A (Pretty Good) Day in the Life with 3 Wee Ones

4am The baby wakes up to nurse and poop, but then we both fall back asleep.

6:30am The big boys have “slept in” but are now up and want to watch Curious George. We think this is a great idea, because it buys the rest of us 22 more minutes of sleep. We hear our eldest slide open the freezer to dig out waffles, which the kids eat still frozen while watching “Monkey George.”

6:52am the episode is over, so the older kids start to cry about something. My husband goes downstairs to make them more food while I take a shower. Without an audience! The baby continues sleeping.mother with 3 kids and a beer

7:15am I sit down to a plate of scrambled eggs I did not have to cook myself. The older kids are only moderately insane, have only splashed a little ketchup on the table, and agree to let me wolf down my food while sitting. The food is hot! While I’m eating it!

7:30am The baby has woken up and I’m nursing on the couch while trying to tell the older two boys to stop hitting each other and brush their teeth. I’m trying so hard not to yell or get impatient. Eventually, the oldest one goes upstairs to get dressed and brush teeth. His younger brother copies him.

8:00am All my sons are dressed, fed, and the ones with teeth have had them brushed. I tell my oldest he can play with the iPad before the school bus, but he gets distracted and both my big boys are playing Lego. I hurriedly load the dishwasher and toss laundry in the dryer before the baby stops being interested in staring at the wall from his swing.

8:32am We are jogging down the street, hoping the bus is running late today. The toddler is not happy to be buckled in to the umbrella stroller, the baby is zonked in the wrap carrier, and my kindergartener has anxiety he will miss his bus. But not enough anxiety to walk faster. We cross the street and trot down the hill, and the bus is running late, so the big boys walk in a circle around the stop sign pole until they feel dizzy and fall down.

9:30am I got the toddler and the baby loaded up in the minivan with snacks and spare diapers (but no wipes) and we’ve gone to the toy library to play for the morning. I find another mom willing to run across the street to get coffee for all the moms, but the espresso machine is broken at the coffee shop. I power through my disappointment by changing two dirty diapers using paper towels and tap water.

11:45am En route home from the toy library, I have been gifted a double car nap by the universe. I’m able to transfer the toddler to his bed, still asleep. I haul in the baby in his bucket car seat and park him by the couch, still asleep. I decide to eat lunch with two hands, make a phone call, and read one page of an article about maps in Smithsonian magazine.

12:03pm The baby is up and nursing, but I’m able to feed him quickly and he’s content while I fold laundry. So much laundry.

2:00pm For once, I don’t have to wake the toddler in order to pick up the kindergartener! He wakes on his own, in a good mood, and agrees to eat some food. Only two bites, but he’s eating! We color with markers and talk about elephants until it’s time to get big brother. I’m able to color AND nurse the baby, which I didn’t know before this day.

4:00pm All my sons are home and crying, because it’s 4pm and everyone cries at 4pm. I use television to get them to stop crying and I realize I have, for once, remembered to turn ON the crock pot filled with our supper! After serving the supper to the starving children, I’m informed that this food is disgusting. They run away to play something in the back yard. I take the baby with me to the basement, where I put him in another baby swing and I manage to use the rowing machine for ten minutes before my absence is discovered.

 5:03pm My husband comes home from work and convinces the big boys to sit and pick at their dinner. I sit on the couch with a beer my friend has brought over for me! I’m quickly discovered and my children join me on the couch. All of them. Life seems pretty good. 

How to Nurse (or Pump) at a Formal Function

I’ve been nursing for 5 years straight now, and have been to a few formal affairs in that time period. It always seems much easier in theory than in practice to nurse a baby (or pump milk for the baby) while surrounded by black ties and sparkly gowns. Pumping is way more of a pain, for me, because I had to totally leave the party to pump in a private room, whereas I’ve always felt comfortable just nursing my baby among the action whenever he felt hungry.

Since I went to 2 weddings in a row with my newborn this autumn, I noticed a few things that made the whole experience a little easier for me.

Would you ever guess this is a nursing/maternity dress?

Would you ever guess this is a nursing/maternity dress?

1. Find the right nursing bra/tank. Judy, renowned bra whisperer, hooked me up with this inexpensive nursing tank in black. I felt hesitant that something like this would support my 34 G (or maybe I’m an H right now?) bust, but it was perfect and the seamless tank had a low profile that made it work well with a number of different dresses. Supportive enough to dance in, it also had a wee bit of padding that concealed any leakage. Plus I could work the clasps with one hand.

Not local to our store? Try a virtual fitting to help you find the right underthings for your fancy party. The cost of the fitting goes toward any bra you might purchase!

2. Find the right dress. There’s nothing like sitting down to pump and realizing you need to remove your entire dress to make it work. Many women aren’t even aware that there is such a thing as a nursing dress. There are, and they aren’t all florals or paisley as you might fear! There are dresses designed specifically for nursing, so there’s no need to stretch the neckline or finagle a “regular” dress. A Mother’s Boutique carries many dresses perfect for casual or formal events. Each has nursing openings that make it easy for you to discretely nurse or easily hook yourself up to the breast pump as needed.

3. Find the right chair. I generally need arm rests to nurse comfortably. Those awful folding chairs at weddings and fancy dinners just don’t work well for me, especially if I’m getting snagged in the tablecloth while I move my baby into position. I usually walk around the venue with my baby (great for soothing!) and locate the very best chair. Then I keep returning to it each time I need to nurse. Often I find the most comfortable chairs are in hallways next to decorative mirrors. This is usually helpful for me because my baby is less distracted a little bit removed from the action. If there aren’t any comfy chairs, I make do in the folding chair at the table and lean on my husband!

As I’m on my third child now, I can nurse standing up. With the right dress, nobody can even tell what’s going on. I nursed standing in line at the cupcake truck at my sister’s wedding and chatted up a bunch of single 20-somethings, who had no idea I was feeding the baby when they asked to hold him. It’s more comfortable in a good chair, though.

4. Call ahead. With my last nursling, I went to a wedding without him when he was seven months old. I didn’t want to bother the bride when she was already swamped, so I called the reception venue to ask about a private room where I might pump during the wedding. I asked who I should ask for when I got to the reception, and that person showed me to a great room with a table and outlets and a television. The bride had no idea, but I made sure to tell her later that her vendors were so wonderfully accommodating. If I weren’t pumping and I felt modest nursing at the party, I would have used the same strategy to locate a room to nurse my baby.

Other things that worked well for me if I was pumping at a formal party were to snag spare ice from the bar. I used plastic bar cups in a pinch to nestle around the bottles of my expressed milk in my cooler. I also brought spare Ziplock bags and burp cloths to deal with any spills or leaks.

Have you nursed your baby or pumped your milk during fancy parties? Leave us a comment to share your best tips. 

Self Care for Mothers

I’m not the best at self care. I’m not alone in this–many, many sources discuss self care and how mothers aren’t taking the time to practice it. We’re so busy caring for everyone else in our families! But it’s so vital that we care for ourselves, fill our own tanks so we have enough gas to keep up the work that’s so important to us. meditating woman

For me, self care is often a big mental hurdle. I have to mentally prepare to even risk making a phone call to schedule an appointment for myself. Will my kids shriek in the background? Will I mishear the time of my appointment? It seems so insignificant, but making phone calls during business hours with three young kids at home is no small feat.

Then there’s the actual going to the appointment. Provided I’m able to schedule, say, a chiropractor appointment to address my searing hip pain that’s been plaguing me since pregnancy–provided this appointment falls in the magical window between nap and school pickup, I have to deal with all the car seats and parking while I go to this appointment. I have to pack a bag of snacks and diapers and toy vehicles. It’s exhausting.

But I’ve been making the effort to go and to do it, because I can’t chase my boys on scooters if my hip hurts. And if my boys can’t scoot, we’re all in the house yelling at each other and that’s miserable.

I realized last week that my chiropractor is always running 25 minutes behind. Always! Because of this, I intend to stop going to that office after my last appointment. Even realizing that was so freeing– that I could simply find another provider who had better availability and fit into my schedule. (Now, somebody pester me until I actually make an appointment with the new provider!)

I wanted to share a few things that have helped me eke out some self-care, because I know it’s so hard!

1. Find child-friendly providers. There’s a difference between “oh. Yes, I suppose you can bring your children to appointments,” and “sure! We love kids here. Please bring them.” Does the waiting room have toys? Does the office have sharp or dangerous things on low shelves? Is the staff actually cool with children or are they just tolerating you and your minions? Finding providers who really support young families makes a huge difference in my ability to continue self-care.

2. Declare your intentions out loud. If I sit and marinate the idea that I should really do something about the painful skin tag that’s grown right along my bra line, I’ll find a million excuses to postpone treatment. If I actually verbalize to my husband that I’ve got this painful thing happening to my body, he will respond, “You’ve got to do something about that.” Much as I would tell him if he revealed a painful tooth or similar! Saying it out loud, for me, means I have to do it.

3. Put it on the calendar. Self-care looks different for everyone. The thing you need to fill your tank can vary, but one of the most restorative things for me is exercise. I’m not trying to go crazy here, 8 weeks post surgery with a bum hip. I’d like to use our rowing machine for ten minutes, though, and work up to longer workouts each day. If it’s on my calendar, not only will my phone beep to remind me to do it, but my husband also sees it as an appointment, as time that has been claimed. For me!

What has helped you to care for yourself? Leave us a comment to share your ideas. 

Introducing Oren

I shared earlier that I was attempting a vaginal birth after 2 cesareans. I gathered up a super-supportive birth team who all knew what I wanted, that I had educated myself and weighed my options carefully and felt natural birth was the best choice for my baby and my body.

Prenatally, I exercised when I could, ate as well as I could, visited the chiropractor, did Spinning Babies exercises, worked on fear clearing and relaxation hypnosis techniques, and visualized my birth going well. I saw an acupuncturist, a talk therapist, and regularly attended ICAN meetings to check in about my mental preparations for the birth. I even met Roanna Rosewood and Jen Kamel. I did just about all there was to do to prepare myself for a natural, vaginal birth.

And so, when I went into labor, I felt so supported the entire time. I learned the CNMs in my midwifery practice were texting each other updates with my progress, because they had all seen me throughout my pregnancies and well-woman care since 2008. I knew the backup obstetricians supported a trial of labor as a safe choice for us, too.

And of course, my doula knew I could absolutely birth my baby vaginally. She came over and we painted some affirmations to hang in my dining room to remind me that each baby and each birth is different and that my body could open up and push out my son.

In short, my labor was wonderful. I labored peacefully at home until the last minute, heading for the hospital when my doula saw my purple line seemed to be about 7cm. I walked into triage and was checked, found to be 9cm.

Soon after, I felt very pushy and began pushing for the first time ever! I pushed every which way for about an hour, up on hands and knees when that felt good, contorting my legs up and over a squat bar when that felt good, sometimes leaning back on my husband while the midwives and doula jiggled a rebozo on my belly.

Unfortunately, my baby’s heart rate dropped dramatically and never recovered while I was laboring. I had a very rushed, “run down the hall” cesarean. Oren Pressman Lev was born on August 7 with APGAR scores of 4 and then 8 after he received some oxygen.IMG_1315

I feel at peace with what happened. I know definitively this was not a failure of my body in any way. He was locked and loaded and moving down the birth canal. I was dilated and pushing him out powerfully. He just had other plans.

Nobody’s quite sure what caused his heart rate to drop as there were no signs of damage to the placenta or cord, etc. He’s shown no signs of damage, however, and has been gaining just about 2 ounces a day since he was born.

Oren is now 8 weeks old and weighs over 13 pounds! I like to think he’s so sturdy because a) I’m tandem nursing and have tons of milk and b) the universe knows he needs to protect himself from his older brothers.

IMG_1381My recovery was pretty smooth this time because I had lots of help. My family was able to come in from out of town and take it in shifts to stay with us and allow me to rest. My friends have made a meal train that is still chugging along, which is amazing!

Most important, I’ve had a great network of women eager to hear my birth story and support me as my emotions about it shift. I’m disappointed that I will never get to experience birthing my child, but I know I did everything I could and came pretty darn close.

Thank you all for supporting me through my pregnancy and for the well-wishes I got for my labor. I knew I had a wide web of women rooting for me.

Sleep Like an Actual Baby

For years, I’ve thought the phrase “sleep like a baby” was some sort of mean euphemism. My two older boys still don’t sleep very well at 5 and 2 years old. The oldest one basically sleeps through the night now (unless he has a potty accident), but for about two years, he slept 90 . . . → Read More: Sleep Like an Actual Baby

Different Tools for Different Kids: Babywearing Takes a Back Seat

I have never been a stroller person. When we just had one kid, I think I used the stroller a total of five times. My son seemed to need to be worn all the time, was never happy unless he was pressed right up against a parent. Then, once I got large and pregnant . . . → Read More: Different Tools for Different Kids: Babywearing Takes a Back Seat

Air Travel with Multiple Young Kids

Last week I wrote about our preparations for traveling with our newborn and 2 other children. We flew to St. Louis for the weekend for my husband’s brother’s wedding. I wanted to share what worked well and what I would change for next time–except if I have my say, there won’t be a next time . . . → Read More: Air Travel with Multiple Young Kids