How to Prepare for Labor and Delivery (From a mom getting ready to give birth for a 4th time)

This April I will be giving birth to our fourth child. I’ve learned a lot from my last 3 births, which I never prepared for much beyond the hospital tour and (for my first child) the birth and baby care class. Here’s how I am preparing for L&D this time around:

  1. Set up childcare. If you have any older children, plan ahead so you know who will be caring for them while you’re in the hospital. We have always had to be induced (thanks to high risk pregnancies) which has actually been super helpful in this regard! This time around my mom is taking off work to stay with my older kids, and I’m also going to set up a babysitter to help her for part of the day.
  2. Set up your support system. This time around my husband will have to work while I am in labor (though he will be there in time for the birth). Thankfully, a dear friend of mine will keep me company until he gets there. I know from experience that the L&D nurses at our hospital are also amazing–L&D nurses are some of the best nurses out there at any hospital, IMO–so while I’m disappointed my husband can’t be there the whole time, I know I’ll have lots of ladies around to offer support!
  3. Figure out your “birth plan”. I’ve never really had a birth plan before, beyond going in with the idea that I’d hold off on the epidural for as long as possible (I’ve ended up getting an epidural the past 3 times). But this time around, I am going to try to avoid the epidural for 2 reasons:
    • First, each time I’ve gotten one it’s been less and less effective. Last time around, it didn’t work AT ALL on one side (the same side that is always a problem…we think I have weird physical abnormality that prevents the pain medication from reaching that side).
    • Second, I HATE epidurals with a passion…truly, my only phobia in life is of epidurals. I’m planning to read Mary Haseltine’s Made for This: The Catholic Mom’s Guide to Birth in order to not only physically and mentally prepare, but most importantly to SPIRITUALLY prepare (something I’ve never really done before). If Haseltine’s book doesn’t go into the topic of delivering without pain medicine/epidurals, I may also look for some books with practical tips for managing pain.
  1. Pack your hospital bag. Here’s an extensive list of essentials if you’ve never gone through this before. My list below are the things that make me feel comfortable and (somewhat) put together in the hospital:
    • A GIANT water bottle with a straw (like this one). HomeGoods will also often have nice large water bottles for sale.
    • A cute bathrobe. This is what I live in (with a nursing tank and yoga pants underneath) during my hospital stay. PinkBlush has some cute robes, and this time around I was gifted a robe from MilkMaid Goods, which I like a bit better because it’s longer.
    • A L&D gown. I’ve never purchased one of these before, but this time I’m planning on it because my husband won’t be there and so I sense that I’ll want to feel a bit more put together (basically, I don’t want my butt crack hanging out when I walk to the bathroom while my friend is sitting in the room behind me 😂). I’m planning to buy one of these L&D gowns from Kindred Bravely.
    • Slippers with good traction/rubber soles. That you can also throw away when you leave the hospital (ain’t nobody wanna bring the MRSA bacteria home with them). They give you socks with traction, which are fine and cozy until you step in something wet (usually an unknown substance). Check out Target’s dollar section (they usually have slippers there in the winter season) or their website for slipper sales. I also saw some slippers on discount at my local grocery store the other day.
    • My iPad & phone (don’t forget your chargers!). Because I’m always induced, I usually have tons of time in the lead up to birth to sit and binge watch a show. My phone is essential to check in with my big kids and text with friends—it’s nice to have a support system outside the hospital too!
    • A good book. Another way to spend time, if you’re not in the mood to watch TV.
    • A thick, soft, cozy blanket. This has always been SO nice to have upon arrive in the mother-baby ward post-delivery.

So there you have it! My game plan this time around. What are you doing to prepare for L&D? Have you read any good books that have helped you with your preparation?

Peace be with you!


Surviving 3rd trimester discomfort and fatigue

I should probably be napping right now (it’s “rest time” in our house) but this post has been on my heart all morning as I’ve STRUGGLED to [cheerfully] survive the the long stretch of hours between 6:45a – 1:30p (aka kids morning wake up to nap time). I’m midway though 26 weeks of pregnancy and third trimester symptoms are already setting in: my belly has reached the point where it’s uncomfortably large (and I accidentally bump into things because I forget to give myself enough clearance) and the physical fatigue is REAL.

One blessing of this being my 4th time surviving 3rd trimester is that I’m more aware of/expecting the changes that are setting in, so I’m better equipped to manage them. Here’s my game plan to survive these last months of pregnancy:

1.Sleep. As much as possible. For me this means going to bed at 9p and sleeping as late as I can in the morning (usually 6:45/7a). Of course this is not all high quality sleep: as any pregnant lady knows, aches and pains plus stomach and bladder issues will wake you up frequently overnight (as will your children who are already outside the womb). Hence, I also enforce mandatory rest time in our house (my 2 y/o and 1 y/o still nap, while my 3 y/o has some quiet time in the family room & watches a show) when I take a nap…and you better believe that I nap every day. This is just as important to my mental health and physical wellbeing as it is to that of my kids—we all need a break from each other, they need their rest and they also need a joyful Mama.

2.Discover rejuvenating activities to fit in throughout your day. When I’m burnt out and exhausted, my natural inclination is to waste time scrolling though Instagram and Pinterest. But this NEVER recharges me; in fact, I usually put down my phone 5-10 minutes later feeling even worse than when I sat down to “rest”. I’ve realized that I need to fight the resistance I feel to pursue activities that actually recharge me when I have a small break in my day. For me those activities are prayer (nothing like a few decades of the rosary at 10a to reset your day), reading (thanks to the #CathLit2019 challenge I have a stack of good books ready to pick up and read) and writing. For you it might be painting, crafting, cooking…the list goes on. Whatever it is that pulls your out of yourself and gives you that sense of timelessness.

3.Eat well. We made chocolate chip cookies this morning and I am too embarrassed to say how many I have eaten today. I sort of developed an eating addiction: every time I started to feel super tired, I’d eat a cookie. This resulted in a series of sugar highs and sugar crashes, and also me not feeling hungry for anything substantive. Needless to say, I felt crummy and irritable thanks to my food choices (though the cookies were supremely delicious in the moment). I know from experience that what I should be doing is focusing my food consumption on high-protein, high-fiber food groups, foods that will give me stable energy and provide me and baby with the nutrients we need (and prevent constipation, which is a nightmare when pregnant). So tomorrow that means more meat, veggies, fruit and yogurt for this Mama!

4.Drink lots of water. I’m always thirsty these days, and when I don’t stay hydrated I get super irritable and develop low blood pressure. These are not helpful conditions to function under, especially when you have small, fast, loud children at home with you.

5.Be intentional with your time and energy. Over the years I’ve come up with my list of priorities: prayer/God, my husband and my kids are the top three—the people living in my home and our relationships. Following these priorities is staying on-top of laundry, keeping the home relatively picked up/vacuumed, and making healthy meals (important ways I care for the people in my home). Right now, this is pretty much all I’m capable of doing, which brings me to my next point…

6.Ask for help. Today I told my husband that I will no longer be able to keep up with deep cleaning the bathrooms. And you know what, he was okay with that and even volunteered to take over the dirty work until after baby is born. (He’s definitely a keeper ❤️). Acknowledging my limitations has made me a more cheerful wife and mother, and has helped me do the work that still I CAN do well and with a joyful heart. Through my struggles with prenatal and postpartum depression, I’ve come to the acute realization that Mama does set the emotional tone in the house. I want my home to be life-giving and joyful, which means I need to focus on how well I’m loving the people in my house, and asking for help (or maybe even letting go for a season) of the things that aren’t as important.

If you’re pregnant or recently postpartum, what have been/were the biggest challenges for your pregnancy? What tricks did you discover for coping?

Surviving the First Trimester with a Toddler (or Two) at Home

When you find out that you’re pregnant with baby number two (or three, or four…) it’s a different experience than it was with the first. Gone are the days of peacefully lying on the couch all afternoon when you feel sick, or napping whenever you feel tired (at least on the weekends). Now you have a little one outside the womb who needs you 24/7 and it can be an exhausting, trying time for the Mama who had to give herself a pep talk just to climb out of bed in the morning.

This first trimester—at home with a 1-year-old and a 2-year-old—was definitely a “valley of darkness” time for me. Here are a few tips I pick up along the way that helped me to survive.

  1. Sleep whenever you can, as in whenever your child(ren) are in their beds. The one thing I’ve learned from my many first trimesters is that sleep is a sure way to make myself feel better. It even helps decrease my nausea.
  2. After sleep, this is my cure for all ailments. Specifically, sleep routines. We keep a strict sleep schedule in our house, that way everyone (including the exhausted Mama who is desperately counting down the seconds to bedtime) knows what to expect, and there is minimal resistance at bedtime. It’s also great to establish these routines now so when baby comes you can have everyone on a predictable schedule, and you can incorporate baby into the family’s routine.
  3. Community support. This comes in many different forms, from babysitters to Mommy friends to family and your hubby. You will likely need a break from your kid(s) at some point in order to recharge, so family or babysitters are very helpful. Having Mommy friends to vent to or commiserate with, to set up play dates with, etc. has also been lifesaving for me as I tend to get down when I’ve been feeling sick and exhausted for so long. I recently joined MOPS, and I HIGHLY recommend it if you’re not already a member!!
  4. Yes, I’m recommending screen time (shame on me). But for real, for those days when you didn’t sleep the night before and your head is hanging over the wastebasket and you have no babysitting help, give yourself a break and turn the telly on. Try to nap on the couch even, while your kiddos watch their show. (Helpful tip: Daniel Tiger has some great episodes about bringing a new baby sibling home. And an episode about how to take care of Mom when she’s sick—those are my personal favorites ;)).
  5. Reading and quiet activities. When the kids get bored of TV but you still can’t move from the couch, have them fetch books for you to read to them. Or pull out some crayons and coloring books. Then collapse back on the couch.
  6. Encourage independent play. When the TV is done and you’ve read all the Fancy Nancy books you can handle, tell them “Mama isn’t feeling well, I need to rest.” Depending on their age and how well they communicate, you can be specific and, for example, tell them that you feel sick to your stomach and ask them to recall a time when they were sick and what that was like for them. There may be some resistance at first, but keep persisting. They will respect you when they see that you’re serious.
  7. Candy & Gum. And a plastic trash bag. When we had to leave the house, chewing gum or sucking on hard candy (Werther’s hard caramel) really help with my stomach problems and made me feel well enough to schlep us out to story time and back home again (or to the park, etc.).
  8. Learn to say “no” to outside activities and prioritize your rest. This is a hard one, but for this season in life you need to take care of yourself and your family before anything/anyone else.
  9. Positive attitude – “this too shall pass”. Frankly, when you’re in the middle of the first trimester it feels like it will never end. Even if you “only” have three weeks left or whatever, the time that stretches out between you and relief of your symptoms seems daunting. But try to remember that there is noting more creative and miraculous than bringing a new life into the world and try to keep your eye on the prize.
  10. Pray. Really, I probably should have listed this first–it was in prayer that I found all of my hope and inspiration for the difficult days. I kept Philippians 4:13 as the background on my phone: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” If you look up this verse on Pinterest you’ll find some cute phone wallpapers.

Finally, thank you for your selfless dedication to that baby and that family of yours, Mama. You are a rock star—really and truly—so keep on rockin’ & rollin’. I’ll be praying for you.