Monday, February 21, 2011

Answering Questions: Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Mama Edition.

What the biggest challenge you have faced in becoming a mama?

Probably the whole job thing - realizing I couldn't do it and having to quit during maternity leave. That was probably one of the hardest conversations I've ever had to have. I adored my job and co-workers, and hated to surprise them like that. I know it was the right thing to do, but it was so difficult, especially since I'm a people pleaser.

What are your favorite must-have baby products you have purchased? Any brands/items that you swear by, or are worth the money?!

I haven't actually had to purchase many things myself (thank goodness for hand-me-downs and gifts!) But our favorites are: cloth diapers, Carters and BabyGap clothes, baby wearing devices, SwaddleMe swaddles, a Medela double electric breast pump, and the Arm's Reach mini co-sleeper. 

I've written about cloth diapers before - we use mostly FuzziBunz and prefolds with covers now. I absolutely love prefolds - thanks to a reader who suggested I try them. I get a weird enjoyment in changing the prefolds.

Carters and BabyGap make the cutest baby clothes. Gabe has more clothes than he knows what to do with (I do his laundry every two weeks and his closet is still full), but if I were in the market to buy baby clothes? I'd get Carters and BabyGap. So cute, such quality, and the sizing is accurate.

We have a sling, a wrap, and a backpack-style infant carrier and I love all three. I'm able to cook, clean, and walk with Gabe. It's great!

Gabe was swaddled every night from the day he was born until a few weeks ago. SwaddleMe swaddles worked best for us because of the Velcro - swaddle blankets worked when he was very tiny, as well. Miracle Blankets are okay, but he managed to always bust out. Ninja baby!

Nothing I need to say about the Pump-in-Style except it works fabulously and I love it. (Well, I don't love it, but I tolerate it and it works incredibly well for me.)

Gabe uses this co-sleeper for the first stretch of sleep most every night, and it has been wonderful having him so close to us. If he ends up in bed with me after eating (um, every night), then it provides a nice assurance that he won't fall off the bed.

He also used his swing a lot when he was younger, likes a few toys like this, has an activity gym that he loves, a play mat, and other such baby playthings. We didn't buy any of these until after he was born - it's a trial and error of what works for us and our baby, you know?

What is one thing that surprised you about pregnancy? Most people I talk to always have a story about something nobody had ever "warned" them about!

Um, since these is a family-friendly blog, I can't say what *really* surprised me most about it (email me to ask!), but probably the whole heartburn thing. I was unprepared to have to stop eating by 7pm every night in order to be able to go to sleep without insane amounts of heartburn. I downed tons of Pepcid and even got sick from heartburn one night. Yuck. Oh, and the sleeplessness. OH! The sleeplessness. I slept better with a newborn than I did pregnant. Miserable. Oh, and the whole after-birth healing process. Lots of ouchies I didn't expect.

Did you ever fear you wouldn't love being a mom? My husband and I are going to try to get pregnant soon, and I worry that the sleepless nights, fights, exhaustion, etc. will be too much and I will blame the baby...thoughts?

I definitely didn't approach having a tiny baby with rose-colored glasses; I expected it to be hard, hard, HARD. Much like you, I expected sleep deprivation to be just about the worst EVER. In fact, towards the end of my pregnancy, while most women are complaining about feeling huge and just wanting to be done, I'd tell everyone, "I know having a tiny baby won't be easy, so I'm in no rush!"

I was scared of never having time to myself again. I was scared my relationship with Mike would be more difficult. I was scared I'd be a miserable zombie.

Honestly, though? For me, I had a fairly easy transition to motherhood, aside from the usual stuff at first - pain from birth, figuring out breastfeeding, and fearing that everything possible might be wrong with this tiny little human that you're suddenly responsible for. (And you find yourself Googling questions about a 4-day-old's poop color. Yay for the internet.)

I got in bed at 9 every night, and got out at 9 every morning - figuring that 12 hours in bed with a newborn eating every few hours equaled about eight hours of sleep. I napped a bit, but really sleep hasn't been a problem. I eventually learned to nurse lying down in the dark, and stopped sitting up using the Boppy and changing his diaper at night. It made night feedings much quicker and I hardly wake up. You just figure out what works for you and your family.

Most of the time, I look at Gabe and could never be mad at him. I think the hormones are responsible for that. There are a few times where I'm more of the, "Gabe! Go to sleep! Oh my gosh!" mindset and if I lose my patience, I hand him to Mike. And vice versa. Thank goodness for husbands, am I right?

I was actually most afraid of losing myself when I became a mother - not caring about other things or being able to talk about other things. I really didn't want to alienate non-parents with my incessant parent-talk. Thankfully, that (mostly) hasn't happened.

Good luck! :) It's an awesome, awesome ride. I promise.

What would you do differently in mommyland, now that you've had a few months of experience?

Not worry about what Gabe is or isn't doing, milestone-wise. It doesn't mean he's smart if he's doing it ahead of schedule, and it doesn't mean he's intellectually compromised if he's behind schedule. Not worry so much about how 'they' say not to do, if it makes sense to me. Figure out how to make more friends with babies! And keep in touch better with all my awesome non-baby friends (or convince them to have babies. *cough*KatieandStephen*cough*).

Just wondering if you would recommend any particular book or website that you found helpful during your pregnancy.

I didn't read about my pregnancy as much as I read about birth. Probably more than is normal. My favorites were: The Birth Book by Dr. Sears, Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way, and Birthing from Within (a bit hokey, but good pain-management practices). Mike also read Husband-Coached Childbirth. I know some may roll their eyes, saying you don't need to prepare for childbirth, it just happens and you have no control. That birth plans are silly. That there's no need in overthinking things.

But I cannot say enough about the books I read in preparation for Gabe's birth. I do not exaggerate when I say they changed my life. I became more of an advocate for myself and my child, I started to look more critically at things, and I gained confidence in my abilities.

Aside from the typical Baby Center emails that I poured over each week, I read, and loved, the weekly online pregnancy calendar Zero to Forty, written by the fabulous and hilarious Amalah

How much did having Gabe cost, including what your insurance company covered? I have universal health care so am curious!

Prenatal care: $3,831.00, of which we paid $616.93 (midwife care is cheaper than OB care, woo!) (This doesn't include a few extra ultrasounds and non-stress tests that I took before I opted out - with a copay of $40 per weekly test.)

Birth stuff: $10,012.65, of which insurance paid $7,769.85 and we paid $1,072.80. (The remaining $1,170 was billed to insurance...which I assume means they paid it? It's all a bit confusing.) Plus, a $230 hearing test in the hospital, of which we paid $31.40. The hospital bill included $3,200 for labor and delivery, $2,474 for 'room and board' for one night, $29.35 for Motrin I took every 6 hours, $627.00 for 'supplies' like mesh panties for me and diapers for Gabe, and $67.00 for lab work. I had a normal, uncomplicated, unmedicated birth and we left 36 hours after Gabe was born. So, this is pretty much the cheapest hospital births can come!

(We also paid $150 for a 12-week childbirth class and $35 for a breastfeeding class - both great investments!)

Hi there! Thanks for an awesome blog :) I was just curious (and I know you've addressed this before) about how you budgeted etc to plan for Gabe's arrival. Its so confusing knowing where to start and how much baby related things cost!

Hi! Thanks. :) Oh, budgets. Yes, yes. They are important. About a year ago, I wrote a post with lots of details about how we spend (and save!) our money. Anticipating the arrival of Gabe, we were able to save $10,000 last year. A pretty big feat since that's more than a quarter of our combined income. (Whenever I feel poor, I remind myself that the average household income in the US is just above $50,000. So, we're not that far off. Anyway.) We generally tend to live fairly simple, but I also keep track of our spending with Mint and PearBudget. Some months I'm quite vigilant with this, and other months I just keep a lose watch on things.

As far as how much baby things cost, I think it's more about how much you want to spend. I've written before about how we keep things simple (and cheap!) when it comes to Gabe. We've spent less than $200 on things for Gabe. (Not counting maternity clothes. How sad is that?) We are lucky in that my mom watches Gabe for free (only for his first year, next year we have to figure out how we're going to pay for child care...let's not talk about it right now), which is a huge relief on our wallet. Many couples I know are in a financial position to spend hundreds on the nursery, hundreds on a 'travel system,' and hundreds on a crib. We just didn't want to, and were lucky to have family and friends who hooked us up with hundreds of dollars worth of hand-me-downs. Some may shudder at the thought of used baby things, but not us!

Got a question for me? Ask away!
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