Monday, January 30, 2017

10 Ways to Bless a Pregnant or New Mom

The late pregnancy and postpartum stages are very tough times for many woman, especially if they have other children to take care of. Support in the postpartum period is so vital, as women who don't receive much help are linked to higher postpartum depression rates.

That said, many people don't really know what to do to help a pregnant woman or a new mom. We assume they are fine because they don't ask for help (us pregnant women and mamas don't want to be a burden to anyone. We are "just" growing or raising a baby (or two) after all), but don't underestimate how a little help can go a long long way toward helping one of these women. Something that might not seem like a big deal to you, may seem like a HUGE deal to them. 

So here are 10 ways to bless a pregnant or new mom:

#1: Take her other child(ren) to do something fun
During and after my twin pregnancy I have been so blessed with friends coming to take Victoria now and again to go have fun. Whether they take her to storytime at the library, or just to spend the day playing at their house, I feel IMMENSE relief knowing she is safe, happy, and having a blast while I get the chance to nap, clean, or simply sit down and cuddle my new babies. My neighbor will come and grab Victoria to help her do something outside once a week or so for 20 minutes. Those 20 minutes are pure heaven for me as I get to lie down, close my eyes, or enjoy the twins without feeling an ounce of mommy guilt, because I know Victoria is enjoying herself a ton as well. 

#2: Bring her a meal
People do this all the time for new moms, and it is such a blessing. But bringing a meal to a pregnant woman, especially in those early days of intense nausea or in the late days of exhaustion, is just as helpful. I have a neighbor who often text me while I was pregnant saying "I made extra food tonight, can I bring you some?". And before I knew it, I had a dinner all prepared for my family that I didn't have to worry about. It was SUCH a blessing.
My MOPS group also arranged a meal train for me (and every other new mom) on TakeThemAMeal, which I highly recommend for anyone. It was so convenient for people to sign up for meals and give me an idea of what they would be bringing. Be sure to ask new moms if they have a meal train set up and if they would allow you to set one up for them. Having this burden taken off their shoulders is a huge blessing. 

#3: Vacuum or floor cleaning
Vacuuming is exhausting, and you are never more aware of this than when you are huge pregnant and there are miles of flooring in front of you that needs to be cleaned. I had a neighbor call me while I was pregnant with the twins and say "Hey, I was just thinking, vacuuming is exhausting. Can I come vacuum your house tonight?". And being the gracious receiver I try to be (it's not only important to be a gracious giver), I said yes. It was glorious. She vacuumed my entire house and I was SO thankful. 

#4: Clean
On the same thread as above, going to a new mom's or expectant mom's house with a bucket of cleaning supplies is a huge help. Tell her you are coming over, show up with your supplies, and just start cleaning where you can. Bathrooms are a great place to start, as are cleaning the floors, cleaning out the refrigerator, or doing the dishes. It takes a lot of humility to watch someone else clean your bathrooms! But it is such a blessing. 

#5: Send her for a nap or shower
Whether she is pregnant or a new mom, she is probably exhausted. Send her to bed (with her new baby if she desires) while you watch her older children and keep them occupied with quiet activities. Or simply offer to care for her new baby while she takes a long, relaxing shower and fixes herself up a bit. I had a friend come over a few days ago and she sent me upstairs and said "don't come down for at least 45 minutes". I went upstairs and took a long, leisurely shower and actually blow-dried my hair (!!!). By the time I came down I felt like a new woman and was ready to conquer the rest of the day.

#6: Take her shopping list or pick up her groceries
I have recently discovered the joy of curbside shopping. I always thought it would be expensive or I would hate it, but it is awesome and not expensive at all at my grocery store. For less than $5 I can order all of my groceries online, leaving instructions for each item (such as "2 large flatter shapped onions" or "substitute for green grapes if red is not available"), and pick them up the next day without leaving my car. It's a new mom/pregnant woman's dream. My neighbor has offered more than once to pick up items for me from the store or to pick up my groceries after I ordered them. It's such a help when leaving the house is tough.

#7: Give her a gift for herself
Whether it is a subscription to audible.com so she can listen to books while she does her chores, a massage or facial from Groupon, a mani-pedi gift certificate and an offer to babysit, or some pampering items like bubble bath and luxurious hand or foot cream, these kinds of gifts are such a blessing to new moms! We are giving so much of ourselves to these little people, being able to take something for ourselves can be such a blessing.

#8: Provide some "date" time
New parents often have a tough time finding time to connect. Sometimes even after the baby is asleep it can be tough as you are both listening for cries. An offer to provide a little "date" time can provide some much-needed connection time. Whether you offer to watch the children for an hour or two while they go out to eat, or you simply give them a half hour to go for a walk around the neighborhood, you are providing a huge gift.

#9: Find out what she still needs for the baby
If she has a baby registry, it can be easy to see what she still needs for her baby. But even if she has older children already or no registry, a new baby still requires things like diapers and wipes, not to mention things like double strollers, play yards, and baby carriers that make life easier with more than one child. Whether you are able to purchase an item for her, go in on larger item with someone else, can give a gift certificate to go towards items she may still need, or have a 2nd hand item you can pass along, these are all great ways to help put a mom at ease as she prepares for her baby.

#10: Pray for her
Because we all need prayer, especially when we are going through such large changes in our lives. Pray for her body, her strength, her faith, her family, and her children. Pray that the Lord would provide her with what she needs to get through this time joyfully, and ask that He show you how you can best be a blessing to her.

Another quick note: new moms and pregnant woman often feel like we need to be superwomen and do it all ourselves. When people ask how they can help but don't genuinely seem to want to, it is easy to turn them down and continue pretending like we don't need anything. So in offering help, be genuinely eager, and instead of saying "Can I come vacuum your house sometime?", say something like "I want to help you with something practical. Please let me come vacuum your home! Can I come Wednesday?"

Do you have anything to add this list? I'd love to hear your own stories of how someone was a blessing to you!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Life Around Here

If you'd like to know what life is like in my home right now with a two-year-old and two two-month-olds, this picture pretty much says it all.
Victoria wearing a princess dress, Charlotte being chill and munching on a fist, and Analisa angry because Victoria decided to put her doll next to her. 

Back in the day, taking monthly photos of Victoria was a breeze. But taking photos of the twins with so many variables is just nutty!

So here is a quick little update on my twins and who they are now that they are 2 months old.

Charlotte is Baby A, the older of the two twins. She is also the smaller of the two, and weighs more than a pound less than her sister. She is tall and thin, and we can already tell her eyes will be blue (shocking because Andy and I don't have blue eyes, and neither do any of our parents. We thought it was a complete fluke that Victoria ended up with blue eyes). 
At two months old she is 23.5" long and 11lbs.8oz., which means she is in the 95th and 68th percentiles respectively. Which is quite hilarious because we often refer to her as our "little one". She is wearing 6 month clothes.

She is a very pleasant baby, always with a sweet, faint little smile on her face. She likes to look around and observe, but she is a monster on her play mat. She loves to move every limb as she lies down on it and tries to grab at the toys.
She is a very noisy little baby, and loves to coo/squeal at things while she looks around. She also is embarrassingly loud while she nurses, an issue we hoped would be resolved when she revised her tongue and lip ties a month ago, but it didn't.

Speaking of tongue and lip ties, we had both babies' ties revised by a specialist dentist a month ago. Victoria also had a tongue tie, but it wasn't severe so I didn't get it revised. I wish in hind sight that I had, because she always had a bad latch that caused lots of clogged ducts and mastitis on my part. This time around, I decided to get all of them revised to make sure nursing and speech issues were not an issue (Charlotte, in particular, was already showing some air intake issues from her ties). It was a surprisingly quick and simple procedure, and the dentist made it as comfortable as possible for the babies, even providing a little swaddle and light-dimming glasses to keep them calm.

Analisa is the larger of the twins, even though she is our Baby B, the younger twin.
 At 2 months she is 12lbs 14oz (98th percentile) and 24inches long (95th percentile). She is a big baby! She also wears 6 month clothing, but she will outgrow them before her twin, I think.

We affectionately refer to Analisa as our "bald baby". Poor thing, her lack of hair is usually the easiest way for people to tell the twins apart. I do see a full head of hair coming in, though, so soon she will no longer be our little baldie.
 Both babies are great sleepers, something I worried about when I found out we were having twins. Analisa, however, is even better at it than her sister, as she had always been able to put herself to sleep easily from day one. There have been moments I laid her down on the floor and POOF, she falls asleep right there.
She is also an extremely strong baby, similar to how Victoria was. She holds herself stiff as a board and was trying to hold her head up in her post-birth exam the day she was born. Now she has perfect head control (Charlotte is pretty good too).

She also LOVES to smile and engage with people, and is never happier than when she is being held and has your attention.
I will say, having twins has been rough. I know from talking to other moms that going from 1 to 2 kids is a big adjustment anyway. But throwing another newborn in there has made this transition very tough for me. I have had to give myself a lot of grace for not being able to be the perfect mom I want to be. I've had to allow a lot more crying than I want to, had to allow Victoria to play by herself a lot more than I want (although I am all about some independent play), and I've had to allow my home to become a lot messier than I want it.

There was a moment a few weeks ago when I was sitting on the couch with two babies screaming their brains off while I frantically tried to calm them (Hello, Wonder Weeks Leap 2!). I was so frazzled and trying to keep calm, and at that moment Victoria ran into the room yelling "Oh no! I pooped my pants!", and then ran out of the room again. All I could think was "Where is that poop going to end up?!". (She hadn't pooped her pants, she either wanted attention, or thought she had pooped.)

Those kind of moments are slowly becoming fewer and fewer as I start to get into our new normal. My kitchen is a lot cleaner, and I am slowly getting a handle on our home again. The twins are settling into a schedule, and Victoria is, thankfully, ALL about her baby sisters.

I just love this (blurry) snapshot of her holding their hands while they were on their playmat.
She is constantly asking to hold them, and if one of them cries, she is the first one to come running with calls of "I'm coming, sister!", usually with a pacifier in-hand. Her tender heart really is such a humbling gift to our family.

I am slowly getting a hang on myself too. I am in a January "change" competition, in which we all strive for personal fitness goals. I am working out again, which has been much easier since I was already in decent shape before and during most of my pregnancy. I utilize Les Mills On Demand to do Body Pump and Body Combat classes in my basement after I put everyone to sleep in the evening. I am feeling so good and am looking forward to getting rid of the rest of this baby weight and packing away my maternity clothes for a while.
Getting ready for my first basement workout
 But for the most part, I spend my days like this: babywearing to keep at least one arm free
This is how I do most of my cleaning in the afternoon/evening when babies are fussy.
But as I said, we are settling in. We have managed some semi-normal outings thanks to our triple stroller. We took it to the zoo to check out the Christmas lights there a few weeks back.
I am so thankful that the Lord has been so gracious to us during this time. I have never been the woman who hoped for multiples, but I know children are a blessing from the Lord, and he is graciously sanctifying me in amazing ways through these three little girls. Yes, some days I feel overwhelmed. Yes, some days I feel like my entire goal is to get all three children sleeping at the same time so I can get 20 glorious minutes to myself. Yes, some days I don't get that shower, or I am wearing pjs a lot later than I want to be, or my home doesn't get as clean as I'd like, but we are getting better.

God has provided in so many ways through this. He has brought so much help my way, with people constantly asking if they can bring us a meal, clean our bathrooms, or come hold a baby. My MOPS group provided us with dinners 3 times per week for two months after the babies were born, which was unbelievably helpful.

So through this busy, crazy, wonderful, overwhelming time, God has been so gracious and faithful. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Charlotte and Analisa's Twin Birth Story

Well, it certainly has been a little busy around here (which may be the understatement of the year). But I am slowly getting back into the groove here, and managed to write this post as well as one on my favorite Christian Christmas gifts HERE.

I am so sorry to take so long to finally post about the twins' birth. I know there are two camps of people: those who LOVE to read birth stories and those who could care less. So please, if you are in the second camp, feel free to pass on this post! But for those of you who, like me, love all the details, here you go!

I started having prodromal labor with my twins around 36.5 weeks. This is commonly referred to as false labor, but it is real labor in that all contractions are real and very much the same as labor contractions, but prodromal labor tapers off without progressing into a birth. I'd have episodes of 6-8 hours of regular, long labor contractions, only to have it stop and leave me totally frustrated and feeling stupid (I mean, I've had a baby before! Shouldn't I be able to tell "this is it"?).

All of this prodromal labor made me hopeful they would come early, even though I had mentally prepared myself to go to my due date because my singleton had cooked until 41weeks 5days. I was waking every night for a few hours of contractions that went nowhere, and I had two bouts of pretty serious labor at 38 weeks and 39 weeks, but still no babies.
39.5 weeks
Then my due date came and went, and still no babies. 

To say I was antsy was an understatement. I just wanted them out! But I don't believe in induction without a medical indication for it, and babies and I were all looking great.

So time went on. I felt like I was on the edge of labor for the last week, feeling very crampy and having intense contractions here and there. My midwives almost never do membrane sweeps, but at 40+4 they agreed to do one on me because I was so miserable. This was about as much of an induction as I was willing to do. When they did it they reported I was dilated to a 3, baby A was "right there", and I would probably go into labor right away. I ended up having lots of contractions, lost my mucus plug and had bloody show the next day, but still no babies.

Finally, at 41 weeks on October 29, I started having steady contractions around 6pm. It felt the same as my prodromal labors, but the contractions were staying steady at 5 mins apart. I went to bed hopeful I'd wake up in full blown labor (but let’s be honest, I was pretty sure I’d be pregnant FOREVER at that point). I was still having contractions but they definitely weren't the super strong ones I remembered from my first baby. I woke up at 3am to contractions that were slightly painful and very steady. I got up and started moving around, and the contractions stayed 4ish minutes apart. I decided to call the midwives and tell them to come over. They arrived and checked me and found I was dilated to a 7. Woohoo!

I labored and labored but never felt like it was getting super intense. I was still able to talk and joke between contractions, I was eating.... everything stayed about the same for hours. At 8am I decided to go lie down because I was feeling tired and hoped the relaxing would help move things along.

I napped for 2 hours and woke up to the same contractions plugging away. The nap seriously helped my energy levels, and I was ready to get these babies out (as if I hadn't been ready for weeks!). I walked up and down the stairs hoping to rev up the contractions. But time passed and my contractions didn't really seem to be getting to that next place.

I talked with my midwives and we all decided to break my water to hopefully get my labor to the next stage. The only reason I decided on this was because my mom had told me that with every one of her 4 pregnancies her labor stalled for hours at 7cm until they finally broke her water. My midwife broke my water and we discovered I was dilated to an 8 when she did that. I got into the tub after they broke my water and within a few minutes I was experiencing the tougher transition contractions that brought tears to my eyes and had me praying it would be over soon. And while those contractions truly stink, they did make me excited that it would all be over soon.

After only a few of those contractions I felt the pressure change that signaled baby A had moved down, and I felt the urge to push. I was already positioned facing the side of the tub with my arms propped onto the side and my husband holding my hands. I started pushing and baby A was out within a few minutes at 12:27pm. I labored with my first pregnancy in the tub but didn't give birth there. This time baby A was born into the water and I pulled her up onto my chest. I immediately noticed that Charlotte Sophia was smaller than Victoria had been, but she was still big and strong for a twin at 7lbs 6oz.

I had a few minutes to cuddle her, during which my midwives had me sit on a birthing stool in the tub to help baby B descend (and we hoped to prevent her from flipping out of her head-down position). It wasn't long before contractions started again, and my midwives urged me to push a bit to help baby B descend. We soon realized the birthing stool just wasn't working for me. My husband took Charlotte from me for some skin to skin time and I moved back into the position leaning on the side of the tub that I had used before.

I remember thinking "I am going to get this baby out in as few pushes as possible so this can be OVER!". So I bore down as hard as I could during my next contraction and felt the baby move down. She was still in her sac when I got her head out, but it broke as I birthed the rest of her. I got her out in just a few big pushes and was so relieved that labor was over and I could just snuggle my babies! Analisa Iris was bigger, at 8lbs even! That means 15lbs 6oz total of just baby! 

I came away from this labor in embarrassingly good condition. I felt 100% back to normal within a few weeks, and I've been able to get back to my Body Combat work outs by 6 weeks. I actually felt better after this birth than I did after Victoria's birth. I am so grateful for this, since this pregnancy was tough on me.

I attribute the super fast recovery and lack of "damage" to:
-Having a water birth
-Waiting for the babies to come when my body was ready
-Being in much better shape during and before this pregnancy

More photos and updates on what has been happening here to come (and soon, I promise haha).

Charlotte (left) and Analisa (right)


More photos and updates on what has been happening here to come (and soon, I promise haha).



Tuesday, December 13, 2016

11 of My Favorite Christian Christmas Gifts

I love giving gifts. It is one of the ways in which I show love to those around me. And receiving gifts is also special to me as well. Not because I get stuff, but because I enjoy physical tokens of someone's affection. I enjoy thinking about the time and effort someone put into picking out something they knew I would love and enjoy.

I do try to give sentimental gifts as well as fun/helpful gifts. So I've attempted to compile a list of my favorite Christian-esque Christmas gifts. These are all things I (or someone I know) have either received or given, and I am sharing them because perhaps you have someone in your life (or yourself!) who would benefit from them this Christmas :)

Just an FYI, there are NO affiliate links on this post, so I don't make any referral money from suggesting this items to you. I am simply sharing ideas of things and where to find them.

1) 7: An experimental mutiny against excess by Jen Hatmaker
This is one of my all-time favorite books. Jen Hatmaker is a very engaging writer. And even though I did have to power through the first 20 pages or so while she introduced everyone, I found this book to be not only personally and spiritually challenging, but a very enjoyable and funny read. I have gifted it to almost all my relatives and close friends.

2) The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones
This was recommended several years ago by another blogger, and I looked into it then. Since then it has been gifted to Victoria twice, referenced by several Christian bloggers I enjoy, and it has even been referenced by my pastor in a Sunday sermon! It is an easy to understand Bible storybook that references all of the stories to Jesus. So it isn't just that Noah was good an obedient, but the story is tied to Jesus to show the need for a savior in the world. It is SUCH a great book and shares the gospel in a way that anyone can understand.

3) Dave Ramsey's Complete Guide to Money By Dave Ramsey
There are a lot of great Dave Ramsey books, but this one is essentially a mirror of his Financial Peace University. It is very engaging and easy to understand and follow. My husband and I really enjoyed it.

4) Toddler Bible Songs by Cedarmont Kids
When a friend gave us this CD for Victoria's 1st birthday, she said "this is one of the few kids cds where the kids can actually sing". You will appreciate this when you child asks you to turn it on for the 100th time! I love this CD and so does Victoria. I hear her singing the songs from it constantly (and there is nothing cuter than hearing a 2 year old singing out the gospel as we cruise through the grocery store). There are several different CDs, and they are all less than $5. Victoria will be getting the Hymns cd in her Christmas stocking.

5) ESV Journaling Bible
I asked my mom for a new Bible for Christmas last year, and this is the one I got. I absolutely love it. It is written in paragraph format, which I love because it reads more like a book or letter rather than verse by verse. The pages are also a bit thicker, so it is easier to write in. The ONLY minus is that the text is a little small, but it really doesn't bother me at all.

6) Fisher Price Little People A Christmas Story
What a great way to introduce the story of Jesus' birth to your children. I love that the kids then get their own little nativity scene (And don't touch my more breakable one!) and can play with it and absorb the story and characters.

I enjoy reading novels, and I find it hard to find ones that are clean and have a good message. I actually got this book in audio format from my library, and it was only after I got halfway through it, and heard the gospel message woven throughout, that I realized it was a Christian book! It is a beautiful love story, but more about finding forgiveness and grace than anything else.

8) How Good Is Good Enough? by Andy Stanley
This book really made the gospel click for my husband. He surrendered his life to the Lord after reading this tiny book. It is small, and an very quick read (you can read it in less than 2 hours). I have several copies on-hand at all times and give them to people a lot, as it really explains the gospel and salvation in a way that is logical and easy to grasp.

9) Chronicles of Narnia box set By C.S. Lewis
Because I truly believe every adult or child needs to read them!

10) Comfort and Joy by Erin Bates
I've been enjoying this CD very much this year. Every song is a beautiful duet between piano and violin.

11) My First Bible Stories from QED 12 book set

I'm going to drive you all crazy by having an odd number of items on this list! This book set was recommended by a friend, and I purchased it when I saw it on Groupon for such an amazing price (link in the title is to groupon). I received them and really love them! They are very engaging and beautifully illustrated and written, 6 of the books are old testament stories, and the rest are about the life and ministry of Jesus. Victoria will be getting most of these for Christmas, but I have been reading the Birth of Jesus one to her already.

So there it is! Please leave any of your favorite recommendations in the comments!