Birth Expectations

Natural Childbirth ExpectationsEvery birth experience is different in one way or another. Sometimes they are very different. Other times, it’s just a minor difference. Either way, when your wife or partner goes into labor, the birth expectations, whether for natural (no medications) childbirth or not, are very important. They set an important tone and as us husbands are often times the biggest supporter, our expectations need to be of love and help, not of pressure or fear of disappointment.

My wife and I prepared ourselves mentally, physically and emotionally for the labor and birth of our first (and currently only) child. A lot of that was done by setting a tone and plan for how we hoped this to all go down. We knew, setting expectations was part of it all, but also knew that it was a tricky situation. Since there is no way to predict how a woman will labor and birth a child, we didn’t want to set ourselves up for disappointment. So we prepared ourselves mentally all along to accept however her labor would ultimately be. It was critical for me to make sure that no matter what, she felt proud, loved and respected.

During Jessica’s pregnancy, we took a 12 week course on natural childbirth. We were committed to the course and attended every one of them. Although, it was hard, we made sacrifices to make sure we were there each week. We knew the benefits of a natural birth and hoped for that for our son, if things worked out that way. We wanted to know everything we could about it and how to achieve it. We did our class homework, our exercises and we even read extra books on our own that weren’t part of the class. A few of the books we read, loved and learned so much from were The Birth PartnerIna May’s Guide to Childbirth and Husband-Coached Childbirth. They were all amazing to read and really opened up my eyes to the intense work we (more so Jessica) had ahead of us. During all of this, even with the encouraging and motivating stories of all these beautiful natural childbirths, we promised that we’d each keep our heads level and understand that this way of birthing was our ideal plan, but as long as the mother and baby are okay, we’ll take whatever happens and be grateful.

Natural Childbirth Expectations

Of course, the last thing either of us wanted was a cesarean section, let alone any medical intervention at all. Our birth plan detailed what our desires were and that we’d only accept intervention out of necessity, not out of selfishness from us, the nurses, midwives or the doctors. That’s why we chose the hospital and practice we did. Both supported natural, no/low intervention childbirth, had great natural childbirth records and low c-section rates. Jessica’s midwives were all on board for her to have a natural childbirth and so was the hospital. She was cleared low-risk and we were ready to go.

Roughly three days, give or take some hours, before our son was born was when Jessica went into labor. She labored from home for a full two days. That was our plan. To spend all of first stage labor at home. We ideally wanted to wait until she was 6 centimeters dilated before we made our trip the hospital. After two very intense days of laboring at home, it was early on a Saturday morning when things took a turn and contractions were getting a little too intense and were happening a lot closer together and lasting very long. We grabbed our bags and headed for the hospital at around 4am. Upon our arrival, she was given a cervical check and was told she was only 3 cm. Yes, we felt somewhat let down. Jessica was crushed but she immediately leaned on me and we hugged and prayed. We were starting to pick up on the fact that she was a long laborer. We didn’t let that really get into our heads though and reminded ourselves of our goal. Her mother and grandmother were both long laborers too, so it’s possible genetics play into these things too. But really everybody varies. You just never know. Soon after, her water broke and once her water broke, there was no turning back and going home. We were there and we were having this baby. Words could not contain the excitement and anxiousness we felt over finally getting to meet our baby boy so very soon.

For the sake of keeping things as short as possible, I’ll cut to the chase. Jess labored naturally for 8-ish hours. Once the midwives decided her progression wasn’t adding up to the amount of pain she was in, they carefully advised we tried pitocin to help speed things along a little since a woman is really only supposed to be in labor for up to 16 hours after your water has broken. The pitocin kicked in and contractions got more intense. At this time, Jessica and myself had hardly slept at all in the last 72 hours and the pain was beginning to wear her down. A few hours later, we decided it was time for her to get an epidural. Although, not according to our idea plan, we remained positive. Jessica was certainly on board with it at this point. She had reached her max. Her birth experience up until then, because she just so happens to be a long laborer with highly painful contractions, wore her down to a point of total exhaustion. After the epidural, she was finally able to catch her breath and relax for a moment. She smiled at me for the first time all day. That was a moment that I didn’t realize really how much I needed until it happened. That night, she pushed for hours and hours and hours. It was hard to watch, but she was actually enjoying it now. There were so many moments when the midwives, nurses and our doula were telling us his hair color. HE WAS SO CLOSE!! They prepared his bassinet/cart thing and notified the doctor that a baby was about to be born.

After another hour or so of pushing, they noticed that our son had turned his head just so making it lodged against her pelvic bone. His parietal eminence (top rear part of his head) was being forced out and moving forward, but his forehead was caught on her pelvic bone. They worked to get him to turn, but because so much of the rear part of his skull had already made its way through, he was nearly impossible to turn. Jessica insisted on trying to push more. After all, she had already put in so much work and was ready to meet our son. After another 30-45 min, the doctor came in and checked things out. As she was doing so, during a push, our sons heart rate spiked and a minute or so after, the midwife noticed some meconium. This meant our son was in distress and considering his position, we needed to figure out something out quickly. Swallowing meconium could lead to a list of serious issues.

Natural Childbirth Expectations

Shortly after, we discovered that because of the intensity of Jessica’s labor, at one point her temperature rose too high that her amniotic fluid became infected, which was not good for her or the baby. Because of this infection, Forrest was going to have to be hooked up to an IV and receive meds and close care for three days following his birth. So, I spoke with the doctor and we both agreed that it was time for an emergency c-section; the absolute last thing Jessica and I wanted in all of this, other than something tragic happening to her or our baby.

Yet, we both went into it, as hard as it was, knowing it was best and we weren’t going to let this ruin the birth experience. The entire length of her labor, I remained positive and reminded ourselves that no matter what, as long as her and the baby are healthy, we don’t care how he comes into the world. Looking back I am able to realize how truly important it was for me to keep myself together and stay strong, confident and optimistic for the both of us. Yes, we had our ideal situation, but the ultimate goal was to deliver a healthy, happy baby while keeping Jessica safe and healthy too. Going into the operating room was one of the hardest things I have ever done. To see my wife laying there, drugged and numb from the chest down was painful and I felt so helpless, but I tried my hardest not to show it. We held each others hands tight and when we heard our sons first cry, we both lost it. Nothing else mattered anymore.

Natural Childbirth Expectations

To this day, I have never been more proud of my wife and the work she put into bringing our son into this world and our lives. By not holding too tightly onto the expectation of having a quick, perfect and completely natural childbirth, we were able to avoid guilt, depression and remorse. If you take anything from this, that would be the one bit of advice I’d say is most important. There should be no reason to feel bad in any way about your child’s birth story. If everyone is doing their best and working hard then it’s a success. If anything, I am even more proud of Jess for trying her hardest for nearly three and half days to get our son out completely naturally, then accepting that she was too worn down and had reached her breaking point, she’d keep up the hard work with medicated help and when we hit a bump in road again, she was so willing to do what the doctor, her mom, doula and I felt was best and at 8:06am the following morning, we met our son. We were in love with him and each other in such a fuller way that we didn’t even know we had the capacity to feel. It was breathtaking. Life changing.

After all that reading and preparing for a natural childbirth, our experience took on a journey that couldn’t have been any more different from what we planned for. And that’s okay, because that was just our ideal situation, not our absolute goal. All the information taken from our class about pregnancy in general was so insightful and invaluable to us. The goal we absolutely wanted/needed to achieve was to have a healthy baby and a healthy mother. Today, Jessica is still healthy and happy and is still exclusively breastfeeding a healthy (possibly too healthy given his weight – haha) almost four-month old baby boy who is developing just perfectly. Agreeing to not put too much pressure on expectations and go into it with more of an ideal plan with the understanding that we are not the ones 100% in control of how things will happen has allowed us to enjoy this experience so much more. It also left Jessica feeling far less pressure than had I been unsympathetic to her pain, the situation at hand or the overall well-being of her and our son.

Natural Childbirth ExpectationsPhoto  by Julia Wade

All in all, my advice is to go into things with an open mind. Hope for the best, but realize that the number one goal in this whole birthing experiencing is for you to leave with a healthy wife/partner and a healthy new baby.

First Camping Trip Wishlist

First Camping Trip Wishlist

With spring right around the corner, and what feels like a bad case of cabin fever from this winter, I’m itching to get out into the woods and set up camp for a weekend. I’ve been planning and waiting for the day that I can take Forrest camping for the first time, but he’s still got awhile before he’ll be ready. At 3 months old, I don’t think my wife, Jessica, would approve. Plus, I want him to remember it to some extent. I just really cannot wait to pack up the Range Rover and head out toward the mountains and set up in camp in one of Jessica and I’s favorite spots, Black Balsam Knob in the Pisgah National Forest. It’s such a great spot, right along the Appalachian Trail and I know Forrest will love it when he is old enough. Until then, I guess I’ll keep making wish lists of all the great stuff out that there we’ll enjoy on our camping  trips once that day arrives. Until then, here is my wish list for our first camping trip with Forrest:

First Camping Trip Wish List

Alfheim 3-8 Person Tent by Nordisk ($1,215) | Curved Handle Hatchet by Husqvarna ($45) | Ratio 45 Sleeping Bag by Mountain Hardwear ($219) | Baby Boys’ Active Quilted Flannel Lined Jacket by Carhartt ( $45) | Waterproof General Purpose Military First Aid Kid by Galaxy Army Navy ($23) | Stainless Steel 16oz Food Jar/Mug by Thermos ($25) | Sub7 Hammock from ENO ($70) | 20 qt Tundra Series Cooler from YETI ($360) | 8oz Campsuds from Campsuds ($10)

First Camping Trip Wish List

Powerhouse Dual Fuel Stove from Coleman ($120) | Buckthorn Wood Slingshot from Kaufmann Mercantile ($28) | Mackinaw Cruiser Jacket by Filson ($340) | Kid Comfort III Child Carrier by Deuter ($299) | Ash Wood & Leather Camp Stool from Kaufmann Mercantile ($169) | Camp Socks by J. Crew ($16.50) | Hurricane Lantern by Feuerhand ($50) | Trekking Slate Folding Knife by Opinel ($19) | Woobie 30 Degree Kids Sleeping Bag from Kelty ($58)

I’d love to hear your thoughts/reviews in the comments on any great camping products you have or have been looking at.

Working From Home With A Baby

working from home with a baby

When my wife, Jessica and I decided we both wanted to work together and for ourselves, we were a little over four years away of finding out we were expecting. During those years, we were working together full-time (and we still are). The majority of our time was spent in our home office editing photos, writing emails, compiling blog posts and marketing ourselves. The other portion of time was spent traveling the country and photographing weddings on the weekends. We loved it then and love it now, but the dynamic of how it all worked before a child differs greatly from how it is now. Before our son arrived, it was simply easier. We knew that would be the case, so we tried our best to prepare for the change.

Being a work-at-home parent also means stay-at-home parent, at least for us. We both share a dual role. Our business relies on the both us and therefore, so does our child. We even named our business simply Brett & Jessica because we wanted it to be such a “together” type of thing. So, both of us play a major role in the success of our business and it being our only source of income, we have to make it work or we need to start applying for something else now.

Working from home with a baby is hard. But we love it this way. It’s flexible. We get to witness our sons milestones together. He is able to learn from us and watch our work ethic. We save on caregiver costs.

working from home with a baby

It just takes extra work and discipline to make it work. Realizing that some days you’ll be more of a work-at-home parent and other days you’ll be more of a stay-at-home parent is a major key to the success of this as well. The following are some tips we implemented into our life and business to make it work and will work for parents who both stay at home or if just one is staying home.

Be flexible, work when you can. Especially during the earlier months of a baby’s life, you’ll need to flexible with them and their routine or their lack thereof. It can be frustrating and your days may be longer than before, but remember why you chose to work this way. It’s a pretty nice tradeoff.

Nap time is prime work time. Since setting definite work hours while working from home is baby or child is nearly impossible, hopefully you’re child naps (recently, ours has not) because that’s obviously going to be your best and most productive time to work. If you’re working together, this is the best time to do any work that requires your collaborative efforts.

Sleep When Baby Sleeps Does Not Apply. How can it? That’s when those of us who work from home do our work. It’s great advice while on maternity leave (and paternity leave if you’re lucky enough to get that), but after that, it’s essential to either work, spend time together or take some time for ourselves whenever your baby or child is sleeping.

Co-work with baby. The Bumbo Seat and the Baby Bjorn Bouncer have been amazing for this. During the time Forrest wasn’t able to support his head, we sat him the bouncer and just used a foot to help bounce him in it while we sat at our desks, which usually helped him sleep. Now that he’s able to hold his head up and is interested in more, we have him hangout in his Bumbo seat on our desks. Both of these were really great, but we’ve been very conscious not to just sit there with a laptop in from our faces or getting lost in the screen of our iMacs while he is needing to communicate or needs our attention. This goes back to first topic, which can be the hardest.

Wear your baby. Yes, some men are actually down with it. I am all for it. I even use Jessica’s Solly Baby Wrap from time to time, although I do prefer our Baby Bjorn Carrier One. Our son can nap right against us and we have both hands free. Sometimes we’ll put our laptops on a bookshelf and work standing up, so his legs don’t get scrunched up too much in the carrier, plus it’s great for our backs and it’s easy to find yourself sitting all day. Simply put, carriers are amazing.

Master multi-tasking. We have had to learn to multitask way better. Somewhat surprisingly, we learned how to utilize our iPhones better, especially while Jessica is feeding. Or emailing clients, taking care of social media, etc while holding our son as he sleeps in our arms because we dare not to put him down in his crib. Make sure to plan ahead if you’re running errands that can be combined. Have to head into town for a meeting? Hit up the post office, bank, supply store, etc on your way back so you don’t have to make another run.

Know/understand each others roles. If you haven’t already established roles within your business together, shame on you and get it done now. Who is going manage the emails? Who is responsible for the website, keeping up with social media or in our case, editing photos? It’s much harder if you’re both trying to tackle the same things or assuming that the other already finished something that you were supposed to do.

Take a step away from your work. If you find yourself getting stressed, overwhelmed or frustrated whether it be from feeling like you are being pulled in a million different directions or because you just cannot get focused, just walk away. Take a minute or two or even a half hour and just regroup yourself.

Make some time for yourself.
We all need a little downtime. We need to decompress and clear our minds. Carve out a little time during the day to leisurely read a book or magazine, cook up a nice meal for yourself or go for a walk/run. Work with your partner to help ensure you’re both able to make sure this happens. It’s vital.

I wish there was a magic formula that worked for the work/life balance of dual work-at-home parents, but there just isn’t. Each case is different, let alone each day. The struggles are absolutely real and some of the challengers are more than some can handle. It’s not for everyone and that’s okay. So many people do great with working from home before kids, but after kids, the pressure, stress and anxiety is just too much. But if you’re looking to give it a go, hopefully the tips above will help.

If you have any tips about being a working-at-home parent or couple, I’d love to have you share them in the comments below!

Valentines Day Gifts For The Expecting Mother

Gifts For The Expecting Mother

Even if you are usually not the type that participates in this holiday or you just go through cliché motions, year after year, with doing the standard roses and variety box of chocolates, it’s never a bad idea to step it up once in awhile, especially if your lady is pregnant. It’s the least you can do, besides reassuring of her beauty and your love for her, which you should already be doing. She’s either been carrying around your child for months now or has months of doing just that ahead, so get her something for herself. Something that’s about her, not about the baby she growing for you. Here are some Valentines Day gifts for the expecting mother in your life that she’ll be sure to love and can enjoy during her pregnancy and after. These gifts also tell her you still see her as more than just a tiny human making factory.

Dead Sea Bath Salts from Herbivore Botanicals ($24) | Sustainable Pitcher & Plant-Based Water Filter from SOMA ($49) | The Kinfolk Home: Interiors for Slow Living ($27) | Model A Slippers from Glerups ($95) |  Cone Thinking Music Player by Aether ($270) | Tesora Jewelry Box from Umbra ($25) | Walkabout Jumper from HATCH ($238) | Resurrection Aromatique Hand Balm from Aesop ($30) | Bringing Up Bebe ($11) | Water Bottle from bkr ($35) | Basics Bundle from Storq ($250) | Sylvan Mug by Arrow + Sage ($32) | Expecting You: A Keepsake Pregnancy Journal ($13) | Pop Candle from Johnathan Adler ($35) | Organic Bath + Body Oil from Fig + Yarrow ($33) | Sundowner Hat from Needsupply ($42) | Delos Necklace by Anotherfeather ($150) | Harper Chukka Boot from Nisolo ($178)

American-Made Goods For Papas From Tosan

American-Made Goods For Papas From Tosan

photos courtesy of tosan

This new label for pops and tots recently caught my eye on Instagram. At first it was their simple fleece crewneck sweatshirts that simply read “POP” or “TOT” in what resembles the classic collegiate font famously worn by John Balushi in Animal House. Somehow, Tosan pulls it off in a way that just works. I admit that I would probably be pretty hesitant to even consider purchasing a companion outfit for my son and self, even though tons of moms out there sport theirs. But this set is one I would (and will as soon as Forrest is big enough) wear with pride. Plus, I just love what this brand stands for, “Curated goods for the adventure of fatherhood”.

The Tot crewneck ($30) sizes start at 2T and go up to 6T and comes in navy. Both pop and tot versions are super soft, eco-friendly and made in the USA. The Pop crewneck ($65), which comes  in your standard sizes, comes in a heathered navy. Good call on their part for not making them both the same color! Tosan also offers a pop and tot set that is nicely priced at just $75. So, my advice is if you want them, grab them now, before they are all gone!

It will be great watching this brand grow and seeing what they do. They’ve already expanded into some other great and fun products like their Tosan X Salemtown child and adult sized skateboards ($300 for both. $160/$170 individually). And their convertible adventure pack ($250) looks just incredible. It’s looks are amazing and is full of function. Keep an eye out for other goods like carriers, bags, swaddles coming this spring.

American-Made Goods For Papas From Tosan

American-Made Goods For Papas From Tosan