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

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

The Routines That Keep My Household Afloat

The Routines That Keep My Household Afloat

Now that I’ve been a Mom of two for over a year (and am getting closer and closer to being a Mom of three!) I’ve realized the key to success in my household is creating routines and sticking to them, and how routines might help others even if you’re a parent (or future parent) of one. My household does the best when we stick to established routines, and when we stray from them for too long chaos usually ensues! Below I’ve listed some of the routines that I use to keep my sanity on weekdays, including the kids’ daily routines, my weekday mealtime routine, and most importantly our bedtime routine (is there anything parents want more than more sleep?) 

The Kids’ Daytime Schedule

We typically follow the same schedule Monday through Friday. When the kids wake up I let them play for about half an hour, make breakfast, then let them watch cartoons while I do some laundry or cleaning (yes, I am pro screen time when I need a distraction).

After that we do an at home preschool program by Susie of the Busy Toddler. It’s meant for kids ages 2.5 and up, but my youngest Myles still participates sometimes. The lessons typically involve a song or two, a book, and 2-3 hands on activities. I get most of the suggested books from the library, and the rest of the books and supplies on Amazon.

After “preschool” and more play time I make lunch and put the boys down for a nap. It took a little while to get both of them on the same nap schedule. This involved doing my best to keep Myles awake until after lunch, until he got used to it. Getting them down for a nap at the same time is so worth it, because it guarantees me an hour or two of free time where I can get some things done or take a nap myself (which has been helpful this pregnancy). If you have two children close in age I recommend getting them on the same nap schedule as early as possible. 

After nap time I take them out in the stroller for a walk or some time at the park or library. Then I just let them play until my husband comes home and he takes over while I make dinner. The rest of the evening typically revolves around whatever my husband and I are doing.

Mealtimes

I love to eat but I am not the type of person who loves to cook. I’ve developed a few hacks to make things easier for myself. The first thing I do to make things easier is never taking my kids grocery shopping. I rarely go to the grocery store at all these days, unless I’m running in for a quick item or two. The rest of the time I order groceries through Amazon Prime Now. They are conveniently delivered to my door and as long as you buy at least $35 worth of groceries the delivery fee is free (although you can add on an optional tip for the driver). This means no more struggling with a crying toddler or two while I schlep down aisle after aisle, and grocery shopping no longer raises my blood pressure like it has in the past. 

For breakfast I usually alternate between whole wheat pancakes, Abe’s amazing vegan muffins (I cannot stress enough how amazing they are), cinnamon raisin toast, or scrambled eggs with fresh fruit for my kids. In the future I’d love to expand to some more healthy recipes but for now these options are quick and always work.

Lunch is usually peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or Dr. Praegar’s spinach, broccoli, sweet potato or kale littles with veggies or fruit. I don’t experiment much with lunch foods because my oldest Mason is so picky.

Dinner is when I do the most experimenting. I recently restarted my Hello Fresh subscription so that I can learn more vegetarian meals, and we go meat free 3 times a week with their veggie plan. I won’t keep the subscription going forever, but for now it’s a great way to learn new recipes and cooking skills, and having a subscription has definitely increased my interest in cooking. The rest of the week I cook with meat from a farm CSA (community supported agriculture) share. This allows us to purchase 15 lbs of pasture raised, hormone-free meat each month. I purchase my share through Liberty Delight Farms. And once a week we order takeout for dinner (my favorite night of the week).

Bedtime

Thankfully both of my children sleep through the night at this stage (I’m getting ready to start over with baby #3 so wish me luck!) but we got there by moving the kids out of our bedroom, establishing a bedtime routine, and using the cry it out method (aka sleep training) for a little while. Moving the kids out of my bedroom was vital for me. I always start off with co-sleeping before moving my kids to a bassinet or pack n play in my room. But there’s something about having me nearby that just causes my kids to wake up looking for my attention (or milk) more often. I was amazed at how much longer they started sleeping when they left my room. This is only recommended when your kids are about 6 months +.

Crying it out is a controversial method, I know some parents can’t stand to hear their little ones’ cries go unanswered and I felt the same way at first. We tried it with my son Mason when he was about 5 months old because I was still getting up multiple times a night and feeling like a zombie at work. The first night of crying it out my husband had to stop me from going to him and I felt so sad. But then when he finally fell asleep, he slept for the rest of the night! On the second night he cried for a much shorter interval before falling asleep. After a few days he barely cried at all. The time it takes to get this method to work can vary but trust me it does work. And both of my kids survived the experience and are happy and very attached to me. 

Some people are amazed at how easily they usually fall asleep at home but it’s because we’ve been doing the same bedtime routine for so long that they’re very used to what comes next. I use Honest Calming Lavender Bubble Bath to help the boys get in a sleepy mood. After bath time I read 1-2 board books that are appropriate for Myles, then take him to his bed and turn on 15 minutes of bedtime music on his Scout dog (I’ve also used a noise machine and night light in the past- the Hatch Baby Rest is amazing, but found that they do fine without it now). I rock him in my arms for 2-3 minutes then lay him down and leave. He’s usually asleep within 10 minutes without any fuss. Then I read 1-2 more advanced books for Mason and repeat the same music/rocking routine with his Scout dog. Sometimes he takes longer to fall asleep but he lays in his crib without crying until he does. Then I give myself a mental pat on the back and relax for about 30 mins before joining my husband for a Netflix show. 

I know a lot of people who co-sleep end up doing so long-term, but once my babies reached the 6 month mark having designated kid-free time every night and sleeping in my bed without them has been so beneficial to my mental health and my marriage.

Those are the most important aspects of my daily routine. I would love to hear your thoughts/tips for establishing a routine in the comments. 

 

Xo,

Courtney

Two Under Two

Two Under Two

I can’t believe my oldest son Mason will be two in just a couple of weeks! My days of having two under two are coming to an end, soon it will be two under three which sounds somewhat less daunting. Mason’s approaching birthday inspired me to write a post reflecting on what life with two littles so close in age has been like. As I mentioned before, when I was pregnant with my younger son Myles, I got a lot of negative comments about how hard life was going to become with such a close age gap. Everyone from nurses to well meaning coworkers had strong opinions about it. Now that I’ve actually experienced it for several months, here’s what I have to say about life with two under two. If you’re thinking about having children close in age one day or already expecting a close younger sibling hopefully this helps.
Things are difficult, but doable– For me, the hardest part of caring for essentially two babies is feeling tired all the time. But that’s one of the hardest parts of being a new Mom even if you have one child. Things were fairly easy for me in the beginning. As a newborn Myles slept all the time, so I felt more refreshed than I expected to, and I still had some alone time with my older child. Things got harder when Myles started waking up more often because I was so drained. It’s difficult to meet everyone’s needs when you have little energy and both children are on different schedules. I’ve had plenty of moments where I felt overwhelmed, but some strong coffee and leaning on my husband more or another family member helped me get through those tough moments. And sometimes I just have to take a break (more on that later).
Thankfully things have started to get easier again now that their schedules are syncing up and Myles is starting to sleep through the night. Getting everyone on the same schedule or close to being on the same schedule is essential for thriving with two under two! I like to change diapers back to back, bathe them at the same time, and put them to bed at the same time. Then my hubby and I can enjoy some netflix and wine or I can read a book (or let’s be honest browse social media) at the end of the day to decompress.
The older child may need some time to get used to the baby– Mason had a bit of a learning curve when it came to interacting with his younger brother. Not only was he not used to sharing me, but he also didn’t know how to gently handle someone so small and fragile and I had to watch him like a hawk around the baby. It took about three months for him to get used to Myles, and Myles is still growing on him. Now they’re even starting to play together. Myles is completely enamored with his big brother and it’s beautiful to see a budding relationship that is separate from my own relationship with them.
Self-care becomes more important than ever– When I was pregnant with Myles I once had a friend remark that I would be walking around with mismatched clothes and makeup smeared on my face after the baby because two under two would turn me into a zombie. Thankfully that’s not true. I don’t really get dressed up while I’m sitting at home with the boys, and sometimes things do get a little messy, but in general I love getting dressed in real clothes, getting my hair done, and putting makeup on. Those things actually mean more to me now with two under two, because it helps me maintain my sense of self. It’s important to prioritize yourself physically and emotionally so that you’re not pouring from an empty cup.
If I’m feeling really overwhelmed, sometimes I just hand both kids over to my hubby and go spend some time by myself. I usually come back feeling much more recharged and capable, so I don’t feel guilty about doing that. Self-care is essential for a happy household. It’s also important to make time for activities that have nothing to do with the kids. I recently started a meditation program. And my resolution for 2019 is to schedule more dates with my friends and to start doing yoga again.
That’s my take on two under two. I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you’ve experienced life with two kids close in age, please feel free to share your perspective.
Xo,
Courtney