What a New Mom Should Know (But No One Tells Her)

This is a Maternity Monday post by guest blogger and photographer, Jess Levey.  Jess covers all thing baby almost every Monday on Beccarama.

week4ink'tan carrier_1Maternity Mondays is back with exciting news of our baby girl’s birth! Baby S was born on January 23, 2013 in Brooklyn, NY.  23 has been my favorite number my entire life, not just because my birthday falls on a 23 as well, but also because of its many auspicious meanings.  For example, there are 23 chromosomes in a human sperm or egg, the angle between the earth’s magnetic and rotational axis is 23, the number of flavors Dr. Pepper claims to be a blend of is 23, the number of distinct orientations of Tetris pieces is 23, and I could go on and on or you can just Google it instead.

I had secretly hoped that S would be born on 1-23, being that I am a bit into numerology, but that would mean she would be 11 days late so how could I ever hope for such a thing?! Well, I guess she heard me, if only her birth had been as easy as 1-2-3.  I don’t want to go into great lengths about my traumatic birth experience but in brief (if there is anyway to be brief about a 36 hour labor) everything that I had initially feared happened.  Well, that’s not fair to say since we have a beautiful healthy baby girl at the end of the horror story.  I just re-read a Maternity Monday post that I had written when I was 38 weeks pregnant about the unknown and letting go of control. In this post, I wrote,

“ I can practice my hypno-birthing meditations every night, do my squats, begrudgingly do perineal massages, walk and walk and walk, insert and ingest primrose oil, eat my greens and omega 3s, talk to baby, stay positive, drink my pregnancy tea, and visualize the ‘perfect’ birthing experience, but in the end, something major or minor can occur and I can end up with an emergency C-section, or maybe I won’t be able to breast feed, or maybe our baby will be jaundice for a few days. As much as we can try to prepare and control what is to come, I know deep down that placing too much attachment on this ideal labor is dangerous.”

Funny enough (but not HA HA funny) all three of these major and minor occurrences that I had mentioned happened to us, and now that we have gone through them (still dealing with the breast-feeding issue though) I am that much wiser about the ability to truly let go of expectations and move on without regrets.

Nobody tells you how difficult the first few weeks are, just like they don’t tell you that once you bring your baby home (and even in the hospital) you will cry at least twice an hour; that you may look back at the day your child was born as the worst day of your life due to the fact that you back labored for 36 hours followed by an emergency C-section; that the recovery from a C-section is almost as bad as labor itself and lasts for weeks; that you may not instantly bond with your baby mostly due to PTSD or Post-Partum anxiety/depression, or that breast-feeding can be frustrating beyond belief and that most babies, regardless of whether you had a C-section or not, need help latching on, that all nipples will get blisters, and maybe even blood blisters too, yuck. All anyone ever tells you is that you will be tired, but that’s the least of it!

Maybe we keep this all a secret to protect soon to be moms, but I am happy to tell everyone every minor and major detail if it means that they may be prepared just a little bit more for one of the most trying times in a woman’s life, or that they will ask for the help that they will need, even if it is just for someone to come over and bring them some food, or maybe even feed it to them while they feed their baby. The good news is that this difficult period passes rather quickly!  I am now entering week 5 and love each and every day with my new baby. She is already cooing and is more alert and attentive and I am pretty sure that her smiles are not just from gas anymore. Also, thanks to Tracy Hogg’s famous book, The Baby Whisperer we have her on a predictable feeding and sleeping schedule that helps us know her cues/cries so that we can give her what she wants immediately. This was not the case for the first couple of weeks when every time she was over-tired and screaming we figured it was gas and would give her gripe water or massage her tummy when really she just needed to be put down in her crib and shushed. The gripe water did seem to work though, I think mostly because fructose is a main ingredient, oh well; I will just add that to my list of “things I never thought I would give my child.” Speaking of, here is a helpful list for new moms that I wish I had been given when we first brought S home.

Things I could not live without during the first month (and after)

  • Kangaroo fleece sling for the cold winter days!
  • with kangarookorner fleece sling
  • Gripe water for gas
  • Ktan carrier
  • Medela hospital grade pump
  • Zip up footies (anyone who tells you to buy those damn gowns are wrong!)
  • week3withbrestfriend
  • Baby Whisperer book
  • Rectal thermometer (much easier to insert than I had thought_
  • Baby comfy nose nasal aspirator (seems kind of gross, but works very well)
  • Soothie pacifier (never too young!)
  • Baby poop, eat and sleep log
  • White Noise App (specifically “pouring rain”) 

Things I never thought I would use:

  • Formula
  • Pacifier
  • Baby poop, eat, and sleep log
  • Pharmacy bought gas reliever AKA gripe water- easy to make your own without fructose, but who has time?!
  • White Noise App

So Long, Due Date: 40 Weeks, 2 Days, and Still Counting…

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This is a Maternity Monday post by still-pregnant guest blogger and teaching artist, Jess Levey.

Yup, the time has come, and gone, for the final looooong stretch. Although my husband and I are both very punctual people, I have always been pretty sure that baby would be late.  My due date was January 12th – two days ago.  Children are known to test their parents’ patience on a routine basis, so what better time than now to put me to the test?! And, it really wouldn’t be all that bad if it wasn’t for that fact that it is flu season (and as we have been told the WORST ever on record) so going to crowded movies or museums or taking the subway is pretty much not an option. Although, I may go against doctor dad’s orders on this one if baby doesn’t arrive soon!

So, basically we quarantine ourselves at home, working as much as we can on our photography biz, taking long walks, watching way too much TV, cooking, eating, and making up silly songs that we sing to the baby asking it to come on out.   On top of all the waiting are the constant stream of phone calls, text messages, and emails from friends and family asking what’s going on. Just when I feel like I have successfully distracted myself from the looong wait, I get another text saying something like “I can’t believe you don’t have a baby yet.” Really?  YOU can’t believe it?! But, I shouldn’t complain, all these texts and calls are from a place of love, even if they do sound like a broken record.

My husband and I are working as hard as we can to get this labor started so we can welcome our new amazing baby. I’m taking primrose oil and blue cohosh, eating spicy food, going for long walks, getting acupuncture treatments, and of course that other task which is how we got to this finish line in the first place (and, which really is not has much fun as it was 9 months ago!). So, basically, our daily lives are being taken over by this curiosity and attempt to control biology. And, then there are these blissful moments when I feel normal, like this is just how my life is.

My body is bigger but I’m not in any terrible discomfort.

I get to have my shoes put on for me.

I get to eat chocolate every day.

I have an excuse to not do anything or go anywhere, including to work, and life is quite relaxing.

I like these moments, when I can forget, maybe work on a project rather than obsess about the unknown.

And, I’m pretty sure it is during this relaxed state that baby will most likely decide to make his/her debut.

Just like a watched pot never boils, I know that baby ain’t gonna arrive until I chill out. But then, the phone rings, or a text comes in, or an email arrives, saying “So??? What’s going on?  Any baby yet?” And, I am reminded, once again of my main goal in life right now – to wait, and it may just be the longest line ever!

Nesting for Baby – 2 weeks to go

This is a guest post by Jess Levey as part of Maternity Mondays.

We are now at 38 weeks, and as Braxton Hicks contractions (or ‘practice labor surges’ as we say in hypnobirthing) appear as quickly as they dissipate, the reality has definitely set in, that yes, we will soon be experiencing a life changing event, probably the most altering life event that we have yet encountered and may ever encounter. And, like any great adventure there is that amazing excitement and fear of the unknown that I have learned to embrace while trying as much as possible to control what’s to come, as futile an attempt that may be. We all do it- we try our hardest to control parts of our lives that we know are uncontrollable, and as much as I have prepared mentally and physically for labor, I know deep down that most of what will transpire is really out of my hands.

I can practice my hypnobirthing meditations every night, do my squats, begrudgingly do perineal massages, walk and walk and walk, insert and ingest primrose oil, eat my greens and omega 3s, talk to baby, stay positive, drink my pregnancy tea, and visualize the ‘perfect’ birthing experience, but in the end, something major or minor can occur and I can end up with an emergency C-section, or maybe I won’t be able to breast feed, or maybe our baby will be jaundice for a few days. As much as we can try to prepare and control what is to come, I know deep down that placing too much attachment on this ideal labor is dangerous.

That said, my husband and I have been greatly enjoying nesting and preparing as much as we can. If we can’t fully control the birthing experience, we may as well control what will happen when baby comes home. After my ridiculously fun baby shower a couple of weeks ago, we had to find room in our tiny one bedroom apartment for all the baby goodies- a task which has been quite an overwhelming challenge. The more stuff we get, the more anxious I seem to get. But, with subtle furniture re-arrangements I am hoping we can make it work. The most satisfying preparation we have done thus far is cooking home-made meals and freezing them so that we have yummy food to just heat up and enjoy during those sleepless first few weeks (or is it months?). So far we have made butternut squash soup, meatloaf, chili, lentil stew, sweet potato Quiche, broccoli Quiche, and currently my husband is cooking up a shepherd’s pie and some kugel.

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If there is one thing that Jewish people do when they are anxious, it’s eat, and in our case, it is cooking that has given us this wonderful sense of control and ease, and a feeling that we will be well taken care of when we bring baby home- not just by our close family and friends, but also by ourselves. My mother keeps telling me how much help we will need when the baby arrives. I keep trying to remind her that we are only having one baby (while my sister had the great challenge of two at the same time), that it’s not THAT hard, and that in case she forgot, my husband is actually a domestic maven who works from home, so there are two of us here supporting each other, doing the laundry, cooking, and cleaning together. While we are constantly in sync organizing and cooking and cleaning, I am reminded how lucky I am to be in this situation and it just boggles my mind how women have been doing this alone for so many years. Every time I go to do the dishes with my aching back, my husband looks over and says “you want me to finish that up?” And, as much as I want to continue to praise him for his ‘modern ways’ I also believe that this is really how it should be- we are in this together, preparing for what’s to come, even if I am the only one pushing through the pain.

And, with that, I wish you all a very HAPPY NEW YEAR full of adventurous unknowns…20121231-094739.jpg

 

Big City Moms Biggest Baby Shower – EVER!

This is a Maternity Monday post by guest blogger and teaching artist Jess Levey.  This series publishes almost every Monday on Beccarama.

Last week I had the great pleasure of attending The Big City Moms’ Biggest Baby Shower Ever at The Metropolitan Pavillion in NYC.  This was my first baby crazed event and I had mixed feelings about attending since I wasn’t sure I needed to be inspired to spend hundreds of dollars on lots of gadgets that I’m pretty sure our parents did just fine without.  But, it was actually quite exciting to see all the fun stuff out there for me and baby that may actually make life a bit easier when the time comes.

We have an incredibly small one bedroom apartment in Brooklyn, so I quickly dismissed any of the large items pretty quickly, including some of the monstrous strollers that I am pretty sure wouldn’t even fit through our front door (I’ve got my heart set on a purple city mini anyway).   I was also not so into some of the larger companies whose products I am pretty familiar with. Since I worked as a nanny for two years through Grad School I feel like I have already seen and used it all, but I was pleasantly surprised by some of the offerings of the small companies whose owners were the ones actually running their booth.

A friend of mine recently told me to buy lots of nightgowns for the baby rather than those snapping one pieces making it much easier at night to change them. I was looking around for some cute options at the show, when I saw Magnificent Baby’s  magnetic onesies and clothing.  They are amazingly adorable and since they are magnetic there is no snapping at all, with just a quick wave of your hand, boom, the baby’s jammies are open and ready for changing. It looked magical to me, and the owner of the company, Lauren, was friendly and really fun to talk to. We had a great conversation with another mom-to-be about our irrational fears concerning our growing baby. Hanging out at Magnificent Baby allowed me to relax a bit amongst the chaos of 100s of pregnant women who were frantically filling out raffles to win free baby stuff.

Speaking of free stuff, Big City Moms donated the press gift bags to Hurricane Sandy Relief efforts rather than give them to bloggers.  This was a really nice gesture, but made it hard for me to speak first hand about products in the bag. However, I did manage to win a Nuroo baby carrier – another of my favorite items at the show.

Daniela Jensen, the co-founder of Nuroo had spoken with me for a quite a bit about the awesome and very unique Nuroo which is basically a shirt that also functions as a baby carrier. The baby literally sits inside the shirt offering calming skin-to-skin contact.

 

It turns out that this skin to skin connection also helps milk production and postpartum depression, and it just seems like a great solution during those first few months when you’re hanging out at home and/or running out the door for a walk. You can just throw on your coat over you and baby much more easily than with a traditional carrier. I am very excited to try mine out! I was thinking it would also be helpful when doing dishes since you are hands free, but then I remembered that I am not doing any dishes!  That’s what family is for, isn’t it?

When time and place calls for a normal shirt, there is Milk Diary, makers of fashionable nursingwear, another of my favorite booths at the show. The line of tops and dresses are simple and elegant, and I am looking forward to trying them out after baby is born.

When I was at a new mommy’s house recently she was nursing so inconspicuously, as if the baby was suckling her shirt!  I couldn’t understand what was going on, and then she showed me the magic of the nursing shirt. Not sure how I never saw this before (then again, I was a nanny not a wet-nurse!). I always picture nursing as so cumbersome, all that yanking down, and those silly looking bibs to hide one of the most natural experiences on earth. But, now with chic looking nursing shirts, it all seems way easier, especially when out in public.

I also loved this brand Nhocchi who make the most beautiful puppets and creative character toys. Nhocchi’s toys look hand crafted and gorgeous, and most importantly, small. A very nice gift for the holidays (or for a baby shower) for the finicky mom-to-be like me, who likes things small and aesthetically pleasing, and preferably not plastic coated (hint, hint).

Of course, there were other well-known brands who were represented at the show who I just love like Skip Hop, Joovy, and Lansinoh (amazingly small breast pump!).

 

And, the food from Big Daddy’s was unhealthy and delicious, just what we pregnant women want while we brows on our feet for hours. Grilled Cheese, cheeseburgers, mac and cheese, my baby definitely got his/her dose of calcium that night which I rationalized by reminding myself that I need more calcium to help with my new painful Charlie horses that I seem to be getting in my legs at night, ouch.

So, in all it was a great evening, and I am happy to have not seen any very large items that I think I so desperately need. Everything I loved was itsy bitsy, just like our baby (although right now, he/she feels VERY large).

Unless noted all photos are from: Sarah Merians Photography

Anxiety and Motherhood – Can you separate the two?

This is a Maternity Monday post by guest blogger and arts educator Jess Levey.  This series appears almost every Monday on Beccarama.com

Yesterday we received an email from my mother in law in Israel who relayed an emotional story about my sister-in-law’s race from the playground to the bomb shelters while she struggled to carry both her children with sirens blaring above. I think one of the reasons that this image was so terrifying aside from the obvious, is that my sister-in-law is not exactly someone who you would call anxious or fearful. My husband’s siblings, like him, have an incredible way to brush away worry, knowing deep down that everything will always be just fine.  While traveling back from our honeymoon in Costa Rica in a tiny commuter plane while in a storm, I was sure we were done for, but my husband just assured me of our safety by merely telling me, “don’t worry, I’m not dying in a plane crash, I am sure that’s not the way I am going to go.” Somehow this made me feel better. And, when he went to Israel a few years ago during Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead” in Gaza, I decided not to join him, and instead sat at home worried (until I managed to get my ass to an ashram in the Bahamas to chill out).  He assured me, once again, that nothing will happen to him, that he is not going to go that way either. Now, all this confidence about his own mortality is one thing, but when you have a child, how do you find the tools to truly believe that they will always be as safe from harm as you. When my mother in law met my sister in law at the bomb shelter and asked her how she was, she replied that she had been scared. My mother in law explained to her that when they were constantly running for shelter during the first Gulf War when she was only 12 years old she was never scared, and she replied, “that was before I was a mom.”

That got me thinking (and crying!) about the relationship between motherhood and anxiety. For the past two weeks, as our baby grows extremely close to full term (it is now beginning it’s 33rd week), I have begun to experience a feeling that is all too familiar to me, fear. I have always been a worrier, the kind of child that never slept before the first day of school. But, through the years, I have been given tools to help ease this innate emotion, and now I have methods to detach myself from any irrational or convoluted nightmares that I imagine in my mind.   Over the last three weeks, however, beginning with Hurricane Sandy, new anxieties have risen up, all having to do with the health of our growing baby. There was the sore throat and chest cold after volunteering in the hard hit Rockaways that I was convinced was caused from post hurricane toxic air that would in turn affect the baby, then there was the hot bath that I took in order to allow for a relaxing, sleep filled night that only left me completely wound up and anxious that the water was too hot and I had cooked the baby, and then this past weekend I suffered an asthma attack during a child-birth class because I had forgotten to ask the teacher if she owned any cats (super allergic!) before settling down on a mat on the floor. Was I ever scared for my own well being during these physically trying experiences?  Of course not, the only thought I had was, “I just hurt the baby, and now it will be damaged forever.”  Of course, this is all a bit insane, especially considering how healthy baby and me have been throughout the pregnancy.  I am sure all this new anxiety has been exacerbated by my restless sleep, but, from what I have heard, I won’t be sleeping much for the next 18 years or so anyway (wait, then he/she gets a driver’s license!, so make that the next 30 years?), so I better just get used to it. If being anxious plays a big role in motherhood, I guess I will be a super mom! Especially, if we ever move to Israel (oh no, I better not say that here, my mom may be reading this!).

I always envisioned myself as a mom who watches with ease as her child climbs alone to the top of the monkey bars, or who can introduce led feeding at 6 months, or who is fine with my kid licking the city streets (germs are good immune boosters after all!). It is not these actions that actually scare me, it is the fear itself. I know that being a fearful mom will in turn affect my child. Just like being fearful during labor restricts oxygen to the uterus and tightens muscles causing more pain, being an anxious parent can be very hurtful to a child since they are so sensitive to their mother’s emotions.  I am sure I will try my best not to show my anxiety, and when all else fails, well, at least there’s dad.

 

Sardines and Entenmann’s: Why Some Cravings are Better Than Others

photo credit: bettybl flickr

This is a Maternity Monday post by guest blogger Jess Levey.  This series appears almost every Monday on Beccarama.

Well, it is official.  At 27 weeks people now know I am pregnant – thanks in part to my Facebook declaration as well as my now very obvious belly bump, or as I like to call it my belly mound.

Sometimes I forget that I am pregnant and then I catch a glimpse of my profile reflected in a store window and have a moment of internal freak out,” How could I let myself go like that?!” And then reality kicks me in the gut (literally.) Much like when you wake from a dream in which you were smoking cigarettes and eating an entire Entenmann’s chocolate cake only to wake up with extreme relief that it was all just your subconscious playing games with you, again.

The problem is that like many women I have spent much of my interior life struggling with my self worth merely based on this body profile that I catch in a reflection from time to time.

Last weekend while on a work trip/babymoon in Montauk, we came across Woody Allen’s film Melinda and Melinda. In one of the opening scenes Brooke Smith’s pregnant character explains to her friend that her husband says having sex with her is like having sex with the loser from weight watchers.  This happened to be a night when I was feeling much huger than usual, partly in thanks to one of those very wide hotel mirrors that hung across from our bed as well as the 4 Tates chocolate chip cookies that I eaten (never again, I promise!). I just sat there, wondering if my husband felt this way, but then I remembered that he is not a complete a-hole like the character’s husband in the film.  Just that afternoon, my husband had me modeling for him on the beach while he celebrated my new beautiful body with his talented photographer ways.  For the first time in my life I was sticking out my bulging belly with pride and love.

We are all very much aware of the extremes that some women will go to ensure that they stay sexy and desirable while pregnant, making sure to gain only the recommended maximum 20 pounds (or less) during pregnancy. I am not one of those women. I am thoroughly enjoying eating without counting calories. But, just as when I wasn’t pregnant, my goal needs to be about conscious behavior towards good health.

That said, there are foods that make me bloated and foods that make me way more tired than I normally am. The culprit, of course, is white bread and sugar. I couldn’t shake my exhausted-ness these past few weeks until it hit me, I had been eating way more bread than I normally do, mostly because it’s a quick snack, can be eaten with anything, and well, it’s what I crave.

But, today I decided to be more conscious of my eating, and it worked. I stuck to eggs and salad and just a couple of pieces of my sprouted grain bread, which I ate with sardines (luckily for my growing baby this is one of my favorite foods to eat), and I had more energy all day. I had a photo shoot in Staten Island in the morning followed my 5 straight hours of editing and I didn’t for one instant feel my usual exhaustion, which is shocking since it was a rainy gloomy day!  This is an amazing relief at a time when I was beginning to think that the next three months were going to be a brutal fight with extreme tiredness, aches, bloating, and all the other bad stuff people tell me comes with being pregnant.

Hopefully as I get closer to my due date, I will have more power over those undesirable pregnancy symptoms by making better choices on a daily basis.  I am relieved to find myself figuring out what works for me. Let’s just hope that all that bread I was eating won’t make my kid one of those super carb-cravers who demands buttered noodles for dinner while throwing the quinoa salad on the floor in a fury.

Pregnant in Flats (Because I’m working all the time!)

This is a Maternity Monday post by guest blogger Jess Levey.  This series appears almost every Monday on Beccarama.

I have been taking a break from Maternity Mondays since, well, I have been very busy starting a new teaching job, shooting and editing weddings, and working in my art studio – did I mention, that I lead three different ‘work’ lives?  All of this busy-ness has got me thinking: When did it become OK for pregnant women to take on as much when they are pregnant as they did pre-pregnancy?

As I begin my third trimester I have developed new aches and pains, walking up a flight of subway stairs or bending over to buckle my shoes has become increasingly difficult. The pressure in my pelvis and uterus (and well, entire abdomen really) seems to be cause for alarm, but from what I have read, this is all normal. I am so thankful for the Ingrid & Isabel BellaBand that I’ve been using to help support and lift my tummy.

I wasn’t sure if I’d need it when they sent it to me a few months ago since I couldn’t fathom my stomach being big enough to need something like this – but now it’s a life saver – giving me support and taking weight off my back, especially while teaching all day, and shooting all night!

Finding something to wear is a whole other issue, especially since I am now teaching in a religious school where I need to hide my bulging cleavage which seems to want to pop out of even the highest of necklines.

Most of the time when I am home, I sleep or I think about sleep. I have never been a morning person, but my sleep patterns have become as upside down as a newborn’s.  On Sunday, I slept till 11am!  Then went to brunch with my husband where I drank two cups of (half-decaf) coffee and a ridiculously too heavy eggs Benedict with chorizo, came home and slept for another 2 hours! Granted, I was resting up in preparation for a wedding I was off to shoot starting at 5:30 in the evening and ending at 11pm, but even after all that sleep, I still felt exhausted.

So, I guess it is true that the 2nd trimester is truly the honeymoon period, full of much more energy than I think I ever had pre-pregnancy.  And, just as quickly as our actual honeymoon in Costa Rica flew by, so did the 2nd trimester. I just can’t believe that I have 3 ½ more months to go until my due date, and my workload will just get more and more intense as winter approaches.

All of this need for rest but lack of time to do so, has got me questioning this pressure that pregnant women have succumbed to be as busy as possible before the birth of the baby, if not even more so. We are so terrified of the possibility of three months without work post-baby, that we do as much as we can beforehand to make up for the likely lost income, especially if we are freelance like most of my friends and colleagues.

I am not sure this is healthy for my baby or for my sanity.  I am constantly hearing stories from friends about how they worked up to the very last minute before giving birth. One friend just yesterday was saying how she was shooting a gig in midtown (a 45 minute commute by subway) on a Wednesday and she delivered on Friday. Another colleague told me that she was shooting a wedding two weeks before giving birth, and she had three herniated discs at the time and was on Percaset! An artist friend told me that the day before giving birth she was on the last step of a 12 foot ladder installing a project in her studio. The stories of ‘survival’ continue and when women tell these stories, it is with a sense of pride. Pregnant women have not avoided this NYC mom competition to be able to do it all, regardless of how far along in pregnancy they are .

At first I welcomed my busy-ness, finding it a nice distraction from the daily changes that my body was enduring. But, now as my body seems to want to rest more, I am beginning to want to relax, connect with my unborn baby, work on my new hypnobirthing homework (more on that later), and search for more baby-must-haves to add to my registry. But, no time for that!  Mommy needs to work, so she can afford that Made in England Co-Sleeper!