: You came out knowing how to nurse. You just got it, and you haven't flagged for more than a few minutes since. You nurse often, easily, and enthusiastically. At around three weeks, I started pumping and we started introducing bottles, and you took easily to those as well. It's a bit odd, since I was someone who did NOT want to breastfeed, but breastfeeding has been a complete non-issue for us. I don't love it, I don't have a mushy emotional response to it like I hear some people do, but it's not that bad, and it's clear that you're thriving, so the inconvenience and discomfort inherent in it is well worth it. You weigh over 12 lbs already! Again, I'm grateful--it's something I doubtlessly would have quit had it been hard, so it's a blessing that it has been so very easy. I still don't see extended nursing in our future--I just can't imagine that--but one never knows.

Smiling: Grandma Penny swears you smiled the morning she left, which would have put your first smile at three weeks and two days. That seems a bit on the early side, but I can't pinpoint another first, so I guess we'll go with it. You smile often now, and in several different ways, each one cuter than the last. You're pretty expressive in general, and your eyes are so big and dark, your expressions can get pretty piercing. At least, for someone who isn't yet two months old.

Lifting your head and rolling over: You started trying to lift your head the day you were born, and you're an old pro at it now. You still can't hold it up for very long by yourself, but you get stronger every day. You can also turn it from side to side. Yesterday, you even rolled part way over--from your back to your side to your stomach.
Recognition: I can't say for sure who you can and cannot recognize, but I feel quite sure you know who I am, and you turn towards me when I come into the room. You do the same thing when your dad comes home.

One thing has happened in your first month that wasn't easy--I was unexpectedly laid off from my job. I was notified when you were three weeks old, the same day Grandma Penny left. That was a bad, bad day. And it means, as of now, that the plan of my returning to work and you starting day care after Labor Day (only a couple of weeks from now) is on hold. I am looking for a new job already, and have some prospects, but I'm not in a huge hurry--if this unexpected turn means I stay home with you for twelve weeks instead of eight, or even for a bit longer than that, I think that would be OK. I haven't at all changed my mind and decided I want to be a stay at home mom long term, but there is definitely something priceless about spending these very early weeks with you.

So how do our days look? We cuddle and/or nurse while your dad takes a shower. After he gets out of the shower in the morning, Mark generally takes you downstairs with him while he makes coffee and has breakfast, and I get dressed. You tend to be very happy in the morning and usually are content to hang out in the swing or the pack n play while he has breakfast, and while I start pumping. After he is done with breakfast, your dad gives you a bottle while I finish up pumping and eat. Then Mark leaves for work and we're on our own. We spend the morning on the couch, nursing and with you taking short naps. You aren't much interested in toys yet, but you do enjoy music, so we listen to music. I make faces at you and you've started to respond to those sometimes. I hold you, most of the time. I watch TV. I am watching endless TV, running through a whole list of TV series. I suppose that should embarrass me, but it doesn't. After lunch I've been trying to get you to nap. I take you upstairs and nurse you in bed and try to get you to drift off. If you do, you'll sleep an hour or so, and I typically sleep with you, or try to accomplish some small chore. But it is only works about half the time so far. After the nap, we hang out more, watch more TV, nurse about every 90 minutes. When you cat-nap, I catch up online and try to do job application stuff. I've taken a couple of pre-interview calls over the past few days, including one I had to nurse you through to keep you quiet. That felt very sitcom. Mark gets home between 7 and 8, typically, and we have dinner while you lay between us on the couch, or, if you happen to grace us with a little sleep at the right time, eat at the table. If you insist on being held right then, we take turns eating. Some nights, you have a bath--we were doing it in the sink, but just tonight we tried it in the bathtub with me, and you seem to like that a lot better. You hang out with Daddy while I do dishes, take a shower, etc. and he gives you another bottle in the late evening, around the same time I pump again. You usually go to sleep between us on the couch while we talk or watch TV, and we all go to bed together between 11 and 12. The days pass both slowly and quickly--and you change every single day.

I'm sure there are a thousand more things I should be telling you about your first weeks, things I'm forgetting or don't realize I am going to want to look back on, but it is hard to catalogue them on command. There are a hundred moments a day that I wish I could bottle and save. For once in my life, though, I seem to be doing a pretty good job focusing on living in the now and not being overly focused on planning or documenting. Probably that's the way it should be.

Love,

Mama

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This post gave me warm, happy feelings. I'm so glad, even with all the stress that you have going on right now, that at least some things sound like they're going smoothly.

I have my fingers crossed that you land an awesome job sometime in the next few months.

Give Buzzy a kiss for me...he's such an adorable baby.

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Letter to Buzzy #2: Birth Story

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Dear Buzzy,

Chapter 1: I Am Born

So, your mom is the kind of person who knows that "Chapter 1: I Am Born" is the beginning of David Copperfield, and thus can't help but start out this letter, about your birth, with that quote. However, to be brutally honest, this isn't because I've ever read David Copperfield--it's because it's in Gone With the Wind. Just so we've got that out of the way.

This is your birth story. It may be something you never want to know, but it is something I don't want to forget, so I'm going to write it all down anyway. I smile to picture your young adult face reading this, grimacing at the level of detail you never needed. Suck it up, kid--you only have to read about it. I was there. Well, to be fair, you were there, too, but I'm pretty sure it was easier on you than it was on me.

This begins with the storm. On Friday night, June 29, we had a huge thunder/lightening/wind/rain storm. The biggest one I've ever seen. Your dad and your Grandma Penny and I stood at the windows and watched it for at least half an hour. It was exceptional. Sheet lightening, huge bolts going horizontal across the sky, wind gusts up to 75mph, the works. So, of course, we all made lots of jokes about how I was going to go into labor (you were already four days late) and we wouldn't be able to get to the hospital in time. We kept saying that since your dad is a doctor and Grandma Penny has helped birth calves before, we'd be fine. In reality, though, I was a little bit nervous that our jokes would come true and I would go into labor with you before the storm was over. I was glad to see it start to die down.

But, of course, the electricity went out. Not just at our house, it turns out--at over a million people's houses. The storm was really broad and there was a ton of damage. We didn't know this when we went to bed--we thought the power would be back on by morning and we'd just be in for an overly warm night. We were so, so wrong.

At about 5 AM on Saturday morning I woke up with contractions. The power was still off. At first, I didn't think a whole lot about it--I'd had a few contractions most mornings for a few days and they never amounted to much. When they hadn't died down by about 7:30, though, I started tracking them on my phone and woke up your dad to tell him to take a shower, as I thought this might actually be labor.

Your dad and Grandma Penny and I hung out for several hours before we went to the hospital, timing the contractions until they were less than five minutes apart for an hour. They weren't too bad--definitely distinct, but not too painful. I felt pretty confident that even though I'd had only a few hours sleep on Friday night (the power going out left things pretty hot and uncomfortable), I was totally going to be able to handle this labor thing.
That's about the point where things started to get rough. When we arrived at the hospital, I assumed I would be admitted. However, after being examined by a very rude triage nurse and then the on-call midwife, I was told that my contractions weren't strong enough yet, I was still only 2cm dilated and 70% effaced, and I should go home. I felt terrible. I felt like a hypochondriac who was making up her labor, and nobody with whom I dealt at the hospital did anything to make that feeling any better. It SUCKED. I was furious when we left. Since we knew the power was still out at our rapidly-overheating house (the temperature was about 100 degrees), we decided to go out to lunch and see if things got any more dramatic. I continued to have contractions through lunch, but they didn't ramp up much, so I wasn't sure if I was actually going to go into real labor or not. We headed home.

By about 5 or 6 PM, though, it was clear that things were progressing. The contractions stayed five minutes or so apart, but got a lot stronger and more painful. I took a cool bath, which helped. Then I got nauseated, and eventually started throwing up. I called the midwife and she said to come back to the hospital.

By the time I we got back to the hospital, I was feeling pretty bad. The contractions were bearable, but increasingly intense, and I was throwing up quite a bit. The midwife checked again and I was dilated to 5cm and 90%+ effaced. Go time! They checked us in at around 8 PM.

The next two hours were long and painful. The contractions came faster and harder, and I threw up a lot more. I got into the tub and that helped for a while, but after a while it started to get obvious that I was already too tired and wound up too tight to deal with increased contractions and then transition and pushing without an epidural. I went back and forth about it for quite a while, but by 10 PM or so, I was ready. (Later, your dad told me that if I had continued to refuse the epidural, either he or Grandma Penny would have tried to overrule me, as it was obvious I wasn't going to make it through labor without it.) The midwife checked me again and found that I was at 8cm and nearly 100% effaced, and we ordered the epidural.

While we were waiting for the anesthesiologist to show up, the nurse hooked me up to an IV and started giving me fluids and Zofran for my nausea. I had initially resisted this idea because I didn't want to be tied down to the IV, but it turned out that it was a really good move--the Zofran didn't help the throwing up much, but a few hours later, when several bags of fluids still hadn't produced much of anything from my catheter, it became obvious just how dehydrated I had been.

Getting the epidural was really tough. You have to bend over at the waist, which was excruciating even when I wasn't contracting, and be totally still while the anesthesiologist places it. I am not sure how I did it. I leaned all the way over, with a nurse holding one of my arms and Mark holding the other, and just sort of tried to be unconscious. The anesthesiologist was telling me what was going on, when I would feel the first needle, then the second, and so on, but I didn't really hear or understand him. It was over faster than I had expected, and took effect faster, too. Within a few minutes, the contractions started getting more bearable, and within a half an hour or so, I was barely registering them.

From there, things get a little bit hazy for a while. I know we were in the room, Mark sleeping intermittently, for several hours. My midwife had two other women laboring at the same time, and they were progressing faster than I was, so she barely checked in. Even nurses didn't seem to come by too often. The midwife explained to me that because of the epidural, I could "labor down" meaning wait for quite a while to push. My water hadn't broken yet, either, so we were waiting for that to happen. It was a long holding pattern. I wasn't in pain anymore, but I couldn't sleep, either, and apparently I talked a lot. Mark told me at some point that I had to be the only person on Earth that was made chatty and animated by opiates.

At around midnight or 12:30, the midwife came back in and suggested breaking my water to get things going a little bit faster. I agreed, mostly because I was bored. I had started noticing, by this time, that the mild numbness in my lower body had increased and become, in my left leg, complete numbness. I couldn't even keep my leg on the bed, it kept flopping off the side. This worried me a little bit, as I was vaguely aware that having no lower body control was going to severely limit the positions in which I could push. It should have worried me more.

The next couple of hours were pretty slow. I was told to push my call button if I started to feel pressure. I felt no pressure. I pretty much felt nothing. I started to wonder if anything was ever going to happen. Around 3 AM, a nurse came in and checked me again, and even though I hadn't felt it, she said I was ready to start pushing. As the other two patients had delivered, the midwife came back at that point, and we were ready to start. I really thought it would just take a few minutes, maybe 30 at most. After all, I wasn't in any pain, so how hard could it be?

That was the beginning of the worst part. After the first few pushes, it became clear, at least to me, that things weren't going to go well. I couldn't feel anything below the waist, so I had no idea if I was pushing correctly. I was instructed, over and over, to push "towards your bottom." But I couldn't feel my bottom, so it was a little bit like trying to find a light switch in a very dark room. I fumbled around. Still, I pushed as hard as I could manage, and though I couldn't feel a thing in any of the relevant areas, it didn't take long for the non-relevant bits to start hurting, particularly my face. To top things off, I continued to throw up.

I pushed and pushed and pushed. It was endless, and it was painful, even though it took at least an hour before I started to be able to feel it below the waist. I'm not completely sure how the second hour went, but by the end of it, the nurse and midwife had left for a brief moment, for reasons I didn't think to wonder about at the time. I realize, now, that they were calling the on-call back-up doctor, as they'd been convinced that I wasn't going to be able to deliver without an intervention.

When they came back, the midwife explained that she was concerned about how long it was taking and had called the back-up doctor, who might consider options including forceps or a vacuum. I don't know if I lost it only in my head at that point, or if it actually came out of my mouth, but I was furious. The single out-of-the-ordinary thing on my birth plan was that I did NOT want forceps or a vacuum to be utilized in my delivery. I even wrote on the plan that I understood that intervention might become necessary, and if it did, I wanted a c-section, not a forceps/vacuum delivery. The midwife went on to explain that the on-call doctor was in another procedure, so it would be a while before he could join us.
I don't think I flipped out, but I did tell the midwife, clearly, that I would not consent to forceps or a vacuum, and I did not want a c-section. I was starting to be able to feel more, and I wanted to keep pushing. She didn't seem all that convinced, but didn't see any harm in my continuing to try until the doctor came.

And I pushed for another 30 or 40 minutes, with increasing intensity. I kind of went to another place, where I couldn't hear or see much, and pushed over and over again. I didn't stop at the end of the 10-count every time, or stop with 3 pushes per contraction. All I could think of was every story I've ever heard about a labor that stalls after many, many hours and ends up in an exhaustion c-section. Though I was pretty sure I was breaking blood vessels in my eyes pushing, and I couldn't catch my breath in between pushes anymore, I pushed. And I think maybe I prayed.

Then the midwife stopped me and told me that your heart rate was starting to decel, and that if I was going to birth vaginally, it had to happen immediately. I pushed another round. By this time, even though my legs were still completely numb, I could feel the pushing. I could more than feel it, I thought I was probably being torn in half. A few pushes later, the midwife told me she had to cut an episiotomy so that you could get out. I was barely cognizant of what was going on--all I could think about was that I had to push. I had to get you out. I told her to cut it. I don't know how long it took. I felt it, but it didn't hurt the way I'm sure it would have without the epidural. Then, with the next round of pushing, all at once, it was over. You were out.

The first few minutes of your life, I was consumed by worry that you were not OK. You had swallowed a lot of fluid and you didn't cry much, if at all. I couldn't see the table where you were, since it was surrounded by nurses, and I asked everyone in the room, over and over again, if you were okay. They kept telling me you were, but I thought they were lying. Turns out they weren't--they did have to take you to the nursery for a while and get you checked out, but by a couple of hours after your birth you were declared fit. There were a few more issues later, mostly due to the bruising your labor caused and subsequent jaundice, but that's all another story.

Love,

Your Mom

2 Comments

It's like running a marathon you can't train for. I'm so happy he made it out alright and that you did too!

So good of you to write it all down before you forgot! Congratulations again and awesome work pushing out such a big beautiful baby. Sounds like it was a lot of work! But you did it! Woohoo!

If it makes you feel any different about the pushing, I didn't have an epidural and it was hard to figure out where to push too. Th midwife told me to push with my bottom too and put her finger where I was supposed to push but that didn't help much. (At one point the midwife told me that if I wanted that baby out I was going to have to push better). I thought I was tearing in half too. I read all over the internet how pushing was to good part where your body takes over, but I didn't feel that way at all. I thought it was hard, hard to do right, and hurt like hell. No relief at all!

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Thoughts on breastfeeding and the giveaway bag

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Going into this motherhood thing, breastfeeding was NOT something to which I was looking forward. That's an understatement, actually--I really, really didn't want to do it. However, I believed (and still believe) the research about the benefits of breastfeeding, so I was determined to give it a try. In the back of my mind, though, I expected to have problems and ultimately to have a reason not to do it and to convert to formula feeding.

So far, it hasn't worked out that way. More so than really any other aspect of pregnancy, childbirth, or new parenthood, breastfeeding has gone really, really well. Buzzy emerged fully willing and able to nurse, and he taught me how to do it. My supply is good, and though there was definitely some discomfort in the first couple of weeks, it was nothing compared to the pain I was expecting. So, at this point, my month old baby is exclusively breastfed, and I don't see that changing unless/until circumstances do. I started pumping a couple of weeks ago and he takes a bottle of expressed milk just as well as he takes a breast, so, even when I return to work (and more on that at a later time...), so long as I can pump enough, he should be able to continue with breast milk until he starts solids.

None of this is to say that I enjoy it--I don't. I find it boring and relentless. I dislike being a food source. I dislike not feeling as if I am the primary owner and user of my body. It gives me no warm and fuzzy feelings. But it's bearable.

Even more than was the case before I started actually doing it myself, I've become really aware of all of the rhetoric surrounding breastfeeding. Everybody has an opinion, from those who think that anybody who doesn't breastfeed is abusing her children to those who think that breastfeeding is disgusting. People are really pushy about it, too--in a way that strikes me as completely inappropriate both in regards to a personal parenting decision and in regards to a personal decision about how a woman chooses to utilize her own body.

One thing I heard quite a lot about before going through this experience myself was how awful the formula company giveaways were--these giveaways, I was told several times, were engineered to build dependency on formula and interrupt a given woman and a child's breastfeeding relationship. Having formula around, the logic went, made it much more likely that a given woman would end up not breastfeeding. At some hospitals, I was told, even the giveaway bag for breastfeeding moms would be a not-very-well-disguised attempt to build formula dependence.

(For those who aren't aware of what I am talking about, formula companies routinely sponsor freebies for expecting/new moms, including vouchers for formula and bags of freebies given out by doctors and hospitals.)

The birth center at which I delivered Buzzy had a choice between a "breastfeeding" and a "formula feeding" giveaway bag, both sponsored by Enfamil. Expecting that I would be doing mixed feeding, I chose the breastfeeding bag.

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The contents:

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-insulated bottle carrying bag
-8-oz can of Enfamil powdered newborn formula
-2 2-oz Snappies containers for collecting and storing expressed breast milk
-reusable ice pack
-single-use sample packet of Boudreaux's Butt Paste diaper rash ointment
-March of Dimes pamphlet with vaccination schedule
-$15 rebate coupon for Enfamil formula
-registration form for Enfamil Family Beginnings program
-informational card about Enfamil bottle nipples
-instructional card on how to use the ice back and bottle bag for formula or expressed breast milk transfer
-"Tips for Breastfeeding Success" booklet, which includes a coupon for Enfamil infant vitamin drops and a $15 rebate coupon for any breast pump

Clearly, the bag is a promotional tool--Enfamil wants you to use their products. If you decide not to breastfeed after all, or if you decide to supplement with formula, they want it to be their formula. Thus the inclusion of the can of newborn formula. However, with that exception, I found the rest of the items in the bag to be really useful for a new breastfeeding mom--assuming that she, like me, will be pumping. The Snappies containers are great, and hard to find for purchase. The ice pack and bottle bag are useful for transport of expressed milk. And the $15 rebate offer on a pump is a great boon. I can't fault any of those inclusions.

It turned out that, at least in Buzzy's first weeks, formula wasn't useful for us. I still have some around, including the can of Enfamil from the bag, and I'm saving all my formula vouchers until I can be sure we aren't going to need to supplement for day care down the road, but having it does not force me to use it, and I can honestly say it hasn't even been a "temptation." For me, this is the heart of the controversy over these bags--whether or not you think offering a free tool that may or may not end up useful presents so much sway over the new mom that it is more harmful than helpful. In my case, I'd say no. However, this bag is not the only thing I received at the hospital--I also got a packet full of breastfeeding information and several meetings with a lactation consultant, heading off any potential problems Buzzy and I were going to have with nursing at the pass. Had that not been the case, or had I had problems anyway, the Enfamil marketing would likely have been a lot more successful. And, given the still fairly low rates of breastfeeding in this country, it probably is successful in a lot of cases.

I'd have preferred if the bag given to women who plan to breastfeed hadn't included formula. If the can of formula were replaced with a tube of nipple cream, for example, I think the bag would have been better. However, judging completely on my personal experience as a new-and-newly-breastfeeding mom, and as someone for whom the idea was extremely frightening and not appealing beforehand, I just can't get all that worked up about formula company freebies standing in the way of breastfeeding. It seems to me that there are much more serious systemic barriers in place--most notably the lack of support for pumping in the workplace and the bizarre and archaic ideas and policies a lot of folks have about nursing in public--and those are what we ought to be concerned about, and fighting against.

Happy World Breastfeeding Week, y'all.

15 Comments

I love this post! Glad to hear it's working out well for you and Buzzy!

Well said. I'm glad that things are going well.

For me, having the formula around was freeing. As in, I knew it was there and if things got too hard, we could do it and go from there.

All of mine were BF. My current bb has had formula from the get go,as well as bf, and I really love this arrangement, to be honest. Much much moreso than I loved exclusively nursing.

I'm so glad that BF has worked out well for you and Buzzy and was as good as it could be. :)

Wow, that bag is actually sort of pretty. Nice improvement on the plain black plastic and the Pooh bear bags in the past.

The contents of the breastfeeding bag are very interesting. I'm really glad you shared that. It seems odd that a container of formula and promotional materials from a formula company would be included in a breastfeeding bag, but I would imagine there would be no bags without a corporate sponsor, so perhaps we should be grateful there is anything.

I was reading another blog recently (http://notmolly.wordpress.com) and the author expressed similar feelings to yours about breastfeeding but discovered that by listening to audiobooks or NPR and getting intellectual stimulation during the process, that she found it much more enjoyable. I hope you can find a way that you can enjoy the process more rather just doing it for the health benefits.

Thanks for the post!

I'm glad it wasn't harmful to you. But evidence (studies, not just anecdote) has shown that automatically giving newborns formula actually does discourage breastfeeding. And some new moms who want to breastfeed might not know that if they use formula to "fall back on" or "our of curiosity" in those early days of breastfeeding, they are actually affecting their supply by replacing a feeding with formula -- and this can lead to more problems with breastfeeding. NOT that this happens to everyone who uses formula, of course. But it's a danger.

Most women who want to feed with breastmilk never need to use formula -- they can if they want to, of course, but medical reasons for them to need to are rare. If breastfeeding is difficult, a lactation consultant can often help. If breastfeeding doesn't work, pumping is an option. If pumping doesn't work, milk donation is an option. (assuming feeding breastmilk is important to this mom, I mean).

Again, because people have a tendency to misunderstand and feel defensive when they read things like this, I want to stress that I firmly support the right of moms to choose formula. But I do not support automatic "breastfeeding" gift bags that contain formula.

Formula should be given to moms who want to breastfeed.

It should not be given to moms who don't.

Oops! I think my post may have submitted twice, once with a typo that said "newborns" where it should have said "new moms." Sorry if that's the case! Feel free to delete the earlier comment (and this one). ;)

Once I figured out breast feeding while lying down, everything was golden. Sleep and feed! Read and feed! Wooooooo!

Of course, not having any issues with breast feeding - why would you turn to formula? The problem with the bags is that it is so easy for women who ARE having issues to open up the can, instead of seeking help for their problems, thus creating a possible "need" for formula. This is where I see the biggest issue.

It's very easy to say "Breastfeeding was easy for me! Evil formula was sitting there and I didn't use it! These bags aren't harming anyone! If I can do it so can everyone else!" when you did not really struggle in the first place.

@ Sarah- But I don't think Grace said "These bags aren't harming anyone! If I can do it so can everyone else!"

I'm totally on board with the arguments against formula give-aways in general, though they can be lifesavers for folks who in dire straits financially and who have problems with breastfeeding. Those same dire financial straits make accessing the supports that you need to overcome breastfeeding challenges (in the domains of time, stress, and money) even harder.

Jenny- Maybe I'm missing something, but I'm having trouble reconciling your statement that you support the right of mom's to use formula. But then the comment at the end...

"Formula should be given to moms who want to breastfeed.

It should not be given to moms who don't."

Sounds like you want to punish the bad judgement of those moms who want to or need to supplement with formula? Why else should THEY be denied the helpful free samples but the breastfeeding moms should not?

Ooh, bad typos in the above post. The first mom's should be moms and judgement should be judgment. Sorry!

obviously this is not my wheelhouse, but even my friends who breastfed sometimes supplemented with formula if they ate/drank something that was bad for a baby on a special occasion (i.e. one had a migrane and had to resort to meds. booze on a birthday, etc). I think it's a decent idea to have a backup as a breastfeeding mom. What if, in the middle of the night the kid is starving and won't breastfeed? Or a caregiver spills pumped milk? Seems convenient.

Also it's free. My parents taught you if someone gives you something and you don't like it, you smile politely and just throw it out when they leave. No harm! I don't think it's a conspiracy. :)

I got the same bag! I thought it was kind of cute. I was really glad to have the bag because I had a billion problems breastfeeding and it didn't end up working out. The hospital was wonderful about giving us free formula (it is expensive). I had not bought any formula so having some in the house after my milk hadn't come in after 5 days and baby was clearly very very hungry was great because having to run to the store on top of an already incredibly stressful situation would have been awful.

Plus the ice packs and travel cool bag have been awesome!

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As anybody who reads WINOW knows, I like stuff. I like to write about stuff. In part, this is because stuff is easy for me to get my mind around. Thinking and writing about it doesn't require a great intellectual or emotional investment. And let me tell you, on Day 15 of parenting, I'm all about not emotionally or intellectually taxing myself. So, I thought I'd do a post about the stuff we've been using in this whole transition to newborn parenthood over the past couple of weeks: what works, what doesn't, and the things I wish I'd thought to obtain earlier, or obtain more of.

Things that work
As I mentioned before the baby was born, Mark and I didn't go into this with the idea that we were going to be minimalists. We didn't go completely overboard (I don't think), but we did accumulate quite a bit of baby stuff before Buzzy showed up. And the truth is that so far, most of it has been of at least some use. However, there are a few things that are all-stars, so I'm going to call those out specifically.

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Arm's Reach Mini Co-Sleeper: Buzzy is currently spending his nights in an Arm's Reach Mini Co-Sleeper next to my side of the bed, and it's working out great. It allows him to be close enough to me for me to hear/see him, and for him to hear/see me, but keeps him out of my actual bed space. I doubt we'll use it long-term--I want to put him in his crib as soon as seems reasonable--but for these early weeks, it's perfect. Thanks again to my friend A for passing it on to us!

Summer SwaddleMe Swaddlers: So, new babies like to be swaddled, right? Yes, but my little boy likes to bust out of a swaddle more than anything, and thus far, nobody has been able to swaddle him in a blanket such that he can't break free. During the day, this doesn't much matter, but at night, it frustrates him and us. Enter the genius SwaddleMes, which look like little baby straight jackets, but definitely help him sleep less restlessly. Plus even with my regular lack of hand-eye coordination multiplied by sleep deprivation, I can manage to get him into them. Awesome.

Gilligan & O'Malley Nursing Sleep Bras: These Gilligan & O'Malley nursing bras are supposed to be for sleep, I guess, but I'm wearing them all the time and they are working out great. Reasonably supportive, reasonably cute, comfortable, easy to clip on and off, and best of all, cheap! As in, less than half the price of most of the nursing bras I see around. They won't work for big-busted women, as my moderately-busted self is in the largest size (2X), but if you aren't big of chest, I'd definitely consider these.

(For bed, I'm actually wearing the less structured Wrap Nursing Sleep Bra from Motherhood Maternity, and those are working out great, too.)

Small Wonders onesies: I have a ton of 0-3 month clothes, 90% of which are hand-me-downs from my friend E and her twins. Some are higher end brands, some are not. The best ones, so far? The Small Wonders onesies from K-Mart. They are cute as heck, well-made, soft, and fit Buzzy perfectly, which makes me think they must run a little bit long. Since mine are all hand-me-downs, they've been pre-vetted for cute logos and bright colors, but I'm definitely going to check out my local K-Mart and see if the ones that are in-store now are as impressive.

swaddle blanket.jpg

aden + anais Muslin Swaddle Blankets: I know I just said we were having trouble adequately swaddling with a blanket, and we are, but I love these aden + anais blankets so much I had to mention them anyway. They're just cutest, softest, most versatile thing. They work great as swaddles for naps, they work to shade the car seat, they work as lightweight receiving blankets--they just work. For a summer baby especially I would totally recommend these as a shower gift. They're spendy--like $50 for 4 of them, I think--so they are something that a lot of new parents probably aren't going to buy for themselves, but they're wonderful.

Earth Mama Angel Baby Shampoo & Lotion: I'm sure it surprises exactly nobody that I have several types of baby bath products on hand to try out--that's kind of my thing. However, none of them have even been opened besides the Earth Mama Angel Baby Body Wash & Shampoo and the Earth Mama Angel Baby Lotion. Why? Because they are awesome. They smell fantastic--orange and vanilla, but pretty subtle--and seem to work great, as well. I doubt I'll even attempt to use anything else anytime soon.

Munchkin disposable changing pad covers: An item I really had no idea would be useful, but has proved invaluable--these paper covers go over the fabric changing pad cover and when the baby excretes on them (several times a night, some nights...), you just throw them away. This is saving us having to wash the changing pad cover over and over again. Yeah, I know, disposable=bad, blah blah blah. I'll go back to worrying about the environment just as soon as my kid stops shitting ten times a night.

Baskets: I am a collector of baskets--I thrift them all the time, in all shapes and sizes, and I've always found it useful to have a lot of them around in which to carry and stow things. Never so much as right now. By my count, I currently have about a dozen baskets employed in baby-related tasks. It makes dealing with all of this new accoutrement a lot more palatable if I can feel like it's at least somewhat contained.

iPhone and iPad: I was told that I would love these devices, to which I was already viciously addicted, even more after the baby was born, and that was no lie. I am more dependent on them every day. My phone come everywhere with me, and I'm using a free app, Baby Feeding Log, to track nursing sessions (which side, when, for how long). My iPad now lives next to the glider in Buzzy's nursery, where it keeps me awake while I nurse and rock at night. I'm even considering making the jump into reading electronic books using it--never thought that would happen.

Things that don't work
Anytime you try to prepare for something like having a new baby, you're bound to make a few missteps. We're no different. A few of the things we bought beforehand, even those recommended as must haves, haven't worked out so far.

Wipes warmer: So far, the wipes warmer is the only thing on which my parenting guru, E, steered me wrong, and I suspect that comes down to my having a summer baby and a very warm house, and the non-warmed wipes not being cold enough to be shocking. The thing is big and awkward and not worth the space it takes up for little marginal utility, so it got unplugged and stowed a few days ago.

Receiving blankets: Again, probably this comes down to having a summer kid, but I haven't used a single one of the pile of flannel receiving blankets I have (mostly the Tiddlewinks ones). It's too warm, and they are too weirdly small to swaddle with anyway.

Baby hats, mittens, and socks: Once again, probably down to the weather, but I have an entire basket of these baby accessories upstairs that has not been disturbed. Buzzy wore a hat his first day in the hospital, when his head was still pretty misshapen from birth, but hasn't had one on since then, with the exception of his sun hat. Mittens and socks he has literally never yet worn.

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Boppy: I don't hate the Boppy--I found it very useful for the first week or so. However, I then was gifted a hand-me-down My Brest Friend pillow, and I now know how well the Boppy wasn't working. Horrible name aside the the My Brest Friend is SO much easier to nurse with. It's a lot more solid and supportive for wiggly Buzzy, and it's larger and more comfortable for me. Plus, it can fasten around my waist, so that when we're done, I can pick Buzzy up and put him in his bed or the changing table or the Pack N Play without having to have one hand free to remove the pillow.

Things I wish we had/had earlier/had more of
There are, of course, a few things we couldn't or didn't predict wanting or needing. Some of these, we've already gone out for or ordered. Others we're doing without, for whatever reason. Some are even things we have, but could use more of. For me, this is the most interesting category of stuff, because I really had no idea at all what would fall into it before we started this adventure.

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aden + anais Sleeping Bags: I thrifted one of these aden + anais sleeping bags before Buzzy was born, and put it in on him the other night when our room was especially warm and even the cotton swaddle sacks seemed to be too much. It worked great. It was so lightweight and comfortable for him, and the zipper (zipping up from the bottom--genius!) made middle-of-the-night diaper changes tons easier. I wish I had a half dozen of these. Unfortunately, they are stupid expensive (though cheaper elsewhere than on the aden + anais site, I think). Still, I sucked it up and ordered two more from Amazon, since I think they're going to be our best bet for the rest of the summer.

Hampers: This is a no-brainer now that I think about it, but I never thought about it before we needed them--babies are a constant source of laundry, and having a place to stow that laundry before you do it is key. We started out with no hamper in Buzzy's room and no hamper downstairs where he/we spend the bulk of our time. That didn't work at all. A trip to Target fixed things, though--I got two inexpensive canvas hampers from the dorm accessories section at Target--one for Buzzy's room, one for next to his Pack N Play downstairs. Problem solved!

Second glider: This is a big one, and it's going to seem excessive, but I'm going to tell you about it anyway. We have a glider, generously handed down to us from a colleague of Mark's, in Buzzy's room, and it works great for getting him back to sleep after he eats/is changed in the middle of the night. However, it's not convenient to use it during the day when we're all downstairs. It would be SO nice to have another one downstairs. I have a wooden rocking chair downstairs, but it's built for someone much smaller than I am and not at all comfortable to sit in, so I mostly don't use it.

Swing: People were of very mixed opinions as to whether or not a baby swing is a necessity, a nice-to-have, or a complete waste of money and space. So, we didn't buy one. I am now wishing we had, since rocking seems to be among Buzzy's favorite things, and it would be great to be able to put him down and rock him electronically on occasion. We may end up buying one yet.

Breast pump: It made good sense, before Buzzy was born, to wait to buy or rent a pump until after I'd established that breastfeeding/pumping was in the cards. But man, it would have been nice to have access to a pump right away, especially in the few days of bad engorgement between when my milk came in and when Buzzy ramped up his eating to match. If I had it to do again, I'd rent a pump just before delivery and have it on stand-by. As it is, I'm going to visit my friendly neighborhood lactation consultant this coming week, and I'll rent a pump then. Then we'll see how it goes for a month or so and I'll decide whether it would be more economical to buy my own. Since the general, best-case-scenario plan is to BF and pump for a year (something I can't even fathom right now, honestly), it probably will be best to buy one if everything works out.

Diapers: Of course, we had diapers. Small packages of several varieties and sizes, as was recommended to me. What I didn't realize was that we would need a much, much greater quantity. Newborns go through diapers like woah. I haven't been keeping track, but would bet Buzzy gets changed 15-18 times/day (and not infrequently each change requires two diapers, because he pees or poops mid-change). So those little 32 packs of diapers I had on hand? Lasted for about two days each. Because his butt is still pretty skinny, even though he's about 9 lbs now (maybe more, we'll see at the pediatrician tomorrow), Buzzy is probably going to be in newborn sized diapers for a bit longer, and I finally just bought a bigger box of them yesterday. Were I to do it again, I'd start out with a couple of big boxes--the variety matters far less than the fear of running out of diapers when you have a tiny pooping machine on your hands. (For the curious, we are, so far, a Pampers family.)

Non-sucky lanolin-free nipple cream: This may be a pie-in-the-sky one, but I would give some non-essential part of my anatomy for a lanolin-free nipple cream that is actually effective. So far, I've tried Motherlove and Simplisse, and both are just short of worthless. There are a few more kinds out there to try, and I'm sure I'll work my way through them before too long, since little Mr. Buzz eats (no, I am not joking) about 16 times a day.

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Changing station/diaper depot/organizer: This is something I never could have understood the need for until I tried to change a squirming, screaming baby in the middle of the night. All of our changing supplies (diapers, creams, wipes, etc.) are neatly arranged in baskets on the shelf under our changing table. Which made perfect sense to me before--I mean, it looks lovely! Now I realize that it's nearly impossible to reach everything while keeping the requisite one hand on the squirming baby. Live and learn.

Carrier: Right now, we have three carriers, all of which were gifts: a Moby, a handmade ring sling, and a handmade wrap carrier. Mark likes the Moby, but it's a bit complicated for me to try to use on my own. Same thing with the handmade wrap, which works pretty much the same way. The ring sling is the best option for me for around the house, since I can get it off and on on my own, but it doesn't feel as secure as I'd like. So, I'd like something that is sturdier and simple enough for me to use on my own. I'm thinking maybe something like the Belle?

Honestly, these lists just barely scratch the surface, and I'm sure I'll think of more things to add to them as soon as I hit publish, but I really want to get an actual blog entry up today, and that's been pretty difficult to do of late (this one has been under construction for several days), so I'm gonna go ahead and publish now. Yawn.

9 Comments

The nipples will improve, I promise. I had the saddest, scabbiest nipples for the first little while, but then they just adjusted, or something, and now are fine.

I had the same experience with the pump--I didn't buy one right away because I wanted to see how it went, and then realized that I totally needed it because I would get so engorged that the baby seriously couldn't latch on. We figured it out, but even a cheapie pump would have helped.

So glad to see that you are settling in. I loved my swing with both kids and #2 worshipped the thing.

I am curious to know why you are using a sleep sack if the weather is so warm? As far as I know they are just to replace blankets, so if it's warm you don't have to bother at all.

Oh, and Earth Mama Angel Baby makes a lanolin-free nipple ointment I believe. If you love their other stuff, you should probably check it out.

We should trade rocking chairs. Mine's meant for someone much taller. The Earth Mama Angel Baby soap was always my favorite too. It smells so good. I still use the Baby bottom balm for minor cuts and things, and the Mama bottom balm is really, really awesome as well.

At some point you can start using the flannel receiving blankets over the changing pad instead of paper throw-away things. You can fold them at least once over the poopy bit before washing, and they are much smaller than the pad cover.

I figured out something useful last night with the SwaddleMes - my son can wiggle his arms out of even those, but last night I put it on him backwards. I needed to buckle him into something, so I left the middle velcro undone to leave it sort of split up the back - did up the top part backwards, buckled him in, pulled the bottom over his feet, and it was perfect - he was buckled, his feet were warm, he couldn't wiggle his hands, out, and he was very comfortable. I may just always do it backwards from now on.

We loved our Arms Reach co-sleeper and used it for a lot longer than we had anticipated. It was just too convenient. I think we moved the baby into her crib at about four months. Transitioning wasn't a big deal at all, but she's always been a good sleeper. I think it bothered my husband and I when she moved to her crib more than it bothered her.

We just discovered those lightweight Aiden + Anais sleeping bags, and they are perfect for summer. I love them.

If you end up purchasing a pump, I highly recommend the Medela Freestyle, especially if you're planning to pump long-term. It's pricey, but it's fully hands-free (though a bit fiddly). I know that plenty of people manage to rig a hands-free solution for other pumps, but I didn't want to spend time fashioning a pumping bustier out of an old sports bra. And most of my pumping is at work, and who wants to undress from the waist up, then put on a different bra just to pump?

My other recommendation for nursing mothers: Bamboobies. Best nursing pads ever. I wish I had known about them at the beginning, when I was dealing with engorgement/leaking.

Yeah, those clothes from Kmart are surprisingly good. Bea has a few and I was pleasantly surprised that they fit her tiny long torsoed self, and are $2/8 regular price, and often cheaper on sale. They are folded here, not on hangers, and have their own section right with the smallest nicest hanging baby stuff in our kmart.

Our kmart also, shockingly, has the best baby stuff selection around. Tons of bottles/nipples/pacifiers to try.

I found my wipes warmer to be super useful, but that's because I had E in the middle of a cold winter and she hated having her diapers changed, so it made things bearable for her. It broke recently and we haven't missed it.

Have you considered a Snugli for carrying the baby? We have both that and a Moby. My husband loves the Moby but like you, I find it a bit fiddly to deal with. E has almost grown out of her Snugli so I would happily send it to you, only it's pale pink, which may not be your idea of a fab color scheme.

I'm so bummed my breast pump broke and I couldn't send it to you, because a really good double electric pump is brilliant. Definitely more economical than renting if you plan to breastfeed for a long time.

Oh, and congratulations on your little cutie! He is perfectly adorable. You must be over the moon with love. Being a new mother is exhausting, but wonderful.

someone you know gets a kmart discount.

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Buzzy's a boy!

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Our son is here! He's very clearly not a Buzzy, so we're going to have to think about another Internet name for him. He was born at 6:33 am on Sunday, July 1. He was 8 lbs 5.6 oz and 22 inches at birth with a head of dark hair, and he's quite the looker. We had a few early issues with jaundice but I think we're past them and are all home and happy.

Regular blogging will resume as soon as I start getting enough sleep to form sentences.

6 Comments

How about just Buzz? So happy for you!

Congratulations!

Congrats to you all!!
Good luck with that sleep thing...

Yay! Congratulations!

Congratulations! Baby boys are wonderful. I hope he is a good sleeper. :)

CONGRATS! So excited for you and all the awesome new updates of motherhood! :)

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First, the inevitable update: baby is not yet born. Baby is now officially late. Baby is making me INSANE. But all is well, no signs of any distress, and s/he will either get here before July 7 of her own volition or be forced out on that date.

But that's not what this post is about. Rather, it's a warning or update or something. At the request of Buzzy's other parent, his/her picture will not be shared on this blog. Neither will his/her name. This isn't something I'd previously considered, but M feels strongly about preserving this baby's Internet privacy, to the degree that's possible, and having identifying information shared on Mama's very public blog isn't gonna do that.

I am of mixed emotions about it. On one hand, I want to tell you all about this amazing journey that we're going to be going on, and I feel a little bit hamstrung about doing that without a name and a face to go along with it. But M's point is a good one--when I made the decision to be public online, to use my real name and not a pseudonym, that was a decision that, as an adult, have a right to make. It's not the same one M would make (he's pretty well anonymous online, other than the places where I've outed him), and it's not one that I really have a right to foist on our kid, either. So, for the purposes of WINOW, Buzzy will remain Buzzy. I will tell you what sex s/he turns out to be, but that's probably all of the information you're going to get.

This discussion with M brought up a lot of larger issues that I probably haven't given as much thought to as I ought. What is the reasonable expectation of Internet privacy for a baby? A child? How much does one parent have a right to expect from the other, if one of them is a public online person, like me, and the other a private one, like M? This is, I guess, the first real parenting disagreement we've had, and it's an interesting one to start with. Once it became clear we were starting from really different places (I really didn't, and still don't, see the harm in sharing a name and picture--it's embarrassing stories where I draw the line), M and I hashed out the rules for every online forum in which I participate. Due to the public and searchable nature of it, things will be the least open here on WINOW. It would be M's preference for me not to discuss Buzzy here at all, even with a fake name and no picture, but I didn't think that was very reasonable. The no-name, no-photo thing is, I guess, our first parenting compromise.

Tell me about your experiences with this, readers who have kids? Did you and your partner have to negotiate about it, or were you on the same page to begin with? Are you happy with how you've done things, or would you do it differently if you had it to do over again?

7 Comments

I'm with you. I'm more of an open book online, and my husband is very private. I guess I didn't really ask if I could post pictures and call our daughter by name on my blog...I just do it, and it hasn't been an issue with him yet that I know of. Probably would've been a good thing to ask him about a year and a half ago... I do know he's very anti-nakey baby pictures, which I think are the cutest things ever, but I kind of understand his point on that.

I'm pretty lax when it comes to internet security for my girl, I guess. I share her name freely, and pictures, on Facebook, my now-defunct blog, and the board. Never naked pics, rarely even bathing suit shots. I don't think I've shared a horribly embarrassing story about her, well, because she hasn't had any. I just honestly don't see the harm, short of worrying someone is going to suss out where we live and kidnap/harm my child. That's just so low on the probability scale it rarely rates a thought. My husband is pretty internet private - uses pseudonyms and rarely touches FB, but he doesn't mind me sharing pictures and stories about our girl. He trusts I will keep it reasonable. So, it's not an issue with us, right now. I'm sure as Aislinn grows older, I'll not share our heart -to- hearts, or her health/puberty/boys/girls/relationships. That's her story to tell. Right now? It's still a large part of my story, and I trust that I am doing okay with that.

I have three children and have been blogging since my oldest was 3.5 (he's nearly 10). JP and SG have always been JP and SG. I can think of one post where a photo showing their faces appeared. Having said that, it would be hard for a stranger (re: reader) to pick my older kids out of a line-up.

I posted photos of my youngest, XC, on my old blog until he was 6-months old and then stopped. Since then that blog has gone private so there's no pictures floating around the internet. My reasons are similar to M's, with a dash of paranoia. I don't want to enable a stranger to approach any of my children under the guise of actually knowing them. My kids don't wear their names on anything, their luggage tags are their initials with their photo, nothing they own is personalized. It's a safety thing.

It's also a privacy thing. I blog pretty openly about my struggles being mom to a kid on the spectrum and I do want that to come back and bite JP someday, you know?

But, I think one picture of the baby with his/her initials and birth stats is okay.

I don't have a kid or plan to, but since online search is sort of my professional field, the idea that people think they can be anonymous online (or want to be) is sort of insane to me.

Because of what you said about your SO (and knowing his name) it took me all of 10 seconds to find info about him on the internet, including where he works, photos of him at work, his recent publications, his last three addresses and how many bedrooms were in each of them, what they sold for, the names of his family members, etc. If I wanted to put $20 or so to the cause, I could get his financial history, what magazines he subscribes to, and how much he makes. This is not because he put anything on the internet, but because the reality is that if you participate in American society, pay taxes, have property, etc. there is info about you on the internet.

I think in the future people will be much less worried about it because everyone's info will be on the internet. personally, I would shy away from anything partially clothed, because EW WEIRDO PEDOPHILES.

Wow, this is timely. My husband and I just had a full and frank exchange of views on this subject. He feels that I am way too open about our life and our child's life on the internet. Honestly, Facebook is the only place I do this stuff now, but his argument is that Facebook is not safe either. I just went and deleted a bunch of stuff at his request. I'm not too pleased, but I guess one has to respect one's spouse's wishes.

@Jenny, I don't think anyone who understands the internet and modern civilization believes they can be completely anonymous. But there's a difference between "anyone can find out who you are if they work hard enough" and "I am broadcasting information about this person's life who cannot give informed consent."

I would prefer to have permission to post photos of my child on my blog, but his father doesn't want that. I can occasionally get permission to post a photo that doesn't show his face. It makes me sad sometimes, but it's not like I can take it back 10 years later if Boy Detective decides I did him wrong.

Thanks so much for posting about this. This topic is something that many people don't talk about, and some don't even consider. I really appreciate your thoughtful post.

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Big nursery reveal!

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A few weeks back, I showed you some of what we had in mind in putting together the baby's room. Over the weekend, we finished the room up (or more-or-less finished it, I'm sure I'll keep futzing with it over time), so I thought you might like to see/hear about the final result. I'm also playing with collage software, but am still unable to take a decent damn picture, so please forgive the sub-par effort on that score.

Buzzy's nursery:

7176559703_8e382c1efe_o.jpg
(Click for bigger pictures.)

The players

Furniture:
-Graco Lauren Classic Convertible Crib in Walnut (the only big thing we've purchased new)
-Pali Amy Changing Table in Cherry, drawers removed (thrifted)
-Shermag Glider & Ottoman, natural with beige microsuede (handed down from a friend)
-four-shelf folding bookshelf (Craigslist, re-purposed from elsewhere in our house)

Textiles:
-Ikea Lusy Blom rug (re-purposed from elsewhere in the house)
-Janey Baby Animals crib sheet (Zulily)
-Janey Baby Animals changing pad cover (Zulily)
-random cream cotton curtains (temporary, re-purposed from elsewhere in the house)
-colorful safari mini-quilt (hanging on the crib, handmade by my mom)
-frog mini-quilt (on the back of the glider, handmade by my mom)
-Boppy with Sweet Pea slipcover (gift)

Accessories:
-Wimmer-Ferguson Infant Stim-Mobile (Amazon)
-Elmer the Patchwork Elephant (in the crib, gift)
-Angel Dear Blankie, monkey (on the changing table, from PetiteBox)
-elephant blankie/lovie (on the changing table, gift)
-hand-knitted Sheldon turtle (on the changing table, gift)

Storage:
-multiple sizes/styles of lined baskets, all thrifted and/or re-purposed from elsewhere in the house

Art:
-Oregon: My Roots Lie Here print (above the crib, gift, from Global Child Collection)
-Elkton, Oregon watercolor (above the crib, re-purposed from elsewhere in the house, Bally Greeting Cards)
-Blue Dog print (near the doorway to the master bedroom, re-purposed from elsewhere in the house, gift)
-Beastling & Boodle water color pencil drawing (above the bookshelf, drawn by our friend Howell)
-Zebra painting (above the glider, re-purposed from elsewhere in the house, from Austin-area artist Zebra)
-Colored pencil shaving art (above the changing table, gift)
-Floral and antique note collage (above the changing table, re-purposed from elsewhere in the house, gift)

Unpictured, there is a small closet, outfitted with two shelves and a hanging rack, and organized with yet more thrifted/re-purposed baskets, all full of baby clothes and textiles.

I can't overstate how happy I am with how the nursery turned out. The space feels both calm and happy, both appropriate for a baby and tolerable for an adult. It's comfortable and full of things that have been gifted to us and/or represent the people and places we love. I honestly couldn't have wished for anything better. I also love the eclectic nature of it, and how much of it is re-purposed from elsewhere in our house. It seems to fit seamlessly in with everything else we love, and I like that.

I'm also really happy with how little money we put into it. As I mentioned, the crib is the only large thing we've purchased new (not just the only one in the nursery, the only one period). We've been generously gifted/handed down, and I've had some decent thrift store luck, which is awesome. I did splurge at Zulily on the Janey Baby sheet and changing pad cover, because I love the Janey Baby stuff so much that I couldn't resist, but other than that, I've been able to keep my baby-related shopping constrained, and I'm glad I have--it feels more like us to have put together a great space for our little one mostly out of stuff that was given to us or stuff we already had.

The only issue? Having a fully put together baby's room makes it much more clear to me how not put-together the rest of our house is. I want to do this to every room now. Wonder if we can manage that in the next two weeks?

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Letter to Buzzy #1

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Dear Buzzy,

OK, first, about the Buzzy thing--I'm so sorry. I didn't mean for this to happen. You needed an in utero name, and first it was Party Boy (which is totally your dad's fault and I had nothing to do with), but that didn't really suit you, since you were so insistent so early on that I should have no fun and feel like crap. So, Erin christened you Baby Buzzkill, and it stuck. I am very much hoping that once you're born and have an actual name, the Buzzy thing will be but a distant memory, but I kinda suspect it's gonna hang on, at least in some circles.

Speaking of your name, I suppose I should also tell you that I wanted, for a few days, to name you Waylon. Your dad wouldn't let me. However, I did get the promise of a basset hound named Waylon down the line, so all is not lost.

Now then, the timing of this letter: I intended, last fall when I first got knocked up, to write you a letter monthly and save them all for you, because I thought it would be fun not only for me to record how this pregnancy thing goes, but for you, one day, to read about what it was like for me when you were on the inside. Clearly, since you've been hanging out in there for nine months and this is Letter #1, I fell down on the job. I blame the five months of puking, followed by the four months of swollen feet and anxiety. Better late than never, right?

Actually, I think I've been avoiding writing not just out of laziness and distraction, but because I don't want you to feel bad for what I'm going to say about being pregnant. That's dumb, though, because by the time you read this, you'll be smart enough to know you had nothing to do with it (though I have to tell you the truth, kid, I do sometimes feel like you're just in there fucking with me). Hopefully by the time you're old enough to ask me about it, I'll have forgotten just how much I hated pregnancy. Or I'll lie. But the truth is that being pregnant with you has been god-awful miserable and I've more or less hated every minute of it. For the first trimester-and-a-half, I was horribly sick. I lost almost 40 pounds. I couldn't eat and I threw up all the time. So it wasn't an auspicious start. Since then, it's been better, but those happy, fun second trimester side effects, like energy and glowing skin and increased sex drive? I didn't get them. Instead, I got massively swollen feet (and that, more than anything, is what has had me believing you do have some hand in this and you're just messing with me), anxiety, and high blood pressure. Now, with less than three weeks to go before you're supposed to show up, I'm just plain miserable. I don't look that big, but I feel enormous, I weigh more than I ever imagined I could (those 40 pounds came back, and brought friends), I can't sleep, I can't get comfortable, my feet are so swollen I have to wear flip flops everywhere, I've been relegated to the most atrocious clothing imaginable, and you insist on moving in the most uncomfortable way possible several times an hour, just to make sure I still know you're there. Some people don't mind being pregnant. Some people even like it. Your mom hated it.

All of that said, there is something (God help me for using this word) magical happening right now. You're on your way--the midwife told me yesterday that she'd be surprised if you were late--and we are, about as much as we're ever going to be, ready for you. We have all of the endless baby crap we need, and lots that I'm sure we don't. Your turquoise room is painted, your sleeping places are put together, your car seat is installed. We've been making a place for you in our lives for months, shifting our priorities around the same way my organs are being shifted around, so you'll fit, and now it's mostly done. All that is really missing is you.

Even after carrying you around for all of these weeks, it's still hard for me to picture you in there, growing, getting hair, starting to move down towards the exit. What I can picture, however, and have started picturing on the regular, is what you'll look like once you're on the outside. Will you look like Mark, or like me? In my mind, I've got features picked out for you, a mix of his and mine--you're a blonde baby (though I know your Grandma Irene would be especially pleased if you defeated the odds and came out red-headed), with a nose like Mark's and a mouth like mine. You come out blue-eyed, as white babies tend to do, but you end up carrying on the hazel-eyed gene I got from my dad. You are a big baby, with long fingers and toes. I know, though, that as soon as I see what you are really like, I'm not even going to remember how I imagined you'd be. You'll be exactly what you're supposed to be.

And will you be a boy or a girl? It's a subject of endless debate, though very little of it is actually between Mark and I, both of whom seem content either way. I've said since the beginning that I thought you were a girl, and I still do, though the feeling isn't particularly strong either way and I won't be surprised if you're a boy. Mark says he thinks you're a boy, but he's not convinced either way, either. My mom is sure you're a boy--she thought your 20-week ultrasound picture looked "masculine." I am reproducing said picture here just to show you how ridiculous that really is:

Yeah. Grandma Penny is a nutter.

I've been trying to figure out if, deep down, I want you to be a girl or a boy. I've always said I wanted a boy, since somebody raising boys into a new kind of men is the only way I can see any hope for the survival of our species. Turns out, though, when it's not an abstract concept anymore, I don't care so much about the survival of our species--I can imagine you fondly in any sex. I try to tease a preference out of myself, but I really can't find one.

One thing I do have a preference about, and I get about as much say in this as I do in your sex, is that you hold off your arrival until my mom gets here. I know it's important to her to be here, and it's important to me to have her here. (It's also important, most important, maybe, to your dad, who does not want to have to deal with me in labor alone.) She's coming five days before your due date, so if you can just not decide to start life as a pathologically early child, that would be great. Right on your due date would be super, but anytime during that week would work out very nicely. I tend towards the slightly late side myself, in general, so I'll probably consider it an annoyance, but also a sign that you're like me, if you hold out a few extra days. If you go buck wild and wait until the 4th of July to be born, I promise not to name you Amerika or anything, though I probably will be pretty cranky by then.

I've mentioned my anxiety a couple of times, and it's true that it's gone a bit off the rails over the past few weeks. I worry about every possible thing I could do wrong once you're here, and then I worry about the things I don't know I could do wrong and thus don't know to worry about. This is, I'm told, well within the realm of normal, though it feels a bit pathological to me. I guess anytime you embark upon something this big, and this new, you're bound to have a few pre-performance jitters. Oddly enough, the only thing I am not worried about is labor. I figure that will sort itself out, one way or the other, and the idea of pain doesn't keep me up at night nearly so well as the idea of incompetence. Then again, I may not know how to be a mom yet, but you don't even know how to be a human, so maybe you should be the one anxious one? I promise I'll help you figure it out if you do the same for me.

I guess I should explain, before I go, why this letter is here, on this blog, instead of written in longhand in a box somewhere to give to you when you turn something-teen/on your wedding day/the day of the birth of your first child/some other auspicious occasion. Mostly because I am a member of the computer generation and writing longhand hurts my hand. Also because I write better for an audience, and I'm not good with delayed gratification. You're my intended audience, but it's going to be years before you ever read this, and even then I'll probably get a completely underwhelming reaction (I'm picturing a teenaged you complaining about me being long-winded--please don't ever get the haircut I am picturing you having). This blog is where I store my stuff, random collection as it is, and it seems like as good a place as any to put this, for now. I promise that once you get big enough for the things I write about you to potential be embarrassing, I will re-think this Internet open book strategy.

As I close this letter, you've started to move around in my belly after being calm for the last hour or so. You must know I am thinking of going to bed--you're kind of a brat that way. You are big enough that your body parts are creating weird alien lumps, so that my stomach is rarely a smooth globe anymore. Right now, something I assume to be your butt looks an awful lot like a tumor just to the left of my belly button. What? I said I'd not write things that might embarrass you later, not now. As long as you're still in my body, you're totally fair game.

I can't wait to meet you. It's the thing I'm looking forward to second most in the world right now. After not being pregnant anymore. Or maybe it's the other way around...

Love,

Your Mom

10 Comments

omg Grace. Totally in tears at the office. Keep this on a USB somewhere safe and never, ever lose it.

Beautiful, Grace.

Buzzkill, I regret nothing! Your mom helped turn my fetuses into (adorable, long-lashed) livestock!

This is perfect. Especially the "please don't ever get the haircut I'm picturing you as having" bit. LOL.

Dadgummit, grace, you made me have twitchy ovaries. For about 2.4 seconds.

I can't wait to meet this baby!

this is beautiful! I wish I had something like this from my mother. Buzzy is a lucky kid.

I remember that shitty end-of-pregnancy awfulness like it was...well, six months ago, almost. I hardly slept because I had to pee every 15 minutes, and I had a late-night party fetus as well. It didn't help that everyone kept telling me to get a lot of sleep because I wouldn't sleep once the baby arrived, and I couldn't understand how I could possibly sleep LESS as a parent than I was as a miserable pregnant lady. Good times!

I hope you will be as amazed as I was at how quickly you feel "normal" again. I had a c-section, and once the doctor pulled the baby out, it felt like a huge weight was lifted off my abdomen. And I felt like a new person the first time I got three hours of sleep without waking up to pee...even though three hours was the longest the baby would sleep without wanting to get up to eat.

this made my month. possibly my year. brilliant. i'm sure your teenaged child will appreciate it not one iota, but who cares?

Some people absolutely forget how it feels to be pregnant, even the ones who hated it. Fingers crossed you are one of them.

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Possible lullabies for Buzzy

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So I've been thinking about what I will sing to my kid. There are really two criteria:
1. I have to know the words.
2. It has to be in a pitch/key that I can at least sorta manage.

The list of possibilities, given those criteria, is...a bit odd:

1. "She Ain't Goin' Nowhere" (Guy Clark)
2. "Tecumseh Valley" (Townes Van Zandt, no way I can do Nanci Griffith's version)
3. "I'll Be There For You" (Bon Jovi)
4. "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys" (Ed Bruce, Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson)
5. "Midnight Radio" (from Hedwig)
6. "Origin of Love" (from Hedwig)
7. "Wild Horses" (The Rolling Stones)
8. "Theme from the Dukes of Hazzard" (Waylon Jennings)
9. "Angel from Montgomery" (John Prine)
10. "The Road Goes on Forever" (Robert Earl Keen)

Anybody have a vote? Another suggestion?

6 Comments

What ever happened to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Itsy Bitsy Spider, and You are my Sunshine?

"Dream a Little Dream of Me," Mama Cass version.

See, I never realized I was supposed to pick an official lullaby or know all the words. But I do recommend what you're doing here because I ended up singing just the chorus to the song "Elevator Love Letter" by Stars far too often because I could remember it.

boy named sue?

asleep & dreaming by the magnetic fields?

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Curated subscription review: Wittlebee

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Wittlebee is a fairly new entrant into the crowded curated subscription field, and I love the concept. For $39.99/month, they sent a box of 8ish clothing items for your baby or toddler, customized to the size, gender, and taste preferences you specify. Wittlebee is sort of a combination of the curated subscription model (since their stylists pick out the actual items you receive) and the subscribe-for-convenience model. Given the rate at which kids grow, and how busy parents are, this combo seems to make good sense.

For the purposes of my trial, I told Wittlebee that I would like 3-6 month sized clothes in gender neutral styles, that I was specifically in need of short-sleeved and long-sleeved shirts and onesies, pants, shorts, and pajamas, and that I preferred bright colors to pastels. I further indicated that my child's personality was "hippy," (other options included
things like "princess," "diva," "mix & match," "casual," "preppy," and "sporty") and that I needed clothes mostly for around the house (rather than, for example, "Cold Weather Cuddles" or "Hot Summer Days"). There is also a free-form space where you can put in any specific preferences, or you can request a personal consult with a "mom stylist." I didn't do either of those things.

I neglected to make note of when I ordered my box, but I am fairly sure it came within the two week window the site mentions. It didn't seem to take long. The packaging was nice--a heavy cardboard box with the yellow tissue-paper wrapped clothes folded nicely inside, exactly like what Wittlebee shows on their site. A promotional sticker and small bee logo toy were also included. When I unpacked the box, this is what was in it:

wittlebee april 2012.jpg

The contents:
-Baby Lulu pink and silver striped hat
-soft blue hat with no label
-Kidcosmic black, green, and white bib
-American Apparel Infant Baby Rib Karate Pants in Red and Olive (retail $12 each)
-Cottonseed Short-Sleeved Onesie in Sunflower (retail $16)
-American Apparel Infant Baby Rib Short Sleeve One-Piece in Red (retail $11.50)
-Baby Avenue onesie in white (can't find online anywhere)
-Cottonseed Long Sleeve Lap Tees in Tangerine and Turquoise (retail $16 each)
-Cottonseed Short Sleeve Lap Tee in Pomegranate (retail $16)

If I only count the value of the pieces I could find online (all the clothes except the white onesie and neither of the hats or the bib), that's $99.50 worth of clothes, at full price! I can't argue with that, especially since I got my box with a 1/2 off coupon, so I only paid $20!

Overall, I was impressed by the quality of the things Wittlebee sent. I'd not heard of Cottonseed before, but their t-shirts and onesie are made out of thick, soft cotton, and I think they'll be very useful. American Apparel I am less excited about, because I hate that particular company, and I'd prefer Wittlebee not use them at all. The additions from small boutiques like Baby Lulu and Kidcosmic were really cool as well, I thought--a good mix of big companies and smaller ones.

One thing I noticed right off was that the items I received were very, very basic/plain. Looking at the boxes other people have received, I think this is probably because I asked for a box for a baby, and I asked for it to be gender neutral. I suspect offerings for older kids are a bit more creative. Wittlebee is also pretty gendered in how they set up their style questions (very few options are the same for both boys and girls), so the stylists probably don't have a ton of gender neutral items on-hand to choose from. That said, my stylist clearly paid attention to the preferences I indicated--everything was the right size, I got short and long-sleeved shirts, onesies, and pants, as I requested, and all the colors were bright and gender neutral.

From what I can tell, Wittlebee is doing an excellent job with the service they're offering--keeping busy parents from needing to replace kids' clothes all the time, introducing fun new styles and brands. But it's not a bargain service--$40/month is, to me, a lot for kids' clothes, even if they are three times that much new. I also don't have a good idea, yet, as to whether this size box, monthly, is really necessary for a kid--do they ruin/outgrow things that fast?

I think Wittlebee is something I'll try again when this baby is a bit older and I can thrift wearables for him/her less easily. At that point, I hope Wittlebee will have introduced a quarterly option, like Lost Crates has done, as I think that's more my speed at this price point. If you have the disposable income and don't like to or have time to shop for kids' clothing, though, I would definitely give them a try. Take a look around online for coupon codes, too, as I have seen several 50% off your first box codes floating around.

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$40/month is a lot for kids clothes--well, it's more than I spend!!

I also wouldn't spend $16 on a kid t-shirt, unless it was a special treat (I have a couple of Thomas shirts, since my kid goes gaga for those). I generally buy kids clothes when we seem to be running out of clothes that fit, which in practice, was about every 3 months until a year, then twice a year/when the seasons change. I look for stuff on sale and can get t-shirts for under $5 and pants for under $10 (if I'm lucky) at Target. I also don't care as much about the quality as I might do for my own clothes, simply because the clothes won't be usable for so long. I expect to get years of wear out of my own clothes, but I doubt I have a full year out of anything I've bought for kiddo.

Sean here, CEO of Wittlebee.

Grace thanks so much for taking the time to review our site. I really enjoyed this post.

In regards to a quarterly option we're working on that. For now our members can pause their membership anytime. So it's not required to get a box every month.

I would love this service. Too bad they only deliver within the continental US.

I looked at the sample boxes and saw that the girl's boxes had both Diva and Princess but I wasn't sure the difference. I wish they had some more active choices for girls like Scientist and Sporty. Or even a way to choose "boy" styles for girls. Oh and looking at H&Ms boy t-shirt selections for summer tells me that pink is all the rage here.

Anyway, the value is better than I can get here so I would definitely sign up. They just need to ship to Switzerland. :)

$40 seems like a lot of money to me. Some stuff I've learned about baby clothes: first of all, babies don't care what they look like (and I personally didn't much care what mine looked like either until she was 6 weeks old because I was so sleep-deprived and had PPD). Secondly, they spit up a lot so you need a lot of changes of clothing. Thirdly, they grow really fast so you won't keep anything for very long. So I figured out that I just needed a lot of onesies that were easy to get on and off. You can get ultra-cheap ones from, like, the supermarket, or you can get them for mere pennies second-hand and hardly worn. We definitely have a whole bunch of gorgeous, expensive baby clothes that people gave to us, but the most useful things were the cheap or hand-me-down things that didn't have a million snaps or any annoying things like buttons that went down the back.

I found baby and toddler clothing extremely easy to find at yard sales - for pennies on the dollar. And because they grow so fast, I didnt worry about it lasting necessarily. Although my kids clothes at those ages almost all were used to start with, went through both my boys, and then were sold/donated/given to friends for further use. Once the kids hit size 24 months/2T, you don't have to worry so much about getting the seasons right as they will tend to stay in one size long enough to epwear it at some point. I only bought sock, shoes new at that age and even through much of elementary school. Of course I filled in for special occasions if I couldn't find something right or to fill in gaps, but 90% of clothing was used probably.

AWFUL COMPANY!!!

After notifying them via facebook (because they don't answer if you call or respond via email) that I was disappointed in my box and wanted to cancel my subscription they blocked me from their facebook page.

After doing some research I discovered I was not alone, they do this often. Delete unfavorable reviews and comments and then block the person from defending their opinion. Mind you they are treating PAYING customers this way.

I, like most moms, researched the company and read reviews before I signed up. The reviews were glowing so why wouldn't I sign up. Pictures were favorable, it was difficult to find negative reviews and now I know why, they have them removed. Very unethical in my opinion.

I was promised that my count would be canceled by the end of day, as of yet it has not been and close of business in PST is in 22 minutes.

I find it ironic that during all of their "reorganizing" I posted a link to this page when I showed concern after the post after post on their facebook page regarding delayed shipping. After my post my box was immediately processed and clearly thrown together. It is awful and clearly they disregarded any of my notes to their so called "stylists". Not to mention that there was several posts from the owner this past weekend stating they were currently processing orders from the 7th of July. I ordered mine on the 13th.

Why might you ask did they place my order above others that ordered prior to me, to shut me up. Well if they wanted me to be happy they might of taken some effort to assemble a box that my child could actually wear.

When you start "no slim fitting clothes child is chunky" don't give them 2 slim fitting pairs of shorts. When you state the colors you like are "grey, orange and black" don't give them green. And if you want a customer to be happy don't give them a pair of shorts that I could buy myself, online right now for $2.99 and get an additional 20% off of that.

Think twice before subscribing to Wittlebee... there are other great monthly subscriptions out there for your kids. Citrus Lane, Kiwi Crate, Babbaco, little passport etc. While they are not clothing they are so much better not only as companies but as products.

It looks pretty plain to me. I learned my lesson after spending a couple K at zulily. I realized I had a LOT of boring clothing that didn't excite me too much. I should have just gotten several pieces that I REALLY wanted from online boutiques instead because they have the best stuff that I actually want for my daughter.

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Out of my element: nursery design

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So I'm not much of an interior decorator. And if you know me, you know just how much of an understatement that is. I LOVE nicely decorated spaces, but it's just not something I have ever done. We have a hodge podge of furniture and, despite living in our house for nearly three years now, haven't done so much as painted a wall (and they're all beige!). It's just not my thing.

So I wasn't all that stoked about this whole "decorate your baby's nursery!" thing. But Mark wanted to paint, so that the baby's room, at least, would not be beige, and we've started to collect things. So far, this is Buzzy's nursery:

Baby's room

We haven't actually purchased the crib yet, but that's the one we'll likely get. Mark and his wonderful parents painted the room Glidden True Turquoise with bright white trim this weekend, and put up the bamboo blind. The rug is from Ikea and I've had it for years, but I think it will be perfect. The changing table is thrifted. The crib sheet is on my registry, and if nobody gifts it to us, I'll buy it (from Target). The Oregon print was a gift from my BF.

So, what else do we need? Storage! I think we're actually going to go with putting the big wire shelving unit I used in the room when it was my closet back in, with lots of bins or baskets for holding baby clothes. I may try to make due with what we've got, or I may get new (read: matching) receptacles. Buzzy's going to need a bookshelf, so I'm hoping to thrift one. My mom made two beautiful blankets, so those will definitely be in there. And I want to get curtains--maybe just white, since there is already quite a bit of color going on. What else? Suggestions from those who are more decor inclined?

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I also struggle with decorating, so I really appreciated you sharing this. As you find the other pieces you're looking for, I hope you'll share those as well.

I cannot claim any expertise or talent in decorating, but a word about storage. I planned to have a bunch of bins and baskets for baby clothes, but we rapidly accumulated so many clothes in so many varying sizes (and the baby grows so ridiculously fast) that my husband put his foot down and went and got several large plastic chests of drawers from Target. They don't look especially nice, but it was the only way to stop the baby clothes getting into total chaos. I draped my Polynesian sarong collection over the top to hide the tacky appearance. But then, I find myself caring less and less about the appearance of anything in my house because of my sleep-deprived stupor!

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Having a baby, the dollars and cents

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Last week, Caryn mentioned in the comments that she'd "love to see [a post] about the financial impact of a baby and how you're planning for that." This is a really, really good question, and one that has been the subject of near-endless discussion at my house for many months now. I think there are a lot of misconceptions about this subject, too, so in the spirit of Honesty Day, let's talk about the dollars and cents part of this baby equation, shall we?

I've been hanging around the alternative mommy message board scene for quite a while now, and if I've heard the following once, I've heard it a million times:

"Don't worry about money! Babies aren't expensive! You can get all of their clothes and stuff used/handed down, use cloth diapers to save money, and breastfeed!"

I'm sure that for someone, somewhere, that's true. In some utopian world, babies are so cheap as to be financially inconsequential. That is not the case in my world, however. In my world, this kid comes with a very high price tag. And I'm gonna tell you just how much, or at least as close as I can estimate.

Medical care
We are really, really lucky on this count. Some people are in debt for years for the costs of prenatal care and childbirth. As Mark's domestic partner, I am allowed to be on his insurance (which he is then taxed for as compensation, which would not happen if we were legally married, but that is a digression and a rant for another day). Mark has very good insurance, and during his open enrollment period this year, when I was newly pregnant, we upgraded it to very, very good insurance. My prenatal visits, with midwives (and I will write a separate post about why I decided to go that route, another great idea from last week's comments), are 100% covered--no copays. Our two ultrasounds cost about $40 each. The two times I had to go into the hospital for IV hydration were $20 each. And my delivery, depending on the specifics, will be no more than a couple of hundred dollars. If there are no complications, it may be less. As soon as s/he's on the outside, the baby will be covered by the same insurance, without an additional premium payment on Mark's part, and it will be similarly fantastic coverage. Like I said, we're VERY lucky.

In reality, though, our case is becoming the exception rather than the rule. It is hard to estimate what other folks are shelling out for prenatal care and delivery, but it runs into the the thousands, and if you have to pay for it completely, can be $8K or more for an uncomplicated pregnancy and delivery, and skyrocket into tens of thousands if there are any issues, even relatively minor ones.

There are also non-doctor medical costs. Prenatal vitamins, massage/chiropractic care/physical therapy if that becomes necessary, the incredibly useful maternity pillow...these things add up. I haven't been keeping track, but I'd say they've come to a couple hundred dollars over the course of my pregnancy.

Day care
I could write a many, many page treatise about being prepared for the cost of day care. Day care, particularly full-time care for an infant, is extraordinarily expensive. I am not talking extended cable expensive, or car payment expensive, or student loan expensive. I'm talking mortgage/rent expensive, or "I could send my kid to college for that!" expensive. For many people, even with only one child, day care represents the largest of their monthly financial outlays, or at least the second largest, after housing. That will be the case for us. The day care centers on my list of options range from about $1,300 to over $2,000 a month (the one we chose lands in the middle of that range). You have to be pretty well off for a new $1,300+ monthly bill to not significantly change your financial situation.

Are there cheaper options? Some, but not a lot. An in-home day care, rather than a center, might cost a few hundred a month less. But finding and vetting one is, at least from my experience so far, a much more complicated process. There is also the question of reliability--a single provider might get sick or have an emergency that would preclude the kid going to day care, and a center likely won't. A nanny would, of course, be more expensive.

And this is the point at which someone inevitably pipes up with the stay-at-home option. I have lots to say about that, and I'm not sure how much of it I want to say here, in fear of mass alienation of readers. The bottom line is that having a stay-at-home parent is not an option that is even under consideration for my family. It would be a financially disastrous idea, even if one of us were willing to put our careers on-hold to do it, which we are not. So day care is, in our case, a necessity.

Lost wages
The amount in lost income a baby represents is completely variable. Some people, I hear, actually have paid maternity leave! Needless to say, I don't. In fact, as a contractor, I'm not even covered by FMLA, so, in theory, taking time off to have a baby and recover from labor and all that could lose me my job. Doesn't look like that is going to happen, but it could. However, the time I take off (which will be at least 8 weeks and may be up to 12, depending on how things go) is going to cost us. Because I have a short-term disability policy that covers childbirth recovery, some of my lost wages will be re-cooped, but a lot of people are not that lucky. I estimate the time I'm taking off will cost me between $5,000 and $7,500.

The big ticket items
Though it's popular to say that you don't actually NEED any of that "fancy baby crap," the truth is that most people use a lot of the items that are sold for babies. They may not strictly be necessities, but they make life a lot easier/more pleasant. And Mark and I are going into this with the idea that it's going to be hard enough without trying to be spartan about it. So we're buying a good few baby items. Note, though, that none of them are the top-of-the-line version--we're trying to be as moderate as possible, getting things that are of a quality that will see us through, but knowing that, since we're only planning to have one child, we won't need them to last a lifetime.

Carseat: This is one everybody pretty much agrees you shouldn't skimp on. We got lucky here, again, because we're inheriting a barely-used seat from a trusted source (you shouldn't go in for used seats if you don't know/trust their providence, since seats that have been in accidents need to be replaced). The seat we're inheriting is the Chicco KeyFit 30. If we had to pay for it? It would be somewhere between $150 and $200.

Stroller: A good jogging stroller is an important purchase for us, since Mark plans to take the baby on lots of walks with Ata. Yes, we could just use a wrap, and likely he will early on, but babies get big fast, and we believe we'll get good use out of a stroller. We aren't totally sure which model we'll be purchasing yet, but the one we're leaning towards is the Baby Jogger Summit. The price tag? $400.

Crib: Lots of people don't use cribs. Others have fully decorated nurseries. We're taking an in-between path. We do plan to purchase and use a crib (more on that later), but aren't planning to purchase any fancy bedding sets (just fitted sheets and mattress protectors) or have a theme, or anything like that. Cribs come in a pretty wide variety of shapes, sizes, and costs. Many of them are designed to "grow with" the kid and covert to toddler beds, then twin beds, and even full-sized beds. That seems like decent sense. We've looked at quite a few, and decided we're probably going to go with the Graco Signature Convertible Crib, which runs around $200. That's just the crib, though--we'll still need to buy a crib mattress (for anywhere from around $40 to about $200) and lots of fitted sheets.

Co-Sleeper: After giving it a lot of thought, Mark and I decided to go ahead and a get a co-sleeper. A co-sleeper is a small, bassinet-like thing that attaches right to your bed for the baby to sleep in for the first few months of life. The idea is that night nursing will be made much easier by the kid being right there (as well watching him/her sleep and not freaking about whether or not s/he is breathing), but s/he won't actually be in bed with us. It's a bit of a middle path between putting the baby in his/her own room in a crib immediately and true co-sleeping. Again, there are a list of reasons behind this decision, but that's probably another post in and of itself. The basic model co-sleeper we're going to get, the Arm's Reach Mini, costs about $150. It comes with a mattress and one fitted sheet, so we'll just have to buy a few more sheets for it and we'll be set.

So, why BOTH the crib and the co-sleeper? Well, due to the weight limits on it, the baby will only be able to sleep in the co-sleeper for a few months (up to 4 or 5 months, probably), and will then need to transition to the crib. We also plan to do naps in the crib from the beginning, so that s/he will immediately get used to sleeping by him/herself.

Pack N Play: This is another thing that I'm sure at least one person is going to say we don't need, but I think will be useful. We live in a three-story house. Our bedroom, and the baby's bedroom, are on the third floor. Our main living space is on the second. I want a place to lay the baby down downstairs, or even a place for him/her to nap there. A bassinet or Moses basket would work, but only while s/he is very small--a Pack N Play will have utility later, as well, and also give us a place to do diaper change that isn't the floor. We're going with a mid-range model, with a bassinet attachment for when the babe is small and a changing station, probably the Graco Pack 'n Play Playard with Newborn Napper Station. It will cost about $150.

Other furniture: This is an area where we are more or less skimping. We're not buying a dresser for the baby--the are a set of open shelves already in his/her room that we plan to use for storage. We were going to buy a changing table, but I got extremely lucky at the thrift store a couple of weeks ago and found this $350 changing table in great shape for $25. We will just need a pad and some covers for it. Since the kid already has a pretty good book collection, we'll probably need to pick up a bookshelf for his/her room, but hopefully that can be thrifted as well. The only other piece of furniture we're considering is a glider, for rocking and nursing. We haven't picked anything out yet, but the cost on those looks to be anywhere from $150 on up, and we'll probably go with something at the lower end of the range.

Diapers
Lots of people swear by cloth diapers for money-saving purposes, and I get the logic, but honestly, it's not gonna happen. Even if I were willing to take on the extra mess and laundry, we'd have to go with half-time disposables as soon as the kid goes to day care anyway. Doesn't seem worth the initial diaper outlay. So, we're going to use disposables. Cost estimates on that vary (depending, often, on whether whomever does the estimate wants you to use cloth or disposable), but we're tentatively planning for $50-$75/month. Then there are wipes, creams, etc. for a few bucks more.

Feeding
And here is where it gets REALLY political. If you are pregnant, or thinking of getting pregnant, or, you know, female at all, somebody will, at some point, tell you that nursing is free. Nursing is not free, at least not in the great majority of cases. It may be cheaper than formula-feeding (though, in my case, I'm not sure that's going to be true), but it's not free.

How not? Well, the first thing to consider is the increased caloric need of the nursing mom. More calories=more food=more money. But that's probably not a huge outlay, and it's hard to estimate, so I'm not going to dwell on it. There are also nursing supplies--Bobby and cover, nursing pads, nipple creams, etc.--those things will add up a bit, but again, not a huge outlay. The real costs, from what I can tell, come from the combination of nursing and working. Pumps, especially pumps that are decent enough to make pumping at work doable for a lot of women, are not cheap. There are several pump options, at a variety of cost points, from small manual pumps to hospital grade versions. Sometimes, you can even rent pumps. I'm not sure what I am going to do yet--it's going to depend on how things go--but probably if nursing works out well enough for me to commit to several daily pumping sessions at work, I'll need to go with something like the Medela Pump in Style Advanced, which runs about $350. It is possible insurance will cover it, I haven't figured that out yet.

There's also the time factor. While time to pump at work is protected, it's not paid. So whatever time it takes me to pump at work each day is time I am off the clock, and thus a loss in my hourly income. It's hard to estimate how big a bite that will take, since I have no idea how well pumping will or won't work or how much time it will demand, but my guess is that it won't be insubstantial.

There will be other smaller costs associated with pumping, as well, including sterilization bags, bottles or bags in which to store/freeze milk, etc.

Clearly, I plan to attempt breastfeeding. However, I am not afraid to go to formula if I feel that is what we need to do, or to do a combination of formula and breast milk. That leads to a new set of costs--bottles, nipples, a microwave sterilizer (I'm told this is key), a drying rack...I actually got a number of these things as shower gifts, so it won't likely add up to all that much for me, but they're still costs. Then there is the formula itself. Again, cost estimates vary greatly depending on who is doing the estimating, but the most reasonable sounding numbers I've seen estimate full-time formula use at $80-$120/month.

Then there is the assorted baby stuff. Clothes, blankets, pacifiers, burp cloths, and on and on and on. I have no way to quantify how much that all costs, as it is so highly variable, depending on how much of you get as gifts, where/what you buy, and so on. We haven't spent much at all on that sort of stuff yet, as we've been VERY generously gifted, but I expect it will start to add up once the kid is here and we see exactly what we need and don't have.

So a very rough total estimate? Somewhere around $7,000-$9,500 initial layout, then another additional $2,000 or so in monthly expenses. Not exactly cheap. In fact, I think you'd be hard pressed to argue that doesn't totally change the financial picture.

Getting back to Caryn's question, she asked how we're planning for this financial hit. We've actually been planning for it for quite some time. When Mark and I first started talking about having a baby, there was a certain amount of money he wanted to see in our emergency savings account before we started trying. Mark is a lot more financially conservative than I am, and I thought the number he wanted to shoot for was ridiculous. So, we negotiated, and came up with a new number, as well as a target date for getting to that number and a target date to start trying to conceive. When the TTC date came, we weren't quite to the savings goal, but it was within reach, and so we went for it.

Since I've been pregnant, we've gotten a bit more serious. What we decided to do was to start pretending that the biggest baby expense (day care) was already upon us, and "paying" it into our savings account. We've been doing that for the last six or seven months. This serves two purposes. First, it gets us used to the great level of financial austerity needed to work an additional $1,500/month or so into our budget. Secondly, it helps us to get to that savings goal we talked about. It has worked out well. As there always are, there have been some large unexpected expenses (veterinary expenses, as it turns out, which I will post about on another day), so our savings is not quite where we'd like it to be, but it's close(ish), and I feel pretty secure that we've been responsible about planning the financial side of this.

Honestly, I am at a loss as to how people who aren't so lucky as Mark and I have been, financially, make this work. Obviously the cost of living here is quite high, and that makes things like day care more expensive, but even in places with a lower COL, it's significant. And the medical expenses some people face are extraordinary. Then you add up the little things, and even if you try to go bare-bones, it isn't cheap. It's a daunting financial proposition. Which is why I find the "it will all work out! babies are cheap!" line of discussion so very frustrating. I just don't see how that reflects reality for the great majority of people.

None of this is to say that I am sorry we're doing this. I'm so, so not. I am just really thankful to be doing it now, when we're in such a privileged financial position. It would be extremely stressful to be facing all of these new costs without the cushion we've been able to build, and without the good, stable jobs we've been able to find. We're extraordinarily lucky.

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As far as people who aren't as well off making it work financially, I think the big secret is that a lot of people don't. They use up their savings and go into debt, especially people without good medical coverage.

This is truly wonderful to see and I will make a point of having my 13 year old read this. As you know, my oldest was born when I was 19 and had just finished my freshman year of college. I was utterly unprepared for parenthood and utterly broke. Fortunately, a lot of family stepped up to make sure my daughter had what she needed and to help with other financial difficulties. The reality is I had to eat any remnant of pride I had and take advantage of programs such as WIC, community food banks and other social services for low income families. It sucked. I am extremely grateful for the help I received. I could not have provided for my daughter and then my son without assistance. I made some very poor choices and my life has been a lot more difficult than it needed to be. Do I regret having my children? No not at all but I do regret not being able to provide for them in the manner I would have liked to. You can raise children with no money but it is a miserable experience and I am extremely frustrated when people say that having babies is cheap. I appreciate your candor in talking about the reality.

Finances make up 90% of the reason we are just having the one child. Even though we live in a much lower COL area than you.

Great post, Grace.

Feel free to reject this offer if the thought grosses you out, but do you want my breast pump? I tried desperately hard to breastfeed my daughter but I couldn't, so it's just sitting in a closet right now. It's an Avent dual electric pump and I found it really good, much better than the Medela pump they used at the hospital. You'd want to buy some new parts such as the plastic cups and the silicone liners that go inside the cups, but the motor and tubing etc are in perfect condition and they don't ever touch the fluids so they'd be fine from a hygiene point of view.

Anyway, send me a Facebook message with your address if you want me to send it to you. No big drama if you don't want it :)

Just a note for others who may happen by - in some (many?) states, pregnant women qualify for medicaid even when they wouldn't otherwise be eligible.

and then my kid turned out to need special formula. Not Cheap, no alternative.

I gave four kids. If I had been living in the US when they were being conceived, born and in day care I would most likely have had less. Living in a country with socialized medical care made not even having to take the medical expense part into consideration.

Thanks, Grace! This is interesting and insightful. I am super impressed with the diligence of pretending like the baby is already here (financially, anyway).

Austin has a much lower COL than you do, but we've been finding that the daycares around here still run around $1000. We have pretty reasonable insurance and found that it still cost us about $3000 out of pocket between the prenatal appointments, the hospital bills (I had an epidural and the baby needed to go to the NICU), and the post-partum stuff for me+baby. I concur that it's hard to see how people who aren't financially well off to begin with can stay afloat after having a kid.

Car seat- I think you mean provenance.....

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Getting ready for the baby #2: Sleeping

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Next in E's ultra-helpful getting-ready-for-baby series was sleeping. The things she says we'll need:

1. The Happiest Baby on the Block.

LOTS of people have recommended this particular book to me, and I have it standing by.

2. Swaddling blankets.

E says:

Someone is likely to show you how to swaddle a bb while you're in the hospital. There are also instructions in THBOTB. I know you have some of the Aden and Anais swaddling blankets, which are great for bigger babies. When the twins were brand new, they were engulfed by those, and we used Carter's flannel receiving blankets, because I was worried about too much fabric around them while they were asleep. SWADDLING IS MAGIC.

E. calls the combination sleepsack/swaddler even more magical, but warns it is only available in newborn sizes.

3. Sound machine(s).

E. is a big devotee of sound machines and has several different kinds. She says the no-frills white noise machine is good for naps or during times when heavy-duty noise cancellation is needed. For nightly use, she recommends the Graco Sweet Slumber Sound Machine, which has several sounds and a built-in nightlight. When her babies were very small, though, she swore by the Cloud b Sleep Sheep, which can be velcroed to the side of the crib and has a timer feature.

4. Mobile.

E says she thought mobiles were a racket at first, but then hooked up her Wimmer-Ferguson Infant Stim-Mobile to a small motor. Starting at about 5 or 6 weeks, her babies would watch that mobile for 15 or 20 minutes at a time, giving her precious time when she didn't have to be holding them. That's a good enough reason for me to try it!

5. Crib sheets.

For cute, non-pastel crib sheets, E suggests Carousel Designs, and says she also got some nice sets at K-Mart. She didn't mention how many I should have on hand--anybody want to answer that in the comments?

E also suggests some Summer Infant Ultimate Organic Crib Sheets, which snap on so that the whole crib doesn't have to be re-made if the sheet needs to be changed.

That's the end of E's list, but I have one addition for our specific situation:

6. Co-sleeper sheets/mattress protectors.

We plan to use a co-sleeper for the first few months of Buzzy's life, so we'll need sheets and a mattress protector or two for that as well as the crib.

What am I missing? Leave a comment!

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On blankets, I could never figure out how to swaddle with the Aden & Anais ones--they're very pretty but just didn't work for me for swaddling. We used this blanket: http://www.isisparenting.com/product/ABCVV_3308/swaddleblankets
They sold it to me at Isis and it was seriously lifesaving--it's the right size and right amount of stretch for swaddling and works amazingly well.

We have the same mobile and it is awesome. It was basically the most exciting thing to ever happen to baby--she got it for Christmas when she was about 2 months old.

You might also want the Happiest Baby DVD--we just read the book but the DVD has the advantage of letting you see how he does things. I would watch it *before* baby comes--after you might be too fried to take time to watch/read things even if they will help you in the long run.

Just to be contrary, our baby didn't go for much of the stuff in Happiest Baby on the Block, i.e. she hated being swaddled and the "shhhh" and white noise etc didn't have much effect. I guess we were blessed with a baby who's never had colic, sleeps pretty well, and really doesn't cry a lot, so it's not really aimed at her. The best thing in that book for me was the last chapter, which talks honestly about the feelings you may experience when you're a new parent, which was really good for me because I had some post-partum depression and didn't know what had hit me.

There's another book that I found way more useful in a nuts-and-bolts kind of way, and that's "Eat Sleep Poop" by Scott Cohen. He has calming, reassuring answers for all my neurotic moments of panic. I *highly* recommend it.

We went crazy with the organic cotton mattress, organic wool mattress protector, organic sheets etc, but to be honest, I don't know if I'd bother with all organic bedding now. It's kind of expensive and we have to wash it so much (because angel baby spits up a lot) that it hardly seems worth it to have all the gorgeous, spendy things I insisted on while I was pregnant. If I could go back and do it all again, I'd buy way fewer things.

Mattress protectors, they're really useful.

I liked Happiest Baby on the Block, if just for ideas when I had a 3 week old screaming at me. lol.

I'd get at least two cosleeper sheets.

Yay! I've been looking forward to this.

HBOTB was a great book. If you're pressed for time, rent the DVD. It gives the same basic material, but in a shorter timespan and no reading necessary. Plus, you can watch the swaddling technique. Netflix has it.

LOVE those Aiden + Anais blankets. They were the best gifts we got. We swaddled with them even when he was a newborn (just folded). The bamboo and muslin are both really nice.

Someone gave us a "sleepy sheep" for white noise. It worked okay, but wasn't miraculous. We also tried a free iPhone white noise app. White noise wasn't something that helped too much, in our case.

Never had a mobile.

We bought too many crib sheets, as co-sleeping helped our family get the most sleep. Luckily, they were just cheap cotton sheets from Amazon. No real harm done.

I needed a flannel mattress protector for on top of our sheets (even with a waterproof mattress protector under the fitted sheet) to lie on while side-lying breastfeeding in bed. Otherwise I got milk everywhere. We bought three. They were also useful for diaper changes (on top of the changing pad cover). And we traveled with them, to save family and hotel room sheets from being soaked with milk. Eventually, my supply regulated and I didn't need them anymore. I also slept with a washcloth or small towel because sometimes one breast leaks or sprays while the baby is nursing on the other side. This was a nighttime issue, so I'm including it here. ;)

We also found a Bjorn Bouncer great for naps when he was spitting up a lot or otherwise fussy. But we did not buy it at full price. I found it on Craigslist.

Here's a list I found of my most-used baby supplies (not just sleep-related). I sent this to a pregnant friend when my son was 4 months old and she asked me what I used the most:

changing pad and two changing covers (one to wash, one to use)
travel bed or Moses basket (to move from room to room)
two-three flannel mattress protectors for putting under baby (spit up) and me (leaking milk) in our bed
portable changing pad for diaper bag
coconut oil instead of diaper cream or baby lotion
hooded towel for baths/swimming
aden + anais swaddle blankets — LOVE THEM. The bamboo ones are especially soft, but I have the muslin ones, too. They were gifts.
baby nail emery boards and baby nail scissors
sun hat/warm hat (depending on season)
flannel wipes (I use them for burp rags mostly)
diaper wipes (I use compostable, but don't compost them, oops!) — some big packs, some smaller packs that fit in our diaper bag
breast milk storage bags, pump, and pump parts microwave steaming bags and a couple of bottles – we use playtex ventaire (only needed if pumping milk)
linen ring sling – I usually use this
my husband prefers and uses the Ergo
infant tylenol
I have a nosefrida and filters but haven't used it yet
non-medicated saline drops
temporal thermometer (the forehead kind)
baby socks/legwarmers in colder weather
amber teething necklace
We LOVE our Bjorn bouncy chair, but not all babies do.
A couple of teethers or small toys to grab

If using cloth diapers:
cloth diaper covers (I like Imse Vimse, Bummi, and Thirsties aplix)
Snappi for diapers
2 wet bags for diaper bag
diaper doublers for night
diaper pail (ours came from the diaper service)
prefolds

I bought a mini-co-sleeper and though we haven't used it yet the tip I found online for the sheets is: a king sized pillowcase fits the mattress perfectly. We have king sized pillows that I have sewed covers for so I haven't bought anything new. It takes a yard of fabric to sew a cover and it's a very easy project.

Thanks for your series here! I'm at T minus 1 week so any tips are eagerly gobbled up.

Totally agree about white noise- we have had an old ipod plugged into a speaker/charger with a beach noise track on repeat for Penelope; using the same track for Edmund. Ben got some fancy little speaker thing that an sd card plugs into, so that's what we use for travel now. The sleep sheep drove me crazy because it turned off after 42 minutes. 42??

If you want to imprint a lovey, you could get that started early. Keep it between you when you nurse or give a bottle, and when you rock Buzzy. Penelope never took one, but Edmund seems to like his already.

For crib sheets, I've been fine with about 3 sets- two cotton, and one flannel for colder nights. But, my babies haven't been blow-out/pee through diaper babies (though E spits up enough for me to have to wash sheets regularly).

I haven't read the first post yet, but the other thing to think about are places to put Buzzy down around the house. We have a 2 story house, so we've had a pack-in-play set up downstairs with a diaper changing station attachment. Super convenient to not have to go upstairs to change his diaper! I also have a hand-me-down papasan chair that I keep in the bathroom. I've found that nursing can induce the need to poop pretty quickly, so it's nice to have a place to put E down, especially when Ben is busy entertaining P!

Oh- and my most essential piece of equipment is a 5 foot long stretch of jersey fabric. We cut it in half lenght-wise, tapered the ends, and voila! 2 faux moby wraps for a 3rd of the price. I also love the ring sling, but E is much heavier than P was, so I don't use it as much this time around. But both my kids would need to be worn and bounced on the big yoga ball for the first 6-8 weeks. (They were both really fussy at first, but at around 8-9 weeks it's like a switch was flipped and then I had happy babies. For full term babies, the switch often flips around 6 weeks, but mine were both 3 weeks early).

Speaking of the fussy switch, I found the chapter on newborn sleep in the Weissbluth book to be really helpful to understand why my babies seemed to be just not content in the world until then. They weren't colicky and I could always soothe them, but it took measures. :)

I really love the Summer Infant SwaddleMe wrap. They actually do go beyond newborn size and are made for babies up to ~20 lbs. It's been really handy because if my baby isn't properly wrapped, she flails herself awake and swaddling while you're sleep deprived at 3 AM is tough.

http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3726430

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Getting ready for the baby #1: Pooping

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In case the title didn't clue you in, this post is going to be mostly about shit. Baby shit, as a matter of fact. It may be that the disinterested or squeamish want to skip.

As I mentioned last week, my friend E, a brilliant mom of 11 month-old twins, has been sending me long, detailed emails about the things I am going to need as a new mom that I might not have thought of already. I appreciate these missives more than I can tell you, and thought that, since they're so helpful, immortalizing them here might be a good idea. E. has split her advice up into categories: pooping, eating, sleeping, etc. And due to sheer volume, I think I'll post them the same way. What better place to start than with excrement?

These are the things I am advised to have on hand:

1. Oil

This is to clean Buzzy's bum after her first meconium poops. E says olive oil will work fine. It is also useful in the case of cradle cap.

2. Q-tips and rubbing alcohol.

This is to clean the cord stump until it falls off, which E suggests doing at every diaper change (thus relating it to the subject at hand).

3. Diaper Genie.

E explains:

You NEED this. It's environmentally nightmarish, to take your baby's poop, wrap it in a disposable diaper, wrap THAT in plastic, and throw it away, but you need it anyhow. Start composting dryer lint or cat fur or something to make up for it.

4. Diapers.

The advice (E knows we'll be using disposables):

Buy a couple of packs of newborn diapers, and see what works best for Buzzy's body, and your preferences as diaper changers. We started with Huggies, whch we liked because they had 1) good elastic in the back to catch diaper blowouts, 2) a wetness indicator stripe*, and 3) didn't smell weird like Pampers. We use Pampers Sensitive Swaddlers now, because Huggies doesn't have a wetness indicator stripe past size 2*, and the Pampers don't have branded characters on them, for which I'm willing to deal with the odd smell. *The wetness indicator stripe is REALLY handy. It's blue, change the diaper. Yes, the diaper is telling you what to do. Things like checking for yourself, and autonomous decision-making are for people without newborns.

She adds:

AMAZON AND DIAPERS.COM ARE YOUR NEW BFFs. Amazon Mom has great deals on diapers that PEOPLE WILL BRING TO YOUR HOUSE. Occasionally, diapers.com has a better deal, so it's worth checking both. We find that they're consistently the best prices, plus the not-having-to-go-out-to-get-stuff bonus.

5. Wipes and wipes warmer.

E recommends the gentle/natural wipes from Costco. Of a wipes warmer, she says:

At first, I was like, "Fucking yuppies and their gadget for every fucking thing - who the FUCK needs a wipes warmer?" Answer, "you do, asshole." And, really, it makes sense that it would make changing easier: it's 2 am - which do you want placed on your feces-covered genitals in the pitch dark, a warm wet cloth, or a cold one? Which will make it easier to get back to sleep?

6. Diaper cream.

E recommends California Baby Calming Diaper Rash Cream for mild irritation and Triple Paste and/or medicated A&D cream for really bad diaper rash.

7. Cloth diapers.

Even though we plan to use disposables, E says:

Go to Green Mountain Diapers and get yourself a dozen or so of their two-sided cloth wipes and a dozen or so of the orange and/or yellow prefold diapers (depending on how often you want to do laundry). These things are the BEST. The wipes make great general mop-ups for spitting up, etc., and you can use them as actual wipes if Buzzy gets a bad, painful diaper rash (the flannel side is very soft). The cloth diapers are AMAZING for putting down on your diaper changing pad (on top of the cover). That way, when you're changing diapers, if something gets dirty, it's likely to be the prefold, so you'll wash the cover less often. You can also put a prefold on your lap under the baby during a feeding, if Buzzy turns out to like to poop while she eats.

8. Changing table pad cover.

E says she has the Summer Infant Contoured Changing Pad and three covers, so that there is nearly always a clean one available.

9. Bath stuff.

Apparently, for moms of babies, bathing is a sub-category of pooping. E recommends California Baby Calming Shampoo and Body Wash and Calming or Overtired & Cranky Lotion. She uses a Tummy Tub for baby bathing and likes that. The Green Mountain wipes mentioned above, she says, make excellent baby washclothes.

10. Laundry detergent.

Like bathing, E sees laundry as a sub-category of pooping. She recommends going with a regular dye and perfume free detergent and skipping baby brands. She also says that I will become very much enamored with OxiClean Free, as a bucket of hot water with OxiClean Free will take care of most stains. Pro tip: OxiClean Free and OxiClean Baby are the same thing, but Free is cheaper. She says to skip fabric softener, which we do anyway.

That all seems manageable, if a bit nauseating. Any additions? Please comment!

9 Comments

Great post! I respect your friend's list, and the fact that every parent's list will be unique, but my experience was a little different. My baby is a year old now, but I still remember that newborn stage pretty well. We did cloth diapers with a service, so there's that big difference (we had prefolds, covers, snappis, and wet bags instead of disposables), but I'd also make the following adjustments:

No need for Q-tips and rubbing alcohol in our experience. Our midwife and pediatrician both said we didn't have to clean the cord stump. In fact, the doctor said don't even bother with a bath until it had fallen off and healed. We never used alcohol or Q-tips for any other reason, either.

We bought the most natural wipes we could find, but you can even use cloth and water. No need for alcohol or soap, said our doctor.

We rarely bathed our baby because he just didn't get that dirty. And never used any lotion on him (just coconut oil). Our doctor says his skin is great. One pump-top bottle of California Baby gentle shampoo/soap has lasted us a year and there's plenty left.


And, in fact, coconut oil was wonderful. Any time we saw a little redness during a change, we applied it. He never had any diaper rash (but the cloth diapers help with that, too). We never used another diaper cream.

We were fine with just 2 changing pad covers.

We did not ever have or ever feel a need for a wipe's warmer.

Detergent - we like Charlie's Soap for his diaper covers but just send everything else out to the laundromat (NYC apartment with no washer/dryer here). I bought a small bottle of 7th Generation baby-friendly detergent to wash a load of newborn stuff before he was born, but quickly stopped having time to do his laundry after his birth. ;)

For me, pooping stuff would also include a portable changing pad for the diaper bag. We like Skip Hop's Pronto. I started with a cheaper one, which fell apart quickly, so it was worth it to me to spend more.

My kid is now clawing at my arm, so I'd better end here! ;) Looking forward to more "baby gear" posts!

P. S. we had and liked the Tummy Tub, too. As did our baby. Until...suddenly he didn't any more and would just scream. We don't have a bathtub in our apartment, do we started taking him in the shower with us around 4 months or so. And we gave the Tummy Tub to some friends.

We never used a wipes warmer. But I totally agree with E on almost everything else. I definitely agree with buying prefolds even if you are 100% disposable diapering as they really are very useful.

re: a diaper Genie - we never had one but if there are ever other babies in this house? Heck yes we are buying one. The newest version even has a foot petal!

Huggies worked WAY better for us than Pampers, all the way up. R is still wearing Huggies Snug & Dry. The Costco brand diapers are the most like Huggies, we've also been really happy with those. Costco wipes rock. I think I actually prefer them over name brand.

I was given a diaper genie, but I hated it. It seemed to need 2 hands to operate. Luckily I discovered this before I opened mine and was able to return it for a different style. I have no idea what it was called, but it had a foot lever to open the top and an inner opening to cut down on smell. I could use standard kitchen trash bags which was very handy. I used cloth wipes, with warm water and vastly preferred them to commercial wipes.

My tip is to make up an emergency diaper bag to live in each car. Just 1-2 diapers, wipes and maybe a onesie. I can't tell you how often it came in handy, when baby had more dirty/wet diapers than you could imagine or oops that 15 min trip to the grocery turned longer or whatever. I also learned to have a clean shirt for me in the car - its so nice when baby has a blow out or copious spit up. Yes, I learned that one the hard way...

We never used our wipe warmer. My poor children and their cold feces covered genitals. lol

One thing that I would add is hand sanitizer. If baby has a super diaper blow out, you might want to clean your hands before applying diaper cream and sometimes it's hard (or impossible) to run to a sink.

Also, I LOVE the Costo wipes too. They're a lot more pliable than both the Pampers sensitive wipes and the Huggies naturals and it seems like they're gentler than those too.

Completely agree on the diaper pail, wipe warmer and Tummy Tub--they are genius. My pediatrician said skip the oil and the alcohol for cord stump. Honestly, you don't need a ton of stuff for a newborn. I'd just add, get some onesies that are easy to get on and off for the nighttime changings when you're so tired you can't see straight. Also, if you plan to breastfeed (I tried really hard to but couldn't) don't skimp on your breast pump--get the best you can afford.

We didn't get a wipe warmer, Dez doesn't seem to mind.

We buy the cheap grocery store brand diapers, even with coupons, they're still easily a dollar or more less than the huggies or pampers.

For bathing, we got a wash pod which was awesome. It props the baby up and supports them. When he outgrew it we switched to baths in the sink and now he just gets baths in the tub.

Never cleaned his cord, just watched to make sure it wasn't red or irritated. Drs told us only sponge baths until the stump falls off and healed.

I like E's writing style, I can't wait to see the rest!

We started with Pampers swaddlers sensitive (both were very sensitive to being wet, and these are super super dry), and then when they got older moved on to Target diapers. Love the polka dots.

Never had a diaper genie- we've lived with plastic grocery bags in a small basket- not too stinky with breastmilk poo. Once we introduced solids and formula, we would just change it out after a big stinky poo. If I were home full time with them, I'd get a diaper genie, but I figure daycare has to deal with half our diapers :).

Also never cleaned the cord. It fell off in about a week with both of mine.

Never heard of coconut oil for the bum, but I love that idea! I might have to get some.

I use perfume free laundry detergent for all of us (method) and do all our laundry together. Too much trouble to try and separate stuff or do anything special.

Ditto the usefulness of prefolds around the house! And, they are perfect for dusting. :) Just the right texture and absorbency. Throw one down for tummy time if you have a spitter or a drooler.

And one more very important thing for your baby: http://store.righteousbabe.com/departments/details/baby

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