7 Ways to Prepare Your Toddler for a New Baby

When I became pregnant with Joey, Anneliese was just under a year old. I knew she couldn’t possibly understand what was really happening, and what was going to change with our family in just a few months, but I did my best to prepare her for his arrival. Considering that upon seeing him the first time, Anneliese greeted him with an affectionate, “My baby!” and sweet kisses, I think I managed to do a good job preparing her. Of course, some of that is just her personality, but that’s a factor none of us can control.

7 Ways to prepare your toddler for a new baby - what to do to get your toddler ready to be a big brother or big sister when you're pregnant.

How to prepare your toddler for a new baby arriving soon

1. Babies, Everywhere!

Start early with exposing your toddler to younger babies. Go to playdates, library story time, or other activities where they’ll be present. If you have friends with young babies, that’s even better! Ask if you can hold the baby for a few minutes, and let your toddler see that even if you hold another child, you’ll always cuddle your big toddler again afterward.

Teach “gentle hands” and “soft touches” from the start. Welcome your toddler to gently touch the baby (if it’s okay with the baby’s parents) in a sweet way, supervising closely. Use positive language to guide her to proper touch. Examples are:

“Very sweet hands. You’re being very gentle with this baby.”

“Oh, hitting like that can hurt a little tiny baby. Let’s hold his hand gently instead, like this.”

“Can you help me find his toes? Let’s count his toes.”

“You are being so careful with this little baby. He likes when you touch his cheek. See him smile?”

If you don’t have “access” (ha!) to babies in order to practice these skills, pets or baby dolls act as good stand-ins.

2. A book is worth… a thousand words?

Well that doesn’t make as much sense as I thought it would. But really, children’s books are super-helpful. Any books that include babies in them can spark discussion (even if at this young age it’s mostly one-sided). Point out how the parent in the book is holding the baby, or the types of toys babies like to play with.

Some books are geared specifically toward preparing an older child for a baby to join the family. Two that I absolutely love are:

My New Baby, which has very simple text, bright pictures, and can serve as a discussion-starter. Despite the baby being carried in a car seat on the cover (which deterred me from the book for a while), the family in the book is definitely more hands-on. The mother breastfeeds the baby, everyone snuggles together in the big bed in the morning, and when they go for a walk, the baby is worn in a soft structured baby carrier. Anneliese still LOVES this book.

My New Baby

What Baby Needs, which I thought might be a little complicated for a one year old to grasp at times, but over the last year of reading it frequently (Anneliese still requests it often, and notices when things in our day are “Like Baby Needs!!!”), it has really sunk in. This is another attachment-oriented family. It explains why babies must nurse so often, or why they might take bottles of expressed milk, shows babywearing, running errands, the baby sleeping in a cosleeper beside the parents’ bed, playing as a family, and the older children playing with Daddy without the baby around. At the end, it says, “Soon the baby will hold your hand, smile at you, sit up, and play!” Anneliese loves to hold Joey’s hand, and will tell him, “Sit up!” She can’t wait to play with him more when he gets bigger, and she knows it’s coming.

What Baby Needs (Sears Children's Library)

3. Establishing Ownership

I had always told Anneliese that certain toys belong to the dog, because I didn’t want her playing with gross slobbery toys. That backfired in a way, because then she would pick up the toys all the time, to bring them to Zora. But I learned that she really understood the concept of ownership. If I said, “That belongs to Daddy.” (for a tool, a pen, his phone, whatever) she would bring it to him, or leave it alone.

So when I started preparing for our new baby, I would tell her, “This bed (cosleeper) belongs to Joseph. When Joseph comes out of my belly, he can sleep here.” Or, “This toy is for Joseph when he can hold things. You can play with it now, but when he wants to play with it, you can put it in his hand.”

These things weren’t off limits by any means, but from the beginning, I made sure she knew that they weren’t her things. She has plenty of toys and belongings, so I could always direct her to something that WAS hers too.

If you are going to be passing things down from the toddler to the baby, do so well in advance. If your toddler is in a crib, and your baby will sleep in it, for example, transitioning at 8.5 months through your pregnancy is going to make the toddler associate “losing” her property with the baby’s arrival. Instead, shop for a “big bed” as early on as you’d like, celebrate the changes and your older child’s milestone without linking it to anything about the baby. Then, later, you can say, “You slept in this crib when YOU were a baby! Now it belongs to the new baby for HIM to sleep in!”

4. Be Patient

Remember, your family is going through some BIG changes. You might be tired, or unable to play in the same ways, and the air in the house FEELS different with a new baby on the way. Pets can sense it, and so can other kids.

In the days when birth is approaching, and the days afterward, it can be easy to switch to a mindset of “managing” your toddler. Beware of this. Of course it wouldn’t be a conscious decision, but it would be easy to accidentally say something like, “Let me feed the baby please. Go play over there.” Instead, try something like, “The baby is in my arms having some milk. Why don’t you sit in Daddy’s lap so he can read us all a story?”

Make sure your husband or partner is on board with this attitude too. Instead of, “Let’s let Mommy have quiet time with the baby,” focus on the actual activity the toddler will be doing, “Why don’t we go play with sidewalk chalk outside for a while?”

5. No Baby Blame

In a related category, be sure not to place blame on the baby. Saying things like, “Mommy is very tired right now because the baby woke up 4 times last night… so we can’t play that game,” or, “We have to stay home from the park right now because the baby is about to take a nap,” or “We have to go home now because the baby is getting cranky.” Remove the baby from the equation, OR present the baby in a positive light or with a positive association.

Try, “Let’s color these pictures right now. I’m a bit too sleepy for playing tag,” or, “When the baby wakes up from his nap, then we can go to the park! Yay!” or, “It’s time to go home now. What toys will you play with when we get there?”

6. A Special Gift

A lot of families will wrap up a special gift, to be given to the older child “from the baby” when the baby is born. I originally got a sweet baby doll for Anneliese to have when Joey was born, but ended up giving it to her far in advance. But I love the idea of a gift from the baby to the other siblings, like a peace offering almost.

Even if you don’t do that exactly, it’s nice to keep the older kids in mind when the baby seems to be getting all of the attention. If you go out and buy new clothes for the baby, maybe let the toddler pick out a new book to take home. This doesn’t have to be excessive, every shopping trip, or expensive. Just remember that your older child wants to feel remembered, included, and important.

7. Stay Flexible

There isn’t any one proven formula for preparing EVERY toddler for EVERY baby. Everyone is different, and that includes the littlest people. So stay flexible, be prepared to change your game plan, and be aware of how your actions and words affect the smallest members of your family.

This is such an exciting time, and hopefully it will be one that EVERY person in your household can look back on fondly later.

Congratulations on your exciting news (I’m assuming you’re reading this because you’re adding another family member), and please pass these tips on to other expecting mothers by clicking the sharing buttons below.

Check out the Huggies Mommy Answers Facebook app and find more posts from bloggers sharing their experiences of motherhood on the Huggies page on BlogHer.com.

Breastfeeding Through Pregnancy–What is it like?

During World Breastfeeding Week this year, I’m answering a few questions, sharing my resources, and telling my story.

PLEASE note: I’m not a lactation consultant. I’m not a doctor. I’m just a mom. I’ve probably spent 5,000 hours breastfeeding in the last 2 years (well, maybe close), and I’m breastfeeding after breast reduction surgery, have breastfed through a pregnancy, and am now tandem nursing an infant and a toddler. I’ve only missed 2 La Leche League meetings since Anneliese was born, and I’ve read a few books and tons of websites about breastfeeding. I don’t know nothing, but I certainly don’t know everything. My advice and ideas aren’t medical advice, and you should seek the assistance of an international board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) if you’re having trouble.

Jasmine V. asked

I am very interesting in nursing through pregnancy and if there are any resources you read or would recommend.

Jasmine, the book a lot of people will cite is Adventures in Tandem Nursing.

Adventures in Tandem Nursing: Breastfeeding During Pregnancy and Beyond

I didn’t read it. My friend Joni did, and she said it was kind of depressing in parts. So I figured I’d skip it and play things by ear. She did tell me that the book says fully 70% of women who nurse in pregnancy have a significant reduction in supply, or “dry up” all together. But this doesn’t always mean that your nursling will wean. Many babies continue to nurse, for comfort and closeness, throughout pregnancy even if there is no milk or very little. Anneliese was one of those babies. Everything seemed normal at first, then my milk became salty, decreased in quantity, and disappeared. Around the third trimester, my colostrum came in. My daughter nursed through everything.

From what I’ve read about weaning during pregnancy, it seems as though a lot of the weaning 1) would have happened anyway (nursling is of a normal weaning age, gets busy doing other things, “forgets” to nurse, etc) or 2) is mother-initiated.

There were parts of my pregnancy which were uncomfortable to nurse through, especially at certain times of day (evening primarily), and I can understand that a mother might want to wean when the going gets tough. If that’s your situation, you need to evaluate what you’d like to do, and no one can make that decision but you.

Here are some La Leche League resources and member stories about breastfeeding through pregnancy. KellyMom also has a page full of links focusing on nursing in pregnancy and tandem nursing.

One thing I want to make sure to point out is that if your milk supply decreases or “leaves” in pregnancy, it is NOT your fault. It’s not because you’re not nursing often enough… you can’t “boost” it with galactagogues (and there are a few that aren’t safe in pregnancy, so be careful with those anyway)… and this isn’t something to be ashamed of or angry with yourself over.

This is because your body has certain hormone “receptors” that are like key holes… (ok, I’m not a doctor or a scientist, so this is very simplified, but this is the gist). Prolactin, one of the primary milk-making hormones, and progesterone, a hormone for supporting pregnancy and preventing miscarriage (and the one that makes you feel awful at the beginning of pregnancy), have very similar “keys.” Both fit into the same keyhole. So if you’re pregnant and your body is trying to make sure the fetus hangs in there, your keyholes are going to get pretty full of progesterone-keys, not leaving much room for prolactin-keys to join the party. There really isn’t much you can do.

(HOWEVER, since about 30% of moms don’t notice a significant decline in their breastmilk supply while pregnant, it doesn’t mean that if you continue to have lots of milk something is wrong… maybe your body just has a whole lot of “keyholes.”)

If your nursling is very young, and needs breastmilk, but your milk supply has decreased or “dried up,” look into a mother to mother milksharing program like Human Milk for Human Babies in order to find donors who will help you continue to give your child mother’s milk.

Something I’ve been meaning to do for a while is compile my nursing-related “notes” from my pregnancy blog posts, since this is something people ask me about relatively often (not every day, but you know… enough). It’ll give an overview of what nursing through pregnancy was like for me. Of course, everyone will have a different experience, but you may have some of the same changes and feelings, even if they aren’t on my “schedule.”

From my pregnancy announcement post, on the decision to breastfeed through pregnancy (and beyond).

  • Yes, Anneliese is still nursing. Lots. Frequently. And more when she’s teething.
  • No, I’m not planning on weaning her. I just can’t imagine that. She is still my little baby, and we both still get so much from our nursing relationship. It’s a wonderful way to feel close, a comfort to her, and of course a nutritional safety net as she goes through phases of food preference while on the gradual journey of baby-led weaning. Since I had a breast reduction and subsequently learned of the huge importance of breastfeeding, I am grateful every. Single. Day. That I can breastfeed her, that I can nourish her, that I can nurse and nurture her with my body, not just with my heart. Every day, I’m amazed by nursing her. I will continue as long as it’s working well for both of us.
  • Yes, that means I might be nursing a baby and a toddler at the same time. I am so excited about it. I see photos, and they strike me as so incredibly beautiful. I hope I get to experience that.

7 weeks

When I was pregnant with Anneliese, it felt like my breasts had been kicked or beat up. I assumed it was because I was recovering from my breast reduction surgery. They HAD been kind of…excavated… very recently. Well, I’m feeling that same thing now. Not all the time. But now and then it’s like a trapeze acrobat has swooped in and kicked me in the chest. Anneliese is nursing just as frequently as before, and gulping as much as before. So no worries about supply at this point. Nipples are a bit sore, but I’m not sure if that’s my-baby-is-teething-and-nursing-a-bunch sore or pregnant+nursing sore. Or she-won’t-stop-pinching-my-opposite-nipple-while-she-nurses sore. Probably all of the above. Joni said her milk is more salty, and I was curious so I tasted mine. Tastes the same to me (if you’ve breastfed and have NOT tasted your milk EVER, you must have no sense of wonder or curiosity, seriously). No change.

8 weeks

Breasts are less sore than last week. Anneliese is nursing all the time. She is pinching a bit less but I pretty much have to constantly move her “top” hand and say “gentle hands” about 100 times each nursing session. Hopefully it will stick. She has a little wooden duck toy she LOVES and I tried to get her to hold that with her free hand while nursing today, but it just confused her, and she got all excited about the duck and wanted to suck on its head. Then she was like “but where’s my milk???” and she just kept switching back and forth between me and the duck. We’ll figure this out.

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9-10 weeks

Awesome. Anneliese is nursing so much more nicely again. Very little pinching. Still some gymnurstics but we’re working on that. I think morning nursing is still her very favorite. If she were to mostly-wean I think that’s the one she’d hold on to the longest. When I get her from her bed in the morning, she signs “milk” excitedly, and usually follows up with “please.” She’s a bit upset that I want to change her diaper first, but it has to be done. Then we go to my room to snuggle and nurse in bed for a long time. My belly is a bit more tender now and I don’t like her lying on top of me with her pokey knees and toes especially when she squirms, so I’ve been tucking her into my arm and she curls up against the side of my body, and nurses, looking up at me. It’s SO sweet. I love rubbing her back while she nurses.

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I love nursing her before bed too. When she is really sleepy her latch is perfect, and she doesn’t pinch or do any gymnurstics at all. Just cuddles in like a newborn. She hasn’t actually been falling asleep nursing though. A few times she has realized she was finished, and sat up, said “Nigh Nigh” and smiled, ready for bed. Other times, I’ve rubbed her back and said quietly, “Are you ready to go to bed?” and she will sleepily sit up and let me put her on her bed. Once on her bed, she finds her sleepy sheep and her pacifier and snuggles down, then drifts off to sleep after an “I love you” from me. Perfection.

My nipples aren’t as sore as they were, probably because she’s stopped pinching and her latch has gotten better again (less teeth action). If she does slip up and kind of grazes her teeth on me, I’ll unlatch her, touch her teeth and say “your teeth hurt mama.” And I do the sign language for “hurt” and “mama.” Then I say firmly “Don’t hurt Mama,” (with signs for all 3 words) and let her nurse again. She seems to be getting the point, and has even tried to sign “hurt” back to me.

11 weeks

Nursing is going great. My milk has definitely changed flavor (yes, I tasted) at least in the morning. It’s more salty, less sweet. When Anneliese is nursing in the morning, she nurses for a while, then sits up and signs “water” (new sign this week!), takes a sip of my water beside my bed, then signs “milk” and nurses more. Back and forth between breasts and water. She doesn’t seem to dislike the flavor at all, but does seem to be more thirsty for water, even throughout the day.

12 weeks

Still going strong. When Anneliese is sleepy though, she doesn’t want to nurse for very long. She DOES want to nurse… tries to open my shirt herself. But she only wants a minute or so before she switches to her pacifier and wants to go to sleep.

When she wakes in the morning, she wants to snuggle and nurse for a long time (still with water in between “sips”). Yesterday when she was doing that, I became curious if she was getting much milk or not, so I expressed a bit to see… and squirted her in the face. Squirts almost never happen for me. So… I guess this is a sign that production is just fiiine.

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If we’re busy during the day — a lot of errands and such — Anneliese seems to “forget” about nursing as much, but when we are home and it’s quiet she crawls over to me and signs “milk” which is so sweet. She seems to be moving from baby nursing into toddler nursing — from getting the bulk of her nutrients and calories from mama-milk to mostly nursing for comfort and closeness.

13 weeks

Last week I mentioned that Anneliese was nursing for just a minute or two before going to sleep. This week? With teething and trying to learn to walk, she is nursing a LOT more. Before naps and before bed, she nurses for a long time on both sides, and then is almost impossible to latch without her crying and trying to re-attach herself. Thankfully she has become very good at settling herself, so when I KNOW she is sleepy and I KNOW she is finished nursing, I can put her on her bed, kiss her and tell her I love her, and leave the room. Even if she is WAILING and waving her arms around when I leave, within a minute or so, she lies down quietly and closes her eyes.

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Anneliese still asks for water very often during the morning nursing session, so I have to make sure to have a cup of water beside my bed for her. Lots of nursing this week overall. Lots of cuddles. No boob soreness.

16 weeks

Still nursing. Still our “new” type of nursing relationship, but it is going well.

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17 weeks

I really think my milk is starting to decrease. A lot. Anneliese sleeps all night lately (for a bit she was waking up once, but now she is back to all-night sleeping) and sometimes even puts herself back to sleep if she wakes too early in the morning (around 6 or even 7). She still likes her long morning nurse/cuddle session which I’m savoring since it seems to be the “big one.” Though she still goes back and forth between my breasts and her cup of water.

During the day, if she’s feeling overstimulated (lots of people around), tired, hurt, or just wants a snuggle, she will ask to nurse, but often nurses for less than a minute before wanting to go off and play again or to do something else. At night she nurses a bit longer but has no hesitation in reaching for her bed and her Sleepy Sheep when she’s done with cuddling Mama.

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While I would LIKE for her to have lots of breastmilk and the benefits that come with it — perfect nutrition, immunity/antibodies from me, and so forth — I am okay if there isn’t much there as long as she still wants to nurse. The milk will come back for the new baby, and she will get milk again, plus I do recognize her behavior as normal toddler-weaning behavior, whether or not the mama happens to be pregnant.

I have friends who are nursing or have recently nursed their toddlers, so I’ve gotten to see it first-hand. Lots of toddlers go down to one or two nursing “sessions” per day and keep those for a LONG time. Others have lots of tiny “check in” nursing “snacks” like Anneliese’s less-than-a-minute ones. I guess we’ll see where this goes, but I’ll keep offering and always nurse when she asks.

I don’t remember when I started making colostrum during my pregnancy with Anneliese, but it was well before she was born. So we’ll see.

18 weeks

LOTS of nursing, and nursing in the middle of the night too… Anneliese has woken screaming several times the last few nights, and only wants to snuggle and nurse. But this morning there was a new tooth that had popped through, so hopefully she will sleep better tonight. My breasts are very sensitive at night, and the night nursing isn’t super-comfortable. During the day it’s not so bad, and she doesn’t nurse as desperately as she has been at night with teething pain.

She has started to ask to nurse after most meals, and she does this adorable thing where she signs “milk” with both hands, and makes a please-face… which is wide eyes, eyebrows raised, a lovely little grin, and tilting her head to the side a bit. So funny, like someone taught her how to “be cute to get what you want.”

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19 weeks

Still night waking to nurse, but less the last couple of nights. Anneliese’s bottom left molar finally popped through so hopefully she will sleep better again…the night nursing is the most painful. Daytime is fine.

20 weeks

Anneliese has slept through the night the last several nights again, finally, which means less of the more painful night nursing. When we are very busy (like the last 2 days have been) she nurses very little. When we hang out at home, she nurses more frequently. I try to balance busy days with more chill days, for our sanity (and naps) and also so she and I can “reconnect” and snuggle more again… this is my introvert-self speaking. I need recharge days. I’m assuming she does too. Until she tells me otherwise. GOGOGOGO gets exhausting. Nursing is part of the recharging for both of us.

A long day in town and shopping = chilling in the Motherhood maternity dressing room for a nursing break. Always with the other arm down my shirt. Kind of like Piglet, she “just wanted to be sure of” me.  

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21-22 weeks

My nipples feel like someone has rubbed sandpaper on them … SUPER SENSITIVE right now. Like even my clothing touching them hurts. In the shower, the water hitting them hurts. So nursing always makes me hold my breath at the start, but it gets better after the initial latch. Anneliese is still cutting her molars, and she has wanted to nurse quite a bit lately. She’s even fallen asleep nursing in the living room a few times the last couple of weeks, which is something she really hasn’t done much lately.

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She still nurses more in the morning, and some throughout the day, but not much before bed. I don’t know if it’s because she doesn’t want to or mostly because I don’t want her to. By night I’m “touched out” and needing time to myself, so I encourage her to finish up and get to bed. Thankfully she has no problem with it.

Lately (at bedtime) I’ve been telling her, “I’m going to count back from 10 and then you can go night night on your bed.” Then I start counting “10…9…8…” and sometimes she nurses all the way down to 1, then unlatches and rolls off of me onto her bed. Other times like tonight, she’s just ready to sleep. Tonight she unlatched at 9, took her pacifier, and rolled onto her bed at 7. I tucked her in with her blanket, kissed her, told her I loved her, and left. Bedtime is usually this easy, which I am very thankful for. She’s been sleeping through the night consistently again, which is great and my breasts definitely appreciate it.

23 weeks

Nipples aren’t as sensitive as last week thank goodness. Anneliese has been nursing in a really “focused” way sometimes, which made me wonder if colostrum had started to come in, but it hasn’t.

Yesterday I tried to express some and couldn’t even get a drop out of either side. Just now I tried (writing about it made me curious) and got a drop out… regular weird pregnancy milk, not colostrum. I tasted it (again, curious… if you have lactated and haven’t tasted your own milk you’re a liar or have no sense of curiosity), and it is extremely salty, almost like how sweat is. So weird. Anneliese still doesn’t care, still nurses a couple times during the day when she needs a cuddle or is feeling sad/hurt/uncertain/whatever, every morning for a while (on and off), and for a few seconds before bed and naps.

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She also likes to wear my nursing tanks as necklaces.

24 weeks

I think less nursing this week… she still wants to nurse, but the duration is shorter in general (except this morning was a marathon snuggle-nurse).

Today for the first time, I was putting her down for a nap, sat on her bed, and asked, “Do you want to nurse?” She said “no.” and lay on her bed. Then she crawled over to me and put her head on my leg for a bit just to be close. After a couple minutes, she told me she had to go potty, and after she pottied, she did want to nurse, but it was the first time she told me no before a nap or bed (though, like I said, she did end up changing her mind). It kind of caught me off guard but shouldn’t have because she doesn’t really nurse to sleep anymore. Just a few seconds before rolling over onto her bed…

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Sometimes when nursing her, I’ll put her baby doll on my other breast like it is nursing, and at first she DID NOT LIKE that. She would pry the baby’s face off of me, and switch sides to take over the side the doll was on. But in just a few days, she has decided maybe it’s okay to share, and sometimes she will bring her doll to me to nurse (she puts the doll’s face on my breast). It’s super cute and yesterday she and the doll were “tandem nursing” and she was kind of looking at it a little funny, but was totally okay with it.

25-26 weeks

LOTS of nursing. Because of more teething. Canines are coming. Oh boy. I think I’ve mentioned my “countdown” at nighttime… Normally I count back from 10 and she unlatches around 9 or 8 to roll over to be tucked into bed. Lately, she’s been nursing for the whole countdown and unlatching when I get to 1.

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Christmas morning was so busy that we missed our morning snugglenurse… I didn’t even think about it that much, but by the time Anneliese had eaten breakfast, Skyped with her Dada and her Grampa, and opened most of her presents, she had had enough. I thought it was just nap time, but she had other ideas. She ran into my bedroom, crying, and patted the bed signing “milk” frantically.

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So of course we had our snugglenurse. I felt so bad for jumping right into Christmas fun without our morning cuddle. I’m glad Anneliese made her needs known though, so that I could meet them. It was a wonderful snuggle and then she took a nice nap.

27-29 weeks

Tandem nursing is going great. Anneliese is still a huge fan of my boobs. I have colostrum now but I’m not sure how much I’m actually making. It is sweet though, not salty any more, and nursing frequency has increased a LOT probably partly because of that and partly because of teething canines.

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She doesn’t always nurse for long though. Sometimes it’s just a minute or so and then she’s back to playing or exploring. I think it’s comforting for her to know I’m available for her to “check in” though…

and she tends to be VERY confident and independent even in new situations and with new people.

It’s really cool to see the attached/independent (false) dichotomy. People often “diss” extended (er, normal) nursing, babywearing, and other attachment parenting practices, saying it’ll create ninny-pants children who can’t be away from their mothers … but I think just the opposite is true. A secure child is more free to be independent, knowing that her needs will be met and not ignored.

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30-33 weeks

LOTS of nursing. Colostrum is here and Anneliese is a fan. I’m loving the snuggles and the fact that her latch is less playing/lazy/teething and more nursing/focused/cuddling now…

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34-39 weeks

I didn’t make any notes, but I feel like it was about the same through the end, until Joey was born.

I’ll save the tandem nursing stuff for another post. Good luck in your pregnancy breastfeeding adventures!

Check out the other World Breastfeeding Week posts linked up here:

world breastfeeding week blog round-up

Joseph’s Grain-Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Birth Day Cake

Since I kept torturing people with photos of this cake on twitter and instagram…

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I’ve been asked about a zillion times “WHAT IS THAT CAKE!?!” followed by “I MUST MAKE IT AND PUT IT IN MY MOUTH NOWWW!”

Well it’s really really good.

This is the cake I was GOING to make while in labor with Joseph, but that didn’t quite happen… So I made it a few days later (I think he was 3 days old), while Joey slept in a sling.

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Before Joseph was born, I decided to try out a different chocolate cake recipe. This one comes from Elana’s Pantry, with some changes because I don’t use all of the same ingredients she does. Topher and I liked it a lot, and I decided to go ahead and make it Joey’s birth day cake.

Elana’s Chocolate Cake (My Way)

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 10 eggs
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup xylitol dissolved in 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Butter for pans

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Sift together coconut flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda.
  3. In the stand mixer, blend together eggs, honey, and xylitol-water. Drizzle in the coconut oil while still mixing. Add the vanilla extract.
  4. Add dry ingredients to the mixer a bit at a time, until everything is combined.
  5. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans. Be generous.
  6. Pour the batter into the two pans and smack them on the counter a few times to make sure the batter is even and there aren’t bubbles in it. Or just because that’s what I do when I make cakes…
  7. Bake 35ish minutes. Possibly a bit longer, but with coconut flour cakes, I tend to err on the side of less. A toothpick should come out clean when poked in the middle.
  8. Let the cakes cool in the pans all the way, and they’ll come out easily when you need to frost them.

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What’s that between the layers and on top? Why that would be my friend Joni’s amazing peanut butter frosting (blogged by my other friend Erin). Except that I used less sugar, and cream instead of milk (because I had it and I love cream, not because I’m anti-milk), and it was quite the yum.

It’s easy.

To-Die-For Peanut Butter Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter, soft
  • 1 cup natural peanut butter, smooth
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • a couple “glugs” of cream (until the frosting is the texture you like)

Method:

  1. Toss the first three ingredients into the mixer and whisk until combined and creamy.
  2. Add some cream and continue mixing until it’s smooth and spreadable and delicious.

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And that chocolate on the top and the edges? (I’m no frosting expert… please excuse the mess.) That’s my easy microwave dark chocolate ganache.

Dark Chocolate Ganache in the Microwave

Ingredients:

  • a few Tablespoons butter
  • a cup or so of dark chocolate chips, or chopped dark chocolate
  • cream

Method:

  1. Microwave butter and chocolate about 30 seconds, then remove and stir. If necessary, microwave in 10 second increments, stirring each time until all the chocolate is melted and smooth.
  2. Then pour in cream a little at a time, stirring to completely combine after each addition until the ganache reaches the consistency you want.

And that was Joey’s birth day cake. I have a feeling it will make an appearance again in August for my husband’s birthday. He was a huge fan. He also loves his cake cold, and the ganache and peanut butter frosting both change texture into something marvelous when you put this cake in the fridge (see the top picture for cold cake)! Perfect with a glass of milk.

The Weeks Before Delivery

Guess what? I’m “full term.” (37 weeks pregnant as of the time of writing. 39 now.) That means this baby is welcome to come any time in the next 5 weeks or so (now down to 3 weeks or so!). Like tomorrow, or a month from now. Who knows?

So I’m doing a few things to prepare.

  1. Ordering my car seat. When it comes, I’ll install it in my van (yup, I moved up to a minivan), and have my CPST friend check the installation.
  2. Ordering materials for my homebirth kit. My midwife will bring all the midwifey tools, birth pool/tub, and emergency gear, but I’m responsible for the “personal items” like a thermometer, sterile gloves, peri bottles, the cord clamp for the baby, herbal baths, etc. If you’re having a hospital birth, your equivalent to this item would be packing your hospital bag.
  3. Starting “end of pregnancy” herbs and stuff. Red Raspberry Leaf (2-3 capsules twice a day), evening primrose oil (1 capsule orally, and 1 “the other way,” er, near the cervix, each day), and Christopher’s Birth Prep (3 a day starting at 37 weeks, then increasing each week until baby is born).
  4. Watching some more birthy documentaries. There are so many more than I knew existed! Most of them are really low-budget/amateur productions, but they’re fun to watch if you’re into “birthy stuff.”
  5. Flipping through the birthy books I meant to read but didn’t get to. A bit of skimming is better than nothing, right?
  6. Consciously “practicing” when I get a Braxton-Hicks contraction. Trying to remember to breathe (it’s easy to accidentally hold your breath!) and relax my body when I get them.
  7. Completing some nesting projects I had “on the list” but haven’t gotten to yet. I feel like as soon as I make the last curtain, I’ll go into labor. Who knows? Maybe it’ll work that way! In which case, I’d better get sewing!
  8. Thinking about making some meals to freeze. This may or may not actually happen. It was useful to have those things on hand last time, but I’m not sure I’ll actually get to it this time.
  9. Setting up the co-sleeper and changing area, organizing little tiny boy clothes and socks and diapers, and digging out the wee baby blankets.
  10. Enjoying my last few weeks as a mother of one, and soaking up my toddler’s last few weeks as an only child. Taking mental snapshots of our family of 3 around the dinner table, as we are now.

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Pregnancy and Postpartum – Clothing Guide 101

If you’re planning on becoming pregnant soon, or if you’re already pregnant, hopefully you’ll find this trimester-by-trimester guide to preggie-wear helpful.

  1. TTC/Not Yet Pregnant — When you’re trying to get pregnant, it’s not the time to buy new clothes for yourself. Start saving a clothing fund so that when you get your BFP (Big Fat Positive) you can go wild. This might mean you’re wearing the same old pilled t-shirts for a while, but you know the second you go out and buy yourself fabulous new clothes, you’ll be pregnant and too bloated to wear them. So try your hardest to refrain.
  2. First Trimester, First Baby — Congratulations! You’re pregnant! If it’s your first baby, you’ll probably play the game of “let’s see how long I can wear my non-maternity clothes!” First you’ll suffer through bloating in your regular clothes. You’ll proudly announce to your in-the-know friends “7 weeks and I can still zip up my jeans!”… then you’ll use a hair elastic looped through your buttonhole to be able to fasten your pants when they’re no longer cooperating. Once you have to unzip too, you’ll buy a belly band to extend the life of your jeans. (It holds up your unbuttoned/unzipped pants and looks like the bottom of a tank top so it doesn’t look odd sticking out from under your shirts.) Shirts mostly cooperate at this point, but first-timers might aim for “slimming” ones so they can look “normal” as long as possible, or frumpy ones to “hide the bloat,” especially if they’re trying to hide the pregnancy from coworkers or a boss. Some people will look for shirts that accentuate the bump, and poke out their bellies, sway their backs, and try to look as pregnant as possible, hoping to rush the second-trimester cute-pregnantness.
  3. First Trimester, Subsequent Babies — BREAK OUT THE MATERNITY CLOTHES ASAP! Feeling bloated and battling waistbands before you even get your BFP? Dig out that box of maternity clothes from last time and yank on the full-panel jeans, baby! Yoga pants, anyone? Embrace it. This is one time in your life when it’s the opposite of fashion crime to wear elastic-waisted pants; it’s expected and encouraged. Vow not to button another button until a year from now.
  4. Second Trimester — You’ve got the cute belly bump going! You want the world to know you’re expecting a bundle of joy, and now that you’re not constantly sick and exhausted, you’re out and about in public more, and you’re wondering which strangers have noticed your pregnancy but are too polite to say anything just in case. You’ll finally embrace the maternity pants/shorts/skirts if you haven’t already, and you’ll buy form-fitting shirts to highlight your bump. If you’re the type to wear clothes with words, you might go for shirts that say, “Does this baby make my butt look big?” or “Due in April!” or “I’m so crafty, I make people!” You’re feeling cute, and you solemnly swear, optimistically, that you’re going to be a stylish pregnant lady.
  5. Third Trimester — Your belly laughs in the face of waistbands. Even elastic ones. Your cute little belly-hugging shirts creep up, and when you least expect it, you feel a breeze on the bottom of your bump because pants and shirts don’t always meet anymore. You’ll seek out longer shirts, tunics, and dresses that are preferably jersey knit. Who cares about cute embellishments at this point? You need COMFORT! Pants are to be avoided at all costs…The only acceptable ones might be yoga pants or leggings. If you’re seen in public looking cute, people can pretty much assume that as soon as you go home, you rip off all your clothes and spend the rest of the day in pajamas. Shoes must be slip-on, because tying laces is pretty much impossible without kneeing yourself in the gut/baby. Ribs are widening to the point where your bras are all trying to boa-constrictor you to death. Buying some cheap, bigger-banded sport bras or similar is probably a good plan.
  6. Postpartum — The first few weeks, you’ll want to snuggle your baby as much as possible, and have easy access for skin-to-skin cuddles and breast-feeding…so yoga pants or pajama pants and cheap nursing tank tops (or topless!) are great around the house. Beyond that, second-trimester clothes may make a comeback for a while. Most of them will look pretty cute on a non-pregnant body, and they have enough room and “give” to be comfortable while your body is adjusting from bearing and birthing a baby. Don’t obsess about your “thin jeans” or “getting back to my pre-pregnancy body.” Your body has changed a LOT, and your hips might stay wider forever, or for 6+ months, even if you’re back to your pre-baby weight. You’re a mom now. And that doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy Saturday Night Live Mom Jeans. But it does mean you DESERVE a nice new pair of your favorite style of jeans, in a size that actually fits your body NOW. So go buy yourself an outfit that makes you feel hot in your new skin. Buy new underwear that isn’t stretched out from your pregnancy. (I totally replaced my entire undie stash after Anneliese was born.) And maybe some shoes you HAVE to bend over to tie/buckle/fasten. Because you CAN.

What are your clothing tips for each trimester? Postpartum? Any favorite items or things to avoid at all costs?

Find more posts from bloggers sharing their experiences of motherhood on the Huggies page on BlogHer.com.

As Due Date Approaches…

It’s still a couple of weeks until my due date, but there are a few things I’ve noticed. I don’t think I’m alone in these, so let me know if you have a “me too!” moment.

  • The “look at my so-cute” pregnant bump is pretty much nearing its end. Instead, it’s replaced by the “whoa, I’m like some sort of beached whale” bump. Even if it doesn’t LOOK that huge, I think by the last month, we all feel pretty gigantic. Instead of cute little baby flutters, we feel our babies rolling and smashing around in there like a 6-year-old in gymnastics class.
  • Nesting? Some people get their nesting “kick” at the very end. I think mine peaked in the second trimester. I had SO much energy, and SO much motivation. Now I have a long list of things I’d like to do, but a lot of days, naps win over scrubbing door frames.
  • Clothing is the enemy. Any bit of “support” elastic or structure, while it might be fine in the morning, is like a boa constrictor by the end of the day. The muumuu pregnancy styles of yore are looking quite attractive these days.
  • Alternating between “Gimmie my baby now!” and “What am I going to do with another (or a) baby?” Mostly I’m just SUPER excited to have this kiddo out (of course, only “fully cooked,” please) and to get to know him and have him become a part of our family. But there’s also the question of how things will change when he’s here. How will my daughter react to him? How will our daily routines change? Will I be able to keep up with the house as well as I have been lately? Will we have any “learning curve” with newborn nursing, since every baby is different? But then I go back to just imagining snuggling that squishy little thing, and smelling his brand new sunshine-vanilla-newborn scent, and I just want to have him in my arms.
  • Bed is a trap. Easy to fall into. Hard to even roll over. Even harder still to hoist myself out.
  • Pee. Suddenly, I’m aware of every bathroom location in every building I enter. If there’s not a bathroom, I make an escape plan complete with evacuation route ending at the nearest restroom I know of. When I go for walks, I make sure to turn around to head home before I feel like I need to…so that hopefully I’m back at my house before I explode with pee.

This is an exciting time! And I’m so thankful to have a healthy, uneventful pregnancy, and a healthy little boy growing inside of me. But if any of you can tell me your third trimester was comfortable, graceful, and relaxing, I’ll buy you dinner*.

*Not really, unless you’re local to me and want to meet up with me. I’m not going to be sending anyone restaurant gift cards just for commenting “I was an ethereal ballerina until the day my baby was born! Also, I didn’t even push. My body did all the work itself in 10 minutes!”

;

Read more posts from bloggers sharing their experiences of motherhood on the Huggies page on BlogHer.com.

Anneliese’s Birth Story

I just have to start writing… but there is something so intimidating about a blank white fresh text field when I have such an Important Subject to record. Especially when I don’t really consider myself to be much of a writer. I don’t even like writing that much! Who knows why I love to blog? Maybe because it seems more informal, more like a conversation with friends (or talking to myself).

So I’m not going to try to make this into some monumental history-making essay, or try to make you laugh or cry or feel like you were totally there in the moment RIGHT THERE WITH US! I’m just going to write.

After two weeks of prodromal labor, with several episodes of hours and hours of really regular, strong, long contractions during that time… Monday July 26th at about 10pm I started having close-together contractions. Like before, it wasn’t anything I couldn’t talk through or walk through, but there it was. We were eating homemade graham crackers and watching the X-Men movie. It always seemed like when the contractions got really intense, they were in my back more than my uterus. And that HURTS. So we had to pause the movie several times for my sweet husband (T) to push on my lower back, or massage it, or for me to just drape myself over my yoga ball and whine a little.

After the movie was over, we went to bed. But I couldn’t sleep. The contractions kept coming — which was really no different than any other “intense” night I had had in the last two weeks. It wasn’t an “I just knew!” moment. I kept having to get up to pee, and when I lay down in bed again, my back would hurt so badly… it just wasn’t worth it to try to sleep anymore. Too uncomfortable.

So around 3:00, I woke my husband up so that he could help me with my back during the contractions. We went into the living room, and I found that the most comfortable position for me during contractions was to kneel facing the couch, and put my arms and head down on the cushions, so my back was parallel to the floor. Like a modified “all fours” position. Of course, with T pushing as hard as he could on my lower back.

I’m not sure what T was thinking, but my thoughts were along the lines of, “There is nothing different about this … except that now I’m 42 weeks and 3 days pregnant… EVENTUALLY I have to have the baby, right? Could this be ‘IT?’ Or is this just going to die down again and leave me still pregnant?” I didn’t want to call Coleen, our doula, because I really wasn’t sure it was going to progress into an actual baby being born. But after a while, T called her and she came over.

When Coleen arrived at 6:00am, things were still slow enough for us to chat and joke between contractions. I tried to eat some food but wasn’t really interested. In the moment, I thought, “Wow, these graham crackers aren’t as good the next day.” But that’s not true, because when we got back from the hospital they were awesome. It was just that I had no appetite and didn’t feel like eating anything — EVEN awesome homemade graham crackers. I was thirsty, but thought it was annoying that I had to pee every 4 minutes. So, I mostly drank, peed, and contracted. Sometimes all at once. Well… not drinking and peeing, but peeing and contracting. By this time, my contractions were much stronger. They literally “stopped me in my tracks” and if I didn’t anticipate it early enough, I wasn’t able to get into a more comfortable position before it hit hard.

Still, although I was uncomfortable and my back hurt so badly during the contractions, I was skeptical. I remember asking Coleen how much stronger they could possibly get. I said, “I can’t imagine them being stronger than this, but I also can’t imagine THIS causing anyone to want a huge needle in their back.” I also wasn’t sure how or when I would know it was time to travel to the hospital. I didn’t want to go too soon, because I knew I’d be “on the clock” when I arrived. I also didn’t want to wait too long and accidentally have the baby at home or something! (Though I’m open to the idea of a planned home birth in the future.)

I’m not sure if the contractions ever did get stronger than that, but they definitely got closer together. At 8:20am on Tuesday, I went into the master bathroom, had a contraction in there by myself, walked out of the bathroom into the bedroom, had another contraction (dropped on all fours) which made T come running to me, walked into the hallway, dropped to the floor again for another contraction… T gave Coleen a look like, “now?” and Coleen knelt on the floor beside me and said gently, “I think it’s time to travel to your birthing nest.” or something ridiculously sweet and sappy like that. I do know for sure she used the word “nest” which I thought was just too cute. I imagined a huge pile of blankets and pillows arranged into a nest for me… but that’s not quite how it went.

I agreed it was time to go to the hospital, but really couldn’t understand how I was going to GET there. My back hurt so intensely with every contraction that sitting and lying down were two positions I just couldn’t even fathom… especially not for a twenty-five minute car ride! I ended up kneeling on the passenger seat, hugging the back of the chair with my face on the head rest. T buckled me in backwards, and off we went. We had originally planned to call immediate family on the way to the hospital to let them know IT’S TIME! but with our ridiculous arrangement, it didn’t happen. Obviously.

I had 5 or 6 contractions in the car on the way to the base, and when we got to the gate, the gate guard was like, “uhhhh” obviously confused by the disheveled woman kneeling in the front seat. My husband said simply, “We’re in labor.” and the guard whisked us through, along with our doula in the car behind us, without even stopping her to check her ID. Thank you, gate guard with an Italian-sounding last name!

In the parking lot as we walked toward the hospital, I had to stop for another contraction, and someone spilled part of a water bottle accidentally at the same time… so it looked like I was leaking or something. People looked on, curiously, wondering if my water had broken. We laughed. I was happy to still have a sense of humor at this point.

When we got up to the maternal-infant unit, the nurses all looked excited and relieved. I was the most-far-along pregnant woman they’d been seeing lately, and I had just had a non-stress test the day before. The OB who did my ultrasound (and who reluctantly said everything looked normal/good) had been pushing for induction, but the nurses were supportive of my desire to wait and have spontaneous labor since my baby and I were both healthy and things were going smoothly. Still, it was a relief to actually have labor start on its own so we could not have to worry about fighting off the induction-hungry-OBs.

You’d think at this point, the goal would be “have a baby.” Right? Me too.

But the immediate goal was “Get a hep-lock into this woman’s crazy-tiny veins.” I just wanted to have a baby! But of course, if anything went wrong and they had to access my veins, it would be really bad to have trouble with the needle and stall whatever medicine/fluids I needed… so I knew the hep-lock HAD to be placed. Still, my veins are tiny (when I had surgery last year, it took two people and four veins before my IV was successfully placed.) and I HATE needles… oh, and I was in labor. The first vein popped, but the second one had success. This was also the first time I cried in labor. Because of a needle, not because of my body or the baby.

The other really hard thing was monitoring. I had to get into a monitor-friendly position so that a nurse could attach monitors tracking contractions and the baby’s heartbeat for 20 minutes every hour in the beginning. Monitor-friendly positions are not back-labor-friendly… sitting and lying down, mostly. That wasn’t pleasant.

After a couple hours of mostly laboring in modified all-fours positions, with my husband pressing on my back the entire time to help relieve some of the pain, Coleen suggested that I spend some time in the shower to take advantage of the warm water. Even though I had initially thought the shower was a good idea, I didn’t want to move. I didn’t want to get undressed, and I didn’t want to get wet. T and Coleen finally convinced me to try it for a bit though, and I’m glad they did. The warm water was very comforting. I sat on my yoga ball, facing the corner of the shower so I could put my arms and head on the safety bars while I had contractions and my husband pushed on my back.

The shower was also the second time I cried in labor — again, not because of my body or the baby, but because the shower seat, which folds up against the wall like a Murphy bed, came crashing down on my legs as I stood to get out of the shower. That thing hurt like the dickens! I’m not sure why I got out of the shower… maybe for more monitoring…

Yes, I think that’s what it was, because I remember sitting on the ball on the side of the bed, trying to get into a “monitor-friendly” position, and … the third (and final) time I cried in labor. The ball slipped under me and I smashed my legs into the hard pointy pieces of metal under the hospital bed. I couldn’t stop thinking about how much more comfortable (haha — comfortable) it would be at home, without the pointy hospital bed pieces, the heavy hard shower seat crashing down, and the monitors! At this point, labor seemed to be the most tolerable thing happening to my body.

(Yes, underneath that sheet, I am naked! Naked pictures on the internet!)

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4 hours after checking into the hospital, at 12:30, I was fully dilated and effaced. I was kneeling on the bed, leaning my arms and head on the top of the bed, and pushing, trying to get the baby down… when my water broke. It was this HUGE impressive gush. Seriously, I was impressed with myself. And I was really relieved, because it was the first sign TO ME that this baby was actually going to come out. I had a thought along the lines of, “HA! She can’t stay in there now! Time to get things moving!”

But things moved slowly enough… as I pushed, I kept thinking “move down, baby!” and visualizing her settling down further into my pelvis, to be ready to come out… I alternated between all-fours, squatting positions, and sitting on a birth stool (imagine a chair with a hole in it — like a toilet seat with no toilet) for monitoring. I felt like I was going to be “moving her down” forever. Not with dread or anything like that… it was more of a feeling that this is my job. This is what I DO. I have contractions and move the baby down. That’s all there is in my life. I had no concept of time.

(This is my midwife. She volunteered to be on call for the THREE WEEKENDS before I had my baby, so that she could be sure not to miss it.)

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At about 3:30, the midwife came in and got very excited. She said, “We’re going to have a baby!” and got suited up in her baby-catching outfit. This is the only part I might have changed, if I were to re-live the same experience… she had me lay on my back, in a semi-reclined position. As I’ve said multiple times, any lying or sitting position hurt like crazy due to my intense back contractions. I kind of wish I had been a bit more firm about wanting to continue on all fours and/or squatting. I think being on my back may have slowed things more than necessary.

Intense pushing. Intense. I had the same feeling as before… this is what I do. This is my life. I’m going to do this forever. I tried to push for as long as possible each time, inhaling as much air as I could, then holding my breath and bearing down, trying to draw out every bit of oxygen I could from that one breath, until I groaned out the last of it… taking a quick breath, then doing it again. During each contraction, I was able to get 3 or 4 pushes in. And sometimes a second contraction would come right away, and I might only get 2 or 3 pushes but they were much more productive, and the nurses would cheer me on. I still felt like I wasn’t accomplishing much, until someone told me to reach down and feel the baby’s head during a contraction. Once I knew that she was RIGHT THERE, I was relieved that there was an end in sight, that I would be meeting my daughter soon.

At some point, another nurse’s shift started and she joined the entourage in my room. I immediately disliked her and wanted her OUT but I didn’t say anything. Though when she suggested that she could “count” for me during contractions (you know, like in the movies) I growled out a firm NOOOOO. I couldn’t even imagine having someone else try to guess for me or tell me how long MY body needed to push. I was pushing as long as I could, when I needed to, and that was that. Counting wasn’t going to help a darned thing. So instead of counting, she frantically chanted, “Push! Push! Push!” at me through each contraction, which was about as annoying. But there it is.

My midwife looked puzzled and confused, and a bit exhausted, staring between my legs. When she had come into the room and gotten “suited up” she really thought we were going to have a baby ANY MINUTE NOW… she didn’t know she was signing up for hours of pushing. Even in “the moment” I was entertained by her puzzled expression. When I pushed, she would try to help me, putting pressure on my perineum, trying to stretch me to help the baby out.

(I wonder if my dad will still think I’m a super-photogenic person… labor-face isn’t the most attractive! But look at my sweet husband with the cold washcloth!)

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My husband later told me that he was glad I didn’t seem to realize there was a clock in the room, because if I knew how long I had been working, I might’ve gotten more frustrated. The truth is, I knew there was a clock, and it was well within my sight, but I didn’t care about time. I didn’t look at it once.

Coleen also told me later that she felt like the midwife was “labor-sitting.” She stayed in the room the entire time I was pushing, probably because if she left, she would have to give a progress report to the OB who was working that day, and with how slowly things seemed to be going, the OB might push for a C-section. I am immensely grateful to my midwife for staying with me and giving my body a chance to birth my baby.

But eventually, it was apparent that I wasn’t stretching enough, and I wasn’t tearing either… my baby had been “crowning” for a really long time. I was getting Charlie horses in both of my legs, and my arms and entire back were also tense from so much work. My midwife asked me if she could cut an episiotomy, and I told her she could. I felt the cut, and it didn’t hurt much, but stretching cut skin definitely feels different than stretching normally… during the next push, I definitely felt a bit of burning because of the cut, but my baby’s head was able to come out! My midwife announced that the umbilical cord was NOT around her neck, so we could wait as long as we wanted to cut it, and I was relieved to hear that.

One more push, and my daughter slithered out of me. 5:56pm. After 20 hours. Well, 2 weeks and 20 hours. I held her immediately, and was so overwhelmed that this entire person had been inside of me, growing for so long, and here we were, face to face, meeting for the first time! I vaguely remember someone saying she needed to cry more, and my husband patting her back to get her to cry.

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After a little bit, she cried, and started to look around the room, sucking on her fist.

I could feel the placenta being delivered, which didn’t hurt at all and was basically automatic, and my husband got to cut the umbilical cord after it had stopped pulsing (so that my daughter had all of that good blood inside her, where it belonged!).

(He’s cutting the umbilical cord here, and I’m covered in infant poop. But I totally don’t care about the poop because I’m holding my BABY!)

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The midwife set to work stitching me up while I held my new daughter and marveled with my husband. For an hour, we just rested, staring at each other and our baby — the beautiful person who went with the name Anneliese.

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The midwife finished stitching me (I asked her later how many stitches, and she said “many”… at least 55, she said. Ouch!) and left us alone for a while. The hospital staff all knew we wanted time with our baby before any tests/weighing/measuring were done, and they left us alone in the room.

Anneliese decided to nurse, and I helped her latch on to my breast.

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Coleen stayed for a while, and I know we talked, but I can’t remember all the things we talked about. After a bit, she left, and it was just me and my little family. The next couple of hours were so sweet and peaceful. No one disturbed us, and Anneliese finished nursing and slept on my chest.

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(This guy is a FATHER now.)

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42 Weeks – Continued Prodromal Labor & Induction Questions

Last week I wrote about having been in Prodromal Labor for basically the entire week. It hasn’t stopped. Each day and night, I have many, many contractions. The weird thing is I don’t know if they’ve gotten less intense or if my uterus is just stronger now, so I notice them less. I suspect the latter because when I poke my belly during one it is as hard as a ROCK. I have a feeling that strong uterus muscles will come in handy when it’s time to push our little girl out!

We’ve had two non-stress tests (NSTs) this week to make sure our daughter is safe and sound, and on Monday we also checked my amniotic fluid levels. Everything checked out fine. This coming Monday if she’s still not born, we have another NST and ultrasound for a fluid check.

People are starting to ask me all sorts of questions that really show me 1) how little faith most women have in our bodies to give birth to the baby we grow, and 2) that the estimated due date is really seen as a deadline, which it shouldn’t be at all!

  • When will they induce you?
    • “They” don’t make that decision. My husband and I do. They will induce me when I give permission, which will only be if baby and I are no longer both measuring healthy and wonderful at our non-stress tests. As is, my blood pressure, her heart rate, my amniotic fluid levels, etc… are all textbook perfect. There is NO reason to rush things by inducing. Some babies need to “cook” longer.
  • Won’t you have to have a C-section? Your baby’s going to be huge!
    • Basically, no. The only risk factor for a macrosomic (big) baby I have is “prolonged gestation.” I don’t have gestational diabetes, haven’t gained an excessive amount of weight, am not obese, etc. Also, no one has even ventured to guess the size of my baby which is fine with me because those guesses are often POUNDS off. “They” can tell you you have a 10 pound baby based on an ultrasound image, but when you deliver (probably via C-section if their scare tactics worked) you might have a perfectly “normal” 8 pound baby. I have faith that my body isn’t growing a child I can’t give birth to. Especially if I move around during labor, possibly taking advantage of the squatting position to push (which gives an extra centimeter of “room” amazingly!) The American Academy of Family Physicians does not recommend C-sections or induction (which results in more C-sections) for suspected macrosomia.
  • Why don’t you just let them break your water so you can get it over with? Aren’t you exhausted?
    • Yes, I’m tired. Yes, my husband is tired. We want to meet our daughter. BUT as I said, as long as our non-stress tests and fluid levels check out, there is no reason to believe that hurrying the labor will be better for our daughter than letting her stay warm, happy, well-fed, and protected in my uterus. Artificial Rupture of Membranes (AROM) doesn’t necessarily start active labor. Some people don’t have contractions for hours after the rupture. And once the membranes are ruptured, chance of infection is an issue, especially if the baby isn’t delivered within 24 hours. There is no turning back once the bag of waters is broken… so often, this will result in pitocin being given to “get things going” and if that doesn’t work (it doesn’t always), a C-section which could have been avoided may result. Yes, AROM “works” for MANY people… but it’s not a sure shot, and it’s not without risk.

Also, What to Expect says that 70% of “post-term” pregnancies really aren’t… that they’re based on miscalculated conception dates or something. Who knows? In any case, our baby WILL be here soon!

Plus, if you’ve heard things about “calcification of the placenta” at 42 weeks? They really mean at the END of week 42… not until you hit 43 weeks does it possibly become an issue (usually) — but non-stress tests should be able to detect if there is a problem anyway.

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Dear baby,

I have still been having contractions every day and night, all week. We have been to the hospital twice for non-stress tests to make sure you are still doing well, and one time they did an ultrasound to make sure there is enough amniotic fluid for you. You are very healthy in there, and you have plenty of fluid. I’m doing well too, and my blood pressure is perfect. So we are not worried about anything! We just hope you come out and meet us soon because we want to kiss your little cheeks and smell your sweet head and cuddle you close.

Love,

Mama

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PS. While I’m totally not down with “no turning back” induction measures like AROM, we have still been trying all the “wives tales” type things… I actually even did the castor oil thing yesterday. As per my midwife’s instructions, I mixed 2oz (that’s a quarter of a cup, y’all) of castor oil with 4oz of orange juice and chugged it. It was horrible and I almost threw up right after, but my husband reminded me to chase it with some regular orange juice and somehow I kept it all down…

My midwife was SURE it would throw me into active labor (after clearing my bowels) since the nurse who had checked my cervix that day said I was at 4cm dilated and 75% effaced. (Also, all the nurses were super-surprised I was “so comfortable” and walking around at 4cm… evidently that’s when “active labor” starts for a lot of women.) In my midwife’s experience, as long as a woman’s cervix is at least 2cm dilated and 70% effaced, the castor oil usually results in active labor within 2-4 hours.

Well… I felt a bit nauseated, tried to nap, but couldn’t nap because baby had hiccups. (This was at noon, right after chugging it.) 4 hours later, I had the “bowels clearing out” poo. All the stuff you hear about castor oil causing insanely painful crampy explosive diarrhea? Didn’t happen here… I just felt like pooing and it all came out… sure it was gross but there wasn’t anything “explosive” or painful about it.

I thought for sure after the poo things would start up. That’s usually what happens in the castor-oil-success stories you read. But no… nothing. Normal contractions like the ones I’ve been having for almost 2 weeks now. 4 hours later at 8pm I had to poo again, but not much was there. Had a bit of cramping but nothing bad.

And then? Nothing. Things were normal. No active labor. No baby. Oh well. Like everything else we’ve tried, it’s one of those things that only works if the baby’s ready to come out. And I guess ours really, really isn’t!

41 Weeks – Welcome to Prodromal Labor

This week’s letter to baby will have to be edited into a nice image later on. If you read on you’ll find out why, relatively quickly. Oh, and it’s not because the baby was born yet…

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Dear Baby,

I only half-expected you to be born by this point, since the average pregnancy lasts closer to 41 weeks than 40. But I didn’t expect to be in labor for the last week. Starting Monday night, I have had a lot of contractions. They started out so close together and powerful, and lasted all night! Your dad and I thought for sure you would be born on Tuesday, but it is Saturday now and you are still not here. It has been a long, exhausting week, but we have been working hard to stay rested, hydrated, and fed. I guess you’re already letting us know you have your own schedule in mind, and your own way of doing things. Anytime you’re ready, we look forward to meeting our spunky little girl.

Love,

Mama

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Evidently extended early labor, or prodromal labor is more common than I ever knew. Actually, I had only heard about it a few times and thought it was pretty rare. But since on Tuesday morning, we announced to our families and on facebook that our little girl would be arriving soon… and then she didn’t… I’ve been hearing from a LOT of friends who actually experienced the same thing with their pregnancies and labors. One friend told me she labored for 3 weeks before giving birth! Usually (based on my friends’ stories) it’s closer to a week though. The good news is that because it prepares the body slowly, once active labor really hits, it can be very quick and smooth compared to “regular” labor situations.

I think that it’s a shame the baby websites and books don’t have more information about prodromal labor, because what happens to a LOT of women is that they have the “active labor” signs like I did — hard, close-together contractions that last hours and hours — and go into the hospital, only to be turned away because they’re only dilated 1cm or so. They’re told it’s “false labor” or “practice labor” which I think are insulting and incorrect terms! There is nothing false about what is going on in my body right now (and has been for the last week), and I know changes are occurring on the inside, so it’s not “practice” either. But I think a lot of women may be embarrassed or ashamed by “crying wolf” and never tell anyone.

And that’s why I’m sharing this with you all. I feel like we need to become more of a “village” again. If we don’t share our human experiences, these everyday events become shrouded in mystery.

Here’s how mine has progressed so far:

Monday afternoon/evening: Started having contractions, but they weren’t anything to write home about.

Monday, midnight: Contractions were regular, intense, time-able. They started in my lower back and went around to my uterus, then lingered in my back for a while. They were about 5 minutes apart, sometimes closer, and 1-2 minutes long. I found great comfort by using some of the techniques I learned in Bradley class, like low vocalizations, slow abdominal breathing, and of course, my husband’s attentive massage (he is wonderful)! This went on basically all night. My doula suggested that we try to sleep or rest in between, but that turned out to be pretty impossible.

Tuesday morning: Contractions slowed once we started moving around, and became less painful for my back. During the day, we took short naps, went on walks, and focused on energy conservation for the “big event.”

Tuesday night: We went to bed around midnight, and contractions increased in frequency and intensity again, to the same level as Monday night. Again, we tried to sleep in between them,  and I tried to breathe through them and let my husband sleep, but I had to wake him up for several difficult contractions. After only a few hours, we moved into the living room once we gave up on sleep.

Wednesday: Again, once we were up and about, contractions slowed and became less painful in my back. We went on a couple early morning walks, and contractions were very regular during the walks, but not as painful as at night. Still focused on conserving energy, during the day, we rested, then ran some errands (to get in some air-conditioned daytime walks) and had an early dinner.

Wednesday night: We decided to try a new strategy, and went to bed around 8pm. I woke up around midnight again with frequent strong contractions, and since we had rested for several hours, we were prepared to stay up all night. We went on several walks, and halfway through our first one, it felt like the baby “dropped” to a lower position in my pelvis. When that happened, my back pain was hugely relieved, and contractions were more uterus-focused.

Thursday — Thursday night: We were feeling refreshed from our new nocturnal sleeping pattern, and decided to try a repeat of Wednesday’s strategy. Through the day we napped, ate, and drank… we had another early dinner, then met with our new doula, since our original doula planned to go on vacation Friday afternoon. Again, we went to bed at 8pm and woke up around midnight.

Friday: We basically walked all night, coming back to the house for bathroom breaks, snacks, and rests. Then we took naps during the day, and hung out together in evening.

Friday night — Saturday: We went to bed around 11:30 after a small glass of wine (since we are beginning to get anxious, and our doulas both recommended a little bit of help with relaxing), woke up at 6 (guess the wine worked), had breakfast, went to see a movie and walk around a mall for a change of pace. Now it’s 11pm and we’re getting ready for another glass of wine and bed. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Mama says, “Don’t make me come in there, young lady!”

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The entire week, my contractions haven’t stopped. The way “they” say you can tell the difference between Braxton-Hicks contractions and real ones is that BH contractions will go away if you change position, drink some water, change activity level, take a nap, etc. Real ones don’t stop. I’ve stayed very hydrated, rested, had tons of activity/position changes, and my contractions might slow sometimes to 15-30 minutes apart, but they haven’t stopped altogether, and often I have several hours of 5-minute-apart contractions that last a minute or more.

If you are experiencing a long early labor, please don’t despair! You are NOT alone. Some things that might help:

  • Know that changes are happening. It’s not “useless” or “fake.” Your uterus is moving the baby down into position, and dilation may be slowly happening (you may notice that you’re losing bits of mucus plug — this is a sign of dilation).
  • Stay rested. Prodromal labor can last for a couple days to a few weeks. If you try to stay awake the whole time, you will be exhausted when the baby decides to make its appearance. As hard as it may be, take the chances you have to take cat naps. Even if you only manage an hour or two of sleep at a time, it will do a LOT to keep you going.
  • Stay hydrated and well-fed. I have been hungrier than ever this week, and thirstier too. Some of the signs of early labor are hunger and thirst, so you probably won’t be able to ignore meeting these needs. Keep your water bottle nearby and full, and have plenty of healthy snacks on hand.
  • Labor augmentation activities like walking, yoga-ball sitting, squatting, dancing, sex, etc, can be done to keep things moving along, but don’t just focus on these. If you do, you’ll become mentally and emotionally exhausted pretty quickly, even if you are getting physical rest.
  • Distract yourself in between labor augmentation activities and rest. This means run some errands, go see a movie, watch some bad TV, do some more laundry or cleaning, work on a craft project… anything to take your mind off of the clock.
  • Be patient. The baby won’t stay in there forever. Really. Trust that your body knows what it’s doing. Women have been going into labor on their own for all of history, without castor oil, membrane stripping, or pitocin. If you had wanted to go into labor naturally, a prolonged early labor doesn’t mean it’s time to change your mind.

I’m staying in good spirits even though this week has been incredibly exhausting. I owe that in no small part to my amazing husband, who has been here every step of the way. He has matched his sleep schedule to mine, given me countless back/shoulder massages, gone on so many walks with me, kept my water bottle full when I’ve forgotten, and told me numerous times how much he loves me. He’s also kept the mood light by saying things like, “Come on out now baby. Then you and I can play, instead of you just playing with Mommy… ‘s organs.”

We’re so ready for the big event, but in the meantime, this period has been an incredible time for us to strengthen the wonderful bond we already share, and enjoy our time together before we’re a family of three.