If you follow me on Instagram, look at my photos and/or watch my stories, you know I've been fairly open about motherhood so far. It's hard to believe it's already been a month since my life changed forever and for the better. In the interest of staying organized and somewhat concise, I'm just going to answer the questions I've been asked frequently. (Note that most of the questions I received were more about my experience with birth/postpartum rather than about Ari herself, which is, I think, to be expected. She's only 1 month old, after all!)
How are you feeling?
Like shit! No, I'm kidding. Sort of. Emotionally, I'm feeling overjoyed to have Ari as a part of our family. Mentally and physically, it's been a rocky road but I'm feeling a little more like myself each day. I will write more about my recovery once I'm a bit further away from it. Stay tuned.
What was in your hospital bag? Anything you wish you'd packed or were really glad you had?
Ben and I joked about what ameteurs we were because we ABSOLUTELY overpacked. The thing is, we live in Westchester and had the baby in Manhattan, so I knew we were going to overpack (since we couldn't just run home for something we'd forgotten) and I was totally fine with it. When we got to the hospital it looked like we were headed on a three-week European vacation. The one thing I packed that I absolutely DID NOT NEED was maternity underwear. (I brought these, which I love and am now living in, for the record. I also have and like these.) I learned quickly that after the baby is born you pretty much live in mesh undies. However, I was very glad I packed these pajama pants, these camisoles and this robe. I wore this set home from the hospital, which is pricey but worth it. I still wear all of those pieces at least once a week.
What surprised you the most about labor & delivery? Is there anything you wish you'd known ahead of time?
I've given a lot of though to this because my immediate reaction was, "Yes, I wish someone had told me I was going to be birthing a near-nine pound baby." I gave birth to Ari the morning of my scheduled 40-week appointment, and so the last time I'd seen my doctor (at my 39-week appointment a week earlier) she'd given me no indication that the baby was going to be bigger than her prediction (in the 7lb range if I gave birth on time, about 8lbs if I went past my due date). But the truth is, no, I don't wish I knew how much she was going to weigh ahead of time. It wouldn't have changed anything.
What I do I WISH I'd been made aware of is how the pain sets in when the epidural wears off. This sounds so incredibly obvious, but I was in such baby bliss staring at and holding Ari that I never once considered what the pain would be like until I was faced with it. A nurse offered me Motrin when we got to our recovery room and I refused it. In hindsight that was a mistake. I don't know if it would've made a HUGE difference, but it might have at least taken the edge off.
Birthing a baby is an amazing feat and quite frankly I think we're all fucking superheroes - whether you give or gave birth naturally, vaginally, via C-section, and/or with or without medical intervention. I don't feel women will EVER get the credit we are due. But, I also feel that giving birth IS a trauma to the body and I wish more people were open about what the process is truly like.
How much weight did you gain and what does your current diet look like?
I gained 40 pounds, which was about 15 pounds more than I was expecting to gain. For the record, I was at my personal best body composition (fat to muscle ratio) two weeks before I became pregnant. I had 19.5% body fat, which is considered to be in the "athlete" category for women. I had 59 pounds of muscle, which was about 44% of my total body weight.
Most medical professionals say that a woman who was an "average" weight before pregnancy should expect to gain between 25-35 pounds after becoming pregnant. These numbers HAUNTED me after I hit 25 pounds and knew the scale wasn't going to stop there. But at some point - around 30 weeks - I decided to stop letting the scale rule my life, and it was such a weight (pun intended) off my shoulders. Towards the end of my pregnancy, my doctor asked if I could, "slow down the weight loss." I looked at her and said, "I eat well, I walk my dog over two miles most days and I'm strength training at the gym 3-4 times a week. How do you suggest I slow it down?" She was dumbfounded and said, "I guess there's not much else you can do."
I share this in hopes that maybe at least one of you will ease up on yourself about weight gain during pregnancy. Every woman and every pregnancy is unique. I had an extra lobe of placenta and I gave birth to a big baby. I lost close to half the weight I gained almost immediately after giving birth. The delivering doctor even said, "I can't believe how much your belly has gone down!" while she was stitching me up. (I had a second degree tear.)
The second half has obviously been slower to come off. The first two weeks after pregnancy, I gave myself permission to eat how I wanted. I was still attempting to breastfeed and pump, and I had a big appetite. Once that all quieted down, I decided to eliminate grains from my diet. In the past when I've done this, I've noticed a huge change in my overall lifestyle: sharper mindset, better quality sleep, lessened joint pain, fewer cravings and weight loss. Ben is also "grain-free" (and looks even more amazing than usual, might I add) which certainly makes my life easier in terms of cooking dinner, eating together, etc. I weigh myself every Friday morning. I'm focused, but I'm not obsessed. At the time of publishing this post I'm about 14 pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight.
Do you *really* think staying in shape during pregnancy helped you during Labor & Delivery?
No. I KNOW staying in shape helped me during Labor & Delivery. Look, I was in labor for just over 24 hours and it was the longest day of my life. I was NOT expecting to actively push for 3 hours. Ben commented afterward that even though it was rigorous and he knew I must've been tired, I never once said, "NO," or, "I need a break," when the doctors and nurses asked me to keep going. The delivering doctor told me multiple times that she was impressed by my strength and mobility throughout the process. I know my lifestyle is to thank for getting me through that!
Do you have help?
We have an amazing baby nurse who is invaluable to our family. I am utterly thankful for her. Of course, my dad has also been incredible. He comes over a few times a week to spend time with us and he's also unbelievably helpful. He walks Winnie, feeds Ari, comes to the grocery store with me, etc. He will truly never know how grateful I am.
How is Winnie doing with the new baby?
Winnie is still a little bit confused by the tiny human who is now calling the shots. The first thing my dad did when Ben and I got home from the hospital with Ari was install this gate he'd purchased right after I gave birth. (Have I mentioned/you gathered that my dad is an absolute mensch/saint???) He literally came over, installed it in our upstairs hallway (so it blocks Winnie off from all of the rooms upstairs except ours - where she has free reign/sleeps at night) and then went to go pick up her from the boarder's. It's been so great because not only does it provide her with a physical barrier, it's taught her a bit of patience, too.
Ari doesn't cry too often, but when she does, if Winnie is nearby, she'll start to cry, too. It's painful. If Ari is on my lap and Winnie is nearby, she'll come over, sniff and lick her a bit, and then goes back to what she's doing. Truth be told Winnie is an absolute diva who went from a life of what we imagine to be turmoil (we think she was ripped from her mother too soon/neglected/possibly abused) to the sweet life. I think it's going to take her awhile to get used to being second banana. I know people think I spoil her too much, and the truth is that I owe her a debt of gratitude. We moved out to the suburbs halfway through my pregnancy - a place where I didn't (and still don't) know a soul. We left Manhattan, I left my job and my day-to-day lifestyle changed immediately and intensely. Pregnancy on its own can be extremely isolating and I had these added factors of being by myself in a brand new town. Winnie was my only friend and she was amazing company. Yes, she's a handful and often annoys the living daylights out of me. But I forgive her a lot because I'm forever grateful for her.
What's Ari's schedule like?
Well, we don't really have her on one yet. Per many of your suggestions (THANK YOU) Ben and I recently read 12 Hours By 12 Weeks and will start implementing those strategies once our baby nurse leaves. I will be sure to keep you all posted on how that's going.
What products are you using/loving?
This list will change and grow over time, I'm sure, but here's what's currently on it:
Baby Brezza Formula Pro. This was a gift from our registry and makes prepping bottles a snap. It's a total luxury and therefore maybe not something we would've purchased ourselves, but we're definitely grateful we have it.
Moba Moses Baby Basket. This was a(n amazing) gift from my best friend, Alyson. I bought the stand to go with it, and we keep it next to the couch in our family room. I grew up in a house with two designers (my parents!) and I'm really trying to take their lead as we settle into our new home. Can I be honest with you - there's a lot of hideous baby gear out there. I LOVE how sleek and chic this is. Since Ari's a little monkey (always moving) she's able to gently rock herself. She really enjoys being in this! If you're looking for a really nice baby gift to give someone, I believe any stylish new mom would be thrilled to receive it! (The picture above is from a few days ago - we just started using this Rock N Play on loan to us!)
Love To Dream Swaddle Up. I forget who recommended these to me, but THANK YOU. We noticed within 24 hours of Ari's birth that she liked to break out of her hospital blanket swaddles. Somehow I'd anticipated this might happen and had thought to order a zipper-up swaddle that I'd heard somebody rave about. And sure enough, I've purchased several more since! It's so easy to use (no wrapping) and gives us peace of mind that she's safe & snug as a bug in a rug.
Samsung BabyView Dual Mode Digital Baby Camera/Monitor. I was overwhelmed by all of the different baby monitors out there but we have (and love) all Samsung TVs in our home so I knew I felt good about the brand. I brought it home for Ben to check out and he did the research legwork and gave it a thumbs up. This is one of the pricier options out there, but we LOVE it. The picture and sound quality are beautiful, and I love that we're also able to turn our iPhones into baby monitors via the BabyView app.
Kissy Kissy bodysuits. This was another gift from Alyson! The fabric is so soft and I love that the bottom has two snaps instead of three (sounds so silly, but makes a difference when you're trying to get this on or off a fussy baby).
Monica + Andy hats. I treated Ari (and myself) to a Monica + Andy layette to bring to the hospital. After she was born, we quickly realized she takes after her mom and has a big ol' head, and the hospital hats were really struggling to stay on. We put her in the top knot cap from the layette box and that seemed to do the trick! I've ordered several more since.
Jonathan Adler by Fisher Price Sensory Gym. I love anything Jonathan Adler because my mom did - she actually purchased his ceramic vases at Barney's way back when he first started selling his designs. (I have several JA items in Ari's nursery* - this pillow and this sculpture, and lots more of his pieces sprinkled around our house because it helps me keep my mom's memory alive.) Ari loves to lie on her back and looks up at the toys or looks at herself in the mirror. We'll definitely get a lot of mileage out of this!
Beyond Yoga Postnatal Tummy Tightener Legging. These are the leggings I've talked about many times on Instagram. Many of you have asked me and no, I didn't get any belly bands or anything for after pregnancy, so I can't speak to those. I wear these at least twice a week. I bought these in my pre-pregnancy size (XS) and the first time I put them on (1 week postpartum) it took me about 5 full minutes to pull them all the way up. That was a bit frustrating but totally worth it. They're super compressive and I love how supportive they are.
I'm so grateful to you all for coming along on this journey for me. I'll have more posts like this in the future so be sure to send me any questions you may have and stay tuned!
*I've gotten TONS of questions about Ari's nursery and I hope to get a post up about it in the next few months, so stay tuned!
P.S. Ari is wearing this "footie" in the photo above - it uses magnetic closures rather than snaps or zips!