How to Survive the Fourth Trimester

How to Survive the Fourth Trimester

I’m currently six weeks into my fourth trimester- the magical three month period after having a new baby when you’re recovering from childbirth and caring for a new human that’s still on womb central time. This is baby #3 but I’m still finding the fourth trimester to be a challenge at times. This time around I have the benefit of experience with juggling more than one baby, but still suffer from sleep deprivation and hormonal changes (among other things)  just like any new mom. I feel so blessed to have my three boys, but going through the postpartum period three years in a row hasn’t been an easy task and I’ve learned a lot (and I’m still learning) as a result. Here are my top tips for surviving the fourth trimester:

Manage Your Expectations– Having a new baby can be a wonderful experience at times, and at other times you might feel caught off guard by how challenging things like sleep deprivation, breastfeeding, or caring for a fussy baby can be. It’s important to know that these experiences are normal and temporary, and seek support if you’re struggling with anything. Lean on family and friends for advice when you need it.

If your hospital or another resource in your community offers a new mom support group consider joining.  Read books about the postpartum period. Join POSITIVE and ENCOURAGING mom groups online. I personally love reading updates from Lucie’s List and I read and post to a few mom groups on Facebook. You can never have too much support during this period. Hearing from others about what’s normal helps you manage your expectations when things feel tough.

Many times hormonal changes and sleep deprivation are the main culprits when new moms feel irritable or “off” but if you feel like things are more serious than that and you may be suffering from postpartum depression then don’t be afraid to seek help. Many women experience that too and your pediatrician or OB can get you started with resources that will help.

Prioritize Your Needs– People tend to prioritize the baby’s needs (this starts from day 1 in the hospital) but your needs are important too. The saying that you can’t pour from an empty cup definitely applies here. Ask for as much help as you want. Say no to any activities or visitors that feel draining.

Even simple activities like taking a shower and drinking a cup of coffee can be important rituals for a new mom. Invest in a bouncer or swing if you can so that you can put that cute baby down and take care of yourself when you’re on your own. The baby will be okay while you take a quick shower.

Also don’t neglect your nutrition, especially if you’re nursing. A healthy, balanced diet and lots of water are necessary to replenish your body after childbirth. You have to be the one in charge of your self-care.

Get As Much Sleep As You Can– Unless you’re blessed with a baby who’s a great sleeper from the start (it happens, I got that lucky with baby #2) this one is usually easier said than done. But getting more sleep usually starts with getting help at night if you can. Make your partner take a shift at night if possible. Even if you’re not going into work like your partner, you still have the important job of caring for a baby during the day.

They say sleep when the baby sleeps during the day, but it can be tough to choose between napping, getting work done, and just enjoying some time to yourself. And if you have more than one child then this is especially difficult. But if sleeping is an option, take it. Cleaning, cooking, your Instagram feed etc all can wait.

Get Out of the House– Sometimes when things feel tough or you’re just exhausted, you need a change of scenery. Taking the baby for a walk so that you can get some fresh air can lift your mood. Try to schedule a few fun activities out of the house with your partner or friends as well, but don’t overwhelm yourself.

The fourth trimester might feel never ending during the challenging moments, but before you know it your baby will have outgrown the newborn stage. There’s nothing like those sweet newborn snuggles, so remember to pause and soak in the sweetness whenever you can. Those are my top tips for surviving the fourth trimester. I’d love to hear your thoughts/advice in the comments!

Xo,

Courtney

Welcome to the World Maxwell

Welcome to the World Maxwell

On Friday I welcomed my third little M into the world. Maxwell (aka Max) made his debut at 37 weeks. I thought this might be a good time to post a quick update on how we’re doing so far and share his birth story. Although things didn’t go exactly as planned, I had a safe delivery and I’m so grateful he’s here and healthy.

I started having very mild contractions on Thursday afternoon. I thought they were Braxton Hicks contractions and that I needed to hydrate and take a walk as my doctor had previously advised. I took my boys for a walk and they went away, but my intuition told me to start prepping for the hospital just in case that evening. Around 1 or 2 am they came back and were strong enough to wake me up, and by 4am they were intense but irregular. I knew to call my doctor once the contractions were 3 minutes apart so I timed them on my phone and gave him (and my mom) a call around 5 am. He told me to head to the hospital.

By the time I got there my contractions were very intense but still a few minutes apart and I figured I was close but still had a little while to go. Apparently it was a very busy birthing weekend at the hospital so I sat in triage for a while. When the on-staff doctor finally came in to check me she was shocked, I was already fully dilated and ready to go. She told me to avoid pushing no matter what and they scrambled to get me into a delivery room in time and get ahold of my actual doctor. Thankfully he made it in time, but coming in fully dilated meant that I didn’t have time for an epidural. I was pretty scared beforehand, I’ve never had a natural birth and wasn’t prepared for one this time. Pushing without an epidural was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but thankfully it was all over in about 8 minutes!

Since it was my third delivery I was discharged from the hospital the next day. We’re settling in and doing great, although I have to admit the first couple of nights have been tough. My second child was a great sleeper from the start, but so far Max is more like his oldest brother. Hopefully we get through this stage and into a routine quickly. Thankfully I have a lot of help right now- my husband, Mom, and sister are keeping my head on straight this week and my mother in law will be here on Sunday.

Maxwell is so sweet and adorable, I’m soaking up all the cuddle time I can get. And his brothers are showing a lot of interest in him. They keep rubbing his head and Mason has even been giving him a few kisses. I can’t wait to see the three of them playing together eventually.

I’ll be posting more updates on my experience with three under three here. Thanks to everyone who sent us well wishes!

Xo,

Courtney

 

Style Inspo with Pink Blush + My Top Fall Fashion Tips

Style Inspo with Pink Blush + My Top Fall Fashion Tips

*The top mentioned below was gifted by Pink Blush, but all opinions are my own. 

Fall is without a doubt my favorite fashion season, and now that the season has officially started, I’m already starting to wear some of my favorite pieces. Feeling stylish while 36 weeks pregnant isn’t easy, but thankfully Pink Blush’s line of maternity clothes are comfortable and always on-trend. They’re really at the top of their class when it comes to making clothing that women actually want to wear to look and feel good during pregnancy. 

One of my favorite pieces currently is the Striped V-neck Tie Front Maternity Top pictured above (and fyi, it comes in a non-maternity version that you can find here). It’s incredibly soft, accommodates my rapidly expanding bump perfectly, and works with a variety of looks. It also comes in black with white stripes. Here I styled it with denim, over the knee boots, and one of my signature hats for a casual yet on-trend look that’s perfect for grabbing a meal with friends. 

You can easily style a date night look with this top by pairing it with black denim, heels or booties, and a moto jacket. Or turn it into a comfy casual look perfect for running errands or heading to the park by adding a pair of black joggers or leggings, tennis shoes, and a denim jacket. The possibilities are pretty endless, making this top a wardrobe staple. You can check out more cute and versatile tops from Pink Blush here

I’m excited to continue wearing this piece and some of my other favorites throughout the season. Here are my top 5 tips for transitioning into a fall wardrobe:

  • Accessories are everything. This is the time to break out boots, hats, scarves, and jewelry. Simply adding on accessories really ramps up the style factor on any outfit. 
  • Don’t be afraid to mix neutrals. Black, brown, beige, grey, and navy can all look amazing together. 
  • Adopt a signature print. Leopard and plaid are popular choices for fall and look amazing, but so do stripes, florals etc. A signature print lets you mix and match simpler wardrobe staples without having to think too hard. 
  • A pop of color is always refreshing. There are so many ways to incorporate a pop of color- lipstick, your nail polish, a bag, or your shoes are all easy ways to go bold when you’re wearing fall neutrals. 
  •  Make a statement with your outerwear. Once the temps cool down and you have to wear a jacket, you might as well make it one that immediately displays your chic sense of style. Moto jackets, trench coats, wrap coats, and teddy bear coats are some of my favorites. 

What are your favorite fall clothing items? If you have any additional tips for transitioning into a fall wardrobe please share. 

 

Xo,

Courtney

What I Learned About Motherhood from my Own Mom

What I Learned About Motherhood from my Own Mom

This past weekend I enjoyed a visit from my mom and sister. I love spending time with those two, they’re a big part of my life even when we’re physically separated (they live in Hampton Roads) and I turn to them for laughs and advice daily. Spending time with them as my household continues to prep for baby #3 led me to reflect on my own childhood. My mom had me when she was just a teenager, and went on to accomplish so much. I’m even more impressed by her sacrifices now that I’m a mother myself. One of the biggest lessons that I learned from my mom was that we as women are always capable of more than we think.

I know that things weren’t easy for my mom. Her version of parenthood included being a teenage mother and a single mother while working to support me and my sister, eventually earning a Bachelors and a Masters degree, and building a career. Once during grad school she became so stressed by everything she was juggling that she started experiencing physical symptoms that had to be treated with medication. But no matter what she always pushed on and made things look more effortless than they were. She didn’t let anything stop her from accomplishing her dreams AND being a good parent. Her level of achievement despite the previous obstacles in her life makes me feel like anything I want is achievable with time and persistence.

Her positive attitude about life is a big part of why I usually try to be positive (online and in real life) about motherhood. Of course I have days where I’m feeling exhausted or stressed out and overwhelmed. Parenting will do that to anyone, especially when you have small children back to back. Just adulting in general can be overwhelming some days. And being real about that can be cathartic. BUT I’ve learned from my mom that you choose how you react to your stress. Wallowing in negativity doesn’t change anything. You still have to put on your big girl pants and get things done regardless. As women we do this every day in one way or another. We always keep pushing even when things are hard.
Coming from a place of positivity instead usually involves feeling or expressing gratitude, which makes any situation better. So on the days when I’m exhausted and everyone in my household is driving me crazy, I try to remember to be grateful for them and that I wouldn’t change a single thing about my family. I keep pushing on when things are tough because I know that I’m capable of getting things done.
Another thing that I learned from my mom is that you can make positive memories for your children that will outlast many of the harder memories, and that you don’t need a big budget to do so. Things like going to the beach, getting ice cream in the summer, and carving pumpkins still stand out in my memory. Those memories make me want to treat my boys to positive experiences, so I try to schedule fun things on the weekends like play space time, farm trips, days at some of our favorite DMV locations like Old Town Alexandria or National Harbor etc. And I’m always looking for more fun things to do if you have any suggestions.

My mom also encouraged me to pursue different hobbies and interests like sports (although that didn’t last long for me) and playing the violin (which did last from elementary through most of high school). I can’t wait until my boys are old enough to join teams or develop their own hobbies. I could go on and on about what I’ve learned about parenting from my mom, but I’d love to hear from you. What are some of the biggest lessons your parents taught you?
Xo,
Courtney

What’s In My Hospital Bag- Round Three

What’s In My Hospital Bag- Round Three

I’m nearing the end of my pregnancy (my due date is next month!) and I have my hospital bag packed early this time. During my second pregnancy I also packed early and it turned out to be a smart move because I spontaneously went into labor at 36 weeks. Now that I know what to expect, I’ve narrowed my hospital bag list to some essentials and a few comfort/splurge items (because at this point I feel like I deserve it). Hopefully this list helps another expecting/future mom out there, but if you’ve already gone through labor and delivery I’d love to hear about what you packed. A lot of these items can be ordered and delivered to you within a couple of days on Amazon. I think the most important thing to remember though is that the hospital will provide most of what you really need. Here is everything currently in my hospital bag:

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Kindred Bravely French Terry Racerback Nursing BrasI know I raved about Everlane’s tank bra in my previous post about my favorite maternity items, but I’ve been meaning to post an update. They were a God-send, pretty much until I hit third trimester. As my breasts continued to increase in size (and I haven’t even started breastfeeding yet) I started to experience spillage with the Everlane bras. They just aren’t big enough to accommodate my pregnancy/breastfeeding size, but I’m hoping to get some use out of them later after I’m done breastfeeding. While looking for an alternative, I came across the Kindred Bravely nursing bras and decided to give them a try. These bras are amazing! Not only are they incredibly soft but they’re also supportive. Even with pesky pregnancy hormones they don’t irritate me at all. I don’t experience any spillage and the straps always stay in place because of the racerback style. The Kindred Bravely website has a really helpful guide for choosing the right size. Just fyi, this particular style is meant for sleep/loungewear, so there’s no padding. I have two packed in my bag.

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Emma + Ollie Postpartum Belly WrapThis will be my first time using a belly wrap after pregnancy, but I’ve heard good things from friends about how the right wrap or girdle can offer support as your stomach (and other organs) settle back into place. I found this affordable option on Amazon and I’m looking forward to trying it out. 

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Motherhood Maternity Long Sleeve V-Neck Ruched TeeI packed a maternity top and leggings for my going home outfit. Unfortunately a pregnant stomach does not go back down immediately after delivery (I usually look like I’m still several months pregnant) so maternity items will ensure that I’m comfortable when I leave. Motherhood Maternity’s ruched t-shirts are a great basic to have in your pregnancy wardrobe. They’re flattering and can work with a variety of looks. 

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Zella Mamasana Live In Maternity Ankle LeggingsI love these leggings because they suck in everything below the belly and they’re still comfortable because of the over-the-belly panel. I picked them up during the Nordstrom Anniversary sale and have kept them in heavy rotation. I’m sure they will offer great support when I leave the hospital. 

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Stars Above Soft Notch Collar NightgownYou should pack at least a couple of pairs of comfy pajamas that allow for easy breastfeeding. I love these pajama dresses from Target because they’re comfortable, nice enough to wear in front of guests if you want, and the neckline unbuttons easily for breastfeeding. 

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Barefoot Dreams Cozychic Socks, Lite Ribbed Robe, and Lite Circle CardiganI’m a huge fan of everything Barefoot Dreams makes. A couple of these items were splurges for me, but I really think this Oprah endorsed brand is amazing. The cardigan and robe are so incredibly soft and cozy and give me all the fall feels. It’s a good idea to pack a robe and slippers or cozy socks in case you want to walk around the hospital while you’re dressed in your delivery gown or to feel a little cozier in your room. 

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BabyBliss Reusable Bamboo Nursing PadsIt takes a few days for your milk to come in after birth, but before that you’ll produce colostrum (an important source of nutrients) for your baby. If you’ve already had a baby before the milk may come in faster. Once it does come in you will need nursing pads to absorb leaking milk in your bra. I’ve used disposable nursing pads in the past but prefer the reusable kind that I can just throw in the washing machine. This saves money and I think they’re more comfortable. 

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Frida Mom Upside Down Peri BottleIf you haven’t experienced childbirth yet I don’t want to gross you out, but things get very messy and if you have a vaginal birth you will be sore and may even need some stitches. The hospital provides all sorts of things to help you recover like ice packs, witch hazel, pads, and a plastic peri bottle to rinse yourself off every time you use the restroom (and they’ll send you home with a ton of extra supplies). A lot of women aren’t huge fans of the standard issue peri bottle though, and Frida Mom (the makers of the amazing Frida Baby products) came out with an upside down version that is supposed to be so much easier to use. A friend recently introduced me to the Frida Mom line and I can’t wait to try this. 

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Frida Mom Disposable Postpartum UnderwearAnd because things get messy after birth (think an extremely heavy version of your period) the hospital will provide disposable mesh underwear to wear with giant pads. Some women don’t like them but I actually think they’re pretty comfortable. The only problem is I always run out of them and then resort to using inexpensive Hanes briefs until the bleeding slows down (but there’s nothing wrong with using regular, comfortable underwear that you don’t mind ruining if you want). This time I plan to keep the stretchy comfort going a little longer with Frida Mom’s disposable underwear. They also make a variety of other postpartum products that I may order once I run out of my stockpile from the hospital. 

Headbands and hair ties- I’ll probably stick to simple buns while I’m in the hospital so I packed a few hair supply essentials. 

Toiletries- I also packed the essentials like a toothbrush, deodorant, etc. The hospital will also provide some basic toiletries but you may prefer to have your own. Some women like to bring their own towels for comfort too but I always leave mine at home. 

Makeup- If you like to wear makeup it’s a good idea to bring some along for pictures and/or visits with family and friends. Putting on a little makeup always makes me feel more put together after birth.

Electronics and entertainment – I packed a phone charger, and if you have an Ipad you may want to download a few of your favorite shows or movies on that, or bring a book or two for entertainment. 

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Boppy Nursing PillowBoppies make certain breastfeeding positions more comfortable by providing extra support as you hold the baby. I used mine often the last time I was in the hospital, and they make great infant loungers later on. 

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Aden + Anais Stroller BlanketThe hospital will provide everything you need for the baby while you’re there, including clothing, diapers, pacifiers, and blankets for swaddling (and let you take a lot home). But you may want to bring something personal to drape over the baby in the car seat when you leave. I like Aden + Anais because they make high-quality muslin products and muslin fabric is breathable and therefore gives me peace of mind. 

Going home outfit for baby- You’ll also need an outfit for the baby when you leave, although you can usually dress the baby in clothing you brought the entire time if you want. I usually pack 1-2 going home outfits. 

That’s everything in my hospital bag! I’d love some feedback, is there anything I missed? If you’ve gone through labor and delivery in a hospital what items were you glad you packed and what do you wish you had left at home?

 

Xo,

Courtney

Pre-Fall Inspiration + 5 Fun Things to do with Your Kids in the DMV Area Next Month

Pre-Fall Inspiration + 5 Fun Things to do with Your Kids in the DMV Area Next Month

*The sweater below was gifted by Pink Blush but all opinions are my own.

 

I’m currently 29 weeks into my pregnancy and attempting to have a pretty low-key summer, but my family and I do have a lot on our agenda for August. I’m already thinking ahead to fall though, and I love that we’ll be transitioning to fall next month. I can’t wait for cozy sweaters, warm lattes, changing leaves etc in addition to the fact that I’m excited about having a fall baby this year. 

Speaking of cozy sweaters…I’m no stranger to the Pink Blush brand (I’ve worn their clothing in all three of my pregnancies and they also have non-maternity clothing for women) but they recently gifted me with this gorgeous and very on-trend leopard print maternity cardigan, and gave me the perfect opportunity to start thinking about my pre-fall wardrobe. I love that the leopard print is both bold and neutral, you can easily pair it with a variety of items in a neutral color palette. It’s also incredibly soft and I can’t wait to get cozy in it both before and after the baby comes. You can shop the cardigan here

Other items at the top of my pre-fall list include hats (they instantly add a dose of style to any outfit), open toe booties for the summer to fall transition, and denim. 

Another thing I’m excited about is taking my kids to do fun activities as the weather starts to cool down next month. I can’t say I’ll miss these 90+ degree temps. Here are 5 fun activities to do with kids in the DMV area in September:

  • Visit a farm- I love taking my boys to farms. Wide open spaces, fresh air, animals, and delicious fresh food are perfect for families with small children. Some farms even have elaborate outdoor play spaces. A few of my favorites are Great Country Farms (Bluemont, VA) Cox Farms (Centreville, VA),  Miller Farms (Clinton, MD) and Braehead Farm (Fredericksburg, VA- worth a trip for families who live in the Stafford area). The Cox Farms Fall Festival also starts September 14. 
  • Visit the zoo- The Smithsonian National Zoo’s free admission makes it a great choice for families, and visits are much more enjoyable when the heat isn’t unbearable. 
  • Attend a Washington Nationals home game- Another activity that’s great when the sun isn’t beating down on you is attending a baseball game. The stadium has a great selection of food, fun family theme nights, and places you in close proximity to other DC area attractions.
  • Attend the Prince George’s County Fair (Sept 5-8, Upper Marlboro, MD)- who doesn’t love a good carnival? Find more info here
  • Visit a Museum- DC has a number of amazing museums with free entry every day, but take advantage of Smithsonian Magazine’s Museum Day to visit a handful that normally charge an entry fee on September 21. You can download tickets here starting August 15. 

Do you have any recommendations for fun things to do with kids in the DMV area this fall? I also travel a lot and would love to hear about activities in Hampton Roads, NYC, and other areas. What are you looking forward to the most about fall?

 

Xo,

Courtney

Body Positivity After Pregnancy

Body Positivity After Pregnancy

I recently thought about the fact that I have been pregnant every year since 2016 in the process of having three kids. This has not been easy on my body. Pregnancy has its beautiful, magical moments, but my body has also cycled through hormonal changes, weight gain and loss, and breastfeeding for the past four years. That much constant change can take a mental toll, and I do have some days when I’m not feeling my most confident, days when I look back at pre-pregnancy pictures a bit wistfully despite the fact that I have always had a short, curvy figure. But for the most part I have always been ok with giving myself time and have never felt the pressure to “bounce back” right away.
This hasn’t been an easy attitude to maintain, because we live in a society that is image obsessed, and for many people being thin is the most important marker of good physical and mental health. There have been countless times that well-meaning friends or family have casually referenced me “getting my body back” after the babies in conversation, and I know other women who have recently had children who feel pretty down about their bodies. I really believe this is an attitude we need to challenge.
People are starting to talk more openly about the immense mental and emotional challenges motherhood can bring, and the isolation many women feel, thanks in part to social media and a recent push for better maternal health care. I believe we’ve only scratched the surface of this subject. My own experience was that the transition to motherhood for the first time was tough. Hormones, surviving on very little sleep, and learning to cope with being responsible for another human’s well-being 24/7 really put me through the ringer. Thankfully I had an easier time when I transitioned to being a mom of two, but every pregnancy and every baby is different. For me, focusing on being in a good place mentally has always been vastly more important than bouncing back physically. I know that I can’t be the kind of mother I’d like to be if I’m not in a great mental or emotional state, and there’s time for everything else to happen later.
But I also know that prioritizing your mental health looks different for everyone. And for some people their mental and physical progress are linked. I would challenge women to think about what they really need postpartum, not what they feel pressured to want. If being in a certain clothing size will really make you feel happier and more confident, then by all means prioritize it (safely) postpartum. If being physically fit gives you the endorphins that make it easier to thrive in this experience, then work out as much as you can! But if trying to fit others’ expectations of what your body should look like, or trying to adhere to someone else’s timeline for when a woman should “bounce back” only adds to your stress, then let go of that and focus on what you really need. Don’t let anyone define your postpartum experience for you.
The time it takes to lose weight can also vary from person to person, and there are many factors that go into it. Some women shed weight naturally while breastfeeding. I am not one of those lucky women, I actually think its a bit harder for me to lose weight while breastfeeding. My personal goals after having my baby include prioritizing healthy eating, drinking lots of water, and working out when I can until I gradually increase my workouts over time. My goals don’t include focusing on any specific numbers, whether they’re on a scale or a clothes tag. That’s what I need to support myself in the best way possible. After having a baby you should be focused on the amazing things that your body accomplished and continues to accomplish. Women are really incredibly powerful.
What are your tips for dealing with body image issues? And if you’re a Mom, how did you feel about your body during or after pregnancy? Are you pro dieting postpartum? Let me know in the comments.

Xo,

Courtney