Misc · Travel

Friday Favorites: Beach Gear

beach gear favorites

In a bit over a month we’ll be headed down to the Outer Banks for our first beach trip as a new family! (That exclamation point can be interpreted two ways; excitement and petrification. Both of which I am experiencing.)

Originally it was supposed to be we three and my mom, stepdad and younger sister and brother but they decided that a shorter, closer beach trip worked better for them. Then we decided that the three of us would go alone but still get a beach house as opposed to a room at a hotel. (It literally costs the same!) However…the week we decided to book our house my stepdads’ brother and wife tossed out that they would love to go with us sans their kids (who were apparently very difficult on their first trip to the Outer Banks earlier this year) and we happily agreed. Kicker? We ended up renting the exact same house with them as we did with my mom last year. Funny how things work out. 🙂

We love to be on the beach for hours, but we don’t love all the heavy beach gear. I have always looked for ways to minimize effort and maximize comfort not only for hauling gear back and forth, but for hanging out at the beach all day. This is especially true now that we have a baby and plans for more kids in the near future.

When I shop for any kind of long term gear (not just beach gear) I make a list of what is important for what that item will mainly be used for. For the beach that list is as follows:

must be water AND sand proof
must be lightweight AND easy to carry
must be compact
must keep our beach space neat and organized
bonus if it is dual purpose

After HOURS of searching, we have ended up with quite a few products that we would highly recommend for your next beach trip.

1.  Tommy Bahama Beach Chairs
It’s a chair! It’s a backpack! It’s a cooler! It’s the best beach invention ever! No, seriously. It IS the best beach invention ever. Last year when it was just my husband and myself we didn’t even have to use a beach bag or cooler because all of our stuff fit inside the pouches. We were able to fit: sunscreen, a book (per backpack), our towels (more on that later), snacks such as granola bars, extra water and our lunches for the day which included a sandwich, a bottled soda, a personal bag of chips and a few more small snacky items. All of that on our backs with no need for a beach bag or cooler!

2. Tommy Bahama Beach Umbrella
Literally the only thing we had to carry to the beach and even then, it comes with a bag that has a strap. My favorite parts of this umbrella are that it is SUPER sturdy with wind vents so it won’t get caught up in a strong breeze and that it tilts, making it easy to reposition the umbrella without completely moving it.

3. Parachute Beach Blanket
This has to be the second best beach invention ever. Towels get covered in sand and they’re just not big enough and some beach mats can get extremely hot. This blanket does neither – it’s sand proof and water resistant and squishes up to the size of a wallet for easy transport. One year Jeremy did not get back from the bathroom fast enough as the tide was coming in and our blanket got completely soaked; we held it up for 5 minutes in the beach wind and it was completely dry!

4. Pole-R-Bear Umbrella Hooks
As dumb as a flexible ring of hooks sounds, it actually keeps your beach space so much neater. We use it to hang our towels, beach cover ups, hats and extra gear; it keeps them out of the way, out of the sand and dries them much faster than just being on the ground. Bonus: you can install it once and just close it up in your umbrella.

5. Microfiber Beach Towel
No, they’re not as warm and soft to wrap up in but they are 100% better than a traditional towel. They’re super compact (even the largest beach towel size takes up no more room than a large water bottle), lightweight and they dry so fast! They may not be the most cozy option but as far as space goes (especially if you have a large family) they give you the most bang for your buck.

6. Beach Tent
This may be overkill for some of you, but with the intentions of having a house full of kids, we figured it was our best option. We still love having our chairs and umbrella for the two of us, but kids need safe spaces to nap or chill or whatever. We are planning on purchasing this tent for our trip. With only one child as of right now, my plan is to use a portion of the tent to keep our extra stuff corralled and the other half as Elias’ space to lounge and nap.

7. Beach Baby Sling
We have an Ergo – one of our splurge baby items – and although it is one of my favorite baby items ever, it is NOT sand or waterproof. Not to mention, having baby pressed up against you with no ventilation gets hot as Satans’, well, you know. This baby sling is made up of mesh so it will allow us to be in the water, get rid of sand easier, get some air flow and, most importantly, keep the Ergo off the beach.

8. Mesh Beach Bag
Babies mean more stuff. The beach means sand. Sand + diaper bag = no bueno. Our diaper bag is by no means a super fancy, super expensive diaper bag, but it’s clean. As much as I don’t like extra stuff hanging around, the beach is one area I don’t mess around; I won’t risk our regular baby stuff getting covered in sand and ocean water because that is more hassle than just having an extra set of beach and pool gear.

Do you have any favorite beach gear I left out? Let me know!

new signature

SHOP THE POST

beach chair beach umbrella beach blanket pole r bear beach towel beach tent beach wrap beach bag

Fashion & Beauty

Espadrille Wedges

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAtee / jeans in mid roast / espadrille wedges / earrings

Sometimes you pick out exactly the perfect outfit on your first try. Other times, your entire closet ends up on the floor and you decide that simple is best.

I had one of those days and ended up opting for a simple tee and jeans outfit that I punched up a bit with a pair of espadrille wedges and ball earrings. Perfect for a summer cookout.

A quick note on the shoes – they run EXTREMELY large. I typically wear a 7 or 7.5 but I ended up buying these in a 6 with a decent amount of room still to spare.

To be quite honest, I feel pretty anxious about sharing an outfit that is pretty straight forward on exactly what my current body looks like. Yes, that’s right, this is what my seven week postpartum body looks like. Granted, it could be worse and I still fit into my pre pregnancy clothes (I wore them my entire pregnancy), but things are still working their way back to where and how they used to be and it does make me a bit uncomfortable.

People are constantly telling me how great I look and how quickly I’ve snapped back, but Mama knows the truth. Babies make you softer, inside and out. 🙂

new signature

SHOP THE POST

BLACK TEE MID ROAST espadrille wedges TRIPLE BALL EARRINGS

Travel

Beijing + Qingdao, China

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
the view from our Qingdao hotel – on the 34th floor!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
look familiar? I look almost exactly the same as I did on our trip to Ireland!

First off, I’d like to totally apologize for taking soooooo to get this up. We were in China back in late February – I was six months pregnant at the time and now we have a two month old. What?! Absolutely embarrassed.

China. Where do I even start?

We spent eight days in China – one of those was unplanned and extremely trying – split up between Beijing and Qingdao. Although I cannot honestly say I loved China, I can say that the parts I enjoyed were incredible. On the other hand, the parts that were not so fun were really difficult to deal with and left a lasting mark on my travel heart.

The Good.
No doubt about it, China is historically incredible and rich. This is one of the best parts of the country. The second best? Food. There was so much variety and so many opportunities to try new things and most of it was incredibly tasty.

The Bad.
I’m not sure if it’s a cultural thing or that we are just not used being around so many people, but most everyone just seemed so rude. We were constantly pointed at, stared at and taken pictures of without our permission and people seemed to have no concept of personal space – which is extremely unnerving when you have a pregnant belly to protect in the midst of literally millions of bodies.

We did catch a break here and there. An older gentleman on a bus decided he needed to practice his English on us and told us all about how he was studying “Latinese” – he also insisted that I sit down on the bus or my baby would be ugly 😯 – and a young man at the airport who gave up his bench so I could sleep there. But I’m also pretty sure he only did because I was pregnant, so, not sure that’s 100% polite, but we’ll give it to him. Haha.

The Ugly.
We had to endure our very first travel nightmare. I was going to add it into this blog post, but it was just too much to fit here; be on the lookout for that post coming up. (Hopefully it won’t take me another five months to get that one up. 🙂 )

Beijing

p2260843-e1525022305676.jpg
our room at the Bamboo Garden Hotel – we loved the traditional feel!

Bamboo Garden Hotel
This hotel was an interesting mix of a super cool atmosphere and a not so cool couple of bumps. The hotel was once the home of Sheng Xuanhuai, a Qing Dynasty official and is definitely what most Americans think of when they think of a traditional Chinese home. The courtyard was incredibly beautiful, although I’m sure it would have been more so in the summer.

The bumps we ran into were slightly frustrating and although my husband and I are not sure how common they are in China, my husbands’ brother was so upset by them that he said he would never stay there again. Our first night, reception told us they needed the equivalent of about $500 as a deposit for the rooms – my husbands’ brother was absolutely appalled because the deposit was more than we paid for two rooms for three nights. He got it back, but it was extremely excessive. The second thing that happened on the first night was that reception also made my husband and I open our luggage in the middle of the lobby to be metal detected and inspected. Needless to say, my brother in law was unhappy about that as well. In addition, the password to our wifi connection was our passport numbers and breakfast was not included; if you want it, it was buffet style, pretty good and 60 ¥ each.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Tiananmen Square

Tiananmen Square + the Forbidden City
Our first full day in China we attempted to see the Forbidden City. We made it as far as Tiananmen Square. Unknown to us and my husbands’ brother, you have to have your passport (or a copy of it) in order to purchase a ticket to enter the city. Oops. In hindsight, we really should have had our passports on us at all times regardless, but it was our first day, we were jet lagged and really not even thinking about it.

Tiananmen Square itself is literally a big open square in the center of Beijing. If you don’t like being around tons of people, you won’t enjoy it. Matter of fact, if you don’t like being around tons of people, you mostly likely won’t enjoy most of China.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Temple of Heaven

Temple of Heaven
Apparently, the Forbidden City is the only major attraction that requires a passport for entry. Don’t quote me on that and definitely keep your passport or a copy of it on you in case, but that’s how it seemed and it really didn’t make any sense as to why. We were, however, able to enter the Temple of Heaven without even a mention of passports so that perked us up a bit.

The buildings and the gardens are beautiful; the stairs, the construction, all the attention to detail is just incredible. That being said, each building only had a small sign in English and Chinese explaining the history and what it was used for. I felt that there really could’ve been more information and it could have been presented differently for a better experience, but that’s what we got, so that’s what we worked with.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Summer Palace

Summer Palace
Other than the Great Wall, this was our favorite part of Beijing. First of all, the palace is MASSIVE. You definitely want comfortable walking shoes; although we did see multiple Chinese women in four inch heels trekking up the uneven stairs that were literally cut from the side of the hill, I cannot honestly recommend that.

The palace is compromised of a network of temples and buildings dedicated to lounging or dressing as well as a multitude of buildings we could not really figure out; there was even an island in the middle of a lake that was part of the palace. Just massive. As with the Temple of Heaven, the attention to detail on the palace grounds was just incredible – every inch of space was painted or decorated and the grounds were groomed impeccably. I’m sure it would have been even more beautiful if we had visited in the summer when the grounds would’ve been lush.

The history of the palace was displayed on the same type of signs as at the Temple of Heaven, so again I felt that I would’ve gotten more out of it if the information had been more extensive and presented better, but still a really enjoyable stop.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Great Wall

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
baby was a trooper! 🙂

Great Wall of China
Or as Karl Pilkington calls it, the OK Wall. 🙂 (If you’ve never watched An Idiot Abroad, I highly recommend it.)

Honestly, it is a great wall. I mean, it’s one of the seven wonders; there’s a reason it’s on that list. I believe the portion of the wall we were on was rebuilt, but it was still an amazing experience. We hiked the Mutianyu portion of the wall, from tower 14 to tower 20. We would have really loved to have seen a ruined portion of the wall beyond tower 20, but our tour only included three hours of wall time and we were exhausted by the time we got to the top of tower 20.

I did get a lot of stares, of which I’m absolutely sure all of them were because women who are six months pregnant do not typically hike the Great Wall of China. And if they do, they do not literally crawl up the final set of what I can only describe as the stairs of death. In case you’re wondering, stairs of death are super steep stairs where each step is uneven to the next and has a maximum depth of maybe seven inches. Not people friendly and definitely not pregnant friendly.

The day we went to the Great Wall, the pollution was sort of bad so we didn’t have a great view from the top of tower 20, but we could get a sense of the immensity of the area. Tips: go on a weekday so there are less people, try to go on a low pollution day and definitely pay to take the cable car to the top – your time is better spent on the wall than trying to hike up to it.

Word of advice. Do not eat at the Great Wall. Literally the WORST Chinese food I have ever had in my life.

Mr. Shi’s Dumplings
Most of our meals in China were eaten in random restaurants we just happened to run into while out and about. But while we were in Beijing we did seek out this pretty famous little dumpling spot. When I say little, I mean there were literally five tables, seating four people each. The menu, however, is not so little. There were pages and pages of dumplings, probably close to 200 options including vegetarian, pork, cheese and even dessert varieties with the choice of boiled or fried. And that’s just dumplings; there were several more pages of other dishes. If you dig dumplings, this is your spot.

Qingdao

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
our room at the Farglory – had to include a picture of our incredible bathroom!

Farglory Residence Hotel
This has got to be one of the nicest hotels I have ever stayed in. The rooms are huge, the bathroom was insane, the bed was super comfy and the hotels’ cafe had some really great coffee. The view from our room was incredible on low pollution days; we could even see part of the beach in our city view room. One huge plus of this hotel is that it’s extremely easy to see while wandering around the immediate area so you really can’t get too lost. The hotel is within walking distance of May Fourth Square, the biggest mall in Qingdao and a bunch of convenience stores and restaurants including a French bakery, a nice western style restaurant and a McDonald’s – when the homesickness hits, you’ll thank me. 🙂

Not too many complaints here. The staff knew a decent amount of English and were very polite and helpful, although they were not proficient enough to help us make an international call to our bank when our debit card got locked. (Luckily we were able to use WeChat to contact my husbands’ mother to help us get it sorted out.) The only other complaint I have is the wifi was extremely unreliable in our room, maybe it was because we were on the 35th floor, but we ended up having to go to the lobby most times we needed it.

IMG_1257.jpg
two story arcade at the mall!

MIXC Shopping Mall
One mall to rule them all. This mall is like eight or so levels – the first four all being designer shops, the top floor is nothing but restaurants and has access to an outdoor park on top of the mall, an entire floor dedicated to kids items and a play zone and the rest of the floors are a mash of department stores, restaurants, a supermarket, an ice rink, a movie theater and an arcade. Spoiler alert: we spent most of our time at the arcade. 🙂

IMG_1252
vendors at cultural street – so much better than the mall!

Cultural Street
As huge as the mall was, it left us wanting; we were on the lookout for one of a kind souvenirs and the mall offered little more than clothing and dining options. Luckily, my husbands’ brother knew of a spot we could get our hands on some much better souvenirs and even try our hand at the haggling we had heard so much about. Although I can’t say we were the best at haggling – and of the three of us, I was probably the one who tried the most 🙂 – we did come home with some treasures for ourselves and family members. As far as where exactly this is or how to get there – there’s not really an easy explanation – your best bet is to find an English speaking local to help you get there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
not part of the bathing beach, but along the coast as we were walking toward it

Bathing Beach No. 1
Definitely not the time of year for swimming – although we did see some locals taking a dip – so I can’t say anything as to that part, but we did stroll along the boardwalk that goes past a couple beaches in the area. It is definitely the most peaceful part of the city and was a welcome relief to be away from the crowds. We were even able to see a couple brides and their grooms taking photos on the rocky parts of the beaches – apparently it’s a very common practice for a lot of couples to have their wedding photos done on the Qingdao beaches.

P2270944.jpg
St. Michael’s Catholic Church

St. Michael’s Catholic Church
After just coming back from Ireland less than five months ago, this church felt a little plain. However, considering where it’s located and the fact that it was built by the Germans, it does stand out among all the Asian buildings and offers a unique contrast. Again, we were able to see a bunch of couples taking their wedding photos on the grounds.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
May Fourth Square – our hotel is the tallest building in the background!

May Fourth Square
Our hotel was literally a street or two over from the square so that’s where we ended up when we needed to kill some time. The square itself was a little lackluster to me (just a big open space with a sculpture), but there is a cute boardwalk with some touristy beach shops connected to it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
view from the top of the pagoda at Little Fish Hill Park

XiaoYuShan (Little Fish Hill) Park
Although I wouldn’t call it a “park”, it is a cute little pagoda with a fantastic view of the city and beach. For 15 ¥, it’s worth a short stop if you’re already in the area.

IMG_1244
Bara pastries – homesickness be gone! 😀

Bara
We were a little skeptical about trying this French bakery because we were told that bakeries in China were a little weird and that the French bakery may not actually be French. However, we took a little chance and were so relieved to walk in to a “hello” instead of a “ni hao”. The people who own and run the shop are actually French, which was made to sound rather rare in that it is difficult for foreigners to open a business in China. Regardless, the food and drinks were fantastic; so much so, that we ate here two days in a row and picked up a bag of day old pastries for a measly 15 ¥ (or about $2.50) for the third day. If you’re looking for a special indulgence in China, order the Nutella crepe. Holy. Crepe. 🙂

IMG_1241.jpg
burgers at The Diner

The Diner
The Diner is a western style restaurant that serves dishes like burgers, salads and pastas. We both got burgers – I got a classic and my husband ordered a mexican – and although my husband really loved his, mine was just alright. My best guess is that the burger was advertised as made with lean beef. It’s called 80/20 people, listen to Alton Brown and don’t make a burger with anything else. 🙂

The Wood Room
As with most of the places we ate, we pretty much followed my husbands’ brother around, not really knowing the name or the area we were eating in. This was a Korean Barbecue place and one of our favorite of the entire trip. The meat is brought to your table and you can either cook it yourself or have the staff cook it right there. Super fast, super simple and super tasty. Again, the only tidbit of information I have about this restaurant is the English name. I’ll have to take notes next time we’re in this situation.

So there you have it. I’m sure I didn’t cover even half of all the amazing things to do and eat in Beijing and Qingdao, but we were two (and a half!) people in a very large country. Honestly, I’m 100% sure I didn’t even cover all the things we did or ate; I’m also 100% sure I couldn’t because there was just so much we packed into every day and quite honestly, culture shock kind of, well, shocks the memory right out of you. 🙂

All in all, it was a great experience and I’ll leave you with three pieces of China advice: 1) find an English speaking local and kidnap them for the duration of your trip 2) be prepared to wing it 3) no matter what happens, enjoy it.

Fourth piece of advice: buy a SheWee. Probably would have saved me a lot of anxiety in the long run. Even if you’re not pregnant, do yourself a solid and venture forth prepared.

new signature

Fashion & Beauty

Happy 4th!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAnavy stripe dress / wine red heels / studs / sunglasses similar here
elias’ jumper / bib

It’s been a month since my last post. A whole month. Minus two days.

So much has happened, so here’s a quick update. Our little man turns exactly seven weeks today. (What?!) We took our first family trip to Canaan Valley in West Virginia two weeks ago. (Can we just talk about the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum?) Patronus is regrowing the portions of his fins that he lost to fin rot. (Literally thought he was going to die.) And we are settling in to our new lives as Mommy and Daddy. 🙂

This outfit has literally not a single stitch of black in it. I’m a good sport and show some spirit around the holidays. As my husband says, no one likes holidays as much as me. Bonus: this year I have a little man to dress up as well! 🙂 This outfit is 100% new mom approved – it’s flattering, budget friendly and super comfy.

I spent the morning having a yard sale, we spent the afternoon at a family cookout and are planning to see some fireworks later tonight if the weather holds out. What are your plans?

Have a fun and safe 4th!

new signature

SHOP THE POST

NAVY STRIPE DRESS RED HEELS heart sunglasses red studs4th jumper 4th bib

DIY · Home

DIY Patriotic Plates (Under $1 Each!)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I have a problem. If I had to diagnose it, I’d call it I-can-never-find-premade-holiday-decorations-that-are-not-tacky-so-I-HAVE-to-make-them-osis. I think most everyone else would just call that OCD.

That diagnosis is also only 80% true – 10% of my decorations are brand new, store bought items that I run myself ragged trying to find and the other 10% are thrifted pieces that every time I buy I can hear my husband as a little voice in my head saying, “don’t we have enough Christmas decorations?” No, sweetheart, and we never will. 🙂

Independence Day happens to be one of those holidays were literally every store bought decoration is just caked with glitter. (No, Smash Mouth, all that glitters is NOT gold.) I do have a handful of 4th of July decorations that I’ve picked up after HOURS of slaving over a hot PC, using my horrible Google-fu to come up with 100 different versions of “patriotic decor” and Hobby Lobby has a decent selection of things I would consider to be my style but my house is still lacking the usual amount of holiday spirit.

One of my absolute favorite things to decorate is the hutch at the head of our huge, nine foot farmhouse table. It lets me keep decor on the table simple because I want lots of room for food on my table! For each holiday, I have three corresponding centerpiece plates that get switched out – and the majority of those, I DIYed using the same technique I used for my 4th of July plates.

Why not just buy plates? Because I’m picky and not just any plate will work; when I find something that I fall in love with, I can’t go back and just settle for something else. What did my countless hours of Googling “patriotic decor” find me? The most amazingly perfect plates for my 4th of July hutch…with the most ridiculous price tag. I immediately fell in love with the Stars & Stripes dinner plates by Polish Pottery – but at $34.50 each, um, no. So I took the inspiration from the plates I fell in love with and made my own version for under $1 each!

Enjoy!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

items needed:
white dinner plates (I use the $0.88 Mainstays dinner plates found at Walmart)
red and blue Sharpies (I used the dark blue)
circle templates in 7.25″, 6.5″, 5.5″, 4.5″, 3.5″, 2.5″ and 1.5″
star template found here (I printed mine in wallet size)
rubbing alcohol
cotton balls/swabs

instructions:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStarting with the 7.25″ circle, trace all your circle templates in order from largest to smallest, taking care to center each template. Use the blue Sharpie for the 7.25″ circle and the red for all the remaining circles.

Color in your center circles using the red Sharpie. You’ll want to color in the sections between circles 6.5″ and 5.5″, 4.5″ and 3.5″ and 2.5″ and 1.5″. (See photo above.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Using the blue Sharpie, trace as many stars as you’d like around the outer edge of your plate. I just eyeballed the space between mine and ended up with 12 stars total. Color in the outer edge. For me, I could not get my blue Sharpie to go on smoothly, so if you look closely, you can see streaks through the blue – but when they’re in the hutch, you can’t even tell.

If you have any stray marks from your Sharpies, less than perfect lines or you totally screwed up a portion of your plate, fear not! Wet a cotton ball or swab with a little rubbing alcohol and easily wipe away any unwanted Sharpie and start over.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As a last optional step, I retraced all the lines of each star without the template. This gives the stars a nice, sharp edge. I highly recommend taking the extra time to do this step because 1) the lines are REALLY hard to get perfect between tracing, coloring in the border and then using rubbing alcohol to clean up and 2) it will be almost impossible (and extremely time consuming) to try and use a cotton swab to make those lines super crisp.

I like to wait 24 hours before baking my plates to let the ink really dry. (The range seems to vary from tutorial to tutorial, so if you’re concerned you can let the plates dry up to 72 hours.) After the drying time, place your plates in an unheated oven and set it to 350 F. Bake your plates for 30 minutes (again, the time varies here in different tutorials up to an hour), shut off the heat and let your plates cool in the oven. At this point, the design on your plates should be permanent and will withstand handwashing. Personally, I have NEVER washed my plates because they are purely decorative, so I can’t tell you my experience with washing.

Like I said, I have different versions of Sharpie plates for almost every holiday; they add such a nice touch and people always comment on them. For under $1 each, you really can’t go wrong!

new signature

SHOP THE POST

polish pottery red stripe mason jar    star runner  sharpies

Pregnancy

Elias’ Birth Story

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s still hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that I delivered our first child over a week ago. I wake up on my belly and find it strange that it’s no longer uncomfortable and I don’t feel tiny feet poking my ribs – then I roll over and see the most perfect little face fast asleep in his bassinet and can’t help but smile. 🙂

Pregnancy Recap
Backtrack to my last pregnancy update and you’ll see that we were scheduled to be induced a week before my due date because the doctors were concerned that the baby wasn’t growing properly and that my placenta may have been failing. At our 36 week ultrasound they estimated his weight to be 5 lbs 12 oz – not small enough to be in the danger zone, but he had fallen from the 50th percentile for weight at his gestational age at 26 weeks to the 19th percentile at 36 weeks.

My induction was scheduled for 39 weeks and we had to see the doctor twice a week for non stress tests, additional ultrasounds and my personal favorite, blood work. 😦 Every test came back beautifully except my blood pressure, which up until 36 weeks had been perfect. I was now considered borderline high and was under additional watch for pre eclampsia.

Induction Day
Fast forward to induction day and I dutifully woke up at 5:50 AM to call the hospital to confirm our arrival time that my OB had written on my induction appointment instructions – 7:30 AM. The nurse put me on hold and then told me that the hospital had me scheduled for 7:30 PM and was I sure my paperwork said AM. Yes, I was sitting right there looking at it as I had for the past two weeks every time I opened my fridge.

She then informed me that they had two other inductions scheduled for the morning and that if they didn’t, she would tell me to go ahead and come in since that’s what our paperwork said. However…since they DID have two others scheduled in their system that I had to wait until 6 PM to call back and confirm that I could still come in at 7:30 PM for the induction time they had me scheduled for. Considering my OB had me down to be induced by Cervidil and that Cervidil doesn’t usually send women into full blown labor on its’ own, I was now looking at an overnight stay in the hospital before my cervix would even be ripe enough to start Pitocin. Add in the fact that I set my alarm for 5:50 AM and there was no way I was relaxed enough now to go back to sleep, I was dreading this induction and preparing myself to be awake for anywhere from 24 – 48 hours depending on how the induction went. No bueno.

After calling my mom to let her know about the mix up, I ended up waking my husband because I just really didn’t know what else to do. We went back and forth about calling the hospital again to make absolutely sure the nurse didn’t hear my name incorrectly or give me the wrong information and should we call the OB when they opened to ease our minds. All in all, we decided to just wait – mainly me reassuring us both that if the nurse at the hospital gave me the wrong information that we would eventually get a call from the hospital asking where the hell we were.

No such call came and we spent the day keeping the house tidy and running some light errands.

Show Time
As the afternoon rolled around, my husband and I kicked up our feet to relax for the last couple of hours we had as just us. We cuddled up on the couch and turned on Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. (Ironically, my sister texted me during this time and asked how I was doing. I told her I was doing fine and the last thing she said to me was “poop now or forever hold your shame”.) I believe we got through an entire episode and maybe half through a second when – at around 4pm – I felt a “pop” in my lower abdomen.

“Did you feel that?”
“No.”
“I think my water just broke.”

I started to feel a small warmth, almost like I was beginning to pee myself, and I hurried off the couch and into the bathroom. Five seconds later, a small trickle of fluid came, followed quickly by my husband. I wiped.

“Well, that’s an odd color.”

I guess it’s all he could think of to say. But, yes, the fluid had small green chunks and I quickly became panicked, knowing with 100% certainty that my water had just broke and that the green I was seeing meant that the baby had pooped and could signal that our baby was in distress. I had Jeremy get our induction paper and I called labor and delivery right there on the toilet, shaking, leaking and knowing full well that my husband had no idea what that “odd color” meant.

“I’m scheduled for an induction at 7:30 PM, but I’ve just had event and I don’t know who else to call. I’m pretty sure my water just broke and it is definitely green.”
“The baby pooped, which means it may be in distress. Go ahead and come in. I’ll let them know you’re on your way. Don’t speed.”

As calmly as I possibly could, I stayed right where I was, shouting instructions to my husband from the toilet. Once we were pretty sure we had everything in the car, I put on a pad and waddled my way into the car. The hospital is a 25 to 30 minute drive from us and I was diligently tracking my contractions all the way there – 30ish seconds every 3 to 5 minutes.

At the Hospital
As we pulled into the parking lot, my husband was trying to find a spot as close as possible and it was all I could do to not yell as I told him to just park. He grabbed the few things we needed immediately and as I stood up, I could feel amniotic fluid start leaking down my legs – go figure I was in lounge shorts that day. I ordered my husband to let me have the shirt he packed for himself so I could make it up to the third floor without leaking everywhere. As unhappy as he was, I bundled up his shirt and held it between my legs as I waddled as fast as I could.

We were admitted to our room around 5 PM, where I changed into my labor gown and pleaded with the nurse to please get the IV in place the first try. I jinxed that because my vein kept rolling and after five or so minutes of digging and a cold washcloth around my neck, she gave up and called in a second nurse. That second nurse’s name just happened to be Glenda.

“Are you Glenda the good witch? Since the other nurse was the bad witch.”

She seemed slightly confused at first and then got my stupid joke. But she was obviously Glenda the good witch because she did get my IV in place without too much struggle – and by that I mean she bound my arm up tighter than a nun’s _______ and proceeded to check this vein and that vein and let me sit there with two hot packs on my arm trying to get a vein to show up.

The doctor came in to check my progress right after and at a little after 5 PM, I was 2 cm and 80% effaced. (The day before going into labor I had been 1 cm and 50% effaced.) She then informed me that I was going to be receiving a neonatal catheter – of which, all I heard was “catheter” and began to panic again. I soon found out that a neonatal catheter is essentially an internal shower – it doesn’t hurt when its’ inserted and it just pumps saline fluid into the amniotic fluid to help clean out the meconium. However, it created so much extra fluid coming out of my body that every time I would change positions during contractions I would leak out through the huge diaper they had me in. Once or twice, I even left puddles on the floor as I got out of the rocking chair.

After I was all hooked up to every tube they could stick in me and every monitor strapped to my belly, we settled in for the long haul. Luckily, the baby’s heart rate was strong and regular and was tolerating labor very well. Apparently, he just needed to go.

Intermission
At this point, let me just say, if you are a first time mom and you are worried about your modesty and dignity during labor delivery… Just. Stop. People told me the same thing. When the baby’s coming you don’t care if it’s a man or a woman who delivers it, you won’t care if you’re naked, you won’t care if you poop on the table, blah, blah, blah. IT IS ALL 100% TRUE. 

Labor & Delivery
Here’s a recap of the timeline: my water broke at 4 PM, I was 2 cm dilated and 80% effaced at a little after 5 PM with contractions coming every 60 to 90 seconds last for a minute or more.

Sometime around 6 PM, a new nurse came on shift – an extremely chatty nurse. She asked when I last ate and what was it. A double chocolate chip cookie at 3 PM. She looked at me with the most pathetic look and said, “oh sweetie, you should’ve eaten something on the way in”. Then followed it up with this little speech:

“You can have Jello, Popsicles, juice, coffee with no milk, soda and water. As many as you want. I’ll go get you something if you want. You’re a first time mom, so you’ll be in labor for awhile – typically 12 to 18 hours. We would consider it great progress if you dilated at about one centimeter an hour. We’re looking at a breakfast baby.”

My reaction? You. Are. Shitting. Me. I have already been up for 12 hours and I’m going to have contractions every minute for the next 10 to 16 hours and push this baby out, all on a practically empty stomach? Give me the Jello.

After enjoying a little cup of Jello – I didn’t even get to pick my flavor – and a couple sips of ginger ale, the time between my contractions began to lengthen out to every 5 to 6 minutes. The nurse monitored them for roughly a half hour, started me on a little Pitocin to help my contractions along and checked my cervix again. At 9:30 PM, I was 3 cm and 85% effaced and starting to lose hope that I would have a fast labor. I was then told that the Pitocin would take 30 minutes to 2 hours to take effect and to try and sleep while I could.

Pitocin’s response? **** you.

Within 15 minutes, my contractions picked up again and I could barely rock my way through them. At this point, I asked my new nurse – I swear I saw every nurse that worked on the ward – was there anything, besides an epidural, that could just take the edge off my contractions and she gave me a half dose of Fentanyl.

Back  to the contractions. Every time one would start, Jeremy would ask if I was okay. It’s just a contraction. It’s just a contraction. It’s just a contraction. I finally told him that I was fine and whatever I did – from rocking back and forth or leaning my head back or doing a cartwheel – it was me trying to work through a contraction. And with that he did what any normal man would do when he legitimately cannot help: fell asleep.

Disclosure: Jeremy did as much as he possibly could for me while I was in labor. From helping me to the bathroom, getting in and out of diapers, keeping me company and even being sport enough to try to rock with me through a contraction while on my feet, leaning on him. But at a certain point, there is just nothing anyone can do for you – labor is a one woman show.

I guesstimate he was out for about 20 minutes – it was now about 12:40 AM – and I was back in the bed, working through another contraction when it felt like a rock dropped into my pelvis. As another contraction was cresting, I instinctively knew and simultaneously whacked that call button for a nurse and managed to loudly say, “Jeremy!”. I have literally never seen my husband move so fast in my life – he sprung right up off that couch and was at my side before the contraction subsided and in the midst of that wave I told him I needed to push and I needed a nurse NOW.

He disappeared for a minute and another contraction had me thinking “don’t push yet”. In the middle of that contraction he returned without anyone, said there was no one out there and all I could think was “Jeremy is going to deliver this baby”. I insisted one more time that I NEEDED a nurse NOW and he frantically went back into the hallway. (He later told me that he could hear two or three other women actively pushing and there was one nurse walking down the hall, he just pointed at her and she said “do you need help?” He told her I needed to push and she followed him into our room.)

She checked me – it was so quick compared to the others that I feel the baby must have been super close to just coming out on its’ own – and said “yep, it’s time to push”.

“Oh, shit.”

I sort of remember saying it, but when people ask about my labor and we get to this part, my husband jumps at the opportunity to tell everyone exactly how much I cussed. I apparently also dropped some F-bombs during pushing. Mama’s got a mouth.

The nurse hurried back out the door for the doctor and I think at this point Jeremy started to panic, knowing the baby was crowning and he was again alone in the room with his wife who desperately wanted to push. Before the next contraction, I was flipped over on my back, surrounded by three or so nurses, with a spotlight right where no spotlight should ever shine and being told to just go ahead and push with the next contraction. I was offered a mirror, which I refused and Jeremy was offered my other leg, which he also refused. LOL. (He gets queasy and I wasn’t going to – excuse the pun – push it because I didn’t want him to potentially pass out during the delivery of our first child. Subsequent children, eh, we’ll see. 🙂 )

What I was not prepared for was how different contractions feel during pushing. (The only way I can describe contractions is like waves of the most intense menstrual cramps ever over and over and over.) From the moment I felt him crowning, the feeling of the worst menstrual cramps ever completely stopped and I just felt tightening in my abdomen, an intense pressure in my pelvis and the overwhelming need to push – other than feeling things stretch to accommodate our baby, I was no longer in pain. I was legitimately blown away by that.

About three contractions later, being told to stop pushing on contraction two so I didn’t tear and, my worst fear coming true, pooping, Elias was born at 12:55 AM. Of course, we didn’t know right then it was a baby boy – the doctor held him up and said “Dad, what is it?”. Jeremy proudly responded, “a boy!”. They put him on my chest and did all his newborn shots and tests right there.

After he had his skin to skin time with me, the nurses did his footprints and weighed him. Our little guy weighed 5 lbs 10.5 oz – almost 2 ounces less than what they estimated his weight to be three weeks earlier. At 18 inches, all the nurses were commenting about how long he was and how he’ll grow up to be a piano player because of his long fingers.

At this point, I don’t really remember a whole lot in detail because there was just SO much going on. I do remember the nurse hunting me down a turkey wrap meal because I was starving – I only finished 3/4 of the wrap and left my chips and fruit cup because I just wanted to hold my little man. It didn’t even occur to me later that I should’ve taken my food with me into my postpartum room. (That’s what hormones do, people.) But I do remember Jeremy holding him for the first time, how little our boy looked in his daddy’s big arms and how happy Jeremy looked being able to finally hold his child.

Recovery
Jeremy called my mom, my dad and his mom and I texted my sister while we were still in the delivery room, letting them know that our baby had been born. Everyone asked if we had had a boy or a girl, but we kept them waiting until they actually arrived at the hospital so we could catch their reactions on video. Needless to say, they were all a little frustrated that we STILL weren’t telling. 🙂

As we left the delivery room, I proudly held our brand new baby as they wheeled me past all the other laboring women toward our recovery room – our victory lap around the maternity ward. Once we settled in, our once again new nurses told me how well everyone said I did and that because my first labor was so fast that next baby I had better be getting to the hospital because otherwise we’d be delivering it at home or en route. Jeremy was terrified of hearing that but I just took it in stride, completely confident that we could absolutely handle that. Now, when’s breakfast?

I was super exhausted, but all I wanted was to keep holding the little person I had waited so long to finally hold. So I did. Only giving him up for brief periods for vital checks and for family members to hold him, I held him through the majority of the morning and well into the afternoon, staring into his little face and telling him over and over that I would always protect him, always love him and always be with him. Always.

Conclusion
To sum it up, my labor lasted a total of just under 9 hours, shocking everyone at just how fast I progressed. Remember, I was 3cm at 9:30 and was told that “great progress” would be 1cm an hour – I did 7cm in three hours. With one half dose of Fentanyl and no epidural, I delivered Elias in about four contractions, with no tearing, minimal swelling and no insane screaming. Yes, I did drop the F-bomb, but I used my inside voice and I even had the energy during the pushing phase to tell Jeremy that I didn’t even care that I pooped. For me, labor was not anything like the horror they show in the movies. I felt so empowered by not needing an epidural and even looking at my soft postpartum body now , I feel so confident and proud of what my body did that I’m not even upset that it’ll take me a bit to get back to where I was. I am a mom – hear me roar. 😀

And, yes, although during active labor (not the pushing phase) I doubted that I could ever do it again, I will absolutely do it again.

Shiggles
While in our recovery room, I asked Jeremy how he felt during the pushing phase. Did he get queasy? Did he actually look? Here was his response:

“I accidentally looked out the corner of my eye and saw just his head starting to come out and immediately looked away. The next time I peeked it was half a body just sticking out from you and all I could think of was that scene in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.”

I, of course, knew exactly what he was talking about and responded with, “kinda hot in these rhinos”. True love, people, true love.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can watch the scene from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective here. Try not to laugh, I dare you.

new signature

Pregnancy

It’s a Boy!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After a bit of a whirlwind labor and delivery, I am extremely proud to announce the arrival of our son, Elias!

Everyone is perfectly healthy and settling into life as a family. We could not be more thrilled to finally have him here!

That being said, I’m taking a little maternity leave from posting so we can spend some time bonding and enjoying our family. Posts will be sporadic at best, but will pick up again once we start to get into the swing of things. I’m sure everyone understands. 🙂

new signature