My 5 Favorite Non-Essential Baby Items, Ages 0-6 Months

When Jake and I first went out to register, we spent over three hours in the car seat section of Buy Buy Baby. I thought I had done enough legwork – you know, asking friends on Facebook for their top registry picks, talking to fellow mommy friends, researching on the internet. I printed out, like, 10 pages of comments along with other info I could find online and brought it with us to register but it wasn’t enough. We still spent more than three hours with the Buy Buy Baby salesperson asking questions and looking at every model of car seat they had. By the time we were done, my big, preggo body was so tired that the only other section I could handle  was the nursery where I just sprawled out on a rocking chair and lulled myself into a catnap.

We finalized our registry and got most of the items we asked for along with many generous gifts we didn’t ask for too. Lovely handmade quilts, tons of clothes (I would kill for even half of Ainsley’s wardrobe) and enough gift cards to purchase furniture and whatnot.

We all know what the essentials are right? Diapers, wipes, somewhere for baby to sleep and so on. But you could spend a small fortune purchasing the many, many, many other items the baby store people try to convince you that you’ll need. Some of which are helpful. Some of which are totally unnecessary. If you’re on a budget, like we were, you will need to narrow things down. In addition to the obvious stuff, here are my favorite non-essentials. Obviously, you need to make your own choices but here is what we’ve loved and our reasons why:

1. Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play

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Ainsley was diagnosed with reflux at three weeks old so lying flat on her back has always been uncomfortable… up until about three weeks ago when we transitioned her to her crib at night. Before that though, Ains was in her Rock’n Play all the time. Day and night. As evidenced by the above pics. One thing that is great is she can subtly move the chair while sitting in it which allows her to rock a bit. Babies love that. We even bring it with us on vacation. Most essential, non-essential piece of furniture by far.

2. Snap-N-Go Stroller

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The Snap ‘n Go Stroller has been a lifesaver. My delivery was brutal and it took weeks to heal. I could hardly carry around my six pound baby let alone heavier objects. The great thing about the Snap ‘n Go is that it is light and easy to use. All you do is place your infant carseat in the frame until you hear it click. Sadly, Miss A is not loving being in her carseat anymore so I am not sure how much longer we will get away with using this as our primary stroller but I will keep trying as long as possible.

3. Secrets of the Baby Whisperer Book

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This book totally changed the way I view my child and helped me create a realistic schedule for our days. It was recommended by several people before I finally went out and bought it. I’m so glad I did. Here are my takeaways:

  • Ainsley is a tiny person. She is not “the baby” but rather Ainsley Grace Charles and although she has not been on this earth for long she still deserves to be treated with respect.
  • E.A.S.Y. – Eat, Activity, Sleep, You Time. It doesn’t work perfectly. At least not in our house. But it does help. Let’s say Ains is fussing and I can’t figure out why. It helps to have a framework for the day that I can use as a guide as I figure out what’s wrong. If she’s just eaten, it may be that her diaper is wet. Or if I can rule those out, maybe she’s tired. There are also some charts that help decode baby body language (like what it means when they arch their back or frantically kick their legs). Those alone are worth buying the book for. You can get a used copy for crazy cheap on Amazon.

4. Carseat Canopy

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One of my favorite showers gifts was our carseat canopy. An awesome family friend made ours and it has come in handy on more than one occasion. For starters, with the winter we are having it has helped Ainsley stay warm and protect her adorable porcelain skin from getting too dry and cold. The other thing though, and people said this would happen, is that strangers will touch your child. No joke. This just adds an extra layer of protection between you and those who aren’t aware of the concept of boundaries.

5. Security Binky Blanket

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I can’t remember when but Ains reached a point when she learned how to grab at things. She will grab at anything within reach now.  It’s fun seeing her reach this new milestone but the problem is, she grabs blankets and pulls them over her face when I am not looking. So I found this tiny blanket that attaches to her paci and she absolutely loves it. Now, in addition to her loving the way it feels, I don’t have to worry about her being suffocated by a bigger blanket.

Like I said – it’s all a matter of personal opinion. These are a few items we have grown to love. What essential, non-essentials do you recommend?

Linking up with Still Being Molly

Miss A’s birth story

Well, after my final, Rachel-like week of pregnancy (see OMG I am soo Rachel), Miss Ainsley Grace Charles decided to make her entrance into the world. Here is the long-awaited story of her birth, which took place on Wednesday, October 9th, one week and one day past her due date…

The days (and weeks) leading up to Ainsley’s birth were long. I was getting bigger and more uncomfortable by the minute so we became really limited in what we could do. Short stints out to eat or to the store were the highlights of our days, while the other 23 hours were spent sitting on the couch or sleeping.

My parents came to town September 30th, thinking she would show up sometime around October 1st when she was due. As each day passed, we made our predictions as to when we might meet her, only to revise them repeatedly when she didn’t show up.

Finally, on October 8th, I woke up with contractions. They were pretty far apart so there wasn’t much to do yet except wait. The entire day passed and the contractions remained more than five minutes apart (which was when the doctor said to call). I was scheduled to get induced the following day because she was already over a week late and we went to bed that night thinking we would just get up and go to the hospital at 9:00am as planned.

At 3:30am I woke up with strong contractions. Like the real ones where you can’t think straight and have to force yourself to even breathe. This was it. I took a shower, we woke up the fam and took off for the hospital. Turns out, I was five centimeters at that point. They moved us to a delivery room and started me on Pitocin to further things along.

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World’s fakest smile. When we first arrived at the hospital.

The anesthesiologist came to give me my epidural fairly quickly (yes, I did decide to get an epidural and I can’t lie, I am so glad I did). Jake told me there were multiple moments where I would just sigh and say “I feel like I’m at the spa.” Quite different than what I was saying earlier in the morning!

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Quick pic with my sister-in-law. Feeling goooood now.

As the, now painless, contractions continued I started noticing the tense faces of my family members. I felt great and didn’t know what was going on. The nurse came in suddenly and lowered my Pitocin levels as well as asked me to wear an oxygen mask. Apparently Ainsley’s heart rate dropped drastically after every contraction so they wanted to slow things down a bit and make sure she was getting enough oxygen. This continued for a while and when the doctor stopped by around 11:00am, her heart rate had regulated, my water had broken and I was fully dilated. Things were moving at a pretty steady pace now.

It was all totally different than I expected once the pushing began. Delivery is portrayed as this dramatic event on TV with tons of people around and lots of screaming and expletives being thrown out by the mom… It was actually pretty low key at first. My doctor even left for an hour while I was pushing which just left one nurse, three family members and me.

As they say though… it was the calm before the storm…

My mom, Jake and his sister all assisted with the pushing, coaching me and holding my legs. As with earlier in the morning, I started to notice some looks of concern as things progressed. Pushing got harder and harder as it went on because it became more difficult to breathe. On top of that, the nurse had me wear the oxygen mask again between pushes because Ainsley’s heart rate started dropping again. I could tell pretty quickly there was a tense vibe in the room. There wasn’t much time in between contractions to ask any questions, plus I had an oxygen mask on my face, so I tried my best to keep my calm demeanor and go with the flow. But something seemed off and I could tell my family was stressed.

Our nurse suddenly got a call from one of the other nurses who was watching the monitor from outside the room. I could only hear one side of the conversation but the gist seemed to be that Ainsley’s heart rate was continuing to drop rapidly between contractions. The other nurse was advising ours to call the doctor asap. She finally agreed (why she resisted at first I’ll never know). We continued on and the doctor showed up a short while later.

After a few more pushes, and increased looks of concern, the doctor finally told us we needed to get Ainsley out as soon as possible. We didn’t know this at the time but the cord was wrapped around her neck and she was having trouble breathing. It was like the situation went from zero to 100 in a minute and the doctor quickly got dressed in her head to toe scrubs, face mask, the works. The NICU nurses showed up in case anything went wrong. Suddenly the room was full of activity. Our doctor explained the risk factors of using a vacuum to suction our baby girl out and asked if we were okay moving forward that way. We didn’t feel we had much of a choice but to go with it because the situation suddenly seemed so dire.

To say I had an episiotomy would be an understatement. Without getting too graphic, I’ll just call it an episiotomy on steroids, which the doctor did in order to prepare my body to get the baby out as fast as possible. I pushed. She pulled. I pushed again. She pulled again. Out came Ainsley.

The crowd of nurses grabbed her, cut the cord and rushed her off to get checked out. She didn’t cry at first. Jake was able to watch what they were doing but I didn’t know what was going on for what felt like hours. Finally we heard her cry and we all lost it. I was exhausted and overwhelmed with fear from the delivery process and relief that she was alive. The nurses said she checked out well and seemed perfectly healthy.

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Getting all spiffed up to meet us.

Holding her daddy's hand.

Holding her daddy’s hand.

Man, I thought pregnancy was hard. Delivering this child was the most emotional experience of my life. (Mind you, this was before experiencing the flood of emotions that come with the postpartum days).

Holding Ainsley for the first time.

Holding my daughter for the first time.

 

Jake holding his baby girl.

Jake holding his baby girl.

Now I totally understand why there is a holiday celebrating mothers. There should be 365 of them! Our bodies, minds, hearts, tear ducts… every single part of us goes through the wringer before, during and after childbirth. We are strong and amazing people, ladies!

Since this post is so long I will share more details about the first few weeks later. But for now… welcome to the world our little miracle baby! We love you.

Perfection.

Perfection.

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OMG I am soo Rachel

Breaking news! There is no news. Baby Ainsley is staying put until she is good and ready to come out. (Or until her doctor and parents force her out on Oct. 9th). Is this an indication of what’s to come, especially in her teen years?

As Jake and I learn the art of patience, I have been getting daily updates from my many preggo friends, all of whom were due after me but whattaya know? They have had their babies already. Here is the lineup:

Friend #1: Due Oct. 2nd – had baby Sept. 29th

Friend #2: Due Oct. 3rd – had baby Oct. 1st

Friend #3: Due Oct. 4th – had baby Oct. 3rd

Friend #4: Due Oct. 16th – had baby Oct. 7th

And then there’s me… Due Oct. 1st – and still no baby.

4 friends – 4 babies.

It’s actually getting pretty funny and as one friend tells me I am “sooo Rachel on Friends.” Here is a little something to bring a smile to your face and mine, as we wait for our sweet, stubborn cutie patootie to show up.

Rachel Having a Baby

5 Biggest Surprises of Pregnancy (3rd Trimester Edition)

It is hard to believe our little munchkin is due in two days. Pregnancy has been one of the fastest and slowest seasons of my life. At this point, I just can’t believe it’s almost over.

As with the 1st and 2nd trimesters, the 3rd has been full of surprises as well. Here are my top five:

1) The nausea resurfaces towards the end. Wha?? I thought that part was over. Apparently at the end it is not uncommon to have… er, stomach problems. But this was news to me. I haven’t felt nearly as bad as I did at the beginning but still, surprise, surprise.

2) Preggo brain reaches a whole new level. I won’t get in to all the chaotic details of our move again. Thankfully, that’s all old news. But seriously? Seriously?! It still baffles me every time I forget the smallest of details – from items on our grocery list to the times we need to be different places and even how to spell elementary-level words. Plus, oh so much more.

3) There is even more to learn than the other two trimesters. We thought all the car seat stuff was overwhelming when we registered… that was nothing compared to everything we are learning about the actual baby now. Since neither of us have spent much time around kids, learning the amount of time they really do eat, sleep and poop is pretty remarkable. We recently learned the 5 S’s from Happiest Baby on the Block. Everyone says they are a total lifesaver but now we just need to make sure we remember them. And how to do them on our kid once we remember them.

4) Preggo brain reaches a whole new level. I won’t get in to all the chaotic details of our move again. Thankfully, that’s all old news. But seriously? Seriously?! It still baffles me every time I forget the smallest of details – from items on our grocery list to the times we need to be different places and even how to spell elementary-level words. Plus, oh so much more.

Oh wait, that all sounds familiar. Duh.

Let’s try #4 again…

4) We have been showered with so much love and support. Looking back, it still blows our minds just how much we have been given… gifts of course but also texts, emails, Facebook messages, phone calls, lunch dates… all so encouraging and so loving. Even though we are starting this journey in a new city, it’s hard to feel alone when you are “surrounded” with friends and family all across the country who are praying for us and supporting us each step of the way.

5) The end is bittersweet. Are we excited for the arrival of our little one? Of course! Is there a part of us that’s also sad to be losing our freedom and “us” time? Most definitely. Jake and I are approaching our five-year anniversary and we have had our share of ups and downs. We have moved several times, lost a dear loved one, could barely make ends meet at the beginning as poor grad students, bought our first car together, bought our first house together, traveled a bunch, among other things. Throughout it all, we have had more fun than I ever thought possible and it’s hard to think of trading that in for a new family dynamic. However, all that to say, we know our lives will be greatly enhanced by our sweet new member and we look forward to discovering all that is in store!

Two more days and then welcome to the world little one! We can’t wait to meet you, Miss Ainsley Grace!

The 5 Biggest Surprises of Pregnancy (2nd Trimester Edition)

Pregnancy is not for the faint of heart. Thankfully however, the second trimester has been considerably easier than the initial few months and from what I understand, it is for most people. 24/7 nausea is, put simply, one of the most tortuous sensations one can experience. Picture having the flu –  all the time. And while I haven’t ever felt completely normal, anything is better than never-ending flu.

So, with my new-found energy and growing excitement (and belly), I present you with the biggest surprises of pregnancy, 2nd trimester edition.

 

1)      How much there is to learn about baby “stuff”

By “stuff,” I am referring to literal “stuff”… car seats, adapters, strollers and the like. So, last week we started registering. Our first surprise was learning we will need two car seats. In our ignorance, we assumed our kiddo would use the same car seat from infancy through year 5. At least. But no, car seats are based on the weight and length of the child. So when they are really little they need the rear-facing infant kind and then later when they outgrow that, they transition to the front-facing older person kind. Who knew? After about an hour and a half of car seat education with the nice lady at Buy Buy Baby, we moved on to strollers. It was there that we learned all about the base, adaptor and various other attachments. Oh and about the stroller itself. All in all, our first trip registering took two and a half hours and we barely made it out of the first aisle.

2)      Nausea has been replaced with other weird aches and pains. Sleeping has been replaced with… not sleeping.

I can’t even imagine what it’s going to feel like when I am all big in a few months. Because right now I feel like a house even though most people say I am all belly. Every time I wake up (which 60% of the time is at 3:37am to pee), my back and hips are stiff as boards. I literally limp to the bathroom, pee and do a stretching regime in the dark. If I don’t stretch I can’t go back to sleep. None of this has been too disturbing so far but the surprise is, I expected this towards the end of the pregnancy not in the middle!

3)      The anatomy scan was incredible

Remember in the 1st trimester edition I mentioned how shocked we were to breeze through our first ultrasound, unable to fully revel in the miracle we were witnessing on the screen? Well this one was the opposite. We were there for over an hour. It was ah-mazing. Despite the fact that our little munchkin was only the length of a bell pepper that week, we were able to see the valves of the heart, vertebrae of the spine and so much more. Half the time we had no idea what we were looking at but still, those black and white splotches were beautiful.

4)      Knowing the gender makes everything so much more real

The ultrasound tech said she had a feeling she knew what the gender was throughout the entire ultrasound but she just needed the money shot to confirm. That made us think boy for sure. If it was that obvious, I mean. But as it turned out, the money shot revealed GIRL, which, while she apparently knew all along, was very much NOT obvious to us. (Since that day I have seen the ultrasounds of friends’ babies and yes, it actually is pretty obvious what’s what, if you catch my drift). For us though, finding out it was a girl, somehow felt right. I can’t explain it. I wonder if it would have felt the same if we found out it was a boy. I don’t know… But somehow knowing the gender made everything right in the world. We are having a daughter. Our very own, female, mini-us. That day, the bell pepper became a human and we became parents.

5)      Her first kick upped the “realness factor” even more

She has been kicking for a while I’m sure. But I have not felt it. Then last week, for the first time, I felt two distinct twitches in my lower belly that somehow I knew were my baby girl. It was unbelievable. One of the biggest oddities in pregnancy is feeling so physically different, with the nausea and aches and pains, and yet not feeling the baby itself. In a way, it was reassuring in the beginning just to feel anything as a tangible reminder that the baby was still in there. But the kicks took away that fear and reminded me that there is a real, live, squirmy person being sustained somehow inside my body. Whaaa?!

 

Last night my husband and I had dinner with one of our favorite couples, who also happened to have twins 13 months ago. We still remember meeting the twins for the first time in the hospital and now they are over a year old! We picked their brains for hours about pregnancy, the baby “stuff” and parenting girls. They both agreed that while some days are so tiring and feel like they will never end, the year has flown by. I totally get that. I feel the same about pregnancy. Even though some days have felt long and consistently uncomfortable, it is halfway over and in a way that’s kinda sad. This will be my only first pregnancy. So I continue to live each day with gratitude. Thankful to be this girl’s mama.

What surprised you in the 2nd trimester?

The 5 Biggest Surprises of Pregnancy (1st Trimester Edition)

Pregnancy has been full of surprises… one after another. I thought I’d document a few here so the rest of you can let me know if I am completely crazy, or if this stuff surprised you too. Also, for anyone who is not preggo yet, here’s a heads up so maybe you can be more informed than I have been when you are!

1) Maternity clothes

I have been saying for years that maternity pants have to be some of the nerdiest, least fashionable articles of clothing ever invented and yet, the time has come for me to wear said pants. To say I have been resistant is an understatement – not because I have any personal experience with them or can vouch for their quality, comfort or style from a firsthand perspective. My concerns have to do with the big elastic waistband and not much else. I never thought I’d be an elastic waistband kinda girl. The problem is, for the past week or two my regular jeans and work pants have gotten increasingly tight. They dig into my stomach when I am sitting (which is 99% of my life these days. I laugh in the face of physical activity) and after I eat, when my stomach puffs out like a helium balloon. So I borrowed a bag of maternity clothes from a friend of mine and in it was a pair of maternity leggings. They are a pair of cotton wonderfulness, bunchy in all the wrong places (especially because I don’t fill them in completely yet) but full of heavenly comfort in all the right places. They are my new favorite pants and I even went online yesterday to look for more. I have a feeling I will be living in these the next six months. And I am not sure if it is my new found tolerance for maternity waistbands or if I misjudged them to begin with, but I have been pleasantly surprised to discover that maternity clothes are not as bad as I thought.

2) I can’t drag myself off the couch to save my life

Speaking of my lack of physical activity, that’s been another big surprise. I have always fancied myself pretty active, but times have changed ever since I saw the blue “pregnant” result on that stick in mid-January. In fact, I distinctly remember the last day I really worked out, like hard. It was MLK day and I remember it because I went to the gym at noon, something I am not usually able to do. Stick turned positive the next day and my dreams of a toned summer bod went down the tubes. The exhaustion you feel while pregnant is unlike anything I have ever experienced before. It is worse than jet lag, it is worse than any all-nighter I pulled in college, it’s worse than the worst kind of tired. I am not exaggerating.

3) Unsolicited advice from friends who have never been pregnant

When you get pregnant, people suddenly have a lot to say about what you should and shouldn’t be eating, doing, thinking, feeling… the problem, for me anyway, is not so much the advice itself, it’s the fact that some of these well-intentioned people have never been pregnant before! (The irony of all of this is that one of my hubby’s pet peeves about me is that I “act like an expert” when talking about subjects I know nothing about. I guess I see where he’s coming from now when he gets frustrated). I get it though. I do. I thought I understood pregnancy before too because it seems that almost everyone I know has 1, 2, 3, or 4 kids with the hopes of a fifth. But I had no idea. I still have no idea what’s to come. All I know is that the past few months of been full of bizarre feelings like being pinched in my lower abdomen, stretched in my upper abdomen, wanting to puke at the thought of lentils (excuse me, I just gagged) and all kinds of other foreign physical sensations. Not to mention wanting to cry at the drop of a hat and fall asleep when stopped at a red light. It’s too unpredictable to understand when you’re in it, let alone when you’re not. And for those of you who endured my unsolicited advice giving the past, oh I don’t know… 10 years, I just want to say thanks for being so forgiving.

4) The first ultrasound

My hubby and I were both surprised about this next one. You know how in movies and TV, they show couples having their first ultrasound appointment and weeping over the beauty that is their bundle of joy? They sit for what you have to assume is at least half an hour listening to the heartbeat, watching the little guy or girl move and marveling at the miracle they created. Well, in real life the first ultrasound is way faster and less romantic. I glanced over at my husband just as it started in an attempt to have a special ultrasound, eyes-locked, omg-we-are-looking-at-our-baby-for-the-first-time-moment and by the time my eyes made it back to the screen, we were halfway done. I would advise (now here I go with the unsolicited advice) that you go into your first ultrasound expecting less romance and more clinical so you are not disappointed.

5) Pregnant besties

Finally, I was surprised and ecstatic to find out that three of my closest friends are on this journey at the exact same time as me (due within days of each other no less)! This has made a huge difference in the not-feeling-alone department. We text daily and ask,”have you experienced (insert weird feeling)?” Sometimes we are going through the same thing and other times we are completely opposite but there is an overall feeling of camaraderie between us soon-to-be-moms and I am hoping it will continue once the babies come too.

What surprised you during your first few months of pregnancy?

Eeek! I’m preggo!

First off, I am so sorry I have been MIA lately! Again. The biggest thing going on in my life is the very thing I had to keep under wraps for 12 whole weeks! Hardest secret I’ve ever had to keep! The good news is, the cat’s out of the bag and I can finally share this journey with all of you. Sigh of relief.

Let me just say, pregnancy is hard. Not for everyone maybe but for those of us who have the fun 24/7 sickness (morning sickness my you-know-what – I’m convinced whoever came up with concept that has probably never been pregnant). Anywho, after weeks of queasiness combined with the all-consuming tiredness that can only be described as, other-worldy, the cycle finally broke this past week and I actually had more good days than bad. Could it be that I am entering the much-prefered second trimester? Finally.

For control freaks like myself, pregnancy has brought about a whole slew of uncomfortable emotions and physical experiences. The “what if” questions started about 2.5 seconds after we saw the positive pregnancy test. “What if we are not cut out to be parents?” “What if there are complications during pregnancy?” “What if (insert about 100 other things)”. Being pregnant has forced the reminder that I am not in control to the forefront of my mind. I have had to let go of my fears for the good of myself and my baby, who is growing and forming, susceptible to every little thing I do, think, consume and feel.

Whoa. It is not all about me anymore. Pregnancy has been a beautifully difficult and exciting season so far. I cannot even begin to imagine what the next few months have in store but am so thankful to have others join us on the journey.

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