High Five for Friday

Friday again?  When you aren’t blogging every day Friday rolls around pretty quickly.  (Someday I will get back to a consistent blogging schedule.  Someday.  Like when I’m brushing my hair consistently and there aren’t cobwebs hanging from the bench in my foyer.  You just wish I were kidding…)

On that lovely note, here are my five things today:

1.  Monday I had a really rough day.  Hudson had had two nights in a row where he did not sleep well at all and then he wouldn’t take long enough nap during the day for me to nap, too.  I was exhausted.  I asked Michael if he would pull Hudson duty for a little while that evening so I could have a break.  Being the wonderful husband and father that he is of course he said yes, so after one of Hudson’s feedings I escaped upstairs to take a bath.  We’ve lived in this house for a year and a half and I’ve never used the bathtub…I’ve always preferred showers over baths.  But Monday it just sounded like the perfect thing.  I was able to soak and read a magazine and have some prayer time and it was wonderful.  I think I may try to work a bath in every week because it was wonderfully relaxing and rejuvenating.

Not meaning to get so off track here, but I just have to take a moment and say that I think single mothers must be super women.  I’m serious.  So many times since Hudson has been born I’ve thought of the single moms that I know.  This is a hard job for sure, but I always know that if it gets too overwhelming I have Michael there to step in and give me a break.  I can’t imagine needing a break or feeling that exhaustion and knowing there is no one there but me.  So any single mom readers that I have, you are awesome and don’t you forget it.

2.  I am so excited about Hudson’s first Easter.  I know he is way too little to understand what is going on, but I’m still really looking forward to it.  We’re just getting him some little baby toys and books for his Easter basket that we would have bought anyway, but I guess since it’s our first holiday (Valentine’s Day doesn’t count…we were still definitely in post-baby fog) it’s more special.  We’ll also get to see some family that hasn’t met Hudson yet so that will be fun.

3.  A productive day these days for me is getting two whole things done around the house.  It’s such a change from the engergizer bunny I used to be who could get tons of cleaning, crafting, and other projects done.  Now my days are spent feeding, rocking, and snuggling Hudson.  I am not complaining at all.  I love my job.  It’s just very different.  All that to say that I got two “projects” done this week that I’ve been wanting to do: I made homemade body wash and homemade baby wipe solution.  Both were so incredibly easy and quick; gathering the supplies was the most time consuming part.

The body wash is wonderful.  I was a little skeptical but it lathers nicely and cleans great.  I haven’t used the wipe solution yet.  Once we start cloth diapering (that was on my goal list for this week and it hasn’t happened yet but we still have two days so maybe I’ll get that started still) we are also going to use cloth wipes.  Since I haven’t started that yet I haven’t used the wipe solution, but I can say that it smells great!

4.  On the note of productive days…my old cleaning routine was to clean the whole house once a week.  It usually took two to three hours and at the end I’d have a sparkling clean house.  When I was working I would do the cleaning on Saturday or Sunday, when I wasn’t working then I’d try to do it on a weekday so that the weekends were free.  I also did all the laundry back to back to back on cleaning day.

Well, I no longer have blocks of two to three hours.  I’m lucky to get one full hour these days since Hudson takes pretty short naps.  Soooooo I’m having to change my mindset from getting the whole house clean at one time to one where I do a little bit each day to maintain the cleanliness.  This is totally new to me but fortunately Pinterest has a bajillion cleaning schedules like that so I’ve been looking at those and trying to get my game plan together.

Do you have a cleaning schedule?  If so, do you prefer to do one room per day (i.e. the bedroom, the kitchen, the living room) or do you prefer to do one thing per day (vacuum, dust, sweep, etc. no matter which room it’s in)?

Right now I’m leaning toward one thing per day so that I don’t have to get the vacuum out multiple times each day that I clean a room with carpet or the duster each day to dust each room.

Hudson is being particularly unpleasant fussy today and I’ve been trying to get this post written for hours.  I’m tired of writing a few sentences here and there so yeah, I’m only writing four things today.  Sorry if this greatly offends you.

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Enjoy your weekend everyone!

Linking up with Lauren

the ultimate hospital packing list

the ultimate hospital packing list

I am a very organized person who tries to always be prepared.  Unfortunately for Michael this also means that I’m a chronic overpacker.  I tried really, really hard (I promise!) to not overpack for the hospital…however we still ended up with seven (eight if you count my large-and-in-charge purse) bags for the hospital, plus a birth ball, Hudson’s carseat, and some other bags that were in the car just in case (yeah that picture at the top of the post is not an accurate representation of how much stuff we took).  I did use most of the items that I brought, but there were some things that in hindsight were not at all needed. Knowing what I know now I’m going to help you create a hospital packing list that will (hopefully) help you bring just the necessities.

Since I knew we were going to have a lot of bags and also that our plan was to stay home as long as possible during labor (and therefore knew we wouldn’t want to haul a ton of stuff across the parking lot and through the hospital), I tried to prioritize and pack things based on how quickly we would need them so that we could leave some bags in the car and get them later.

Also remember that I did a natural birth and so quite a bit of this stuff is natural birth specific.

1. The In Case I Go into Labor While I’m Out and About Bag

- puppy pee pads (if you read Hudson’s birth story you know these came in very handy for me to protect the seats in my van as I drove home after my water broke)
- a pair of Depends (I know, weird, but we’ve talked about this already…)
- an extra change of clothes and shoes – I didn’t have this packed and honestly I don’t know that I would have changed even if I had had extra clothes, but it would have been nice just in case.
- a trash bag – could be used to protect your seats or to hold your soaking wet clothes

*This bag needs to be packed several weeks in advance and kept in your car.  If you want to be ultra-prepared, keep another one with similar items at your place of work.  Ideally you’ll recognize you’re in labor and be able to go home before it gets ugly, but just in case you’re like me and your water decides to break all over the floor at work before you realize you’re in labor it’d be a good idea to have this.

IMG_9074last belly shot in the early stages of labor

2. Labor Bag
- tennis balls or back massager – for massaging your back during labor/providing counter-pressure – lotion – for back or foot rubs
- a large scarf – this was something we learned about in our Bradley class that can be used during labor…I didn’t end up using mine though
- puppy pee pads
- a trash bag
- plastic grocery sacks -barf bags in case you throw up
- Dum-Dums  - there is a pressure point on the top of your mouth that can help speed up labor; you can push on it by sucking your thumb or sucking on a Dum-Dum…I chose the candy
- a couple of old towels – for the same thing as the pee pads or trash bags…plus towels are just good to have on hand
- a washcloth or two – in case you want a cold, wet washcloth on your forehead
- bottled water
- a heating pad – to help with back pain
- foam gardening pads – to kneel on in case you find that your labor position of choice involves kneeling
- a pair of socks – in case your feet get cold

*I put all this stuff together in one bag.  I figured that most of this would actually be used at home to help manage labor since I didn’t plan to go to the hospital until the very end (hah!), but I went ahead and put it all in a bag just so it’d all be together in one spot and we wouldn’t be scrambling once labor began.  Things didn’t quite go as planned so we ended up taking this whole bag with us to the hospital. Honestly, the only thing I ended up using from this bag were the Dum-Dums.  I sucked on a few of them to try to speed up my labor.  That being said, for future births I will still pack a very similar bag because you just never know what type of labor you’re going to have and I may want these things next time.

3. Birth Ball

*No, it’s not a “bag” per-say, but it’s a separate (very large!) item that you’ll need to transport.  I think I used this maybe once, if any, in the hospital.  I used it a little bit at home but that was pretty much it.  My recommendation: see if your hospital has birth balls because it is a huge pain to get that to the hospital (walking through the parking lot at 2am in the freezing icy weather having to stop for contractions every so often was made even more difficult because poor Michael was trying to carry multiple bags and that ridiculous ball)

IMG_3053on our way to the hospital – the huge birth ball photobombing us

4.  The Essentials Bag (aka the things you think you will need pretty quickly during or right after labor)

- a folder for all your paperwork
- a copy of the hospital paperwork that you probably filled out in advance
- birth plan
- insurance card and/or copies of insurance card – I had my insurance card in my purse but I had also made copies to keep in the paperwork folder and I was really glad I did because they just let me hand them that rather than them having to go make copies of my card
- pen and paper
- camera and charger
- phones and chargers
- laptop and charger – I didn’t know how quickly after birth I would want to upload pictures to share with family, send emails, etc. so I went ahead and made sure I had the laptop there with us
- snacks – for hubby, not for you unfortunately (although I did sneak one granola bar because I was about to starve!)

*This was a really good bag to have.  I felt like I had all the necessities together and that gave me peace of mind.

5. Cooler 

* We brought some snacks/drinks, including orange juice to drink after the birth (a Bradley method thing).  We left this in the car when we went into the hospital, though, and then after delivery when I really needed the OJ (I had the shakes really bad) it wasn’t there.  Next time it might be better to put the orange juice in a small lunch box and carry it in with us rather than a big cooler that was too cumbersome to worry about in the throes of labor.  Definitely pack some snacks (granola bars, lactation cookies, peanut butter crackers, etc.) because hospital food is not the greatest and you’ll probably be very hungry!

6. Mom’s Bag

- 2 or 3 pairs of comfy pants – pj pants are fine, but I preferred my maternity yoga pants because of the maternity panel that hugged my loosey-goosey tummy (you can read more about my solution to that here)
- 2 or 3 large, loose shirts – I actually wore mens dress shirts with nursing tank tops from Target underneath.  That way I could leave the shirt mostly open and nurse while still being relatively covered
- something to wear home – For me I just wore the black yoga pants and button up shirt I’d been wearing that day but some like to wear “real” clothes.  I didn’t care – we were rolled right to the car and then we went straight home so there was no point in changing
- socks – hospital room floors are cold (lots of people also bring houseshoes; I bought some, brought them, and wore them exactly once for about two minutes before I shoved them under the bed…I just walked around in my socks the whole time)
- flip flops – for the shower
- a pair of shoes to wear home – Whatever you wore to the hospital when you arrived will be fine.  Seriously, the only time you’ll need shoes is when you arrive and when you leave.  The rest of the time you’ll be hanging out in a hospital room.
- nursing bras (if you don’t go with the nursing tanks that I mentioned above) – Do not go out and get fitted for nursing bras because until your milk comes in you’ll have no idea what size you are.  Instead, buy some of the stretchy sleep bras (I got mine at Target) that will accommodate many sizes.
- toiletries – Whatever you usually take with you when you travel: shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, hairdryer, hairbrush, contact stuff, glasses, makeup, deodorant, etc. (I know some people don’t care while they are in the hospital, but I showered, dried my hair, and put a little make up on each day…it made me feel better)
- nipple cream – The hospital will probably provide you with samples of Lansinoh but if you want your own kind you’ll need to bring it.

*Basically pack as if you were going somewhere for a weekend of nothing but lounging.

Things you don’t need (that I packed and thought I needed…)
- underwear (they will provide you with some lovely mesh panties to wear)
- nursing pads (it’s doubtful that your milk will come in while you are at the hospital)
- towels (I thought I would want my own towels so I didn’t have to use the icky hospital towels, but let me tell you after you give birth there is quite a bit of blood, and it got on the towels each time I showered, so I chose to use the hospital towels and not get blood all over mine)

7. Dad’s Bag

- two changes of clothes
- toiletries

*Ok honestly I don’t know what Michael packed since he packed his own bag, but I’m pretty sure that was the gist of it.

8. Baby’s Bag

*Don’t pack one.  Seriously.  I brought a diaper bag crammed full of stuff that we didn’t even touch.  Just put the few things that baby needs in your own bag.

Here’s what baby actually needs:
- a going home outfit – Don’t pack a gown because the straps in the carseat have to come between their legs.  Get something that has the flaps that cover the hands in case baby’s fingernails are long and scratchy.  You might bring two options – a newborn size and a 0-3 months size.  Hudson was tiny and even the newborn swallowed him up, but you just never know.
- a picture outfit – If your hospital does pictures and you plan to have them taken
- a hat – If it’s cold.  The nurses at our hospital make personalized hats for each baby and that’s what Hudson ended up wearing home because it fit better than any of the ones I brought.
- a blanket – To tuck around baby in the carseat if it’s cold.

{0c34156e-d1cd-47d7-b363-e0551bd4840b}_5hospital pictures

IMG_2675going home outfit and hat the nurses made

That’s it.  Honest.  The hospital is going to dress baby in little onesies with a hat and keep them all swaddled up the whole time.  I can’t imagine that you’ll be wanting to play dress up with your baby just yet, so just bring what they need to leave the hospital.  The hospital will provide you with diapers and wipes (and you’ll get to take them home with you).

9. Miscellaneous Stuff

- pillow – I prefer to sleep on my own pillow so I brought that from home
- blanket – I used the hospital blankets most of the time and ended up using mine only once when I got really cold.  I could have left this at home and just asked for another blanket and that would have reduced stuff to carry.
- extension cord and/or power strip – In case the outlet isn’t close to your bed or you have lots of electronics to charge.
- essential oils – I had just gotten my oils a few days before I went into labor so I wasn’t really sure what all I could do with them.  I used my lavender on a bad rash I had after delivery and some of the others on my feet to help with pain and to relax me.  Next time I’ll know how to use them better and they will be a staple in my hospital bags.
- baby book – You might write in it while you’re there.  I didn’t until we get home. (this is the one we have, I really like it so far)
- Boppy pillow – It makes breastfeeding much easier (not that it’s easy) since you aren’t having to hold the baby up the whole time.
- carseat – Duh.  You can’t leave the hospital without one.
- an empty bag – You will probably accumulate stuff while you’re at the hospital, so bring an empty bag (you can leave it in the car until you need it) to put all that random stuff in before you leave.
- snacks for the nurses – Definitely not necessary, but we wanted to say “thank you” to the people who took care of us.  We brought them a bag of snacks (granola bars, raisins, candy, etc.)

So…. I suggest packing everything that you can well in advance and stashing it all together out of the way.  Then, make a list of the things that you can’t pack until the last minute (glasses, laptop, makeup, etc.) and lay that on top of everything.  That way when labor starts you don’t have to waste mental energy remembering what you needed to still get.  Or, in the case that something crazy happens and you have to go to the hospital without your stuff, someone else could run by your house and grab those items.

IMG_9005you can see the list laying there on our stack of bags (bottom left corner)

On the same sheet that I wrote out what we needed to wait and pack right before we left, I also made a checklist of all the bags and items so that we made sure we got everything to the car.  I even described what the bag looked like (i.e. pink polka dot duffle bag) so that Michael knew which bag was which.

It looked like this (minus the descriptions because I know you don’t care):
1. Car Labor Kit (already in the van)
2. Labor Bag
3. Birth Ball
4. Essentials Bag
5. Caitlin’s Stuff
6. Michael’s Stuff
7. Hudson’s Stuff
8. Miscellaneous Stuff
9. Carseat
10. Snacks for Nurses
11. Empty Bag for Random Items
12. Cooler

Those are my hospital bag necessities.  What about you?  Was there something you definitely had to have at the hospital that I didn’t put on my list?  Please share in the comments below!

High Five for Friday

Helllooooooo Friday  Wanna know why I’m happy today?

1.  SLEEP!  Yes, it has finally returned.  Tuesday night Hudson slept 7 hours (10:30-5:30) and Wednesday night he slept 8.5 (!!!) hours (11-7:30).  I woke up at 6:45 and didn’t know what on earth to do with myself.  And then last night he fell asleep at 9pm.  We kept expecting him to wake up to eat one more time before bed but he keep sleeping so we finally laid him down…and he slept until 5;30 this morning!  Another 8.5 hours!  I suspect he’s in a growth spurt because in addition to the sudden increase in sleep he’s also wanting to constantly eat during the day the last few days.  I sure hope the great sleep continues after the growth spurt is over!

2.  My neck is better.  Wednesday morning I leaned over to set my glasses on my bedside table and I felt my neck catch.  It was unbelievably painful; so much so that I was afraid Michael would have to come home from work to help me with Hudson.  The spot that was injured (I’m guessing) swelled up and I looked like I had a humpback (lovely).  A little heat, a little ice, a lot of my essential oils, and Michael rubbing it helped.  The pain was much better in 24 hours and almost completely gone in 48.  I still have a little soreness if I turn my head too far but it’s way, way better than it was!

Being hurt is one thing.  Being hurt with a baby that needs to be held and changed and fed is so much more difficult.  I now understand what people mean when they say “moms don’t have time to get sick!”.  I’m just so thankful that it didn’t last long.

3.  I’m going clothes shopping today.  On the one hand I’m not excited about that at all because I’d much rather be able to fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes and I know the sizes I’ll have to get today will be disheartening.  But on the other hand it will be so nice to have some clothes that actually fit right now.  I won’t buy much since I hope to lose my pregnancy weight soon but for now I’m tired of wearing my ill-fitting maternity clothes and I need some other options.

4.  Speaking of losing weight, this week I finally got back to healthy eating.  Since Hudson was born I’ve eaten tons of fast food and junk and such.  I’m finally feeling like I have it together enough to focus on some of the other things in life besides feeding, changing, and rocking a baby.  I’m not dieting or anything, just trying to make better choices.  Splurging was fun for a while but it’s really nice to be back to eating good healthy food that makes me feel better.

5.  It’s time to mix up more laundry soap.  Sounds like a strange thing to make me happy, but I’m mostly excited by how long the first batch of laundry I mixed lasted us.  Wanna guess?

20 months.  Yes, TWENTY months…almost 2 years!  Amazing.

Oh and not only that, guess how much that cost…

$20.00!  That’s $1 per month for our laundry soap.  Double amazing.

homemade laundry soap ingredients

When I first decided to make our own laundry detergent we were living in our apartment and did not have the space for the liquid that seem to be popular (and have to be stored in 5 gallon buckets).  I finally found a recipe for powered detergent on Pinterest and gave it a try.  Like I said, the supplies cost $20.  The hardest part was grating the bars of soap (talk about an arm workout) and then all you have to do is mix it together.  We stored it in one of those big clear plastic containers that cheese puffs or pretzels come in (you can see ours here).

We do about five loads of laundry a week and this container lasted us twenty months (I told a few people 2.5 years the other day but when I went back and checked it was really only 20 months…so sorry about that!).  Of course now that we have Hudson (who creates significantly more laundry for being such a small person) it won’t last quite as long.  This time I bought different soap and I bought my ingredients at Kroger (a little more expensive), so my total cost was about $33.00.  But still…that’s a pretty good price for the amount you get!

What are you happy about today?

 

Linking up with Lauren

BeBand three ways – Works for Me Wednesday

At the beginning of my pregnancy I bought a BeBand from Target.  A BeBand is basically just a stretchy, spandex-y, tube-top-ish piece of fabric that you can use to extend the life of your pre-pregnancy pants.  The idea is that you leave your too-tight pants unbuttoned/unzipped and then wear this band over it and it holds your pants up (sounds like something I could use more than just during pregnancy!). I used it a few times but didn’t really like it.  It would never stay in place and either rolled up or down and drove me crazy.  I think most of that was due to the fact that my pants were already too tight and pushing their limits even before I gained that first pregnancy pound.  I ended up just moving into maternity pants pretty early and wearing long shirts to cover us the saggy belly/crotch area until my belly filled out enough to actually warrant needing maternity pants. The BeBand went into my drawer for months.  I actually offered it to someone else who was pregnant but she wasn’t interested so I just hung on to it.  I’m glad I did, because as the months went by I found some more uses for it. The second way I used it (the first being for its original purpose) was as a tube top of sorts.  I struggled with so many of my maternity tops being much too low cut.  At the beginning of pregnancy I just layered a tank top underneath to bring the neckline up a little higher.  As my belly grew the tank tops got too tight around the belly.  I wasn’t about to buy a bunch of new tanks though!  One day a thought popped in my head and I grabbed the BeBand and put it on like a tube top.  That worked perfectly!  It covered everything that needed to be covered and raised the neckline, but it didn’t restrict my belly or have annoying straps that kept falling off my shoulders. IMG_8978 I used it as a tube top for several weeks leading up to delivery.  Then after delivery I found yet a third use…as a girdle. You see, after you have a baby your stomach is all loosey-goosey.  It used to have this big baby in there, plus a placenta and fluid and all kinds of other stuff… and now all of the sudden it’s empty.  It just feels weird and it’s hard to stand up straight because all that weight that you were used to carrying around is gone.  I found that in those first few days I much preferred wearing my maternity yoga pants that had a full panel that went over my stomach because that stretch panel gave me a little support and it felt like it was holding my stomach together.  I really wanted to wear all my pajama pants but they were just normal-waisted and didn’t give me any support like the maternity pants. Enter the BeBand. I wore the BeBand around my stomach…not to hold up my pants in this instance, but to hug my tummy just a little bit and give it that extra support.  That way I was able to wear my loose pajama pants.  I only needed it for about a week before that strange empty stomach feeling went away, but it was wonderful to have while I needed it. I had actually considered buying one of those very expensive support girdles for after pregnancy that are supposed to help your stomach shrink back.  I decided it was probably not that effective and didn’t want to waste my money.  I also bought a cheaper post-natal support belt from Motherhood Maternity, but it was too stiff so I took it back.  The BeBand ended up being perfect – it gave me support but wasn’t too tight.  Do I think it helped my stomach shrink?  Probably not (not that the expensive girdles necessarily do either), but it gave me that little extra hug my waist needed. So don’t write off your pants extender after the first few months!  If you’re like me you’ll be able to extended its life (pun totally intended) through your pregnancy and beyond!  Who knows, I might even find more uses for it in the future. Oh and a bonus…this YouTube video shows you how to use two t-shirts and a belly band to make a DIY baby carrier.   Pretty cool.  A fourth use for your belly band! The BeBand (and it’s many uses) works for me! And a Hudson picture…just ’cause he’s cute :). Photo Feb 09, 12 52 28 PMIt’s hard to believe this little guy lived inside my tummy for nine months…no wonder if felt all strange and empty after he was born!

P.S. Come follow My Chocolate Moments over on my new Facebook page!

Hudson’s two month update

I am a little in disbelief that it has been two months already!  I feel like I just welcomed my little guy into the world yesterday…and yet at the same time it’s like he has been with us forever and I can’t imagine life without him.

Hudson had his two month check up yesterday.  He weighed 10 pounds 8 ounces (11th percentile), was 22 and 1/4 inches long (18%) (although I think he’s actually longer…he wasn’t stretched out all the way when they measured him), and his head is in the 47th percentile (I forgot what they said the circumference was).  Everything else checked out great.  So he’s a little squirt but he’s growing and healthy and that’s what matters.

We recreated this picture from his first pediatrician visit – three days old on the left, two months old on the right.  My poor jaundiced baby has a much better color now.  His arms have filled out a good bit and he doesn’t just look like wrinkly skin on bones anymore.  Four pounds and two months make a big difference!

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We’ve had a big month.  His first month we mostly stayed holed up in the house.  This month we’ve been out and about a good bit and he has changed a lot.

Last month Hudson had a big list of things he disliked.  Now he likes (or tolerates) all of those things (well, he doesn’t like being hungry or having a dirty diaper, but he doesn’t freak out about it as much).

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He started spitting up quite a bit.  When I say quite a bit, I mean a little bit after just about every feeding and sometimes a big one thrown in there for good measure.

He went to the chiropractor a few times to try to get some gas and latch issues worked out.

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He started smiling at us, not just in his sleep.

My mom went home after 6 and 1/2 wonderful weeks of having her stay with us and help out.  I cannot even imagine how much harder the first month of his life would have been without her here to lend a hand.  I was so afraid for her to go home and for me to be on my own during the day.  It was an adjustment but we’re figuring things out.  Some days I get next to nothing done before Michael gets home from work but I know that will improve eventually.

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He started pooching out his bottom lip when he would get upset.  It is the sweetest but saddest thing ever!

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Hudson experienced his first snow (from inside the warm house, of course).  Yes, we had a big snow in March!  So weird.

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He went from getting super upset anytime anyone set him down to really liking to lay on his back and look around.  He’d lay on his changing station (right now that’s the ottoman in our living room since I never feel like walking up to his nursery) and stare up at the fan.  We set up his little activity gym so he could lay there and look at the colorful animals.  He likes it sometimes.

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He does this funny raised brow, one-eyed peek thing when he is just waking up.

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He still likes to be crunched up in a little ball when you hold him.

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Any day that we have good weather we try to take advantage of it and go for a walk.  Hudson usually falls asleep within 10 minutes.

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Now that he will let us set him down for a few minutes, we’ve been able to eat meals without having to hold him or eat in shifts (sometimes).  We put him in his bouncy chair by the table while we eat and he’ll hang out there for a while before getting upset.

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Bathtime no longer sounds like something from a horror movie.  He has gradually gotten to like it more and more.  First the screaming went to whimpering, then to tolerating it quietly, and now he seems to enjoy it.  In fact, the other night he was crying and then stopped as soon as I put him in the water…the total opposite of how it used to be.  We give him a bath just about every evening.  We don’t do a full washing each time (except around his neck because of all the spit up – eww), but we’re trying to get him in a routine.

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The carseat isn’t a huge scream-fest all the time either.  I’d say it’s about 50/50 now.  Sometimes he is totally chill in the car, other times he screams at the top of his lungs for 10 or so minutes before falling asleep (usually about 30 seconds before we pull in to wherever we’re going and have to get him out…which wakes him back up)

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He has outgrown all of his newborn clothes and even some of his 0-3 month clothes are too small.  He is so long but so skinny that he outgrows them in length well before he’s even started to fill them out in the width.  His clothes are so baggy!

We put him in his first little outfit that wasn’t a one piece sleeper.  And then he proceeded to have his first blow out poop on said outfit (I’m sparing you the picture I took!).  It happened in the car on the way home from church and got all over his carseat too.  Yuck.

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He still fits fine into newborn diapers, but we were running out so I went ahead and put him in size ones.  He’s so skinny, though, that you have to cross the tape pieces over on top of each other to get it tight enough!

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Sleeping is going much, MUCH better!  He doesn’t have to be held all night anymore.  I usually have to get up with him once or twice a night to feed him but then he goes right back to sleep in his Rock N Play.  The co-sleeper is kind of a bust right now, although he did take a two hour nap in it one Sunday afternoon.  But for now we’re sticking with what we know works and eventually we’ll try to transition to the co-sleeper and then the crib.

We’ve even had a few nights where he slept for a five or six hour stretch, got up to eat once, and then slept for another two to three hours.  He’s not consistent yet, but we’ve made so much progress this month that I know it will just keep improving.

During the day he naps in his swing, his Rock N Play, the Moby Wrap,…or while I’m sitting and holding him.  I try to vary where I put him for naps so that he will get used to sleeping a variety of places.

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The day Hudson was one month out was our first venture out in the world other than doctor’s appointments.  Since then we’ve gone all kinds of places.  The first time I went out with him on my own was so nerve wracking, but now it’s pretty common.  We’ve been out to eat several times, to church and multiple church functions including a ladies’ retreat (I didn’t spend the night, but I drove down and back both Friday and Saturday…35 minutes one way so that was our longest trip for sure!).

I won’t say that going places with a baby is easy, but it’s getting to be the norm.  My biggest accomplishment was taking him out shopping.  Up until about a week ago, Michael and my mom had done all the shopping and we either stayed home or stayed in the car while they ran in.  We finally went in to Kroger one evening – Michael got the groceries and I just followed with Hudson in a separate cart.  Then later that week I ventured out to Hobby Lobby, Target, and the mall.  My first shopping trip with a baby!  It went well and he slept pretty much the whole time.

We also went and visited Michael at work after our big shopping trip.

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We definitely don’t have a routine or a schedule yet, but we do have a general pattern of eat, “play” (awake time), and then nap.  Some days that goes much better than others.  Some days he’ll have several great naps and I’m able to get some housework done.  Other days he is very erratic and only naps for a very short time.

Most of the time he fights sleep really hard and it can be really hard to get him to nap.  He has gotten better about falling asleep on his own though.  Often once he’s sleepy and I’ve rocked him some I can lay him down and he’ll drift off on his own after a while.

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His physical changes don’t reach out and strike me until I look back at pictures (like the comparison picture at the beginning of this post).  His eyes have lightened from a very dark navy blue to a more gray-blue.  His hair has started to curl more, just in the last few days.

Everyone says he looks just like Michael, but we still haven’t gotten either of our baby pictures from our parents to compare.  The little cleft in his chin and his big feet definitely came from me though.

He is trying so very hard to suck his thumb.  Usually he either gets it in there sideways or will just suck on the side of his hand.  He uses his paci some but he never really has cared too much about it so I think at this point if he doesn’t already take it regularly then he probably never will.  Which is fine, although I’d rather break him of a paci later than his thumb.

IMG_3560He has started cooing.  It’s so adorable, like he’s trying to talk to us.

He is very, very active.  He’s a restless sleeper and makes tons of grunts, snores, and other strange noises.  When you lay him down to change his diaper his legs go all over the place just kicking and swinging around.  He squirms and wiggles a lot while he is nursing, too (ouch).

He’s battling his first cold right now.   His little coughs and runny nose are so pitiful.

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On Sunday, the elders at our church presented Hudson with a little Bible.

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We just fall more in love with our Mr Hudson each and every day!  He brings us such joy.

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first two months

 

so what’s the deal with essential oils anyway?

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I’ve posted a few things on Facebook and Pinterest recently about essential oils and as a result I’ve had a lot of questions about what they are and how I’m using them.  I thought I’d go ahead and address that here to (hopefully) answer everyone’s questions.

I really didn’t know much, if anything, about essential oils (EOs) until just a few months ago.  I mean, I’d heard of them and knew there were some like lemon and lavender and peppermint.  I knew that lavender and lemon were popular to use while cleaning.  I had even thought I’d added an essential oil to my homemade cleaner when I first made it a few years ago (fyi, the scented oils at Walmart in the candle section are not EOs and don’t really offer anything to your cleaning products other than a scent…don’t make that mistake like me).  A friend of mine who is kind of crunchy, hippie-ish like me and who gives me lots of little tips and such had also mentioned EOs on several occasions, many time when we were talking about baby-related items.

So a few months ago I decided to track down some essential oils.  I’d heard great things; I really wanted to have them to add to my homemade cleaners (in place of the fake-ola scented oils I used the first time) and I was planning to use them to make some homemade hand soap and baby wipe solution.  I didn’t really know where to buy them so I posted on a local Facebook group to see where in town I could get some.  I had a ton of people comment and the one thing I kept seeing over and over was that I should order them from Young Living.

I started talking with one of the ladies who’d suggested Young Living and then started doing some research of my own.  The more I talked to her and the more I researched the more amazed I became about these oils.  Supposedly, according to everything I was reading, they could be used for way more than making household products.  They could also be used for tons and tons of health issues.

One of the options when you sign up as a wholesale customer with Young Living (you can either buy straight from their website and pay retail or you can sign up to be a wholesale customer and get them at a significant discount) is to get what they call the Premium Starter Kit.  It comes with eleven essential oils, a diffuser, and some other small samples.  The oils are what they call Everyday Oils – the oils that are most popular, most versatile, and that you’d want to use on a regular basis.  I was a little conflicted about the cost but finally just decided to use some of my Christmas money and give it a try…it they turned out to be as great as everyone says then they’d be totally worth it!

I was so excited to receive my oils in the mail and it couldn’t have come at a better time.  As you know if you’ve been reading for a while, I had a lot of back pain during pregnancy.  My oils came on a Thursday and that day my back had really flared up and was hurting badly.  Unfortunately my chiropractor was only open Monday thru Thursday and I couldn’t go Thursday afternoon so I was going to have to wait until the following Monday and just deal with the pain over the weekend.  Ouch.

But I had heard that Valor and Panaway (two of the oils in the Starter Kit) were great for back pain so when I got home Thursday afternoon I ripped open the package and applied those two right away.  I applied them again Thursday night and then Friday morning before work.

Y’all.  My back pain was gone.

Now you know I’m pretty natural and what I lovingly refer to as “crunchy”.  I’m into organic food and making my own soap and natural childbirth and all that jazz.  I avoid taking medicine and I tend to lean toward more alternative medicine options.  However, I’m still a total skeptic.  I thought chiropractic care was total witch doctor stuff until I started going and saw such improvements.  I thought reflexology was a hoax until I had that done and absolutely could see a correlation between the feet and the rest of the body.  So even though alternative medicine keeps proving to me that it’s the real deal, I was still skeptical about these “voodoo-witch-doctor-y-medicine-man essential oils”.

Well color me converted….

I could not believe that in less than 24 hours, three applications of oils could do what chiropractic care had only been able to help with.  That discovery alone is worth the price of the oils, in my opinion.

Something else that I’d dealt with during pregnancy that you might remember was snoring.  As in, one night Michael actually got up and checked out our window because he was certain that there was a motorcycle in our front yard….then he realized that was just me snoring!  Prior to pregnancy I only snored when my nose was stopped up, but the added weight gain plus the way pregnancy hormones loosen up your ligaments and stuff to prepare for birth was making me saw logs.

I’d read that Valor applied to the bottom of the big toe helped with snoring.  So I tried it.

Not one time after I started using Valor every night did Michael wake up to me snoring.  I can’t say I stopped completely because no one was awake to hear me, but I was no longer disturbing his sleep like I had been every.single.night.

Very shortly afterward Mr. Hudson made his appearance and learning about my oils took a bit of a back burner.  In hindsight, I so wish I had discovered them just a few months earlier.  I think they would have been fantastic during pregnancy (since I was avoiding taking any medicine during that time) as well as during labor and recovering afterward.   I did use them some during those times, but not to their fullest potential because I hadn’t really had enough time to experiment and figure out what oils to use for what issues.

Some other things I’ve also used them for:
- I had a horrible rash on my inner thighs after my labor due to my legs staying constantly wet for so long with all the amniotic fluid and such.  I used lavender on it two or three times in the hospital while we were recovering and it cleared up within two days.
- I used some Gentle Baby Hudson’s diaper rash and it improved significantly overnight.
- I’ve had three infected hangnails over the past few months and each time applying Thieves, lavender, and/or Purification (I kind of alternate them) dried up the infection within a few days.
- I rarely get headaches (usually only when a sinus infection is coming on), but the lack of sleep with a new baby has caused some fatigue headaches.  Peppermint and M-Grain (a blend specifically for migranes) have knocked them out in about 30 minutes.
- Thieves is an EO blend that is amazing for killing germs.  We’ve used that one a lot since Hudson was born to try to keep him from getting sick.
- I woke up one day last week with a zit, one of those painful ones that is just a bump under the skin that hasn’t come out quite yet.  I applied Purification twice during the day and by the end of the day the zit was gone!

I actually had most of this post typed up Wednesday to post on Thursday but I could tell I was starting to get a cold/sinus infection and I really wanted to try out my oils and see if they made a difference so I could add those results to this post.  Spoiler alert: they did!

Just about every year around this time I get some sort of sinus junk that usually results in me losing my voice.  I can always tell when I’m about to get sick – I get a headache and feel very tired.  Well…with having a new baby and being up in the middle of the night two or three times a night, headaches and feeling tired are kind of commonplace these days.  So I didn’t catch it quite as early this time.  Wednesday it progressed on to a sore throat, sinus pressure in my face, my ears were hurting a little, and a little bit of a rasp in my voice.  My protocol previously has been to start taking Benadryl at the first sign and sleep extra.  Sleeping extra is out of the picture right now and I really wanted to avoid Benadryl.  I started using a variety of my oils Wednesday night before bed.  I still felt pretty crummy in the middle of the night when I got up to feed Hudson but Thursday morning I was feeling markedly better.  I continued oiling throughout the day Thursday and by Friday morning I felt completely better with the exception of a little runny/stopped up nose.  I had less than 48 hours of a runny and mildly congested nose and then that was gone too.  Oils for the win!

And those are just a few of the things that have worked for me in the few short months I’ve been using them.  I’ve heard incredible stories from others about how they have successfully used EOs to fade stretch marks (I’m excited to try that!), clear up acne, to get pregnant, for weight loss, to manage their kid’s ADD/ADHD without medicine, to heal eczema, to reverse autistic tendencies, to regulate blood sugar and get rid of diabetes, and so much more.  I am constantly amazed at how the oils are working for people.

So yeah, this skeptic is now a believer.

Young Living essential oils on the go

I even got a cute little carrying case so I can carry some of my favorites in my purse/diaper bag.  And since I got my initial starter kit I’ve placed two more orders or oils because I just love them so.

Now that I’ve seen what they can do I want to share them with everyone!  Michael laughs at me because any time he (or anyone else) mention various and sundry ailments I’m like “I have an oil for that!”.  You know how when you find a product you love that you just want to tell everyone about it….that’s how I feel about oils!

I don’t claim to know everything.  You’re welcome to ask me things and I’ll try to find the answers, but I’ll also go ahead and direct you to some of my favorite resources.  This is a great website that really helped me as I was trying to learn about oils.  Here’s a look at nine of the Everyday Oils and this video is very beneficial if you have the time and want to learn more about for what the oils can be used (there’s also a good explanation about what EOs actually are).  This and this Facebook group have some interesting testimonies and info as well (apologies for the horrible grammar I just used there).  This blogger blogged for 31 days about Young Living essential oils – there is a ton of information there!  And of course we can’t leave out Pinterest.

One random note that I didn’t know and wish I had before I got my oils…they don’t smell like candles.  Some smell better than others to me, but they are not the delicious, artificial candle-y scents.  They smell very much like a spa/massage place, which isn’t necessarily bad, just not what I expected.

Disclaimer: I only endorse Young Living oils.  My research has brought me to the conclusion that these are the best – they are a reputable company, they don’t put additives or fillers in their oils, and they have a commitment to producing quality products.

So…

What do you know about essential oils?  Do you already use them?  Had you even heard of them before?

Did this answer some of your questions?  If not, let me know in the comments or shoot me a message and I’ll try to help you out!

Are you interested in getting some oils?  Let me help you out!  When you sign up with YL you get your oils at a wholesale price.  You can be a distributor if you want, meaning you can make a little money by sharing about the oils, but that is not required.  Honestly, when I signed up I only did it so I could get the wholesale price for my own oils.  I am not a salesperson and I’ve always said I’ll never sell anything.  But people have started asking about oils and I’ve seen how wonderful they are and I want to share that with others.  If I happen to make a little extra income that’s an added bonus, but if not that’s ok too.

But anyway, if you think you might want to become a distributor as well or just try out some oils, let me know.  I’d love, LOVE to get you started on your journey to better health.

(oh and in case you’re confused…you DO NOT have to sell Young Living in order to use their oils.  That is totally optional.  Nor do you have to pay an annual fee like at Sam’s Club or Costco.  You don’t have to order a certain amount or number of times.)

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease.

Oh, and don’t forget to come join My Chocolate Moments on Facebook so that you can keep up with my essential oils journey…as well as all the rest of my shenanigans.

high five for Friday

It’s been a looooonnngg time since I did a High Five for Friday post!  I’m just now emerging from the post-baby fog where I hardly knew my own name, much less what day of the week it was.  Tell me I’m not alone in that…

Here’s what I’m high five-ing this week.

1.  I cleaned my house.  I know, so earth-shattering.  But some parts of our house haven’t been cleaned since before Hudson was born and he’s almost two months old *ducks head in shame*.  I’ve been basically worthless in the cleaning department since I’m more in the baby-holding-milk-making department right now, but we’re finally starting to get into a routine.  Most of the time as soon I as get ready to clean Hudson wakes up from his nap so I only get part of a room done.  Yesterday though he took several great naps and I was able to get the house mostly cleaned.  We (well, Michael and mom actually) have been keeping up with the day-to-day things (dishes, kitchen, bathrooms, etc.) but I’ve let a lot slide.  It felt great to get some of the less important things done (like dusting our bedroom…some big ‘ole dust bunnies had accumulated in two months!).

2.  I got in some new essential oils that I ordered.  It’s like Christmas when they come!  And they came just in time to help me knock out an impending sinus infection so it was perfect timing.

Young Living essential oils

3.  During one of Hudson’s naps I got to mix up some of my “potions” (pain cream, diaper rash cream, lotion, etc.).  I had a good time doing something not so baby related for a change.

mixtures made with Young Living essential oils

4.  I had a big Mommy-win this week: I took Hudson out shopping by myself for the first time.  We went to Hobby Lobby (PSA: Hobby Lobby’s carts are too small to fit a carseat inside.  I learned that the hard way and had to haul that huge carseat all over the store.  Next time I’ll wear him in my baby carrier!), Target, the mall (just in and out of Dillard’s), and then we ran by Michael’s work so his coworkers could meet Hudson.  That was a HUGE trip out for us and I was so proud.  He did great, too; slept nearly the whole time.

shoppingThis was actually a different day when we went to Kroger – Michael had one cart for the groceries and I just followed him around pushing Hudson in a different cart.  I don’t know what I’ll do when I need to get groceries on my own…there is not room for a baby and groceries in the cart!  I think I’ll wear him so the buggy is free.

5.  I finally got around to setting up a Facebook page for my blog.  I’ve been meaning to for a while and just never made time (it took, like, 5 whole minutes…what a procrastinator).  Have you liked it yet?  You totally should…all the cool kids are doing it ;).  (go here)

Bonus: I get to love on this sweet boy all day every day and nothing could make me happier.  (Did you really think I’d write a whole post without random Hudson pictures….?)

HudsonLinking up with Lauren

My Chocolate Moments is on Facebook

Guess what…I finally created a Facebook fan page for My Chocolate Moments!  About time I entered the 21st century, huh?

You may have noticed that I’m not blogging nearly as much as I used to.  Or maybe you didn’t notice and I’m not as missed as I thought.  Sad.

Anyhow…

There’s a sweet little guy in my life who is making blogging a little more difficult (and less of a priority) these days.  Having two hands free (not to mention a chunk of time long enough to get my thoughts organized) is hard, but boy can I wear out my iphone during those long nursing sessions!  I thought I’d start a Facebook page so I can stay connected to my readers.  At least then I can post some short statuses (status’? stati?) and pictures until I have time to write more rambling wordy posts.

Photo Mar 16, 9 05 55 AMHudson is more excited about this than he seems.  Promise.

Photo Mar 19, 3 36 49 PMActually this is what he has been doing the whole time I’ve been working on the new page…sacked out in his Moby Wrap.

Will you join me?  Look over there on your right.  No, your other right.  (just kidding…I know you all know right from left, right?).  See where it says “Join Me on Facebook“?  Click there to go to my Facebook page.  Make sure to “Like” it so you can stay updated with new posts and other fun stuff.

I’m looking forward to it!

breast may be best but it definitely isn’t easiest – our breastfeeding journey

BFAR

Disclaimer: This post is about breastfeeding.  There will be words like breast, nipple, etc.    If that freaks you out, stop reading now.  But don’t worry, there are no pictures.  I never thought I’d ever write about something so personal, but as I’ve struggled through this journey I’ve talked to so many people who have also had difficulties and I want to share my story so that others can use it to learn or for encouragement.  If you are bothered by that then stop reading now!  Everyone else, read on…

Breast milk is the perfect food for baby.  It’s natural and the way God designed babies to eat.  I think we can all agree that “breast is best”.  However, breastfeeding is not easy.  Or at least, it wasn’t easy for me.  It was very, very hard.  And as I’ve talked to others it seems like many, many people struggle with breastfeeding.

You think you’re sweet little baby will be born, you’ll pull him or her to your breast, they’ll latch on and start eating, and all will be well in the world.  I mean, you read the books, you went to two breastfeeding classes.  You got this!  Right?  Wrong.

I was one of the lucky ones that had a fairly easy pregnancy…but I think I’m paying for it now with a ridiculously long and hard labor and a breastfeeding nightmare.  Here’s our story:

My senior year of high school (2005) I had a breast reduction.  My doctor told me that I may or may not be able to breastfeed – his prediction was that I’d have a 50/50 chance.  At 18 breastfeeding wasn’t really something I was thinking about so I took note of the information and decided it wasn’t that big of a deal.

Fast forward eight years.  Breastfeeding is definitely on my radar now.  Over the years I’ve become much more “crunchy” – we eat mostly natural and organic foods, I try to avoid most medicine, I went with a natural childbirth.  Of course it makes sense for me to breastfeed.  I knew going into my pregnancy that breastfeeding might not be possible for me, but I was sure enough going to give it my very best effort and pray that I’d be one of the lucky ones who were able to breastfeed after a reduction (BFAR).

Please know I do not regret my reduction.  It completely improved my quality of life.  If I had to go back and do it over again, knowing what I know now, I think I’d still get the reduction.

During pregnancy I started researching to try to find out what my breastfeeding odds were.  There really wasn’t a lot of information on BFAR, but I did find one book that I bought and read.  I found a little information online, but again, not that much.  I contacted my doctor’s office and was told that the type of surgery I had was the one that would give me the most hope of breastfeeding.  When my reduction was done the doctor left my nipple attached to as many of the ducts and nerves as possible (rather than cutting the nipple and areola completely off and reattaching it later).  I also spoke to a lactation consultant who felt I had a very good chance – the surgery was eight years ago, I had feeling in the majority of my breasts, and my breasts and nipples had changed with pregnancy (signs that they realized I was pregnant and were getting ready to make milk).  I also started leaking a little colostrum in the last few weeks of pregnancy.

So I went into my delivery cautiously hopeful that I would be able to breastfeed.  I figured from the research that I’d done that I would be able to at least breastfeed some, with the possibility that I’d have to also supplement if I didn’t make enough milk.  But I really, really hoped that I’d be able to exclusively breastfeed.  I mean, I even stopped at the store for brown sugar and made lactation cookies while in labor…I was going to do everything I could to make that happen!

That was also one of my main reasons for wanting to have a natural childbirth.  I knew that having drugs in labor would mean there would be drugs in Hudson’s system, and sometimes the medicated babies are sleepy and have a harder time breastfeeding.  I wanted to give us the best possible start, so I opted to go unmedicated (other than that small bit of Pitocin right at the very end, which I don’t think negatively affected his alertness).

Seconds after Hudson was born they placed him on my chest to do skin-to-skin.  After a few minutes the nurses sat me up and helped me get Hudson to breastfeed for the first time.  We fumbled around but finally got latched and Hudson “nursed” (if you can call it that) for maybe a minute.  But I’d read that babies really aren’t that hungry the first day and mostly just sleep so I wasn’t too worried.

Our plan all along had been for Hudson to room in with us, something that “they” all say is very important in order to establish a breastfeeding relationship.  However, at our hospital either mom or dad has to be awake at all times when baby is in the room, I guess to make sure no baddies come in and snatch him.  After we finally got settled into our room and our families left around midnight, we were exhausted.  We tried to sleep in shifts so that we could keep Hudson with us but after a 32 hour labor and running on no sleep in two days, we just couldn’t do it.  I tried taking the first shift but couldn’t stay awake.  We called the nursery and asked them to take Hudson.  It was definitely the right decision because I don’t think we could have safely stayed awake and cared for him.  They were wonderful – they put a big sign on his bassinet that said “no pacifier” and they brought him back to me in the middle of the night so I could feed him.  I didn’t worry that they were going to give him a paci or a bottle to make him stop crying.  We were able to get some much needed sleep, too.

The next day he didn’t eat much and mostly just slept, which is apparently pretty typical for newborns.  Several nursery nurses were wonderful and helped me try to get him latched.  We didn’t have tons of luck, though.  My nipples had totally flattened out so there wasn’t much for him to latch on to, but they said that was very normal – the fluids from labor had caused my nipples to flatten out but they should go back to normal soon.  In the meantime they gave me a set of breast shells; these dome-like things that you wear between feedings that help to pull your nipple out so that baby will have something to latch on to.

That afternoon I requested to meet with a lactation consultant.  She was pretty helpful trying to teach me how to get a good latch.  However, she said I needed to use a nipple shield until he could latch on well himself.  I really didn’t want to use an artificial nipple because I was afraid that would cause nipple confusion later, or that he would get so dependent on the shield that he would never latch on my nipple.  It was also very hard for me to use and he never really got a good latch with it either, so I quit using it pretty quickly.

I didn’t mention the breast reduction at first, but when it came up awhile into the consultation the LC totally changed her demeanor.  She went from casually helping me as she would any mom to acting like that was a huge game changer and that my chances of breastfeeding had just tanked.  She went on and on about how I probably wouldn’t have enough milk and instructed us to rent a hospital grade breast pump, like, yesterday.  She said I needed to start pumping after every feeding to build up my supply.  So Michael went and picked up a rental pump right away.

I was really discouraged after she left.  I know I shouldn’t have let her get to me, but I guess the postpartum hormones had me out of whack.  I was very shook up and not at all confident in my abilities to breastfeed.

The rest of that day and the next the nurses were great – not only did they continue helping me with my latch when it was time for Hudson to eat, they also helped me set up my pump, told me how to store the milk and wash the pump, and even sterilized the pump parts for me.  It took me awhile after my meeting with the lactation consultant, but my confidence returned and I was even more determined to breastfeed.

We went home Saturday evening, and sometime over night my milk came in.  However, Hudson just wasn’t all that interested in eating.  I had always heard “never wake a sleeping baby” so I just let him sleep as much as he wanted and wasn’t waking him up for feedings.  I didn’t realize that was a bad idea and that he wasn’t eating enough.  We knew his jaundice numbers were high (although no one would tell us what they actually meant) but I didn’t know that I needed to be feeding him as much as I could to flush that jaundice out.  I did pump occasionally during those first few days but not very frequently.

On Monday we went in for a routine check up with the pediatrician and shortly after getting back home got a call that we needed to go back to the hospital immediately because his bilirubin numbers were so high.  Our pediatrician started saying thing about supplementing with formula and doing an IV in order to flush him out, as well as putting him under the bilirubin lights.  I was so upset and did not want to give him any formula.  On our way to the hospital we stopped at Babies R Us and bought a couple of bottles that were supposed to be most like the breast (to prevent nipple confusion) and I took the milk that I had pumped so far.  I really wanted to get a supplemental nursing system, which you wear around our neck and a thin tube goes to your nipple – that way the baby is still latched on to you and you don’t have to use a bottle.  However, we couldn’t find one in town fast enough.

When we got to the hospital I made it clear that I wanted to breastfeed first, then if we had to supplement I wanted to supplement with my pumped breast milk before we used formula.  They brought a pack of formula to our room anyway and left it but I was determined not to use it.

Shortly after we got there, two of the nurses came in to check on me and noticed that the tops of my breasts were very red.  I had briefly noticed it before but thought it was from where Hudson had been laying on my chest and made my skin hot.  One of the nurses really freaked out about how that was an indication of clogged ducts and that I was on my way to having mastitis.  She just really kept going on about how had I not noticed? and it would be really, really bad to get mastitis.

I know what mastitis is and what clogged ducts are, and even that I’m more at risk for clogged ducts because of my surgery (if a duct was cut during surgery and doesn’t go all the way to the nipple then the milk that is made in that duct will have no where to go and get blocked).  However, my milk had come in just barely over 24 hours earlier.  I didn’t realize the blocked ducts and/or mastitis could manifest so very quickly.  I didn’t appreciate being treated like an idiot (however that seemed to be the running theme during much of our hospital experience, but that’s not the point here…).  I am glad that the nurses noticed so we could take care of it before it got too bad.  There were so many lumps that it seemed like I was just one big clogged duct.  I also had some brown scabby-ish things on my nipples that apparently were cracked nipples.

Our night nurse was fantastic.  She truly went above and beyond her duties as our nurse.  Every single time it was time to feed Hudson she would come to our room and help me get him latched on. Then after I fed him I would pump, and while I pumped she and Michael would massage the hard lumps my breasts (think deep tissue painful massage, not nice relaxing massage).  By the time we went home the next evening most of the lumps were gone and the redness had gone away.

We tried feeding Hudson a bottle of pumped milk when we first got readmitted but he refused.  I had requested a supplemental nursing system that I could wear to supplement him while I nursed him (the milk runs out of a bottle into a thin tube, you run the tube down to your nipple so that when the baby latches they get the nipple and the tube in their mouth), but they said they didn’t have any and couldn’t get one for me.  The nurse brought us some syringes and we used that to squirt little bits of pumped milk into his mouth after he had nursed for a while.  You can read more about our whole jaundice experience here, but the short story is that we never had to use the formula.  Between my nursing, the syringe with the pumped milk, and the IV they gave him, we were able to flush him out enough to get the numbers down and go home.

Before we left, I requested to meet with a lactation consultant because things were just not going as well as they should and I figured while I was at the hospital I might as well get some help.  One of the LC’s (not the one I had met with during our post-partum stay) came to meet with me.  I was very disappointed because the first thing she told us to do was to give Hudson a bottle.  Granted, she did teach Michael how to feed him the bottle in a way that would best prevent nipple confusion, but I was very surprised that someone who you would think would do everything possible to promote breastfeeding was having us turn to the bottle first!  She assured us that he would still breastfeed, even though he was going to be getting a bottle now, but that the number one priority was to get the jaundice under control and let my cracked nipples heal.  I agreed that we needed to deal with the jaundice and nipple issues, but I just don’t think we needed to jump on the bottle so very quickly.

After she left, I sat on the edge of the bed and pumped with tears pouring down my face while Michael fed Hudson his first bottle.  It’s not that I didn’t want Michael to get to feed him, and we completely planned on introducing a bottle after a month or so when breastfeeding was established, but to have it pushed on us and to not get to do it in our own time was really hard for me.  Yet again I felt like I’d failed my baby, that I wasn’t “good enough” to feed him enough milk.

We got to go home Tuesday evening and I continued to try to nurse and then we’d give a bottle with a very small amount of pumped milk afterward if he still seemed hungry.  It was a huge struggle though because he’d just scream and scream when I’d try to get him to latch.  I wasn’t sure if it was a bad latch or he couldn’t get the milk out or what, but it definitely wasn’t working for us.  I was concerned that maybe he had a lip tie but after some more investigating it seemed like that wasn’t an issue (I was almost hoping it was because that is something fixable).  There were a few times that I was just so very exhausted that I couldn’t face fighting him again to get him to latch, so I’d have Michael give him a little bit more in a bottle or with a syringe.  It was very frustrating because I was pumping plenty after each feeding, so I knew the milk was in there, he just wasn’t doing a very good job getting it out!

Thursday morning (when he was one week old) we went back to see our pediatrician.  Hudson’s bilirubin levels were fine and he was almost back to his birth weight so she seemed pleased.  She just said she wanted him to be back at birth weight by his two week visit.

I contacted another lactation consultant – this one wasn’t associated with the hospital.  She even comes to your house which was amazing!  I was so tried of hauling Hudson to the doctor that it was nice to have someone come to you.  Anyway, she came out Friday morning and did a weighed feeding where she weighed him before I fed him and again after so we could see about how much milk he was getting.  From that feeding we guessed that he was getting about an ounce and a half, but he probably needed to be getting about two ounces.  She said we still needed to supplement, but she recommended getting rid of the bottle and syringes completely (exactly what I would expect a LC to recommend…unlike what I experienced in the hospital!).  She gave us a supplemental nursing system and showed us how to use that so I could supplement but still keep him at the breast.

Basically, he was just a lazy little nurser.  He took forever and kept falling asleep.  The LC said that he would get better as he got older, we just had to keep working with him.  She said he also had probably gotten used to getting so little milk that we needed to re-teach him what it felt like to get a full feeding using the SNS and then hopefully he’d wake up and realize that he needed to do a little work in order to keep his tummy full.  Also, him sucking at the breast (even if the milk was coming through the SNS instead of me) would stimulate my breasts to produce more.  She helped me with my latch and had me start taking some supplements (fenugreek and alfalfa) to try to boost my supply a little bit to make it easier for him to get the milk out.

For the next few days we nursed, pumped, and supplemented.  The LC wanted me to feed him every two hours, meaning two hours from the start of one feeding to the start of the next.  We tried to keep the feeding sessions to under an hour, but they usually lasted longer than that and then I had to pump (usually about ten-ish minutes) after he finished.  All in all, it ended up being about an hour and a half spent nursing and then getting a very short 30 minute break before starting over again.  I could only get about one thing done per break (shower or hair dried or eat a meal…).  Using the supplementer was way harder than I thought it was going to be.  Getting him latched was hard enough, getting him to latch and get a tiny tube in his mouth was a nightmare.  We’d have to latch over and over again each feeding just to get a semi-decent latch.  It was all so difficult.  Not to mention very painful.  The nights were horrible because as soon as we got to sleep it was time to get up and feed him again.

Back when we took our Bradley classes we had a discussion question about what could dad do to be involved with baby since they can’t really help with breastfeeding.  I look back and laugh now because Michael was so very involved with breastfeed.  He had to be – it took multiple hands to hold the supplementer and get Hudson latched (man, that sounds so easy when I type it…when you’re doing it in person it’s so much more complicated!).  Not to mentioned pump parts to be washed, milk to be stored, the SNS to be set up at each feeding, and the moral support.  Breastfeeding was definitely a team effort for a while there and it took me, Michael, and Mom working around the clock to make it happen.  We all slept very little those first few weeks.

The LC came back on Wednesday of the next week.  Hudson hadn’t lost any weight but he hadn’t gained any either.  She did another weighed feeding and that time he only got a half an ounce from me – less than our first weighed feeding!  I was so disappointed.  She told us to just keep doing what we were doing and supplement a little more.

She left her baby scale with us so that we could do weighed feedings each time and see how much he was getting from me and then supplement with my pumped milk whatever we needed to get him up to that two ounce mark.

It was nice having the baby scale so I could see exactly how much he was getting, but it was also very disappointing because he would nurse for a while and then when we weighed him he would have only gotten 4 mL or maybe 9 mL.  Guys, an ounce is about 30 mL so we’re talking a negligible amount of milk here.  Yet I was pumping and able to get enough pumped milk for him to drink.  I just couldn’t understand why he wasn’t extracting the milk on his own!  He would sit there and suck and suck but obviously nothing was coming out.

That next day, right at the two week mark since he’d been born, was my low point.  I was so frustrated and ready to give up.  Everyone had said, “give it two weeks, it gets better after two weeks”.  It had been two weeks and things weren’t getting better at all.  I had been struggling and struggling with that SNS and the pump, thinking we we’d get to ditch them soon only to find out he was getting next to nothing from me when he nursed.  I was beyond exhausted since I was getting almost no sleep.  I felt like I wasn’t getting to enjoy my sweet boy at all because I spent an hour or so fighting him to try to get him to latch and then to stay awake to suck, then I had to hand him off to someone else so I could pump and maybe get one small thing done then it was time to fight him all over again.  Instead of gazing at my precious boy’s face and oohing and aahing over how adorable he was, we were struggling and I just felt frustrated all the time.

That same night in the middle of the night I dumped a full pumped ounce in my lap.  I completely lost it and cried hysterically.  Dumping pumped milk is always upsetting from what I hear, but I was so very tried and discouraged that it was magnified.  I was just barely keeping up with him by pumping enough at one session to give him at the next to make it a full two ounce feeding, so to lose an ounce was devastating.

I felt guilty because I couldn’t really have people over to visit.  I felt like people thought I was being selfish by not having visitor, but reality was I just couldn’t.  It stressed me out more than anything to try to think about timing a visit in that perfect little 30 minute window when he wasn’t eating or I wasn’t pumping.  I’m sure they understood but that guilt and fear weighed on me on top of all the other issues.

I had a wonderful support system between Michael and my mom there with me, as well as friends who I texted and Facebook messaged almost constantly.  However, at this point they could all see how horrible this was, and while no one was telling me to quit I think they were all supportive of me quitting if that was what I wanted to do and would have completely understood.  It really was a nightmare and I was pretty miserable.

However, I’m a bit stubborn (some might say stupid) and just couldn’t give up yet.  I kept pushing on.  My LC really encouraged me to try to give it just one more week until he was three weeks old so I decided I could probably make it until then.

The next day things actually started to look up a little.  We finally figured out the SNS, so even though I was still having to pump and supplement, at least I wasn’t having to fight to get him latched with the SNS each time.  It only took three or four tries each time to get him latched (believe me, that was a big improvement).

I also contacted a friend of mine who had mentioned that she made an herbal tincture that really helped milk production.  I honestly thought I was doing okay on milk since I was pumping enough, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to increase it some and maybe if I had a little extra milk it would be easier for my lazy guy to get out.

Over the next few days I continued feeding, weighing, pumping, and supplementing.  And watching the Olympics.  Honestly, if it hadn’t been for the Winter Olympics I think I would have gone crazy.  I’m not even a sports fan but it gave me something to do, and since I was sitting in my recliner nursing nearly all day every day I needed a distraction to keep me busy and take my mind off the pain.  I also Googled a lot.  Probably more than in my whole entire life up to that point, but I was constantly trying to figure out what on earth with going on with my little guy.

That Sunday, when Hudson was two and a half weeks old, I got the tincture from my friend.  I took my first dose that night.

wow.

WOW.

That was it.  That was what I needed.  For whatever reason the lactation cookies, the fenugreek, the barley tea, the alfalfa…none of it had made a significant increase in my milk.  But this tincture definitely did.

That very next morning, less than 24 hours after taking my first dose, Hudson went from getting about half an ounce from me at a feeding to a full ounce.  The next day, after my second dose, he was getting two ounces from me at a feeding!  TWO OUNCES!  Apparently it was a milk production issue even though it didn’t seem like that was the problem at the time.

From that point on (the second day of taking the tincture) I didn’t have to pump or supplement a single time.  I kept weighing him before and after feedings just to make sure, but after a while it was apparent that he was getting all he needed from me.  That was a huge, HUGE relief!

I am so, SOOOO glad that I stuck with it a few more days (although I really wish I had known that “magic” tincture was going to make such a difference because I would have gotten it much earlier).

The big problem of him not getting enough milk was solved, but we still weren’t having a easy time.  Breastfeeding was so very painful.  Because of the pain in my nipples I thought we had thrush and started using gentian violet to treat it.  After some more reading I decided that probably wasn’t the problem, but went ahead and finished the four day treatment just in case so I could rule it out.

purple mouthpurple mouth from the thrush treatment

It hurt every time he latched.  It hurt while he nursed.  It hurt when he wasn’t nursing.  After going my whole pregnancy with almost no medicine (two Tums the whole pregnancy) and delivering a baby with no pain medication, I now found myself popping ibuprofen right and left.  I hated that (I really don’t like to take medicine), but that was the only way I could keep feeding him without crying in pain time after time.

His latch wasn’t great and he was crimping my nipple while he ate.  Literally my nipple had a crease in it  after each feeding like when you bite down on the end of a straw.  I tried working with his latch but something just wasn’t working.

In addition to that, and most painful of all, were the vasospasms.  Vasospasms are when the blood vessels clamp down and restrict blood flow to a specific area…in my case, my nipples.  They would blanch white and the pain was horrible.  From what I read, that is common among people who’ve had breast surgeries.  Also from what I read there really isn’t any treatment other than giving it time (in most people’s cases it went away after several months, yes months) or taking blood pressure medicine which I really, really wanted to avoid.

And on top of everything else were the gas issues.  I think he’d gotten so used to sucking and sucking and no milk coming out that when the milk did start flowing he didn’t know how to deal with it.  He would gulp and choke while he was nursing and I could actually hear the milk gurgling around in his stomach.  That made him really gassy and in pain.  He also started spitting up quite a bit more.  For a week or so I was concerned about oversupply, overactive letdown, acid reflux, food allergy, and/or foremilk-hindmilk imbalance, but things have worked themselves out and I think he just needed an adjustment period.

I took him to the chiropractor to try to help with the latch issues and the gas problems.  We had him adjusted four days in a row and it did seem to help some.  A friend once told us that when you have a baby all scientific reasoning goes out the window – instead of changing one thing at a time and watching to see how that changes things, you just change all kinds of things at once and try everything you can think of.  That is definitely the truth!  We started probiotics for both him and me, we used gas drops and gripe water, we used the Windi (this weird thing that you put in their bottom to help release the gas…it works but it’s kind of gross!), we did tummy massages, you name it, we did it.

He will be eight weeks old on Thursday.  He no longer crimps my nipples.  The vasospasms are much more rare now and he no longer gulps and chokes when he eats.  It is still hurts sometimes when he latches but I have no idea why. I’m hoping that the pain, like all the other issues we’ve dealt with, will correct itself with time.  In light of all the other things we’ve dealt with, that latch pain isn’t really a big deal.  At least he’s not starving, we’re done in 45 minutes or less, and there are no more pumps or supplementers to deal with.

We did it.  We are exclusively breastfeeding.  In spite of a breast reduction, flat nipples, jaundice, clogged ducts, cracked nipples, a lazy eater, low supply, a bad latch, and painful vasospasms, we made it.  And I couldn’t be more proud.  I can now go places or have people over and know that if he gets hungry it’s no big deal.  I can feed him now anytime, anywhere.

So….

That turned out to be a much longer post than I intended (and could have been even longer but I started condensing some details there at the end).  I’m not even sure what the point is other than for me just to write my memories down.  I tried to get this written as soon as I could so I could remember everything, but even just a few weeks out it all seems so hazy.  Some of that I’m sure is because of how sleep deprived I was.  Some of it is probably my body’s way of making me forget the horribleness of it all.

I guess I should try to find some moral or something to my story.  If I could give one piece of advice it would be this: find yourself a really good lactation consultant and a good support system.  I am sure that we would not still be breastfeeding today if it hadn’t been for the LC who worked so hard to get us breastfeeding.  Getting in touch with a LC who could provide me with the SNS, do the weighed feedings, and let me know that others have been in the same place as me made all the difference in the world.  And having Michael and my mom there to basically take care of everything else so that I could do nothing but nurse, nurse, nurse was a lifesaver.

I know this really wasn’t an encouraging story.  I mean, yes, it does have a happy ending but seven nightmarish weeks of breastfeeding is not something anyone wants to deal with.  Please don’t let this deter you from breastfeeding, I’m pretty sure my experience wasn’t the norm.  But understand that if you do struggle that others have been there and there are people out there who can help you.  And know that I won’t judge you in the least if you give up and switch to formula.  I was so close to that point and I completely understand why many people give up breastfeeding.  It is really, really hard.

Breastfeeding was my Mount Everest.  My marathon.  It was something that I felt so very passionate about and was going to do absolutely everything I could to make it happen.  It turned out being much harder than I anticipated but I persevered on and we did it.  I couldn’t be more proud.

Photo Mar 18, 8 33 49 AMmy sweet boy growing big thanks to Mommy’s milk

has it really already been a month?

I cannot believe Hudson is a month old already!  In some ways it seems like he was just born, and in others it feels like our terrible first week was ages ago.  So this is what we’ve been up to this month (warning: tons of adorable baby pictures ahead!)

IMG_3151At nine days old, Hudson got his newborn pictures taken.  I showed you those here, but couldn’t resist reposting two of my favorites (plus showing a behind-the-scenes-peek).

profilecoverIMG_7932We watched just about every event in the winter Olympics since we spend pretty much all day every day in the recliner nursing or napping (him, not me…I think I’ve taken two naps total since he was born.  I’m just not much of a nap taker).IMG_3163my favorite boys!

IMG_3168love those sweet, sweet lips

IMG_3169he sleeps with his mouth hanging wide open much of the time

IMG_3182

IMG_3184This was one of the first days he was really alert and awake for a long period of time.  We definitely don’t have a routine down yet, but he is usually pretty awake for a while after he eats “breakfast” (what’s breakfast, really, when you eat all day and night…?) and likes to play on a blanket in the floor for a while.

He tries so hard to roll over but just can’t figure out how to get his shoulder out of the way.  He does not like to be on his back and he usually rolls to his side if you lay him down on his back.

IMG_3186I see this “I’m hungry” face pretty often.  Check out those adorable forehead wrinkles!

I always heard “watch for hunger cues and feed him before he gets to the point of crying”.  Umm, nope.  This one goes from zero to screaming.  He doesn’t show those hunger cues usually (sometimes, but not always), and will just start shrieking with hunger.

IMG_3187After I sort of freaked about the Rock ‘N Play, thinking that he would lean his head forward and stop breathing, I decided we needed a flat place for him to sleep.  He has a crib in the nursery, but I’m not ready to put him in there yet so we needed something for our room.  This Arms Reach Co-Sleeper is the ideal situation – it bumps right up next to the bed so he’s sleeping next to me but not in the bed (something I’m really trying to avoid).  We found a gently used one for sale and got it all set up.

Let’s just say that I’m glad I bought a used one and didn’t spend a lot of money because so far he hates it.  Well, to be honest mostly he just hates being set down anywhere at all…swing, Rock ‘N Play, bouncer, co-sleeper, anything.  He just wants to be held 24/7.  We put him in the cosleeper several nights but he’d only sleep for a little while and then we had to find an alternate place (usually in someone’s arms in the recliner).  I think the longest he slept in the cosleeper was two hours one night.

He won’t go to sleep in there at all if I’m not touching him, so for two nights (as long as he would sleep in the cosleeper) I slept with my legs in the cosleeper right alongside his back so if felt like I was laying next to him.  Not the most comfortable of sleeping positions.

He’s gotten better about needing to be held at night, but we’ve had to go back to the Rock ‘N Play because he sleeps much better in there than the cosleeper.  I think the cosleeper was just too big and he kind of rolls and flops around a lot.  The Rock ‘N Play is more snug.  So right now the cosleeper is just something that gets in the way when I try to make the bed, although he will tolerate me laying him down in it for a few minutes during the day while I get ready.  Maybe someday he’ll be able to sleep there, too.

My mom has been a lifesaver because she gets up in the middle of the night with Hudson and holds him once he’s to the point where he won’t lay down on his own anymore.  That allows us to catch a few hours of much needed sleep without having to keep one ear open for him.

IMG_3188 IMG_3194IMG_3219Hudson’s first Valentine’s day was pretty uneventful (this is the only red item he had that was remotely small enough for my little munchkin to wear, so that’s what he wore for Valentine’s).  His Uncle Riley came to visit on Valentine’s and stayed the weekend with us.

IMG_3226He is definitely a mama’s boy right now but he loves to snuggle and play with his daddy, too.

IMG_3233I thought we might have thrush because I was having quite a bit of pain and was seeing white chunks in his mouth.  Turns out, the white chunks were just little milk curdle spit up thingys (gross, sorry) and not thrush, but we went ahead and used the gentian violet just in case.  That was a big mess and I’m glad we’re done with that!

IMG_3236We introduced the paci when he was about three and a half weeks old.  Our hope was that it would soothe him and help him sleep better at night.  Unfortunately he doesn’t seem to care for it that much.  He has a really hard time keeping it in his mouth so unless someone sits there and holds it in it just falls out and makes him mad.  We try it some every day and he’s getting a little better, but he certainly didn’t take to it like I thought he would.

We started swaddling him again as well.  When we first got home from the hospital he acted like he hated being swaddled and would bust out each time.  We tried this swaddle wraps but he kept getting out so we quit for a while.  I think he was actually too small for them and that’s how he was able to get out since we couldn’t get the swaddle tight enough.  Now that he has grown some we’ve gone back to using the at night and it’s going much better.  He doesn’t break free or fuss about them anymore.

IMG_3250One of my favorite crying baby pictures :)

IMG_3255keeping me company while I ate breakfast one morning

IMG_3262sleeping so sweetly

IMG_3266a friend and co-worker of mine made this hat for Hudson and it is a hit – it’s one of two hats that he doesn’t cry when we put it on (he pitches a fit if we try to put on any of the rest of his hats) and everyone that sees it thinks it’s just the cutest thing ever!

IMG_3330We had a week of warm-ish weather (50′s and 60′s) so we took advantage of it and went strolling a few days.  It felt amazing to get out of the house!  At that point I hadn’t left in two straight weeks.

IMG_3331He hated our first stroller outing, but only because he was hungry.  The other times we went out that week he mostly just slept the whole time we walked.

IMG_3269Of course, with warm weather comes tornadoes (at least, in Kentucky).  Hudson had his first (of many, I’m sure) tornado warning closet experiences.  We put him in his carseat (which he hated) and got in our closet (one of only two ground floor, interior, no window rooms…the other being the tiny half bath).  I’m not usually afraid of storms at all, but having a baby in the picture totally changes things.  I was much more nervous now that I have a little one to think of.

IMG_3270IMG_3332Seriously.  I just sit and stare at this sweet little face all day.

IMG_3284 IMG_3290On his one month birthday, wearing the gown that his daddy came home from the hospital in.

I didn’t get a picture, but we also took him to church for the first time the day he turned a month old.  We didn’t even attempt to make it to Sunday morning service, but we did go Sunday night.  We literally started getting ourselves ready around 2:00 Sunday in order to make it to church on time (6:00).  Everything just takes so much more time with a baby!  Then of course he peed all over the cute outfit I picked out for him, then spit up all over his monogramed bib.  And then in the car on the way to church he spit up again and had to be changed yet another time.  But we made it on time (early even!) and it was wonderful to be back at church.

He is still in newborn diapers but he finally, right at a month old, outgrew some of his newborn outfits.  In fact, I think we put him in his first 0-3 month outfit for church on his one month birthday.  It was bittersweet to pack away those first few too-small sleepers.  Of course I’m thrilled that my little guy is growing, but I want him to slow down, too!  I am glad, though, that we’ll have more outfit options now (he only had about six newborn outfits that we rotated through for that first month…I just wasn’t expecting him to be so very small!).

To recap, here are things Hudson dislikes:

- wet or dirty diapers
- getting said wet or dirty diapers changed
- baths
- his carseat
- the swing, bouncy seat, cosleeper, or Rock ‘N Play (usually…but we’re getting much better!)
- being set down anywhere, basically
- being hungry

 What Hudson likes:

- eating
- being held
- being wrapped in the Moby Wrap (pretty much the only way I can eat a meal sometimes)

The first two weeks were really, really hard.  Breastfeeding was an absolute nightmare and there were many tears and much frustration (from both Hudson and me).  We finally, finally seem to be getting it figured out.  It was a really hard process but I think we’re getting there.  Now we’re battling some gassy/fussy/colicky issues as well as trying to get little man to sleep on his own for at least part of the night.  We’re making progress on both fronts, but we’re not quite there yet.  This parenting gig is hard!

Even with all the frustration and lack of sleep and inability to do pretty much anything but hold him (so sorry to my poor blog that I’ve sorely neglected), I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  I am blessed beyond measure with my little family.