Saturday, August 30, 2014

37 week ignorant, sweaty bliss.
Today was hard. Today I felt sad and betrayed and unimportant. I felt hurt and angry and alone. The person who I thought I could count on the most didn’t show up.

The highs of pregnancy are so high. But can we talk about the lows? It’s a waiting game until D-Day, and my biggest fear is that when the time comes, I’ll feel exactly like this — physically exhausted and emotionally spent. I fear that I’ll be begging for narcotics as soon as the first contraction hits, just so that I can sleep. And there’s love and forgiveness, but for the life of me, I cannot imagine being able to channel forgiveness while I’m in labor.

Today was an exercise in mindfulness. I’m learning that being present can be as painful as it is empowering. My hypnobirthing meditation calls it “surrendering to the pain.” Today, I lived in the pain for almost the entire day. I didn’t think of much else, and I didn’t do a whole lot. My agenda for the day disappeared, and the only sunshine I experienced was through the window. I think that living in the pain sometimes means laying in bed past noon and crying because it’s the only thing that feels good. But I’m learning that it also means that the present has no room for future fears.

This heart is doing hard work right now, beyond the physical strain of pumping to support another human. I’m learning to fully experience the negative emotions and enjoying those brief moments when I forget what it was that hurt me so badly. One beat at a time, one breath at a time, because there’s nothing healthy about anticipating future pain.

So happy 38 weeks, heart. Tomorrow’s a new day.

pregnancy favorites, part 1

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Pregnancy faves part 1
I'm towards the end of my pregnancy already, but I wanted to share a few things that have helped make my pregnancy easier, especially during the first few months.

1// L'Occitane Pure Shea Butter. I can't testify to how well this works for stretch marks because I didn't apply it religiously, but it felt amazing on my super itchy belly in early pregnancy. It's super rich, and one tub has lasted me these past nine months. I'm also a huge fan of their Almond Shower Oil. I bought this when I was in Hong Kong, and it lasted me for months. It's great for washing off the essential oils from scrubs, and the almond scent is delicious.
2// New Chapter Perfect Prenatal Multivitamin Trimester. These vitamins are magical. Throughout my pregnancy, I never had any form of morning sickness when taking these, and I'm normally prone to nausea. I also started taking these before I got pregnant (they're easy on the stomach when other vitamins would make me sick), so maybe that made a difference. These vitamins are organic and probiotic. I like that you can take one pill per meal because it's better for absorption of the nutrients. You can buy this at Sprouts, but I've found that it's cheaper on Amazon, and I can get the full trimester package (the best value, usually) that way.
3// Nordic Naturals - DHA Strawberry. These soft gels are another favorite. Robin recommended these on her blog, and I have to agree that they are the best. They go down easily and don't have the fishy aftertaste that other fish oil tablets have.
4// S'well Bottle. I love my s'well bottle. I actually bought one for Dave, but then I stole it from him. I wasn't a fan at first because I couldn't fit the ice cubes from our ice cube trays in it, but the ice cubes from our apartment fridge fit great. I like that the outside temperature doesn't affect the temperature of your water inside - it stays cold for 24 hours. The bottle doesn't condensate, so I can put it on my nightstand without worrying about it ruining the finish on our furniture. I'm crazy about hydration, so I honestly do not leave the house without it, even on short walks around the complex.
5// Ingrid & Isabel BellaBand. This was a staple in early pregnancy, and I still wear it on occasion. I bought the less expensive version of their band at Target, but the original is the best because of the silicone strip. That little strip makes a big difference in the "grippiness" of the band. It doesn't work the best with work slacks, but it's great for denim.
6// Gilligan & O'Malley tanks. These were one of my first pregnancy purchases, and I loved them so much that I bought three. Early pregnancy means sore, sore boobs that need extra support. These have built-in shelf bras, so they are super comfortable to wear to bed or for lounging. I've found the length to be great too, and I still wear mine. It's easy to pull the straps down, so I imagine that these can double pretty easily as nursing tanks.
7// Jolly Rancher Bites. Oh my gosh, I would go through these so fast. They're sour, chewy, and sweet and totally hit the spot for me during early pregnancy. I kept a bag by my bed and would pop a few in my mouth before bed (after brushing my teeth - oops!).
8// Moleskine Volant Notebook. I used these notebooks to keep track of what I was eating for few months - they're the perfect size to slip into my bag. With the Bradley Method, the goal is to have 75g of protein a day. I wrote down that I had for every meal to make sure I was getting enough protein and leafy greens and to keep my sweet tooth in check.
9// Trader Joe's everything - Vitamin E Oil, Coconut Body Butter, Natural Facial Cleansing Pads, Enrich Moisturizing Face Lotion with SPF, Lavender Sea Salt Body Scrub. When I found out I was pregnant, I started really looking at the ingredients in my skincare products and realized that not all of them were pregnancy-friendly. Trader Joe's has great natural options at great prices. I use the vitamin E oil on my belly, the coconut body butter all over, and the body scrub in the shower (using the almond shower oil I mentioned above afterwards). I substituted the cleansing pads for my toner, and my skin has been great! I was worried about acne and breakouts but a few weeks of swiping those cleansing pads across my face after a wash, and my skin has been pretty much clear and non-oily. They're intense-smelling at first, but I got used to them. This Philosophy Hope Oil-Free Moisturizer is my all-time favorite under-make-up sunscreen, but the Trader Joe's lotion has a much better price point. The face lotion with SPF has been a great alternative that's light, non-greasy, and doesn't cause shine later on in the day.
10// Earth Therapeutics Peace Potion Massage Lotion Aromatherapy Rub. I discovered this a while ago when I was shopping with my mom, and if there's a product for stress relief, this is it. It smells like heaven. When I was getting headaches early on in my pregnancy, I would rub a little bit of this on my temples, ear lobes, and neck, and just breathe it in. I can't do it justice just writing about it - you have to try it.
11// Natural Bristle Body Brush with Contoured Wooden Handle. So, the whole dry body brushing thing. I don't know much about it really, except that it has something to do with detoxification and preventing cellulite. I started doing this when I felt like I was getting sick early in my pregnancy, and I've pretty much avoided catching a cold. I don't know whether that can be attributed to dry body brushing, but it can't hurt. Also, I'll do just about anything to avoid cellulite.

Stay tuned for part 2 of my favorites!

my hospital bag.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Hospital Bag 1
I’ve hit the 37 week mark, and although I haven’t had signs that labor is going to happen anytime soon, my hospital bag has been mostly packed for the last week or so. I’m still switching out items, taking some things out and putting others in, but it’s just about settled. Bear with me, it’s a long post!
Hospital Bag 2Hospital Bag 3
Here’s my laundry list of what’s going in my hospital bag (the Mossimo Supply Co. Geometric Weekender Duffle Handbag from Target):

-Packing cubes — I bought ours for cheap from IKEA (UPPTACKA packing bags). I wanted to make sure everything was organized because the last thing I want to do when I’m in labor is have to hunt through a duffle bag. They came in a pack of 4 bags, so I used the big one for myself, the medium for Dave, and the two small ones for Baby. If you aren’t close to an IKEA, these eBags Packing Cubes got great reviews. The large packing cube came with two sides, so I packed my laboring stuff in one side and my post-labor stuff in the other.

In the “for labor” side of my cube, I packed:
  • A black cotton nightgown (Junior's Sleep Chemise from Target) to labor in — I’m not opposed to wearing a hospital gown, but I think I’ll be more comfortable getting to labor in my own clothes. This one’s black (and inexpensive), so if it gets a little gross, it’s no big deal.
  • 2 Lululemon headbands — I love my Lulu. I packed a thin one and a thick one for keeping back my hair.
  • Fuzzy socks — black, of course, in case I get the chills. Think ones like these: 
  • Soft Warm Microfiber Fuzzy Socks-Olive.
  • 1 pair of old boycut undies that I won’t mind throwing away afterwards.
In the “after” side of my cube, I packed:
  • A few more pairs of old stretchy soft undies — I know the hospital gives you mesh ones to wear, but I’m packing mine just in case those aren’t comfortable.
  • A dark-colored and loose nursing tank (Women's Henley Nursing Cami from Target)— comfy enough to sleep in, decent enough to walk around in.
  • Old loose, low-slung shorts — I figure if these aren’t comfortable after labor, I can always snag the big gym shorts from Dave’s bag. I have an old pair from Abercrombie, but these A&F Athletic Shorts looks amazingly comfortable.
  • A thin cotton robe — I like this Xhilaration Juniors Fluid Knit Robe, but I’m not super attached if it ends up stained. 
  • Nursing bra — this one (Basic Women's Stella Maternity & Nursing Bra) from Target is super stretchy and comfy.
  • Going home dress — I packed a comfy maxi dress from the Gap (similar: Gap Short-Sleeve Maxi Dress).
  • Belly Bandit Bamboo Post-Pregnancy Tummy Wrap (S, Natural) — I was debating about this product and sizing, but there was an “in-store special” at Buy Buy Baby, so hopefully it fits!
In Dave’s cube, we packed:
  • Swim trunks — for labor, so that he can go in the shower with me.
  • An old t-shirt
  • A change of clothes for sleeping in — this is still up in the air. He may just re-wear what he came to the hospital in.
  • Going home clothes — a nice t-shirt (Banana Republic Soft Wash Cotton V-Neck Tee) and nice jeans that are comfortable but will still look presentable for pictures.
In Baby cube #1, I packed:
Baby cube #2 is holding his going-home outfit:
-I also picked up a big pink UPPTACKA Toiletries Bag from IKEA. It has quite a few pockets for a toiletries bag, so I was able to sort everything appropriately. Inside:
  • Samples, lots of samples — nursing pads, nipple cream, shampoo, etc.
  • A travel razor — I picked up this tiny Gillette Venus Snap Razor from Target, and I like it just because it’s cute and small.
  • A few Traditional Medicinals Organic Mother's Milk tea bags — friends who’ve had babies are an invaluable resource. One of my good friends tucked a few of these in a bag of goodies for me to try.
  • Yes to Coconut Cooling Lip Oil — if any occasion in life calls for cooling lip oil, I think it’s labor. I’m always a sucker for new lip products, and this sounds divine.
  • Massaging accessories — a rolling massage ball (Zensufu Massage Roller Ball) and massage tool.
  • The Body Shop Divine Calm Relaxing Massage Oil — another essential for labor. If it has “calm” on the label, I need it. This is one of my favorite oils, in general, to help me sleep.
  • Hair ties — duh.
  • A mini container of Altoids — in case Dave is hovering next to my face whispering words of encouragement with garlic breath.
  • A tiny Bose bluetooth speaker (similar: MOCREO® Portable Bluetooth Speaker)  — for playing my “birthing/labor” mix.
  • Contact lens solution, contacts & case — I’ll probably wear my glasses to the hospital, but I want the option to put in my contacts.
-I know that the hospital gives you diapers, but we got a cute little wristlet with one of our registries, so inside I packed:
  • A couple newborn-sized diapers (also from our free registry gift bag)
  • Sample wipes
  • Sample diaper cream
-I purchased Ziploc Big Bag Double Zipper, Large  to protect the paper products and keep them organized. I’m planning on using mine to keep Baby’s documents safe after birth and to hold a few things. Mainly:
  • Our Welcome Baby (Boy) Book— I love this baby book, and I want to get his little footprints and handprints in it before we leave the hospital.
  • A “Baby Gyllenhammer” sign from our baby celebration — my sister made this for us, and I think it would be really sweet to hang in our recovery room (as short as that time may be). On that note, I should also pack some washi tape to hold it up.
  • Our hospital door collage — we want to own this experience.
  • My birth art — I did a little watercolor painting/word art for one of my birthing class assignments that embodies what I want my birth experience to look like.
  • Our insurance and other important cards — we pre-registered at the hospital, so hopefully we won’t need to do much paperwork (or any), but these will be packed just in case.
  • A couple thank-you notes and Sharpie pens.
  • Copies of my birth plan (still in the works).
As a side note, I plan to use these bags afterwards to organize and protect the baby clothes that he’s outgrown (but that I still want to hold onto). They are the perfect size for small packs of clothes that I plan to sort into 0-3 months, 3-6 months, etc.

-Other things I packed in my bag:
  • A rebozo (Leos Imports Mexican Rebozo Shawl)— this is an accessory we use during meditation (wrap it around your shoulders with your spouse holding the ends, so it feels like a hug), but we also plan to use it for different laboring positions.
  • Two towels for Dave and I to use after a shower.
  • A fluffy white robe — for the transition point in labor where I may get the chills. I figure this will be easier to try to keep on in various laboring positions than a blanket wrapped around my shoulders.
  • Battery operated Tealight Candles — The goal is to keep the calmest vibe in the room that we can. Real candles would be ideal, but obviously not appropriate for a hospital setting.
  • A small UPPTACKA accessories bag (also from IKEA) to hold our phone chargers, etc.
  • Old flip-flops/sandals — for showering and walking around the hospital in.
  • iPad — more for Dave than me, but I doubt it will be getting much use.
  • Our “nice” camera (Canon EOS Rebel T2i DSLR Camera) — for pictures after the baby is born.
  • Snacks — (very) light snacks for during labor (like some Cheerios and maybe some frozen grapes), protein bars for after labor, candy.
  • Treats for the care team and our doula — maybe like Smitten Kitchen’s cheesecake-marbled brownies? She made them for her labor and delivery nurses, and I just may follow suit. But I'm also partial to these caramel sea-salt brownies. They're divine.
  • My make-up bag — I’ll need it.
-In our separate cooler bag, I’m packing:
  • Bendy straws — to make staying hydrated as easy as possible.
  • Liquids — Trader Joe’s coconut water, Raspberry Lemonade, and Simply Orange Juice for me for after labor.
  • An ice pack.
A few things we packed specifically to keep in the car in case needed, and those aren’t pictured. I packed those in either reusable grocery bags or large white plastic trash bags that we can throw the dirties in afterwards.
I haven’t done this yet, but I’m planning on making hot/cold compress packs with some leftover fabric and beans/rice to throw in my bag. Although, who actually knows if I’ll get around to this. I might just fill some old socks with rice and tie them off. It works. I’m also considering one of those temporary tattoos, like this one or this one from Etsy, to place on the inside of my wrist for extra inspiration and encouragement.
Hospital Bag 4
I’ll be updating this post sometime after we get back from the hospital (no promises on when) as to what was absolutely essential. Maybe this is just my crazy still-pregnant self talking, but I think it would be kind of cute to do a little “birth day” celebration with our family when they come to visit us in the recovery room. I’m planning on pre-ordering mini cupcakes from Susie Cakes and having a family member pick those up along with the bottle of Veuve Clicquot  (to share, obviously) that we have chilling in our fridge. We are so ready.

two years ago.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Dintaifung 082214
re-living a part of our Shanghai experience at the new Din Tai Fung in Costa Mesa | 36 weeks
What I’m thankful for today: that we’re not in China anymore.

Exactly two years ago was our first night in Shanghai, a city where we would live for the next year and a half. We left California with our four suitcases laid flat in the bed of my dad’s red pick-up truck. We landed, just the two of us and some stuff. It’s an experience that I still can’t fully process, but I know that where we are now is so much sweeter because of it.

on expecting & expectations.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Nesting 1
A little sign for our hospital door as we get ready to welcome Baby Hammer, made from our baby shower guessing game, sweet cards from friends and family, and cardboard from my Solly Baby wrap box. Nesting!

“God knits babies together in the secret dark. And we can plan all we like, but we have no actual control over the outcomes. We bear witness to the miracle, and we women — we also bear it in our bodies. But we certainly don’t dictate it."

I actually cringe when people act like babies happen exactly when you want them to. Like you can one day decide that you want to have a baby and the next day be pregnant. Like pregnancy is something that you can time, according to what works best with your schedule and career plan. Or like you can really control the stretch marks (you get them or you don’t), pregnancy brain (perpetual spaciness), and hemorrhoids (sorry, real life).

Expecting seems like a strange word to associate with pregnancy, and life in general. When I got pregnant, we weren’t trying, and we weren’t not trying. So when people ask if it was a surprise, I say, kind of! Not a "whoops" kind of surprise, but a surprise in the sense that you hope that something good is coming, but you don't know what it is or when it will arrive, so when it actually comes, you're blown out of the water because it's better than anything you could have ever expected and you had no idea that's what it would feel like. That kind of surprise.

And there are so many surprises, because this whole growing-a-human thing is all so new.

I never expected that growing this little guy would take over my life. For us, this is literally the Year of the Baby — from the single pregnancy test that I took the first week of January, to these now eight belly-expanding months of work and physical, mental, and financial preparation, to his expected birthdate in September and the remaining months of the year where I’ll be staying home, celebrating first holidays, and learning how to be a mother. 

I never expected that I would have such a capacity to focus. When I’m “nesting,” I feel like that’s all there is. Nothing else is even on my radar. This is all I want to do: pack my hospital bag, wash and sort baby clothes, make lists of pre-baby errands.

I never expected that we would attempt a natural, unmedicated birth. Prior to pregnancy, I had never practiced meditation or mindfulness. Preparing for the kind of birth that I want (and the kind that I’ll get) has led me into a deliberate lifestyle of self-education, meditation, more consistent exercise and healthy eating habits.

I never expected to be so content with less. This whole year has been about less. Less consumption (except for baby gear, which we are consciously trying to keep to a minimum), fewer plans, less clutter. I am totally ok with wearing the same 3 dresses in rotation at work because they are the only things that fit, and comfort is king. Pregnancy has triggered my need for more mental space, more quiet time, more sleep, more simplicity, more comfort, and less of everything else.

I never expected to feel so much or to feel everything so much more acutely. Pain, hurt, excitement, bliss, frustration have been all-encompassing emotions for me, filling me to the brim, so that I only have room for one emotion at a time.

I never expected to lack words. I wake up sometimes, at 4 or 5am, and instinctively reach over to the journal on my nightstand. But when I open it... nothing. As soon as a thought or feeling comes, it passes. I’ve had the hardest time trying to hold on, trying to wrap my brain around these emotions and thoughts that I can’t seem to control or process. My brain has become a black hole.

I never expected to need so much grace — for my forgetfulness, my emotions, my impatience, my inability to communicate.

I never expected to be so grateful for every single day. I'm thankful for every single day that I'm still pregnant. I'm thankful for every doctor's appointment that goes well. I’m thankful for each day that I wake up to husband kisses, puppy cuddles, and baby movements. These are gifts. I know how horribly wrong life's events can go, so when I hear a little heartbeat or feel a tiny kick, I think, "Really? Life is this good? God is trusting us with this?"

Emily Dickinson wrote, “That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.” 

This is it. This is what I want to soak up — the anticipation, the waiting, the surrealness of it all. I want to bask in the unknown and the joy of not knowing. This time will only be new once, and I’m savoring the mystery and the miracle.

tired girl's chia pudding.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Babyshower mary
roasting marshmellows with my best at dave's and my baby celebration | 31 weeks
I bought my first bag of chia seeds the other day, packaged in the cutest, matte lilac pouch in the Trader Joe’s breakfast food aisle. I didn’t know that chia seeds had 6g of fiber, 2.9g of Omega-3 fatty acids, and 3g of protein in just one tablespoon, which makes it an amazing addition to a late-pregnancy diet. I just knew that the cool food bloggers I follow on Insta consume chia seeds on the regular on top of their homemade acai bowls and what not.

I’m too freaking tired for much of anything homemade these days. I could eat take-out every night if I didn’t feel so guilty about the organic vegetables from our CSA basket going limp in the fridge. I had no idea that at 33 weeks, I could feel this kind of tired - the kind of tired where 9 hours of sleep a night feels like I pulled an all-nighter, and I have to nap at 10am so that I have enough energy to eat lunch. I’m sure this bodes well for my postpartum experience.

I’m not whipping up any peach-blackberry cobblers this summer (although that does sound amazing, and I would love to know where I could get a good one around here) because that sounds like a lot of effort. But 3-5 ingredient pudding I can do.

  • 1 can coconut milk or coconut cream (I used coconut cream, because I love cream and because that’s what we had in the pantry)
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds (1/4 cup at a time)
  • 1/2 cup honey or agave nectar (1/4 cup at a time - I used honey)
  • Add-ins: I used the juice of half a tiny  orange, 4 large Thai basil leaves, chopped (both were in our CSA basket), and a large teaspoon (loosely measured) of vanilla bean paste.
Split the can of coconut cream between two small-medium bowls. Add 1/4 cup chia seeds and 1/4 cup honey to each bowl, and mix. I made an orange-basil version and a vanilla bean version. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours. Perfect with a glass of iced coconut green tea.

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