Tag Archives: 35+ pregnancy

California Maternity Leave

Right off the bat, I have to say that I find it deplorable that the U.S. has such poor policies for maternity leave accommodations relative to most other industrialized nations.  In the words of one of my foreign relatives, it is “barbaric” that Short Term Disability only pays a new mother 6 weeks for a regular delivery (8 weeks for c-section).  Compare that to up to 7-12 months PAID in many other countries, and it’s no wonder that many working mothers simply can’t fathom returning to their jobs so soon and, ultimately, don’t.

Fortunately, I live in California, where policies are marginally better.  In addition to Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protection, both hubby and I are eligible for additional job protection under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA).  That said, I am convinced that both legislators and companies make the acts as confusing as possible to encourage new parents to give up the headache and simply come back to work!

I am by no means an expert, but after much research and about 30 calls to my company’s Leave Department, I think I have enough of a grasp to help explain the benefits for my particular situation:

  • Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA):  This is a federal act that allows for 12 weeks of unpaid job protection (both mother and father) following the birth of a child.  To be eligible, the parent must have worked at least 12 months and 1250 hours at their company, and the company must employ at least 50 employees.  The rub is that if both parents happen to work for the same company, they’re only entitled to a combined 12 weeks of protection (vs. 12 weeks each).
  • California Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) & Short Term Disability (STD):  This is paid and assuming you take it post-birth, it will run in concurrence with FMLA, so will be job protected.  Only the mother is eligible in a childbirth scenario.  Typically, for a vaginal birth, the mother will receive 6 weeks of STD and/or CA PDL.  For a c-section, the mother will receive 8 weeks.  Payment depends on your company’s policies – in my case, my company pays 100% of my salary up to a certain number of weeks based on my tenure, and then 75% of my salary for weeks beyond that.  I believe that if your company is paying less than 100%, then that’s when CA PDL kicks in to cover the rest.  Note that CA PDL also allows for up to 4 weeks prior to birth at a benefit amount of up to 55% of your weekly salary (capped at somewhere around $1000/week).  However, this pre-birth leave is NOT job-protected and some companies (including my own) will not allow you to take it.
  • California Family Rights Act (CFRA):  This is unpaid leave that provides 12 weeks of of job protection in a rolling 12 month period for mother and father.  This runs in concurrence with FMLA but begins after STD ends (for the mother).  This means that if the mother opts to take the full leave under both FMLA and CFRA immediately after the birth of her child, that her CFRA protection will begin once she is released from Short Term Disability, and will subsequently out-run her FMLA job-protection benefit.  Confusing, I know.
  • California Paid Family Leave (PFL):  This allows for up to 6 weeks of paid benefit for both mother and father (assuming both take advantage).  You get paid up to 55% of your weekly salary amount, with a cap of somewhere around $1000/week.  This leave is NOT job protected, but can be taken in conjunction with CFRA/FMLA to ensure job protection.

Clear as mud??  I found that the most important thing in trying to clarify the best plan for us was to first identify our top priority – Time or Income.  Were we looking to take the longest job-protected leaves possible, regardless of income during that time?  Or was income during our leaves the larger concern?  In our case, we chose time, so the following illustrates a rough example of how we were able to maximize our job-protected leaves:

  1. Prior to baby’s due date, I took 1 week of Paid Time Off (required by the company as a “waiting period” for Short Term Disability).  Please note that many California companies will allow you to take advantage of up to 4 weeks of California PDL prior to the baby’s due date, paid at up to 55% (capped) of your weekly salary.  By “allow you,” I mean “job-protect you.”  Mine unfortunately was one that would not.
  2. After baby’s birth, I received 6 weeks of Short Term Disability for a vaginal delivery.  Additionally, the FMLA job protection clock started ticking the day the baby was born.  Hubby concurrently took 3 weeks of company-paid time off upon the baby’s birth.
  3. Once I was released from Short Term Disability at 6 weeks postpartum, the clock began ticking under CFRA (if you’re keeping count, I’m now 6 weeks into my 12 weeks of FMLA job protection; now an additional 12 weeks of CFRA is running concurrently with my remaining 6 weeks of FMLA).  In addition, I received 6 weeks of payment under California PFL (up to 6 weeks of payment at 55% of my salary – capped at about $1000/week). 
  4. Once my California PFL benefit ran out after 6 weeks, I began my final 6 weeks of UNPAID job-protection under CFRA.  My full FMLA benefit of 12 weeks has now run out so I am only protected under CFRA for the remaining 6 weeks.
  5. Once I have exhausted all job protection, I will use 2.5 weeks of accrued Paid Time Off (PTO).  At the time that PTO begins, I am “reinstated” back at work and am no longer on leave.
  6. Once I return to work, hubby will begin his 12 weeks of job-protected leave under CFRA.  Like me, his first 6 weeks will be partially paid at 55% of his salary (capped).  His final 6 weeks will be unpaid.

In a nutshell, this puts us both back to work when our baby is about 7.5 months old (exhausting all job protection and PTO).  That’s a total of about 5 months of leave and PTO for me, 3 months for hubby.  Of this time, we are receiving 6 weeks fully paid by STD/CA PDL, 3.5 weeks fully paid by PTO, 12 weeks partially paid (55% of salary) by CA PFL, and 12 weeks unpaid.

For those in California looking to maximize income during leaves, the plans would be different.  If you are looking to continue receiving full pay throughout your leave, you would rely on 6 weeks of STD/CA PDL after the birth of your child (8 weeks for c-section).  Beyond that, you would have to use company-paid PTO or vacation time.

If you decide to sacrifice some, but not all, income, you can take your 6-8 weeks of fully paid STD/CA PDL following by an additional 6 weeks of CA PFL paid at 55% of your salary.  The baby’s father could then also receive benefits for an additional 6 weeks of CA PFL.  This would put you at 18 weeks postpartum (assuming vaginal delivery) before taking into consideration any company-paid PTO or vacation time.

Bottom line is that our maternity accommodations here are dismal.  I can’t even imagine what it would be like in some states outside of California where the job-protected leave is limited to 12 weeks total under FMLA (all unpaid except for concurrent STD).  I think change can come, but it will be a long time coming.  In the meantime, do your homework and begin your leave plans well ahead of time to ensure a financial safety net as well as a full understanding of your rights and limitations.  Good luck!


Exercise During Pregnancy

I’m a runner.  Not the marathon runner I once was, but a runner nonetheless.  And I always just assumed that my running days would be temporarily over once I got pregnant.  I always hear of pregnant women being told to “take it easy.”  I always see pregnant women “eating for two.”  The good news is that isn’t fully true. 

The bad news is that things DO change.  Quite significantly towards the end of my pregnancy.  But I was able to continue my workouts up until 3 days before giving birth.  And, many days, these workouts were the only link to my pre-pregnancy self; the only activity that made me feel like ME again.  Hey, I’m all in support of becoming a vessel of life, but sometimes you just need a break from it.

I talked to my doctor about continuing workouts immediately upon becoming pregnant.  She was all for it.  She said to basically listen to my body, and not push the limits.  Now wasn’t the time to be shooting for personal records.  If I was tired, I was to stop vs. pushing through it.  I was to not elevate my heart rate too significantly.  A little sweat was fine; drenched and dripping was not.  So off I went, smug in the knowledge that I was going to gain a mere 20 pounds this pregnancy and spring right back into shape a week after giving birth. 

Fast forward  12 months… Well THAT was a humbling experience.  Not only did I not gain 20 pounds (it was 36), it is taking much much longer than expected to now take the weight off (6 yo-yo-ing pounds to go at 15 weeks postpartum). 

But back to pregnancy-time.  I admit I did give up my exercise routine altogether sometime around the end of the 1st month.  I was simply too sick to work out.  I guess the so-called silver lining of that is the fact that I was also too sick to eat.  So they canceled each other out? 

The second trimester comes along.  Still sick.  Then, somewhere around the 4th month of pregnancy, it begins to improve.  Slowly.  So I tentatively creep back into the gym one day, head hung, and suspiciously eye the Stairmaster.  It’s mocking me.  I step on it and begin a light workout (light as in 8 levels lower than my normal starting point).  I set an easy goal of 30 minutes, but achieve only 20.  But that’s okay – I did it!  And I didn’t vomit!  Good. 

Next day, I attack the Stairmaster again.  This time I do the entire 30 minutes, albeit at an even LOWER level.  That’s okay.  I didn’t vomit.  I didn’t even have the urge.  I feel extremely happy with myself.

Next comes the treadmill.  My nemesis.  I start to jog, again very slowly.  I’m doing it!  Shockingly, the jogging is easier than the Stairmaster.  I crank up the speed a bit.  I get into a comfortable rhythm.  I feel great.  The jog ends, I am sweaty (but not drenched), and I feel fabulous.  For the first time since becoming pregnant, I feel a trace of my old self.  Sweaty and satisfied after a good workout.  Endorphins.  I’m back!

After that, I stepped right back into my regular workout routine.  But with a few twists.  Every cardio workout was completed at a lower rate and lower intensity.  When I felt tired or lazy, I stopped.  It was quite liberating, actually.  We always train to push through those times and to simply listen to my body and give myself permission to stop was freeing.  I drank tons of water.  I took more days off than I normally would. 

I had to force myself to stop silently competing with everybody who stepped onto the treadmill or Stairmaster or spin cycle next to me.  I never realized what a motivator that silent competition was.  I wished that my “competitors” knew that I was usually much faster/stronger than this, that I was pregnant and that was why I was so slow.  I had to swallow it. 

I had to deal with my growing belly.  I had to modify my running gait so that it wouldn’t bounce as much.  My calves started to burn with the increasing weight.  I started to feel sharp twinges in my belly and pelvic area, and would have to stop as needed.  Reflux and heartburn were not my friend during these workouts.

I had one run where I felt extremely strong.  I ran much longer and faster than I probably should have – but I felt so great, I wanted to continue.  Afterwards, I was drenched.  And continued sweating.  And sweating.  And sweating up to two hours later.  I was really scared I had done some damage.  I promised myself at that point that going forward I would always stop well before the point of exhaustion…  and I did.  I didn’t experience that again for the remainder of my pregnancy.

Then along comes the third trimester.  My belly is huge.  My ankles are swollen.  I can drink gallons of water and still not quench my thirst.  But the running still helps me maintain my sanity.  I am going much much slower now.  I compensate by increasing the incline.  That makes my calves BURN BURN BURN but I rationalize that they’re going to be so strong and running is going to be so easy once I give birth (I was wrong, BTW). 

I get looks.  A few women commend me on staying fit for so long into my pregnancy.  A few give me dirty looks (what – am I expected to be holed up at home eating bon bons?)  Men are scared to look at all. 

Then – Sciatica.  This is no joke.  I can barely roll out of bed nor make it up the stairs, never mind RUN.  By this time, I am working from home so it is all I can muster to simply take the dog for a walk down to the end of the street.  I’m embarrassed by my limping.  It really hurts. 

But now, more than ever, when I’m miserable and just “over it,” is when I need my workouts.  Simply to feel sane.  The treadmill is out of the question now.  I try the Stairmaster and elliptical machines, and I can’t do those either.  The only thing that saves me is the cycle.  I love that I can multi-task (iPhone + cycle makes for a fun workout).  I read my pregnancy apps and ask my pregnancy forum questions while on that bike. 

So I begin cycling every day.  I ball up my towel and stick it behind the small of my back for better support.  I cycle, cycle, cycle.  Never mind that it takes me upwards of 10 minutes to waddle up the gym stairs and over to the cycle, as long as I can sit down and cycle and break a sweat, I feel good. 

Then the day before I go into labor arrives (although of course I don’t know it at the time).  I am MISERABLE.  Swollen, sore, in pain, and I swear I can feel a little head just pressing pressing pressing down into my pelvis.  Now I’m really over it.  I’m not hitting the gym anymore (even I am embarrassed now by my limp/waddle/wincing gait) but I want this baby out.  Doctor says MOVE.  So we go to the mall.  It must take 30 minutes just to walk INTO the mall.  But hubby is patient.  It’s not as embarrassing with him there.  We stop at pretty much every storefront for a rest break.  We linger at the food court for far too long.  Hubby keeps checking watch and tapping foot.  He helps me up.  We walk from one end to the other and now I am REALLY sore.  But hoping it helped.  I collapse into the car and don’t want to get out to go into the house.

Sure enough, 2:30am the following morning, labor begins.  And I will say, during labor, I am SO glad I had worked out.  I can’t imagine doing it without that “training” per se.  I had a pretty long labor (think: 24 hours with 3.5 hours of pushing) and I’m glad, at risk of a potential c-section, that I didn’t poop out.

So my advice is to continue the workouts.  Slow them down and stop when you’re not feeling it, but continue.  It’s no longer about maintaining a “girlish figure” but rather maintaining some semblance of self during the long and arduous pregnancy journey.  Ignore the looks, embrace the compliments.  Simply celebrate the wonderful expanding YOU.

First Trimester “Morning” Sickness

For me, the first trimester was a surreal time.  You find out you’re pregnant.  You begin the routine of doctor appointments, blood testing, ultrasounds, and prenatals.  You don’t quite believe it yet.  At first you feel completely normal.  You don’t believe that there is anything growing inside of you.  You stop drinking.  You stop eating sushi and sashimi.  But nothing else has really changed.  Until it suddenly does.

MORNING SICKNESS.  This is my single most vivid memory of the first trimester – in fact, the first 4 months.  Couple things.  First of all, it is not simple “nausea.”  Secondly, it does NOT only occur in the morning.  This is a tidal wave of all-consuming illness that lasts all day, all night, 24/7 for (at least for me) the first four months of pregnancy.  This is far worse than any stomach flu or hangover.  IT DOESN’T END for weeks and weeks.  Nothing helps it.  The psychological aspect of knowing there is no end in sight is almost as bad as the sickness itself. 

I tried everything.  Everything.  The wrist bands (nothing).  Ginger (nothing).  Belly Bars, Gummies, and Lollipops (nothing).  Crackers.  Which I was so sick of people telling me to eat – what, you think I haven’t tried this??  Let me save you the suspense.  Nothing helps.  If you’re one of the unlucky ones who has miserable morning sickness, there is simply nothing you can do.  Vomiting DOES NOT HELP (at least if you have the stomach flu or are hungover, it provides you temporary relief).  Certain smells will make it worse.  Foods and even water will make it worse.  Prenatals definitely make it worse.  Heck, even toothpaste made it worse.

I have vomited or nearly vomited at home, at work, at the gym, in the car, and on the bus (commuter bus to work).  In fact, workouts were stopped after the first month of pregnancy until after the 4th month of pregnancy when the sickness started to ease up.  There is nothing worse than being in a public place, or sitting on a bus, and concentrating with all your might – do not throw up, do not throw up, do not throw up.  I withdrew from my friends.  I stopped walking the dog.  I stopped eating.  I basically spent those first few months in bed, on my couch, or in my office chair.  I grew depressed.  The ongoing sickness begins to take over and overshadow everything else, and depression during this phase of pregnancy is very real.  I became ambivalent about the pregnancy.  I told myself this was it, never again.  I started to second-guess our decision.  Hubby felt helpless, unable to relieve me, and took over the household chores, etc.  Not a fun time for either of us.

A few things I did learn though:

  • Prenatals: take them at night.  Don’t get me wrong, you will still feel sick all day, but the urge to vomit immediately after taking the prenatal will occur right before bed, in the comfort of your own home, vs. when you are rushing to get ready for work, driving to work, or sitting in your office.
  • If it doesn’t smell good, get the heck out of there.  FAST.
  • No big meals.  In fact, no real meals at all.  Small snacks all day long seemed to help me keep it down.
  • Stop the workouts.  Second only to feeling like you have to throw up on a moving bus is having to run off of a Treadmill or Stairmaster to make it to the gym restroom on time.  A bit embarrassing to say the least.
  • Sleep.  And then sleep some more.  Besides being simply exhausted, those hours will provide you a temporary reprieve.

And trust that it WILL end.  Maybe not for 4 months, maybe not for 6 months.  I’ve even heard stories of poor women who suffered all the way up until their babies were born.  But there IS an end in sight.  Just get through the next snack, the next meal, the next day.  Take care of yourself. 

And if you’re one of the lucky ones who has little to no nausea, ENJOY IT!  Round Two you may not be so lucky.

Take Two

So now we’re worried about maintaining a pregnancy.  We decide, given that we are now convinced that we are going to have issues, to try again immediately.  Well, “immediately” as in after the 1-month waiting period recommended by my doctor. 

Boom.  What do you know?  The first month we try we get pregnant.  Wow.  I expected more of a fight.  This time the reaction is cautious.  A tentative excitement.  We say things like “I won’t get excited until the 3 month mark” or “I won’t get excited until we can feel it move.” 

We go for the first appointments and ultrasound.  The doctors are now treating us with an extra sense of priority, I presume because of our age and previous loss.  We see the little bean on the screen.  Literally looks like a bean.  A jumping bean, bouncing all over the place.  We try not to get excited.

We go in for another ultrasound.  Then a third, then a fourth.  I’m told this is not typical.  The doctor is doing this to reassure us that yes, this pregnancy seems viable and the little bean is growing.  And growing.  Now we can make out limbs.  And it’s still jumping around all over the place.

My HCG levels rise normally.  In fact, they get pretty high.  We worry about twins.  But try not to get excited.

I’m terrified of losing another pregnancy.  I read somewhere that baby aspirin has helped some mothers maintain pregnancies.  One of hubby’s family members confirm that this worked for her.  I ask the doctor – she says, it can’t hurt, it may help, go for it.  So I begin taking 1 baby aspirin daily in addition to my prenatal.

Morning sickness doesn’t subside this time.  In fact, it becomes worse, all-encompassing.  Bittersweet.  I take this as a positive sign, having heard that the sicker you are, the “stronger” the pregnancy.  Of course, the flip side is I am utterly miserable.  Those pregnancy books, which spend a sentence or two describing “slight nausea in the morning” as a first trimester pregnancy symptom can SHOVE IT.  More on this later.

More blood tests, more ultrasounds.  We now decide “not to get excited” until after either an amnio or CVS testing.  I’ll describe this later.  Still haven’t shared with anyone besides my sister.

But every day, I become sicker.  My belly begins to swell.  My workouts change.  Everything starts changing.  And I know, that this time it’s happening.  Happy.

Top 12 Favorite Baby Products (Birth to 3 Months)

An expectant first-time-mom friend of mine recently asked if I had any advice about what she should add to her baby registry.  It reminded me of what I had gone through when trying to create a baby registry.  You don’t know what you don’t know… So what to add??  Everyone has their favorites depending on different needs, but following is the list of products that were the most useful for us during the first-3-month timeframe (in no particular order):

  • Snuza:  This is by far the best $100-something we spent.  Without it, we would never sleep.  This handy little device attaches to the baby’s diaper and detects breathing.  If the baby stops breathing for a certain number of seconds, it will vibrate (depending on the model) in an attempt to rouse the infant.  If there is still no movement, it sounds an alarm.  While pregnant, I didn’t know if we REALLY needed this.  Once I had the baby, however, I knew I couldn’t live without it.  And BTW, yes, it does go off.  In fact, it went off as recently as yesterday.  We rush into the room, flick the baby on the bottom of the foot, shout something like “BABY ARE YOU OKAY??” and wait for baby to startle, take a deep breath, and then begin breathing regularly again.  You can imagine our fear the first time it happened during one of his first nights home.  We were up all night and then rushed him to a rather unconcerned pediatrician first thing in the morning.  Oh, it’s quite common, he said, babies sometimes simply forget to breathe.  In fact, he recommended that we stop using the monitor altogether to save us the stress.  No way.  We use it and it is the only thing that allows me to keep sleeping when I wake up in the night and realize I can’t hear the baby.  You should know that there is also an Angelcare mat that is basically the same idea, except that it is positioned under the baby’s mattress.  The selling point for us for this over that was the fact that it can go where baby goes – so we’re not limited to using it in only one crib.
  • Dr. Brown’s BottlesI know, I thought they were hype too.  Until we realized that our baby had reflux.  Spitting up, vomiting, crying during feeds, it wasn’t pretty.  Cue bottles.  These things have a ton of pieces BUT they all serve a purpose.  Bubbles were significantly reduced, flow was slowed, and baby was and is much happier. 
  • Dr. Brown’s Pitcher:  We use this daily.  Again, it keeps bubbles to a minimum because you are stirring the formula instead of shaking it in a bottle.  Also nice is the fact that you can make a day’s batch at once.  I even go so far as to fill all the bottles, cap them, and refrigerate so then there is no preparation involved but once a day.
  • Dr. Brown’s Microwave Sterilizer:  I swear I don’t work for Dr. Brown’s.  They just make some good stuff!  This contraption is used on a daily basis as well.  It allows us to clean up to 4 bottles at once with a simple 5 minutes in the microwave.  No need to run the dishwasher.  Good for us and the environment.
  • Bumbo Seat:  Yes, I am aware of the controversy surrounding these (basically if you leave your baby in one of these on an elevated surface, there is a chance the baby could fall out and hurt himself).  Come on, people.  Watch your kids!  Use your common sense!  Don’t leave kids in a Bumbo seat unattended.  That said, I love this thing.  I think we can all agree that there are times when Mom or Dad just needs to set the baby down for a second (so they can shower, use the restroom, grab a bite).  Well, you can set him in here and he is pretty much staying put until he gets big enough to crawl out.  Not only that, it’s also good for him to exercise his neck/head muscles without enduring yet more of the dreaded Tummy Time (aka Tantrum Time). 
  • Baby MonitorI didn’t think I really needed this either, but figured what the heck?  We got a cheap no-name brand (which works just fine).  Now that he is here, I am GLAD we got this.  With the dual surveillance between this and the Snuza, I can sleep soundly knowing my baby is covered.  When I wake up in the night, I pick up the handheld monitor (it “sleeps” on the pillow next to me), check on baby, and can go right back to sleep.  Get the monitor.  Get the cheapest one you can.  Also note there are phone apps that do the same thing.  For us, this wasn’t a good option (as you need to basically give up one of your iPhones or iPads), but it would be a very good option if you are on vacation or need a portable monitor.
  • Nosefrida:  It allows you to manually suck boogers.  Seriously.  But hear me out.  It’s quite scary to experience Baby’s First Cold, when he is congested and having trouble breathing through those little nostrils (this almost always prompts an expensive trip to the ER to rule out RSV).  Upon our discharge, we were instructed to use a humidifier and clear out his nostrils with a nasal bulb to help him breathe.  Have you ever tried to use one of those nasal bulbs on a baby?  IT DOESN’T WORK.  Those things are useless.  Enter Nosefrida.  Put a few saline drops into baby’s nose.  Position the end of the Nosefrida tube over the nostril, with the other end in your mouth (don’t worry, there is a filter to catch any gunk).  Use short, hard sucks while moving the end of the tube around baby’s nostrils.  You will HEAR the gunk being sucked up.  And then take a peek at the inside of the tube.  Yep, all THAT was inside your baby’s nose.  Baby’s nostrils are suddenly clear, and he can breathe.  Everyone’s sleeping tonight.
  • Boppy:  This has got to be one of the most multi-faceted products ever.  First few days home, it was used as a seat pillow for Mommy as she healed.  Then, it was used for baby to lie in on the bed or couch when he couldn’t be held.  Now it’s used to prop baby up during Tummy Time.  Other uses include breastfeeding positioning and Mommy back support.  Just get it.  Even my dog loves it; I have to constantly pull her out of it.
  • Boppy Noggin Nest Head Support:  Before I became a mom, I had never heard of the apparent baby epidemic, “Flat Head.”  Now it’s all I hear about from other well-meaning moms.  Prevent Flat Head!  Oh no, I thought.  What is this Flat Head!?  What happens if a baby contracts it??  Does it squash the brain??  Worse??  Nope.  Far as I can tell, it’s simply a cosmetic issue that provides parents yet another thing to worry about.  Makes sense though.  At least in the case of my baby, his little noggin is BIG, and being so malleable that first year, it could definitely become flat if he began to prefer a certain position when laying down.  So between “positioning” and this head support pillow, I think I’m doing my part.  The positioning technique simply means that when we lay him down to sleep, we lay him on alternate sides each night.  Since all babies should be laying on their backs to prevent SIDS, I suppose this has caused a greater incidence of Flat Head.  So we simply make sure that at night his head is turned to one side or the other, and we spend a lot of Tummy Time with him during the day.  But during those times when he HAS to lay on his back (e.g. play mat time, in his car seat, etc) we use the head support pillow.  It’s great – and looks comfy too.  I actually have two: one that I keep permanently in his car seat, and the other that I move around from changing tables to play mats as necessary.  For some reason, I had difficulty finding a boy-themed Noggin Nest pillow (the cog design), so I ended up getting two of the Pottery Barn Kids Head Support versions.  Only difference I could tell is that they were about $12 more each and had a softer cover.  I was able to pick them up at my local Pottery Barn Kids store though.  Anyway, recommend these pillows and wish I had known about them sooner.
  • Graco Care Station PlayardSimply a must-have.  We’ve used this from Day 1 and will continue to use it for the forseeable future.  This thing has so many functions: newborn sleeper, changing table, travel crib, etc.  When we first brought baby home, we had him sleep in this at the foot of our bed (vs. a cradle).  Now it sits in the living room for naps and, best of all, easy diaper changes.  DEFINITELY get the one with the changing table.  They fold and pack easily for travel too. 
  • Diaper GenieI have had some moms tell me this is unnecessary; for us it is definitely not.  I’ve researched more of these contraptions than I care to admit, and right now we have the Diaper Genie in the baby’s room, and an Arm and Hammer (Munchkin) version in the living area.  I personally prefer the Diaper Genie for a few reasons.  It holds more diapers, so you’re taking fewer loads to the trash.  It is also easier to tie the bag.  I’m sure the other version has some “trick” that I haven’t taken the time to figure out just yet, but for now the Diaper Genie is easier.  The smell factor is comparable for both, however.
  • Car Seat CanopyIt’s a scary thing taking your baby out into the world.  You’re conditioned to be worried about exposure, airborne pathogens, etc.  For the first several weeks, I simply used a blanket over the car seat.  It worked, but was a hassle.  Constantly straightening it, making sure baby was fully covered, picking it up when it fell, etc.  Then someone let me know about an online coupon for Car Seat Canopies.  I ordered one of the canopies (just the canopy; I didn’t feel the need for the whole caboodle set) and LOVE it.  It clips on easily to the seat, never falls off, always keeps the entire seat covered, and is easy to open and close the front portion (for example, when baby is awake vs. asleep).  Search for online coupons.  I got a great deal on one of these and it was well worth it; although I don’t know that I would pay full price.

I am sure I am missing some, but these are the ones that came quickly to mind.  What products have other moms used and loved during the first 3 months?

Let’s start at the beginning…

I decided that if I was going to write this blog, then I was going to be completely open and honest.  Why bother if I was going to hide parts of my experience?  Not everything has been roses and rainbows.  There has been heartache.  And I’ve swept that under the rug, kept it from most, and it got me to thinking…  Why?  Why are we as women societally pressured to hide our negative pregnancy or motherhood experiences?  Does it make us feel like we are lesser women?  Isn’t that when we need support the most?

My first pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage.  It feels strange to even type that.  It has been such a hush-hush topic for some resaon, I still don’t understand thoroughly why, yet it still seems foreign to share.

Anyway, we could never decide whether we wanted children.  Yeah, we reasoned it might be fun, but we loved our lives.  The freedom.  The financial flexibility to do what we want.  The travel.  The DINK (Dual Income No Kids) lifestyle.  Why ruin a good thing?

But then that biological clock started ticking.  Well no, I take that back.  MY clock didn’t start ticking, but others were winding my clock for me.  Don’t you want kids, they would ask.  Do you realize that at your age, you only have an X% chance of getting pregnant (I can’t remember what it was exactly, although I do remember it being dismal).  You’re missing out.  What?  You’re not a “kid person”?  It will change once you have your own.

So yes, it started to get to me.  WERE we missing out??  What about when we were older, wouldn’t we want adult children and grandchildren to share experiences with?  Could I even get pregnant in the first place?

So – I stopped taking the pill.  The pill that I had been on since 19 years old.  It didn’t mean we were making a decision, I reasoned.  It just meant my body would be “ready” IF we decided to go for it.  Oh and let me tell you, my body didn’t adjust too well to being off the hormone it had been on for years.  Hot flashes, sweats, mood swings, bloating, horrible menstrual cramping, acne, you name it.  Yes I know.  I had heard all those things about losing 10 pounds once I got off the pill too.  Nope, not me.  I gained.  If nothing else, I figured this was a good cleansing exercise for my body.

Months went by.  We continued living our DINK lifestyle.  And the “should we have kids” debate somewhat faded from the front of our minds.

December 2010.  We are on vacation in South America (a wonderful trip to Peru and Chile).  We’re in the taxi shuttling us from Lima to the airport to begin the second leg of our journey.  I’m reading a travel brochure in the backseat.  Suddenly it hits.  A wave of nausea so strong I have to momentarily hold my breath.  Put the brochure back on the seat; guess I shouldn’t read while driving.  The nausea continues.  Waves and waves.  I stare out the window at the dirt roads and dilapidated buildings and concentrate concentrate on the horizon.  Not working!  OMG I’m going to throw up in this cab!  Glance at hubby in earnest.  He’s oblivious.  Swallow down a bit of reflux.  FINALLY.  We’re at the airport.

Fast forward 6 hours.  We’re at dinner in Santiago.  A cute little Italian place.  I asked for someting carb-olicious and distinctly NOT South American to help settle my stomach.  I must have eaten something, caught a bug.  Not the first time this has happened on my travels.  Even the wine isn’t helping.  Dinner’s over and we’ve walked the plaza.  Can we go back to the hotel?  I want to sleep this off.

Two weeks later.  Back home.  This damn bug just isn’t going away.  I should be better by now.  Working at home.  Over lunch, run to the drugstore to pick up something to help (not sure what).  Walking the aisles.  See the pregnancy tests and also pick up a box of those in the event that we decide to start trying.

Home and still have some time left for lunch.  I pull out the pregnancy tests.  So weird it can tell by a stream of urine!  Read the directions.  There are 3 in the box.  I wanna try one!  To see how it works.  Awkwardly figure it out and then leave it on the toilet seat.

End of day.  Hubby will be home in an hour or so.  Walk back into the bathroom – oh yeah, the pregnancy test!  Pick it up.  Two lines.  I must have read it wrong, I thought one line meant you weren’t pregnant.  Huh.  Wait….  oh no….  wait…..  where are those damn instructions.  Read.  Read again.  Compare to the diagram.  WHAT WHAT WHAT.  Hands trembling.  Sweating.  TERROR.  Look in the mirror and I’m white.  No.  No.  NO way.

Call sister.  DO 2 LINES DEFINITELY MEAN….??  Let me send you a picture.  Are you sure??  The one line is a bit lighter.  Are you sure???  Okay good idea.  Hang on, I’ll do it again.  Five minutes later, oh no.  Oh no.  Why are you so excited!?!  I have to go.

Husband home.  Show him.  Assure him that maybe there is a mistake.  I will call the doctor and go in tomorrow.  Do not sleep the entire night.  Not a wink.  In to the doctors’ office.  Pee in a cup.  Yes, you’re a “little bit” pregnant.  What does that mean??  You’re not far along.

Next few nights are sleepless and spent trolling the web for any and all information pertaining to pregnancy.  We agree not to tell anyone else.  We aren’t ready.  Fear.  Didn’t think it would really happen.  Do we really want this??  We’re not ready.  We are not ready.

Next appointment.  I am going to take your HCG levels.  Go home and manically Google “HCG.”  Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin.  A hormone produced after conception by a developing embryo (and later produced by the placenta).  Okay.  Doctor calls a few days later.  Levels look good right now.  We’ll test again during your next appointment.

Start imagining a baby inside my belly.  Start wondering if it’s a boy or a girl.  Start discussing due date and leave plans.  Start listing out all the home renovations that need to be completed beforehand.  Start adding a new line item to the weekly budget for “Baby Savings.”  Start coming to terms with the fact that we’re going to be parents.  Fear turns into nervousness turns into jittery excitement.

Third appointment.  How are you feeling, she says.  Actually much better.  The nausea has almost totally gone away.  I’m lucky!  Good – let me take your HCG levels again.

Next day – Christmas Eve.  Doctor calls.  I think there is a lab error, she says.  Your HCG levels have dropped to 9.  What does that mean??  It means you’re not pregnant but I have never seen such a significant drop; it’s not really possible for it to drop so fast so quickly.  It might be a lab error.  We’ll test you again after the holiday.

Holidays are longest ever.  Am I pregnant or not?  Days spent Googling “HCG levels and miscarriage.”  It appears she is right.  It’s not normal for it to drop so quickly, even in the event of a miscarriage.  And look at all these stories about lab errors.  Must be a lab error.

Finally tested again and results back.  It was a lab error.  HCG levels are normal, on the low end but normal.  Relief.  Relief.  Wow – Maybe we really do want this baby?  Back to planning.

Next appointment and callback.  HCG levels are not increasing how we would like.  Let’s have you come in for an ultrasound.  Okay.  Ultrasound day.  It looks like the pregnancy is “not viable.”  What??  Why??  We don’t know why.  It is very common.  We can either see if you miscarry on your own or schedule for its removal.  I guess let’s schedule it.  If it’s not viable I don’t want to continue this.

I don’t believe it.  I see online so many stories of “not viable” pregnancies making it.  I am not bleeding.  I feel fine.  I keep taking my prenatals.

I am in the gym the next morning and break down (right out of the shower, no less).  I share what’s going on with my friend.  She is wonderful, encouraging.  Her husband is a fertility doctor.  She insists that I go see him to ease my mind.  He will do an ultrasound and give me his thoughts.  I feel bad, I say no, can you just have him look at my levels and see if they are normal?  Just go see him, she says.  It’s fine, I promise.  I get dressed and she is on the phone with his office telling them to fit me in that morning.

I go see him.  He and his staff are wonderful.  He does the ultrasound.  He confirms the pregnancy is not viable.  He explains why – gently and in detail so I can accept it.  On the way home from that visit, I begin bleeding.

My D&C is the next day.  After the visit with my friend’s husband, I am calmed.  I have accepted that there is no possibility this pregnancy will work out.  The procedure is uneventful.  I spend the next couple of days in a painkiller and tearful daze.  I ply my doctor with questions about future risk of miscarriage.  About 25%.  That still means I have a 75% chance of carrying a pregnancy to term.  I am told miscarriage is very, very common.

So why does nobody talk about it?  Why are we scared to share with each other?  Now that time has passed and I have done some reading, I realize that it IS common.  I would have loved to have truly felt that when we were experiencing it ourselves.  It’s hard for women.  I felt as if something was wrong with me.  I am so fortunate to be able to do so many things in my life, yet the one thing I am “supposed” to be able to do wasn’t working.  Am I defective?  Am I a “real woman”?  Why did this happen?  Because I exercised?  Because I drank in South America?  Because I ate salmon?  Or is because I was so scared?  Because I didn’t really think I wanted this when I first found out?  Is that why?  Are we being punished for those thoughts?  Guilt.  Regret.

The few people I shared it with didn’t really want to talk about it.  I get it.  What can they say?  Yet I wanted to talk.  Talked to husband, talked to sister.   And talked.  They grew tired of it.  Wished I could talk to others.

Doctor said we could try again.  Wait one month, then start trying.  Do we want to try?  What if this happens again?  What if we fail?  But the questions are different now.  There is an assumption that we actually DO want this.  We were terrified, then accepting, then excited.  My sister put it beautifully when she said that this was Nature’s wake-up call.  “You never knew if you wanted kids; you were scared when you got pregnant.  Now you realize you want this and you are ready.”

That is the blessing I will always take from this.  Round Two came along and there was no terror, no uncertainty, no regret.  Joy.  Tentative joy given our past experience, but joy nonetheless.