Gifts for a New Mama

I just got an excited text from a friend who became an aunt again to a sweet baby girl. She checked out this blog for some ideas on how to support this new mama, and it gave me the idea to write out some suggestions for wonderful gifts for the postpartum time!

If you can give food, either meals or yummy snacks, that’s always a given. But if you’re celebrating from afar — and currently we’re all sheltering in place — here are a few things to send to the new mama to help her know she’s supported. 

Nursing pajamas: Easy access for breastfeeding at night is a must. I treated myself to this nightgown in the first few weeks, and loved wearing something that made me feel pretty even though I was not. Personally, I did not want anything with sleeves since I had the hormonal night sweats like crazy… Anything with clip down cups, buttons, or a wide stretchy neck that can be moved aside is nursing friendly!

Insulated coffee mug: A little sweetie got me this mug and it was brilliant; there is no way new moms are drinking their coffee while it’s still hot, so this helped!

My favorite baby book: I’ve loved this book for years and give it to everyone I know with a new baby. While I forgot to read to Elliot for the first 8ish weeks of his life, it’s always nice to get sweet books, and eventually tired moms will want to ready to their babies 😉

The Fourth Trimester by Kimberly Ann Johnson: I love that my friend just gifted this to her sister-in-law. It definitely does not need to be read cover to cover, so hopefully she can pick and choose which pieces she needs in the moment.

For a c-section mama: Cam bought this expensive little balm for me, and while I don’t know how much it actually improved my scar, it helped me get more comfortable touching and caring for it. 

Food! Meals like lasagnas and crockpot meals are always appreciated, but a couple of friends came over with a bunch of snacks and easy lunches and it was a life saver. If you’re local and able, fresh fruit, chips and guacamole, bagels, muffins, bag salads, and two bite brownies were so nice to have. Picking up lunch is always great too, and getting her Panera or Noodles order is nice and easy.

A listening ear: I needed to process my birth a lot, and was grateful when people asked about it. Giving a call and asking about all the details might be so helpful. Maybe say, “I’d love to hear everything about your birth,” and ask clarifying questions to let her know she can get as specific as she wants. For example, when starting my story for one friend she immediately asked “And what time did you get to the hospital?” and I was relieved to get to tell her all EVERYTHING. 

What else was lovely to receive postpartum? I’d love to hear!

Maternity Capsule Wardrobe

Maternity clothes: lots of stripes and cardigans, apparently.

Oh, maternity clothes. How difficult you are. 

I do not love shopping, so needing to purchase a brand new wardrobe was definitely challenging for me. I ended up with a maternity “capsule wardrobe,” as my friend Caitlin so cutely called it, which had some good things in it but was also mostly just me wearing the same three dresses over and over again. I was extra pregnant in the summer, but made this wardrobe work pretty well from February to July. 

For the most part, here’s what I had for the entirety of my pregnancy:

  • Two pairs of blue jeans and one pair of black jeans
  • Three pairs of leggings: one pair of Lululemon Aligns for the first seven months, then two pairs of maternity leggings
  • Three long sleeved tops that were work appropriate (this, something similar to this, and a borrowed top)
  • Two plain T-shirts from Gap
  • Three tank tops from Target
  • Six or seven dresses: worn over leggings during the winter, and in air conditioning in the summer
  • Whatever regular shirts and sweaters could be pulled over my giant belly. Cardigans are king.

I wore the same outfits over and over and over again. I got bored, I was probably a little stinky, but it was not worth spending a ton of money on a ton of new outfits that I wasn’t going to wear for that long. If I were to do it again, I’d focus on a few things that were higher quality and maybe a little more expensive. Some of the cheaper options just didn’t hold up to constant washing and wearing (like the Motherhood Maternity brand). Below is a little more detail on the what and why of what I wore.

First up, maternity pants. I favored the pants that had the big panel that went all the way up your belly, and transitioned to those suckers pretty early on, even when my belly was more bloat than baby. The Jessica Simpson brand was my favorite for jeans – they were soft, stayed in place, and looked pretty cute. Thank goodness I do not have to dress formally at work… you ladies who buy maternity businessware are queens.

For leggings, I was able to wear my Lululemon Aligns well into my seventh month. If you don’t already own a pair of these leggings, invest in a pair one size bigger than you normally wear. They are wonderful and PERFECT for your postpartum body, too, so you’ll definitely get the bang for your buck.  After my belly got too big for even the Aligns (although I have heard of some women who make them work for the whole time!) I transitioned to maternity leggings from Belly Bandit and Beyond Yoga. Expensive, yes, but they were opaque and held up to everyday wear and frequent washing. 

In the winter, I wore a lot of dresses over leggings. Most of my dresses were from Target and Gap. Target also had the best tank tops that were excellent for layering (linked above). Another go-to outfit was a maternity T-shirt from Gap with a flannel over it. Unbuttoned, of course, as seen here in a picture that a coworker so kindly took on donut day. 

I don’t know if it was because I was pregnant in the summer or if this is just what my body wanted to do, but my feet got HUGE. Remember the picture on Jessica Simpson’s Instagram? Yes. I got a pair of Allbirds that worked great for expanding feet, as well as bought a size up in Converse. By the time summer rolled around and I didn’t have to go to work anymore, it was a plastic pair of Birkenstocks that helped me get from place to place. 

That’s it! I am clearly not a fashionista, but if you are looking to keep things simple I hope you found something helpful. Maternity clothes, especially stretchy shirts and leggings, are what you’ll want to wear for the first month or so after your baby is born, so know that you’ll get a few more months of wear if you’re looking to spend a little extra on something in particular. 

Good luck dressing that bump!

Surviving the Fourth Trimester: For You and Your Partner

The baby is here! They’re beautiful! How in the world was this fully formed human just living inside of you, and is now on the outside with eyes and ears and the softest skin you didn’t even think was possible. This little miracle is amazing, and also brings about one of the most profound shifts in your life. Moments of staring at your beautiful sleeping baby are punctuated by the reality of living with a helpless newborn — it’s really freaking hard. 

I tell anyone who will listen: Cam and I were about as prepared as two new parents could be. We liked each other, we had a stable home, family and friends were close by and willing to help, and I had experience with babies. And still those first few months were incredibly difficult for us. 

The fourth trimester is the time period coined by Dr. Harvey Karp as the twelve weeks following birth (according to a quick Google search; it’s probably been around for many women and care-givers before him) . The idea is that babies aren’t quite ready to be out in the world yet and they need constant support and care to adjust. This can be both wonderful (yay baby snuggles!) and maddening (when will the crying end). Instead of focusing on infant care, below are a few things that were helpful for us during those first few months as parents. 

Disclaimer: This post, much like this blog, is coming with a healthy dose of partnered parenthood privilege, so this is purely from my own perspective. And although I try to watch my language, there is probably some heternormative stereotyping going on, too.  

Feel Your Feelings, but Keep an Eye On Them

After spending three nights in the hospital after my cesarean, we were so happy to be back in our home with Harvey. That first night was to be expected, awake every couple hours to feed the baby, then trying to sleep while he snorted next to us in the bassinet. I had my nursing stations set up, I stayed in my robe, and things were okay.

The next morning, the baby blues set in. I instantly felt overwhelmed and a feeling that I couldn’t do this. I texted my mom and sisters, thankfully just an hour away, to see if anyone could come over to help out and keep me company for the day. Mind you, Cam was there with no intention of leaving, but I felt at that moment that I needed my women around me, and I’m proud that I reached out, despite the little bug in my ear saying “This is too last minute!” and “You should be able to do this yourself!” 

As someone who has worked through anxiety in the past, I knew to have those conversations with Cam and my midwives while I was pregnant. I was worried that I would experience postpartum mood disorders, and thankfully all involved checked in on me regularly. My advice is to talk to your people upfront about this, and let them know any signs to be aware of (for me, it’s tearfulness, feeling like everyone hates me, and decreased energy and interest to do things). 

I don’t remember where I saw this the first time, but the distinction between baby blues and postpartum was an important one for me to learn. This graphic is a great visual of the differences. The biggest one for me is that baby blues go away after a few weeks – mine went away after the third or fourth week postpartum, thankfully. I was still emotional, tired, and felt sadness, but it wasn’t as all-encompassing as those first few weeks.

Talk to your care provider if you are concerned that you are currently experiencing, or that you might experience, postpartum mood disorders.

Stay on the Same Team with Your Partner

Here’s the thing: you will argue with your partner during this time. You’re both tired, stressed, and constantly worried about this little creature you are 100% responsible for. Cam and I argued during this time, but there are a few things I focused on to decrease the animosity and resentment a lot of women talk about feeling during this period.

I think I saw this on the blog Cup of Jo a long time ago, but Cam and I tried to have the mindset of “us versus the baby” instead of “Alex versus Cam.” When we were up in the middle of the night and bickering, I had to tell myself that we were working on this together, trying to figure out this whole new human together. We still bickered and snapped at each other, but I tried to say “us versus the baby” to him when we were in one of those moments. 

Try to stay kind to each other at nighttime. The 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. shift was rough for us during the first few months. At 6:00 p.m., Elliot would start his witching hour, and by 9:00 p.m. I would be in tears dreading a long night ahead of no sleep and what felt like constant breastfeeding. For me, staying kind looked like ignoring when I felt that Cam was doing something “wrong” (read: differently than how I would do it), and holding my tongue when I was bitter that he didn’t wake up to every noise the baby made or how he can just so easily fall back to sleep after changing a diaper. To Cam’s credit, he was usually so sleepy and mostly dead at night that he didn’t have time to be unkind. Folks, we are not perfect, but we’re still married so that’s something 😉 

Related, find your night waking rhythm. For me and Cam, when Elliot would wake up, Cam would change his diaper and then bring him to me after for me to nurse. This worked for us for the first month or so. Once my mobility improved after the cesarean, and I realized we didn’t need to be changing his diaper every time he woke up, I took on more of the night wakings. In exchange, Cam would take the baby for an hour in the morning so I could “sleep in” a little bit. You do you, though, and decide what works best for you. Here’s a couple other ideas from friends:

  • One friend had shifts with her husband, and he’d give bottles for a few hours at night so she could sleep. 
  • One friend was triple feeding, so asked her partner to give the baby a bottle while she pumped for the next one.
  • Another friend and her husband both woke up and stayed awake for each nighttime feeding.

And perhaps the most important one: your partner cannot read your mind. They just can’t. What bothers you doesn’t necessarily bother them, and your intuition as a mama is totally different than their perception and reaction to things. It’s your responsibility to say what you need and it’s their responsibility to respond to it, ideally in a helpful way. Try to avoid blaming language (e.g. “you never help” or “why don’t you notice when he’s crying”) and use the I-statements we teach to kids: “I need help right now” and “I’m so tired, please take her before I lose it.” I am not a relationship expert, clearly, but these are the things I tell myself when I’m about to lose it on Cam 🙂

Resources I Found Helpful

“The Fourth Trimester: A Postpartum Guide to Healing Your Body, Balancing Your Emotions, and Restoring Your Vitality” by Kimberly Ann Johnson. Do you need someone to tell you to take it easy? Do you need someone to offer holistic advice on how to heal, or that your emotions are 100% legit right now? Kimberly’s your girl. Like most nonfiction I did not read this cover to cover, just the chapters I needed at that moment, and found it helpful to come back to throughout this period.

I’ve recommended this before, but get yourself “Nurture: A Modern Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, Early Motherhood” by Erica Chidi Cohen. Another thoughtful woman with gentle, expert advice when you need it most.

Taking Cara Babies “Will I Ever Sleep Again?” newborn class. This guide is NOT sleep training, although Cara offers that too for older babies, and it was what I needed to understand my baby’s crazy sleep (and lack thereof), how to calm a newborn, and what our days could look like. She sums up the research in easily digestible videos and I learned a ton from this class as well as her Instagram full of free content. 

Most Importantly 

Talk to your people. These first few months can feel so overwhelming and isolating. It was really amazing to me to see which friends knew how to show up for a new mama in this crazy time. Lean on people who make you feel brave, confident, and like the powerful mama you are. 

If you do not have people close by to help out, or if your people don’t always make you feel supported, this is where a postpartum doula can be really helpful. The role of a postpartum doula is to help make this fourth trimester transition smoother, whether that’s holding your fussy baby so you can shower or processing a difficult labor and birth judgement free. I’m currently training to become a postpartum doula and am so excited to be able to provide support to women and families during this incredibly important life change!

Mamas – what helped you survive the fourth trimester? Anything you would tell others to do differently?

Preparing Mama for a Scheduled Cesarean

Oh boy, how I would love for this to not be the title of my birth prep story, but what can you do! About two weeks before Elliot came Earthside, I picked the day we would meet him. This post is focused on how I prepared for myself, and there will be a separate post for how to prepare for a newborn. 

Preparing Mentally for a Cesarean

Sweet, stubborn Elliot was breech from 32 weeks on, and after an unsuccessful External Cephalic Version I knew I was going to have a cesarean. Mentally, this was challenging for me. I talked a lot with my doula about this shift and she was incredibly supportive during this process. After sharing with her how disappointed I was, I added the caveat that I knew the only important thing was a healthy mom and healthy baby. She corrected me: “I actually hate it when people say the only thing that matters is a healthy baby and healthy mom. I do think that the experience of bringing your baby into the world matters. I think it’s totally valid to mourn the loss of an experience you were dreaming of… But I also think that it can still be a beautiful experience, just a different one than you envisioned.” It was just the permission I needed to *feel* my disappointment AND be grateful for my healthy baby. 

Fortunately, having a scheduled cesarean gave me the time to process the experience beforehand. Most of my pregnancy I surrounded myself with research and media around “natural” pregnancies and births, and despite their best efforts, the information around cesareans comes off as judgmental. I felt the information from these sources was “c-sections happen when women don’t have a doula, when doctors and hospitals force it, when women don’t advocate for themselves!” 

For weeks I felt like I had failed – failed at flipping my baby, failed at being active enough or trying enough interventions, failed at finding a midwife who would vaginally deliver my breech baby, failed at doing what’s best (most “natural”) for my baby. To counter this negative self talk, I had to surround myself with stories from women who had cesareans. I had to hear about their beautiful, happy babies. About how their babies breastfed just fine, and that their bonds with their babies were perfect. I started hearing from more women that they had cesareans, and just knowing that I wasn’t alone was so helpful. 

The Instagram account Expecting and Empowered (@expectingandempowered) was especially helpful to me during this time. One of the owners of the company is a three time cesarean mama and a women’s physical therapist, and her practical, nonjudgmental tips and tricks were so helpful. Included are in-hospital tips as well as how to take care of your body when you get home. Highly recommend checking them out both before and after a cesarean!

Advocating for a Gentle Cesarean

One of the things I was most sad about regarding a cesarean was feeling like I couldn’t have that immediate after birth experience that I had been dreaming about: I saw myself reaching for my baby and holding him on my chest as soon as he came out, and knew that wouldn’t be an option. When natural birth advocates write about cesareans, they often advocate for “gentle” or “family focused” cesareans. The goal of a gentle cesarean is to create a more “birth” like atmosphere as opposed to a “surgical” one. It’s a really hard balance to make, and my behemoth of a birth story can confirm that.

From the Mama Natural website, “A gentle cesarean (sometimes called a family centered birth) includes many features, but its overall purpose is to invoke a peaceful, calm atmosphere that closely mimics what happens during and immediately after a natural childbirth.” Check out the article for a list of many of the accommodations that can be requested.

I talked about these options with the OB before my birth. I was very lucky that our hospital did many of these things as common practice, like lowering the drape so I could see him right away and skin-to-skin in the operating room. I was denied a couple of requests such as delayed cord clamping and having the baby placed immediately on my chest before being weighed and cleaned. At the time, I was experiencing decision fatigue from the last month and felt like I needed to surrender to the process a little bit. It was the right decision for me at the time, but knowing what I know now, I might advocate a little harder next time.

Even if you don’t have a scheduled cesarean, I recommend reading through the gentle cesarean list and including a few of the options on your birth plan in case one becomes necessary. 

Preparing for Mama Care After

This one’s easy: ACCEPT HELP. Plan for help. Plan to be sitting in the same spot for awhile. Text your mom, mother-in-law, sisters, friends and see if they’re able to come for a day when your partner goes back to work. We were lucky that Cam took two weeks off from work after the baby was born, but I still needed support after that, both physically and emotionally because it’s scary being the only one in charge of a small human! People want to help in those first few weeks, so take advantage of it! 

Leading up to delivery day, I did some grocery shopping for microwave dinners we could heat up quickly and snacks to have at home. I had dreams of preparing lots of crockpot meals for myself, but we’re more of a send-Cam-to-get-Chipotle family. I also stocked up on toilet paper and paper towels for some reason. 

I recommend buying a few different options of feminine care products for after! Even after a cesarean there will be bleeding, and interestingly enough I bled a little longer than some vaginal birth friends, so I don’t think it makes a difference! First off, buy a pack of Depends. I didn’t, but definitely will for any future babies, especially if I have another cesarean. I stole a few extra pairs of disposable underwear from the hospital, but I wanted a full two weeks of them for my scar. I recommend some heavy duty pads, but also buy a pack of some “lighter days” pads. There were a good chunk of days that I bled heavily, but most of the time I could get away with something lighter, and then only needed panty liners for weeks after. I didn’t like wearing big chunky pads if they weren’t needed, so the options were helpful for me. 

If you are faint of heart, skip this paragraph 😉 Despite not having any labor or a vaginal birth, I found that my pelvic floor and lady bits were still affected after the birth. Obviously my experience was very different, so I was surprised! The peri bottle was very helpful, and if the hospital doesn’t give you stool softeners, GET STOOL SOFTENERS. That first post-cesarean poop was unreal after being on pain medication for days. I recently saw advice to try to poop every day after the birth even if you don’t feel like it and even if nothing comes out. I will definitely try that next time, because – pardon the pun – that shit was intense.

Book Recommendation

I loved the book “Nurture: A Modern Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, Early Motherhood” by Erica Chidi Cohen. You can tell she’s a natural woman at heart, but it was the only book I read that was not judgmental at all about a cesarean. The book was great throughout the pregnancy, but I adored it for its suggestions and product recommendations for early postpartum. I read it obsessively in those early days of mamahood too, and always felt supported by her.

Our Nursery

As you’ll see from these pictures, we kept things SIMPLE in Elliot’s nursery. Cam and I are pretty minimalist throughout the house, and I’m not very Pinterest-y, even when it comes to baby stuff. 

When we were preparing for Baby, I knew that I wanted him to sleep in our room for the first few months and that decorating a baby’s room is much more for the parents than for the baby. My priorities were a crib, a glider, and a dresser without a built-in changing station so it could be reused later. And folks, that’s about all I did! 

Before the nursery was the nursery, it was poor Cam’s office. He had thoughtfully picked out his things (even though I told him it would be a baby’s room sooner than he thought…) and we ended up using some of what he already had. One of the shelves was repurposed to a bookshelf and the Flor tiles were colorful and seemed easy to clean. Even though we knew the sex of the baby, I wanted the room to be pretty gender-neutral. 

For whatever reason, I wanted the nursery to include a map. Bored at work one day I came across this map and became obsessed with it. It was pretty early on in the pregnancy, but I *needed* that map for Baby (oh, pregnancy hormones). After he was born, I added the two frames on the side, one with his little footprints and the other with a picture from our family photos when Elliot was three months old. 

I love our crib and glider. They weren’t pocket change, by any means, but the quality has been great and we were pretty cost-conscious throughout the process so I didn’t mind splurging a bit on these items. In hindsight, I could’ve been better at looking for used cribs to save some money and be more sustainable. The glider is a dark gray-ish color and hides the insane amount of spit up that is already all over it. It’s where I exclusively nurse Elliot now (he is easily distracted everywhere else), so it’s my favorite spot in the house.

For a dresser, we went with the ever popular Ikea Hemnes and two sets of their drawer organizers. I do the KonMari fold for his clothes and just keep his current size in the drawers. Other sizes are kept in bins in the basement. Pictures below in case you’re into real life, not-pretty organizing 😉

Drawer 1: diapers (daytime and overnight) and baby care; Drawer 2: clothes; Drawer 3: blankets, extra toiletries, thermometer, random baby things

The closet is not cute and doesn’t even have a door on it because I took it off to paint it when we bought the house and then forgot about it (oops). But it gets the job done with his little sweaters and rompers hung on hangers because it’s adorable, and diapers, wipes, and breastfeeding/pumping stuff that I’m not currently using above. In the drawers below are towels, extra sheets, and baby wearing wraps. On the left is the Baby Bjorn travel crib which is so easy to travel with and worth the price, in my opinion.

When Elliot got a little older, Cam bought removable blackout shades from Home Depot to go behind our shades purely because we wanted to put up Christmas lights and they were right in front of Elliot’s window. Elliot hasn’t been super sensitive to light when he sleeps, but some babies are, and these literally just stick onto your windows and do the job. Only downside is they are not easy to move up and down, so it stays dark in his room all the time, even when I would like to let in some natural light. Hoping we can phase out of those for naps, soon. 

One last thing – Cam hooked the dinosaur lamp up to a “foot pedal switch” so he could easily turn the lamp on and off while holding the baby. We hate overhead lighting so we only use the lamp, and it is easier to step on the switch. It makes me smile now because that was one of his first problem solving dad moments and he was very proud. 

And that’s it! I love his little room and love that we can add to it as he gets bigger, needs more things, and comes up with his own opinions of what he wants in there.

My Hospital Bag

Much like many very pregnant women, I started reading every blog post imaginable about what to bring to the hospital and worried about bringing too much or not enough. Lol to that now, but you’re only a first time mom once. Below are my thoughts on the subject, as a scheduled cesarean mama who spent three nights in the hospital.

What I brought and actually used in the hospital:

  • Snacks! I had originally bought these snacks when I was still planning on a typical labor but they worked great for post-cesarean hospital life, too. I brought mini Gatorade bottles, RX bars and applesauce pouches. The Gatorade poured over ice was pure heaven for the post-birth sweats, let me tell you.
  • Travel sound machine – I had been sleeping with a sound machine for awhile so personally needed it, but it helped drown out hospital noises and may have been helpful for Baby, too.
  • A very long robe one size up
  • Nursing bras
  • Slippers (my doula recommended cheap flip flops, especially for labors and vaginal births, but I went with rubber soled slippers)
  • My own pillow
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo/body wash, hair ties and comb
  • One baby outfit in newborn size and one in size 0-3. For reference, Elliot was 8lb 8oz at birth and fit in the newborn outfit. I didn’t bring extra clothes for him, but kept him in a diaper and wrapped in a blanket for skin-to-skin the whole time we were in the hospital. 

What I brought to the hospital and did not use:

  • Leggings and tank tops – I lived in my robe and was not ready for pants over my scar for a couple weeks. Definitely still pack in case you are braver than me, but make sure you bring the maternity leggings and tank tops because that postpartum belly is no joke. 
  • Zip up hoodie – most lists tell you to bring layers to the hospital because the temperature shifts. Elliot was born during an insane heat wave, and I was a sweaty mess, but probably a good thing to bring along.
  • Makeup – I brought mascara, an eye brow pencil and cream blush because I thought my vanity would win over but it didn’t! I could not have cared less that my eyebrows weren’t on. 
  • Underwear – Yeah, no, that was not going to happen.

What the hospital provided:

  • A peri bottle for bathroom use (so helpful even though I had no labor/pushing trauma down there)
  • Disposable underwear (stole more to take home with me, wish I had taken more)
  • Water bottle with a straw
  • Lots of pillows for propping up Baby while breastfeeding (I did not bring my Boppy and it was totally fine)

For laborers: our midwives provided the twinkly lights in labor rooms, and I knew our doula would have brought essential oils so I didn’t bring those things. If there’s something that you think you’ll want for comfort during labor, it doesn’t hurt to bring it along. From my research reading a lot of lists, though, I do feel like the overwhelming response from new moms is that they brought things they *thought* they’d need but didn’t.

New mamas: Anything you’d add to the list? What were you were you so happy to have with you?

(Photo by Emma Mullins Photography)

Staying Healthy During Pregnancy

When I told my acupuncturist that I was pregnant, she told me that the Chinese want their pregnant women sitting, looking at beautiful things, and getting fat. I didn’t go this far because I know moving my body and working out help me *feel* better physically and most importantly mentally, but I appreciated the permission to take things easy. 

First off, your own personal health should be a priority all the time because you deserve it. But when we have a little being living and growing inside of us it’s natural to want to pay a little more attention to how we’re treating our bodies. Here’s what I did to take care of myself while pregnant, along with some things I wish I had done and hope to do better next time!

First Trimester

The only thing I did during first trimester.

Lololol no I did not treat myself well during the first trimester. I experienced nausea and overwhelming exhaustion from week five through twelve and was lucky if I made it off the couch. The only things I wanted to eat were bagels, mac and cheese, and cereal. So much Cap’n Crunch was consumed during those weeks. Some days I made it around the block with the dog. 

My tips: it’s a season, so give yourself lots of grace. It is HARD WORK and your body is getting used to some crazy hormones. One of my midwives told me that the baby will get whatever nutrients it needs from you no matter what, so don’t worry too much that Baby will turn into a bagel. Keep taking your prenatal vitamin because it will help YOU feel better and get the nutrients YOU need. Eat protein and veggies when they sound good. Have your partner make you a grilled cheese. Go outside if you can. Hide in your office if you need a break. Hopefully you feel better in a few weeks and can work on getting more nutrients! 

Second Trimester

Thankfully I started feeling better as the weeks went on. I was eating all.the.things. at this point, but focused on trying to move my body more! I started my second trimester during the dead of winter and the polar vortex of 2019 so there was some trial and error trying to figure out what worked best for me.

I attempted to continue walking the dog, but I slipped and fell on the ice one day and got spooked even though Baby was totally fine. I focused on living room workouts and going on walks inside the school building when I could. 

I also signed up for a prenatal yoga class. I had such mixed feelings about it! On the one hand, it felt great to move my body after being sedentary during my first trimester. On the other hand, the class format started with the group sharing out about their pregnancies and talking about a topic. Some people LOVE this and find this community amazing. It’s just not for me. I do a lot of talking and feelings processing in my day job, and yoga for me is an opportunity to shut off and just focus on myself. I learned some great sequences, however, and incorporated a lot of the movement into a home yoga routine that I kept up throughout the remainder of my pregnancy. If you’re interested, here’s a copy of what my routine looked like. I had different stopping points based on how much time I had or how I was feeling that day. Reach out if you have questions about any specific poses and sequences in there 🙂 

For living room workouts, I purchased the Mom Plan from Lauren Gleisberg. These workouts were great for what I was looking for: minimal equipment, moves I knew how to do, and relatively short (most were about 20 minutes long). At the time, there was a deal going on and I was able to purchase a bundle of her Pregnancy, Postpartum, and Pelvic Floor plans. The price was pretty decent, and she’s originally a Wisconsin girl so I like supporting her. 

Third Trimester

Nine months pregnant walking outfit = pajama shorts.

My third trimester was spent half at the end of the school year in a middle school and half during summer vacation (THANK THE UNIVERSE). I kept up my living room workouts (mostly, I’m not a saint) and focused on walking since the weather was better and during summer break I could walk whenever the timing worked best (i.e. in the morning before it got too humid and my feet swelled up).

By the end of my pregnancy I gained a little over 40 pounds which was a little above what was recommended for me. It was difficult for me to wrap my head around as someone who hasn’t gained a ton of weight in the past. Mentally, I tried to focus my workouts on what would prepare me for birth and being a new mom. Instead of telling myself “Workout to not gain too much weight,” I tried to phrase it instead as “upper body weights will help me gain the strength needed to hold and pick up a baby all day” (in hindsight, back strength helped soooo much with breastfeeding!) and “lower body weights are great birth prep.” Walking is for my own sanity (as well as the dog’s) and knew that it was also great birth prep. While walking I listened to a ton of episodes of the podcast “The Birth Hour,” the Harry Potter audiobooks, and the amazing podcast “Binge Mode: Harry Potter” because I was obsessed. When you’re 38 weeks pregnant, all walks take long enough for some good podcasts.

The most important thing I did: REST! I sat and laid and bounced on the ball when my swollen feet let me and watched so much TV and went out to dinner with friends because I knew I would never have that time again. That time to just be with myself, no babies, no big responsibilities. If this is your first baby, do all the things your single self and partnered self enjoys. You’ll get back to some of those things, hopefully, but it’ll take awhile, so enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.

Creating a “Minimalist” Registry

I’m one of those people who LOVED making my baby registry because I had basically already made one in my head over the years watching what my mom friends had collected and used. I know this can be stressful for a lot of women, though, especially if you’re not into having a ton of stuff or don’t like how a lot of baby stuff looks! Below is my list of things that I used those first few months of mamahood – I made this list for my sister who will be bringing her baby home to a one bedroom apartment and then moving shortly after. She didn’t want a ton of stuff before she really needed it. There’s also a list of “nice to haves” below in case you’re wanting a little more. This does not include nursery items because I didn’t register for a lot of nursery things. Nursery items and “organization” forthcoming in another post 🙂

I recommend creating an official registry, even if you’re not having a traditional baby shower! People will want to buy you gifts, and it’s nice to have a spot to direct them so they’re staying on script, so to speak. Most registries have a completion discount, too, so when you get closer to your due date you’ll be able to buy any last minute needed items with a percentage off. I made registries on both Amazon and Baby List because there were a few things that were not available on Amazon at that time. 

My must list:

Safe place for baby to sleep: We felt most comfortable with the baby in our room in his own spot. We went with a bassinet, but some people opt for a pack and play, which would be a good two-in-one if you’re looking to not gather up too much stuff and have the space in your room. Don’t forget the sheets! They seem silly, but Baby will spit up/potty/poop on everything and it’s easier to clean a sheet than the little mattress pad.

Thank you for modeling the Snuggle Me, Harvey.

Baby lounger: somewhere safe to set the baby down when they will let you set them down. We LIVED on the couch those first couple months, so it was nice to have somewhere for the baby to lay while I would get myself adjusted, or try to eat or go to the bathroom. I went with the Snuggle Me Organic because my sister-in-law got me hooked on their Instagram. I like that it’s smaller than some of the other brands, and the cover was easy to wash when it got messy. Definitely check their Instagram for discount codes! Other friends love their Dock-a-Tots and Boppy loungers, too.  

Sound machine: we bought this one when I was pregnant to try to drown out the sounds of my husband sleeping (everything your partner does is made 100x worse when you’re pregnant and can’t sleep) and ended up buying a second one when baby moved to his own room. I’m a big believer in sound machines as a sleep aid, but more on that to come in an upcoming sleep post.

Night light: when you are nursing in the middle of the night 8 times a night, it is not fun to turn on a big, bright light. In my head this also helped establish a day/night rhythm for baby since it never got too bright after 9pm. We used a salt lamp that we already had and it was the perfect, calm glow in the middle of the night.  

Swaddles: Not everyone swaddles, but I was a follower of Taking Cara Babies and the 5 S’s and they both promote swaddling to help baby feel safe and womb-like and to prevent the Moro reflex from waking the baby up. I was a fan, and found that the Halo swaddle I got for free in the hospital was better than the ones I originally registered for. I recommend registering for a couple.

Literally all of the newborn sized clothing we have fits inside this 12×12 inch organizing cube!

Clothing: I was very lucky and got a good amount of newborn and 0-3 size clothing hand-me-down from a friend. Do you have any friends who are all done with their babies you can do this with? Can you buy used? Don’t collect too much, in my opinion. Elliot has lived in footie jammies for most of his life so far and it’s been fine. I ended up really liking Carter’s, Baby Gap, and Primary the most. I registered for some Burt’s Bees jammies but they were too snug to go on easily. Go with what feels good to your mama heart, but don’t stress too much. In newborn sizes, I’d recommend 7 jammies and an assortment of short/long sleeve onesies depending on the season. Maybe like, one pair of pants if you feel like being fancy. 

Blankets: Register for a couple if you find some too adorable to resist, but people love gifting blankets so you’ll receive some no matter what.

Haakaa: I ended up having an oversupply of milk and this thing was a life saver. Check out a future breastfeeding post for how I used mine!

Milk saving bags: helpful to have ahead of time, in my opinion, but also very easy to send your partner out to get if needed.

Diapers and wipes: I originally registered for Pampers Pure but didn’t get too many diapers ahead of time except for a sweet diaper cake from my coworkers. We received a few different brands of diapers and ended up liking Honest the best for Elliot’s long body. In my experience, they all operate the same if you’re changing frequently and sizing up earlier than you think you should. Go with what your budget prefers 🙂

Car seat/stroller combo: After reading a handful of reviews and “best of” lists over months, I opted for the Chicco KeyFit 360 car seat and stroller combo. It works, and I feel confident that my baby is as safe as possible. I waited to buy a “real” stroller to see what I actually wanted to use one for, so I liked getting this stroller that the car seat can clip into. It was a safe spot for baby when we went on slow postpartum walks, and it was a huge help for running errands when I wasn’t fully healed from my cesarean and shouldn’t be carrying the baby and car seat. Note: everyone I know likes their car seat and everyone has a different brand. Whatever you go with will be great.

Baby wearing wraps: I have a few! I registered for the K’Tan, and that one was very easy to use especially when he was a newborn. I wish I had bought up a size, because the size I received was a little tight on my postpartum body. I got the Solly as a gift and actually preferred that one, even though the wrapping was a little more complicated. The wraps are so great for fussy days, and a lot of moms I know wear their babies constantly! I also got the Ergo 360 which has been great now that Elliot is bigger, but not for everyone and definitely don’t need it the first few months.

Burp cloths: Register for way more than you think you need. Elliot was just shy of having reflux and spit up CONSTANTLY. We have several different brands and they all do the same thing 😉

Pacifiers: I went with the Soothie brand only because that’s what I had seen a fellow mama friend use with her babies. Elliot took a pacifier for awhile before opting for his thumb, so I recommend not registering for too many like I did. 

Baby bath items: I’m a Beautycounter consultant so I started with their baby line. I actually really liked it, and will buy more when I use up the other brands I received as gifts. My nonnegotiables are paraben, sulfates, and fragrance free. We started using baby lotion when we started giving Elliot baths more often. 

Nose Frida: the hype is warranted. Definitely recommend this gross looking contraption for helping baby with congestion. 

Thermometer: Ugh. Good luck. We have multiple thermometers but I don’t trust any of them. I feel like you need one, but if you find one you like please let me know!

Nipple cream: I received a couple organic versions of nipple cream but honestly plain old lanolin was the best for my very tender, very painful nipples. I bought a couple tubes and kept one at each of my nursing stations. It’s paraben/sulfate/fragrance free, but not vegan. 

Breast pads: I registered for reusable breast pads and also received disposable ones. I used both for different reasons. The reusable pads were more comfortable, but in the early months when I was very leaky, especially at night once baby started to sleep longer, disposable kept me dry so much better. Maybe register for reusable if you’re looking to cut down on your consumption, and know that it’s easy to buy the disposable if you need more.

Diaper bag: Just buy a backpack. Why people haven’t been using backpacks all this time is beyond me. Hands free, plenty of space. We received this one and I like it, but it could be any old backpack. 

My nice to have list:

Baby towel and washcloths: Totally not necessary because adult towels dry off babies just fine, but it was my first baby so give me the little hoods

Infant bath tub: Maybe you’re confident setting up your baby in the sink; I am jealous of you. This infant tub was helpful for me!

Car seat cover for cold weather: I *think* tucking a blanket around baby is okay? This won’t be necessary for everyone, but I ended up buying this car seat cover for cold weather. It’s not my favorite, but you get the idea.

Baby nail clippers: I didn’t originally register for these thinking the clippers I already owned would work. I received these clippers as a gift and it really made it easier for me.

Play mat: nice for the first couple months, but now that Elliot is rolling all around we haven’t been using it. If you find one you like, go for it, but a blanket works just as well. 

Bouncy seat: I used our bouncy seat a ton! This is where Elliot sat while I took a shower those first few months – he loved the white noise of the shower, the steam helped clear out any congestion, and I could keep an eye on him. If I were to do it again, I would treat myself to the ridiculously expensive Baby Bjorn one, or get the cheapest possible wire version. The one I have is bulky and harder to move from room to room.

Changing pad/station: I’m pretty sure my mom changed all five of her babies’ diapers on the floor, so if space is an issue this is definitely not a must. I went with this simple changing pad on top of the dresser, but I ended up needing one of the things that it nests in because it moved around too much (I got ours free from a friend). There are very beautiful, more expensive changing pads that probably stay in place better. I did not get covers for the changing pad which ended up being a good thing: it was one of Elliot’s favorite places to spit up, so changing a cover every time would have been hella annoying.

What I didn’t worry about until after baby:

Toys: I registered for a few so people would have an idea of what I liked, but newborns definitely don’t play with anything yet. Maybe some black and white images if you’re feeling fancy, but the ceiling fans and lamps in our house did the trick for the first eight weeks at least.

Clothes in larger sizes: Sizes and seasons really threw me off. Maybe this isn’t as big of a problem in areas without seasons, but I couldn’t wrap my head around how big the baby would be in what season. People gifted me larger sizes of some things and I continued to get hand-me-downs, but I prefer to buy clothes as I need them. 

Activity center: We ended up buying this one when Elliot was old enough to actually use it (about 5 months for him). He LOVES it, and it’s where he hangs out now when I need to do dishes or need to keep him contained.

Stroller: I didn’t originally research or register for a stroller because I wanted to wait and see what my stroller use would look like. After using the Chicco Fit stroller for the first few months, I learned that I needed a better quality walking stroller to handle walking quickly over sometimes uneven ground. A friend recommended the Baby Jogger City Select and I love it for fast walks with Baby and the dog. Theoretically, it can also adapt to be a two-seater once that’s needed.

High chair: We ended up getting one for free from a coworker and it’s working just fine. Definitely an item that used is totally okay for!


Hello! I’m Alex, a first time mom, school social worker, and wannabe birth and postpartum doula. I have been interested in all things baby, pregnancy, and motherhood long before actually starting this journey myself and LOVE talking about it. Here you’ll find my little space on the internet to post about my experience so far.

I think there are a couple modes of mamahood today: the give-me-all-the-blogs-and-research-I-will-consume-it-all mamas, and the wtf-this-is-overwhelming-someone-just-tell-me-what-to-do mamas. Maybe you’re one of these all the time, and maybe you go between them depending on the topic. Sometimes reading all the things is helpful, and sometimes it’s incredibly overwhelming. 

One of my favorite pieces of advice I’ve heard is to pick a couple of mamas that you trust, listen to what they have to say, and then do what feels best for you; don’t crowdsource the internet and every mother you know for all the information. Babies are raised in 7 billion different ways around the world, so the type of pacifier you pick isn’t that important (also goes for sleep training, feeding, toys, everything). So pick your people, then listen to your mama gut because it will help you make the best decision for you, your baby, and your family.

Here, I’ll share with you what I’m learning along the way. Some of it will resonate with you, some of it won’t. I’m so honored to walk with you as we figure this out together.

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