[Baby musings]: Sample birth plan

September 18th, 2014

I thought it could be helpful to share our birth plan. I’m omitting some personal details for privacy.

Birth Plan for: Mama’s name

Would like to: Have a natural and healthy birth, avoiding unnecessary medical interventions

Primary caregiver: Name of midwife

Due Date: MM/DD/YYYY

Support people: <Name of spouse>  (husband), <Doula’s name>(doula)

I will give birth at: Hospital/Birth Center Name

Mother’s birth date: MM/DD/YYYY

About <name of mom>: A few words about where I’m from and what I do

About <name of spouse>: A few words about where spouse is from and what he does

About us: met in xxxx, got married in xxxx, excited to meet our baby in 2013 and discover if he/she is a boy or a girl.

Labor preferences:

· use hypnobirthing relaxation techniques throughout labor
· use whatever position feels right
· may use tub during labor and have a water birth, if possible and feels right
· avoid pain medication

Delivery preferences:

· delayed cord clamping
· allow the placenta to be delivered naturally – please no pitocin after delivery unless medically necessary
· keep baby with the mother skin to skin as long as possible after delivery
· avoid giving the baby eye ointment/drops
· please leave the baby in mother’s or father’s arms for vitamin K shot and blood test

Postpartum preferences:

· I plan to feed the baby with breastmilk
· hold off on bathing the baby for the first 24 hours or until medically necessary
· we would like the baby to receive necessary vaccinations but please explain to us the vaccines administered to the baby
· as first-time parents, we look forward to guidance with newborn care, such as breastfeeding, swadling, diaper changing, and bathing

[Baby musings]: Back from the hospital, home sweet home

August 19th, 2014

The hardest work starts when you are suddenly all alone with a tiny human that you need to keep alive and happy (or at least not miserable). I think many first-time parents are in shock they are allowed to leave the hospital with the baby after a few days and wonder how they are going to manage. It is overwhelming and hard, but there are a few things that can make your life easier.

Here are the things we did that I would recommend:

Line up help for when the baby is home with you. We ended up hiring a postpartum doula (Jodi Krentzman), which I am now convinced, was the best decision we made. I’m ready to admit that it might have worked just as well if we had relatives coming to help (although we didn’t have that option), but one of the nicest things that postpartum doulas do (at least at the beginning) is telling you what to do rather than waiting for instructions which you are in no state to give. Also, there is no drama or feeling like relatives should enjoy time with the baby/desire to play host etc. when you hire someone to help you.

The worst night was the first night at home. The baby wasn’t sleeping, had trouble nursing, and everyone was miserable, with me the most miserable of them all. I was sitting in my glider looking at the clock, counting hours till Jodi was to show up. When she finally came at 9 am, she took the baby from me and said: “You pump. Erik, make breakfast for the two of you. You both eat breakfast and go to sleep.” That was the best thing ever. When we woke up 2 hours later, the baby had had a nap, there was a healthy lunch waiting for us in a straightened-out kitchen and Jodi was there to help me give nursing another go. We have used the doula pretty regularly for the first few weeks. She would:

· Show us how to take care of the baby, including:

·breastfeeding help(most, if not all, postpartum doulas are certified Lactation Counselors and can help with latch, positioning, teach you how to hear if your baby is swallowing and not just using you as a pacifier, etc.)

· cloth diapering

· burping

· swaddling

· baby wearing

· bathing

· pacifying/soothing baby/make him sleep

· Take care of the baby while we/I took a nap or shower. Postpartum doulas are not babysitters, but they are there to nurture the mother and the family, so one of their goals is to help mom take care of herself

· Do laundry (ours, baby’s, cloth diapers)

· Load/unload dishwasher

· Wash/assemble pump parts (it gets annoying fast)

· Do grocery shopping and make sure we were eating well (iron and fiber rich food, for instance).

· Cook meals

We also had a doula who would come overnight for several nights which was really nice. In retrospect, a night nurse would probably also be fine (and cheaper), but that would require lining one up beforehand, which we didn’t do – we hired a postpartum doula, who lined up the overnight help for us.

Everyone says that, and it can’t be overstated: “Get people to bring you food!” You might also want to fill your freezer beforehand, when you feel particularly restless (I ended up cooking lots of golubci the night after Boston marathon bombing because I needed something to do with myself). But other people bringing you food is awesome. Examples of what people brought us (you can just give this list to someone if they ask what to bring you):

· Lasagna. It’s easy to be portioned into square portions that will fit well in the freezer.
· Savory pies and ice cream.
· Ziti with broccoli and chicken.
· Salad ingredients – a great option when you’re tired of pasta and lasagna and need some veggies. This included: pre-washed greens in a ziplock bag, cherry tomatoes, peeled hard boiled eggs, chopped cucumbers and peppers, dressing.
· Normal food (pasta, lentil soup, potatoes) – our neighbours just cooked a little more than they needed for dinner and brought us the extras.

Delivery is great. This includes food (pizza, veggie sushi) and products (Amazon fairy). We also tried grocery delivery from Instacart – the link should give you 10$ off and free delivery for your first order – which was nice. In our area they deliver from Whole Foods, Costco, Shaw’s and Harvest Co-op. They used to deliver from Market Basket, but I’m guessing that the latest standoff in the company put an end to that. We have only used Instacart once so far, but that is because it wasn’ t available in the Boston area until a few months ago. We were lucky that when we first had the baby that our postpartum doula shopped for us and after that we did mostly ok with our neighborhood store.  The one time we did use Instacart though, it was really nice, because it was the weekend and we had too much to do around the house to go shopping. It was fast to set up – just pick the produce off the list on your phone/tablet/computer and wait for the delivery person to arrive with your groceries. My “personal shopper” even called to ask if I’d like to substitute certain items because what I picked wasn’t available in the store, and he was able to find “special request” items that were not on the list on the website (but which I knew were available at the store). It might have been slightly more expensive than going to the store yourself (although some of the prices on the site were the same as in the store), but I think that it was overall a win because I didn’t have to go anywhere (and spend gas/time/energy hauling the baby in and out of the car) and I stuck to the shopping list, avoiding impulse purchases, which are not good for you or your wallet. I think Instacart can be a real life saver in the first few months with a newborn. There are alternatives to Instacart that existed at the time L was a newborn, but they didn’t work for us – Roche Brothers has delivery but it’s not available in our neighborhood, and we don’t like Stop & Shop enough to try their Peapod service.

[Baby musings]: Labor and birth

August 19th, 2014


Everything I write about is my opinion and is based on my (very limited) experience with giving birth to one child at a particular hospital in MA. I was fortunate to have an uncomplicated pregnancy and delivery which pretty much went like I planned. Below are the things I found useful, with the most useful ones marked with a star .

Preparing for labor and birth

Figure out what kind of birth you want and do your research. Every birth is different and sometimes things don’t go according to plan. I still think though that’s it helpful to figure out what kind of experience you want. Labor does not have to be the most painful thing you have ever done – it wasn’t for me (and I didn’t have an epidural). Nor am I some kind of masochist or a person with a high pain threshold. When choosing your care provider, take into account what you want during labor (unless you have a medical reason, i.e., you are having a high-risk pregnancy and need to stick with a particular doctor/hospital) – we were with the midwives at Mt. Auburn and it was absolutely the right choice for us since they were very supportive of our decision to have a natural birth (which to me means unmedicated, i.e., no epidural). I was also able to go almost 2 weeks past my due date without being induced, which was in big part due to the midwives’ approach to childbirth. The Midwives at Mt. Auburn take the approach of planning for the “normal case” but having the support structure around in-case something goes wrong, as opposed to the more “medical” approach of expecting things to go wrong. Hospitals also differ on their support of natural childbirth – choose the one where you will have the support of the staff (in our case Mt. Auburn Hospital was great). If you choose to go with a natural childbirth (which is so much better for the mother and the baby), take a natural childbirth class. We took hypnobirthing classes, which was instrumental in our ability to have a natural birth, but there are other natural childbirth classes that are not hypnobirthing, which, I hear, can be just as useful.

Classes we took in preparation to having a baby and their usefulness:

Hypnobirthing – extremely helpful in preparation of having a natural birth. (Don’t let the name put you off — my husband thinks it is very unfortunately named.)  If you are interested in hypnobirthing, check out the website. We took a semi-private hypnobirthing class with Shay Pokress but many hospitals teach their own hypnobirthing classes (we found Shay after it turned out that the hypnobirthing class at Mt. Auburn was full). The main idea in hypnobirthing is that if you know what your body is going through during labor and birth (which is a natural thing, and not some kind of medical event), you can prevent yourself from entering the fear-tension-pain cycle that is so common in labor and you can have your baby without (much) pain. You also practice relaxation throughout pregnancy so you can call upon it when your labor starts. The relaxation technique was actually very helpful during pregnancy (for me and for my husband), during labor and after L was born. Some people manage to go “into the zone” and go through labor without feeling pain. While I never quite get there, I did have my baby without an epidural (and without wishing I had one) and was as a whole very happy with the birth I had. I also want to add that giving birth was the more empowering experience I’ve ever had in my life.

Happiest Baby and Infant Care Essentials at Mt. Auburn – very helpful for when the baby is here. It goes over the 5 Ss principles from the The Happiest Baby on the Blockbook and DVD. If you don’t take the class (where they also go a bit over the other basics of baby care – like bathing and taking temperature, although the focus is on the 5 Ss soothing techniques), read the book and/or watch the DVD. It’s a must as it will help you survive. I’m serious. The idea is that babies would have stayed on the inside longer if they could, but because they “have” to be born at 9 months gestation (or their heads would be too big to fit through the birth canal), the first 3 months of their lives are really “the 4th trimester”. The book then focuses on 5 techniques to help baby feel like he is still in the womb (the “5s”) and how to perform them:

  • Swaddling
  • Side/stomach position
  • Swinging
  • Shushing
  • Sucking

I highly recommend the class (or, if you can’t make it to one, the book/DVD). In general, it is helpful to take a class that is preparing you for your first days/weeks/months with the baby. There is a lot of focus on the childbirth and while it’s very helpful to be prepared for it, at the end of the day your labor will only last some number of hours – and then you will be left with the baby and it’s very important to know what to do. Hint: changing diapers is not the hardest thing (although that’s something you stress about before the baby is here), that you will figure out in no time. It’s how to soothe the baby and how to feed him/her that is the most challenging, in my experience, and if you can learn something about that, that can be very helpful.

Breastfeeding class at Mt. Auburn- we took it 3 months before the baby was born and I don’t think it was that useful. They showed some videos of what is a good latch and we practiced a few nursing positions and learned that there is a “football hold”, but other than that, I think it was hard to learn anything without an actual baby. At the hospital they held a free breastfeeding class every morning that we didn’t go to, but that could have been more useful. If you don’t go to a breastfeeding class, learn as much as you can about breastfeeding BEFORE you have a baby. I wished I read books on breastfeeding and tips on increasing your milk supply while still pregnant since you certainly don’t have time/mental capacity to read anything immediately after you have the baby when you can benefit from this information.

Preparing for a childbirth with a midwife class at Mt. Auburn- we didn’t actually take this one, we were planning on taking it but then the scheduling didn’t work out. It was for the best though because they do spend time in the class talking about epidurals etc. and we didn’t actually want to hear about it. If you choose to go the natural route, focus on that (and you can always read about epidurals in a book).

Other useful things we did in preparation for birth and labor that I highly recommend:

Hire a birth doula. They are expensive, but absolutely worth it. A doula will meet with you and talk to you about your pain management preferences, the plan for your birth, and she will help you achieve the goals you set for your birth. Our doula Julie Carew was also a certified lactation counselor and she helped me tremendously with breastfeeding (immediately after birth, and afterwards via email and phone when I was having trouble). She was provided a lot of support in general after the baby was born – I turned to her with questions about sleep, weight gain/lack thereof etc.

Tour the birth center at the hospital you will be giving birth in. It helps you to familiarize yourself with the place you will spend (potentially a lot of) time.

Pick the clothes to wear to the hospital. If you plan to labor at home, prepare the clothes you will wear to the hospital so that they are ready when you ready to head out of the door. When it was time to head to the hospital, I was glad I had everything ready because I was in no state to pick clothes from the closet. I ended up laboring in the clothes I was in (i.e., not in the hospital clothes). Good choice of clothes was: a long stretchy skirt and a tank top.

Have a birth plan. It will help you to think through things beforehand and have them written down so you don’t have to make rushed decisions in the hospital. For example, we decided to decline giving the baby eye ointment after birth after researching what causes the infection that the ointment was trying to prevent and realizing our baby was in no risk for it. If we had not thought about it beforehand, we would have agreed to it (or not asked that it is not done – since sometimes they don’t even ask you if you want certain things done or not). Similarly we asked that they don’t bathe the baby for at least 24 hours. We also asked for a delayed cord clamping. There are the choices that are easier done before you have the baby and not when you are recovering from labor. Keep the birth plan concise and to under a page or so if you want people in the hospital to actually read it. We reviewed our birth plan with our midwife and actually took a bunch of stuff off of it, because certain things were already standard at the hospital (like not doing episiotomy routinely etc).

Get a birth ball (big exercise ball to sit on) – it’s great for labor and it’s very useful once you have the baby to bounce on it (babies like bouncing and it’s one of the soothing techniques, plus it’s much easier to bounce on the ball than to rock the baby while walking around half asleep). Also, if your baby hates the car seat (like ours did in the beginning) it’s very handy to bounce the baby strapped in car seat on the ball (rest the car seat on the ball and bounce) while your partner finishes up packing the car. An alternative technique is swinging the baby in the (infant) car seat, but that is very tiring since the car seat is kind of heavy.

Get a pedicure :). Doctors/nurses appreciate it. Plus it will make you feel good. Also, if you go past your due date it is told to cause labor to start. I didn’t test this theory, but I know people who swear by it :).

Postpartum care for the mom

Get these before you have the baby to have on hand when you get home from the hospital. My husband ended up going for a CVS run the night we got home from the hospital, which wasn’t ideal.

Big (huge) pads for when you will bleed. These would NOT be usual regular pads for the period. Get the biggest pads they have in the store.

Stool softener

Witch hazel pads

(optional) Iron pills (you might not need these, but I lost enough blood to be monitored for anemia so I had to take these)

Fenugreek (for boosting your milk supply). I would take it 3 times a day starting day 4 or 5. We would get these at Whole Foods.

Packing for the hospital

Pack snacks for the hospital – we packed a bunch we were going to use for labor, but ended up eating them afterwards since by the time we got to the hospital I was already in transition and could care less about food. Good choices are: nuts, dried fruit, power bars.

Pack clothes to wear for heading home from the hospital – something comfy, along the same lines as the clothes you wore on the way to the hospital: a long stretchy skirt (maternity one would work great) and a tank top. I gave birth in May, so it was reasonably warm, you might want something warmer if you are due in the colder months. I ended up not wearing the clothes I packed to wear at the hospital. You will be bleeding (for a while) and will not actually want to wear your underwear and pjs. Plus you will be sore, so putting pants on is not that appealing either. The hospital gowns are not glamorous but they are easy to put on and to nurse in. Your partner will need something to wear during your two days at the hospital, though, while you hang out in hospital attire.

Pack an outfit for the baby to leave the hospital in. While in the hospital, the baby will wear the outfit they give the baby (a hat and a long sleeved shirt is what we got in May) and will be tightly wrapped in a swaddling blanket (keep in mind that after you leave the hospital you will not be able to swaddle the baby in this swaddling blanket – only nurses are capable of it :).

At the hospital after giving birth

Try to rest as much as possible. Babies sleep a lot when there are a day old. It’s normal. Use this time to sleep (as much as you can). I was high on endorphins after giving birth and wanted to text everyone the great news. Pace yourself and try to get some sleep.

Limit your visitors. We had one person come visit, and even that was somewhat stressful since I was in the middle of trying to feed the baby which was not going so well.

Limit the flowers (unless you have people helping you bring them home). Flowers are awesome, but you will want to haul them home with you and you are likely to have a lot of stuff (more than when you got to the hospital since you will have a car seat with the baby).

Use people at the hospital to learn how to take care of your baby as much as you can. Nurses can teach you how to swaddle and bathe the baby (we didn’t give the baby a bath till day 2 and we asked a nurse to show us how its done).

Get help with breastfeeding right away. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help (repeatedly, if needed). We saw 3 lactation consultants at the hospital because we kept asking for them. In addition to being helpful, they hooked me up with a hospital grade pump to use at the hospital and gave us shields to use and a feeding syringe, which we used to supplement the baby with expressed breastmilk before we started giving him a bottle at home.

Sign up for a follow-up visit with a nurse (if it’s an option). They encouraged us to do it (for which we had to leave the hospital within 48 hours of giving birth) and it was great. We ended up leaving after 47 hours. A nurse came to our house the day after we got out of the hospital to see me and the baby (it was mostly for me though).

Eat! At Mt. Auburn the food is actually good and you can order for your partner too!

Take everything they give you at the hospital home with you (except for sheets :)). Everything they bring into your room they throw away afterwards anyway and you never know how useful it will be. The stuff we took:

· Two waterproof pads they put on the bed. We used it for a few nights to protect the sheets at home on our bed.

· Hospital gown. I used it was a robe for a few days since at the beginning you want to spend as much time skin-to-skin with the baby as possible, so the robe is one of the more convenient things to wear.

· Pink (or whatever color your hospital uses) plastic mugs (I think they hold 1 liter of water) with straw lids. Nursing moms need to hydrate and these mugs are great because they hold a lot of water and they have a straw and a lid. Now we use one during bath time for pouring water on baby’s head.

· Pink plastic bin – we used it to wash the bottles and pump parts in. Very useful. Now L uses it as a container to put toys in and take toys out.

· Witch Hazel pads and whatever other medication they give you.

· Spray bottle. We now use it for spraying cloth wipes at the changing table. Take an extra one of these, if you can. I wish I did.

· Mesh underwear. This is the best thing ever, I kid you not! In fact, I regretted not asking for more of these, since I only brought home 2 pairs that were in the room when I left the hospital. Ask for more (they will bring you a stack) and bring them home. You will appreciate just being able to throw these out.

· Pads. At Mt. Auburn in Labor and Delivery they had giant pads which were awesome. For some reason in post-partum, which was full of women bleeding heavily, which is perfectly normal after giving birth, they only had pads more suitable for a regular period then for amount of blood you lose after delivery. I had to use 4 of these at a time (sorry about the TMI). But, you can ask the nurses to get you some of the bigger pads, they will do their best. Regardless, take all the pads they give you, you will use them at home.
The shirt they dress babies in at the hospital. It’s size 12M and was too big for him for a while, but we were eventually able to use it for sleeping when he started sleeping with arms out of the swaddle.

· Baby stuff they bring you for the baby (diapers, wipes, shampoo etc.). Out of the baby stuff we didn’t use again:

· the hat (it fell apart after 1 wash). it was not a real hat anyway, just a tube sewn at the end

· the “snot removal” bulbs (they are way too huge for little baby noses). Plus there was some scary stuff about those snot removal bulbs getting moldy inside since the standard ones only have 1 hole to drain out of (there is a similar concern about bath toys with little holes – like rubber duckies). We use Nosefrida The Snotsucker Nasal Aspirator which is awesome for snot removal.

· Baby blankets. They are not big enough to swaddle in (although nurses manage to, somehow), but they are useful receiving blankets for covering surfaces, using as burp cloths etc.

· Any breastfeeding items: pump parts, shields etc. We brought home a feeding syringe and used it to feed the baby in the first few weeks in addition to breastfeeding. The reason for using a syringe was to not get the baby used to the bottle prior to establishing breastfeeding. With the syringe you could squirt milk into baby’s mouth little by little and wait for them to swallow. They also set up a Medela Symphony pump for me and gave me a whole bag of supplies which I then used with my Pump In Style Advanced pump (and also with Medela Symphony I rented). If they hook you up with a pump in the hospital, make sure to take ALL the parts with you (minus the pump itself). I ended up forgetting the membranes and the membrane caps inside the pump and had to buy new ones when I rented the Symphony.

One last bit of advice: enjoy the time with your baby and enjoy having people who can help you (and who will appear when you press the button on your bed :). The hardest work starts at home.

[Baby musings]: Before baby

August 10th, 2014

Fun stuff

Everyone says – go and have fun before the baby is here (especially if it’s your first – we have not yet been on the receiving end of this kind of advice a second time around since we only have one kid at the moment and none on the way). And we did. And I recommend it. Go for late night movies. Go on long weekends away. Stay at Bed and Breakfasts. Take cooking classes. But also know that you will be able to do this again once the baby arrives (if you want to stay at a B&B with a kid though, that might have to wait until the kid is 12), it will just be different.

One thing we did that I really liked and would recommend is taking maternity photos. We used our wonderful wedding photographer, Megan from Click Imagery. It was such a great way to celebrate the pregnancy and capture some great shots of my very pregnant belly. I have to say, I’ve been waiting to do this photoshoot since we found our wedding photographers and I saw that they also do maternity (and baby) photo sessions. In preparation, I made a Pinterest board with maternity photos I liked and went on a shopping spree to pick up some outfits for the shoot. Megan took care of the rest. I am really excited to get prints of these photos and to finally make an album with them – it’s amazing how much harder everything is once you have a baby. It took us a year to pick photos from our wedding for a wedding album, it’s been 16 months since the maternity photo session and we still haven’t gotten around to doing it. Oops.

Ksusha and belchonok by Click Imagery

Pregnancy and parenting books

As far as pregnancy books go, I read the infamous What to Expect When You’re Expecting, 4th Edition and the Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy: From Doctors Who Are Parents, Too!. I feel like the books-for-pregnant-ladies-book-industry has a really good deal going – the majority of people don’t tell anyone they are expecting till after the 1st trimester is over, but the urge to get into the pregnancy mode and learn as much as you can is overwhelming (and I don’t mean it in a bad way), so everyone is buying these books, instead of getting them for free from a friend who doesn’t need them anymore. The same was true for me. I ordered these 2 books on Amazon as soon as I saw 2 lines on the pregnancy test. I was really excited.

The books lived up to their reputation. What to Expect is a little over-the-top in terms of overloading you with a ton of details and symptoms. In the beginning of the pregnancy it didn’t bother me as much as it seemed to bother other people, but I did stop reading it towards the end because it began to annoy me. This was also the time when I got into hypnobirthing, so that might have contributed. It’s not the greatest pregnancy book and if you can get it for free from someone (so you don’t feel guilty if you feel like tossing it), I would recommend that.

The second book, Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy is a lot better. If you want to get one good pregnancy book, get this one. It’s to the point, clear and not condescending.

I talk about hypnobirthing in another section, but since we’re talking about books, we read the HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method: A natural approach to a safe, easier, more comfortable birthing book as part of the class we took (the book was provided by the class, so don’t hurry to get the book if you are taking the class).

I read one book on taking care of your newborn before our son was born and I wholeheartedly recommend it. A friend gave it to me and said that it’s concise and very useful. And it was. Heading Home With Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality, 2nd Edition.  In a similar vein, but more entertaining, my husband found the book The Baby Owner’s Manual: Operating Instructions, Trouble-Shooting Tips, and Advice on First-Year Maintenance to be concise and helpful.

Months before I was pregnant I heard On Point from WBUR with the author of a book about French parenting style, Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting. The French parenting philosophy really resonated with me, especially the part about the food. I was and still am terrified of food battles at the dinner table, I am also very concerned about the obesity epidemic in America, so I was thrilled to hear that “French kids eat everything”. So I bought and read the book before I even got pregnant. I really liked many aspects of the French parenting philosophy described in the book – giving kids a lot of freedom within specified borders, introducing them to new foods and flavors and textures, not making them the center of attention at all times, letting them play alone etc. Since then I actually wanted to re-read the book, but now I can’t find it. My husband went ahead and got a reference version of the book – Bébé Day by Day: 100 Keys to French Parenting, which we now have handy. It basically summarizes Bringing Up Bébé book and skips all of the personal stories. Another book I read, which focuses more on food (and is also talking about French parenting), was French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters, which I would also recommend. It has a handy list of rules on the cover, which include things like “You don’t have to eat it but you do have to try it”.

I have to say that not everything that I read on parenting I could apply right away. It was a lot of information all at once and some of it I actually forgot by the time it became relevant. This is why I cannot emphasize how important and useful for us was to get help with the baby right away. We hired a postpartum doula to help in the first weeks after L was born and it was the best money we spent. More on this in the coming post.

[Baby musings]: Introduction

August 9th, 2014

I started writing these notes soon after our son was born. I wanted to write down what we learned and to share this knowledge with the word (or at least my pregnant-at-the-time friends). For the longest time these notes were kept in a Google doc that I kept sharing with people. However, I’m recognizing that the blog might be an easier way of achieving the same goal since it’s a bit easier to share and it has a better support for comments. In the spirit of full disclosure I just signed up for the Amazon Associate’s program, so all the links that go to Amazon are “associated” with me, which means that if you end up buying something from that link, I will get a few cents. In theory. I never actually tried it. And when I can link to a local source, I do. Originally the document had lots of links to Isis Parenting website, because I actually bought a ton of baby stuff at Isis, but they abruptly closed last winter, so I had to update all those links to Amazon links.

Finally, all opinions here are my opinions only, based on my personal and very limited experience. YMMV. Some info is mom-specific, but dads can benefit from learning about this stuff too :). These notes are long and might feel overwhelming (and took me months to write), so perhaps approach it piecemeal.

Time to give this blog another go…

August 9th, 2014

So much has happened since the last post. I might need to admit to myself that I might never post about our wedding, because now we have much more time consuming and exciting “project” on our hands – being parents.

I do want to post about myriad of things we learned since we embarked on this journey, and at a minimum write about the baby products we tried and loved (or not). Hopefully I will actually get around to doing it this time. I want to share our experience – perhaps it might help someone.

Easter eggs

May 16th, 2011

This year I decided to make some decorated Easter eggs. Quite uncharacteristically I started working on them several weeks before Easter (I’m very prone to working on craft projects last minute, so this was a definite achievement on my part).

I’ve had a book on decorating Easter eggs using beads that I brought with me from Russia for a while but I didn’t have the motivation to do anything from it till this March. The book is in Russian and is called “Easter Eggs from Beads”. If you are curious, you can see how the book looks here. I  stopped by Joan’s and picked up some small wooden eggs to decorate. My first egg used the “belt” technique from the book. You start by making a strip from beads that features the main design. Once the strip is done, you close it to make it into a “belt” (or a very wide bracelet with small circumference). This “belt” is then placed on the egg and you just need to cover the top  and the bottom of the egg in beads using your imagination. This technique uses a needle and a thread to weave the  beads. Here is the result:

Easter egg in the "belt" technique.

Next I decided to try to create to crochet a beaded egg. A long time ago my sister (who is quite skilled in beadwork and has been teaching classes to kids on how to do cool things with beads for more than 10 years) taught me how to crochet with beads. The idea is quite simple. You start by putting the beads on the thread that you’re going to crochet with. You then proceed to crochet with the thread making single crochets as you go and using one bead per crochet. Beads will show up on one side of the canvas while on the back it will look just as a crocheted cloth looks like. If you crochet in one direction (in a spiral, for instance, like I did for the egg) it’s not much different from crocheting just with a thread. If you’re crocheting in a pattern that requires a change of direction (for example, if you are crocheting a rectangle) it’s a little tricky at first to go in one direction vs. the other. I honestly don’t remember how to do it anymore (although I could probably figure it out if I need to) but luckily I only needed to crochet in a spiral for the egg project so it was pretty straightforward and didn’t take long to pick up even though I haven’t done crocheting with beads in years.

My sister crocheted this picture which is now hanging in our house

In this technique you can make crocheted pictures which can be an alternative to embroidering pictures with beads. When you embroider a picture with beads, you place a bead on a tread one at a time and then attach it to a canvas one bead at a time with a needle. There are people who make big Russian Orthodox icons in this technique. You can even buy kits for making such icons. In the crocheting with beads technique you don’t need a canvas – you are creating one as you crochet. Here is an example of a picture you can do using this technique – done by my sister.

In principle, you can make an crocheted egg that has a pattern. However, this would require careful calculation to figure out exactly how many beads of which color in which order you need to put on a thread to end up with a  particular design once you crochet around the egg. Despite the fact that I started working on the eggs a few weeks before Easter I still didn’t have enough time to spend figuring out the pattern for a crocheted egg. Instead, I picked up variegated beads which ended up creating a random pattern on the egg. The result was quite nice, and I don’t regret not spending hours trying to figure out a pattern for the egg.  As far as the technique goes, I started with making a “bowl” for the bottom of the egg that went about 2/3 of the way up. After that I would have to decrease the number of stitches in a row so the circumference of the “bowl”‘s opening would start to decrease. This meant that my “bowl” would no longer fit the egg (I was crocheting the “bowl” and then would fit it on the egg periodically to make sure that I was doing the right thing). I therefore needed to make a “hat” to go on the top of the egg. Finally, I assembled it all by placing the “bowl” and the “hat” on the egg and sewing the two together. I then put beads on the seam to cover it. Because of the randomness of the bead color and the absence of the pattern the seam is completely invisible.

Crocheted beaded egg

For the third egg I used a slightly bigger wooden base I got at Michael’s which was painted white. A long time ago I have seen examples of crocheted Easter eggs in a newspaper for crocheting that was published in my home town back when I was in school. The newspaper was called “Tatiana” and I owe my devotion to crocheting to it. It was in fact a very interesting newspaper as it was published by a lady who was an engineer (in the same research institute as my dad) who loved crochet. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like there are any scans of this newspaper online (it was printed from 1992 to 2000), but I did find an article about it and about its creator Tatiana Chadaeva from 1998. I made countless collars and doilies from this newspaper when I was 13-17.

Since I didn’t really have a pattern to go off with for the crocheted egg, I just made one up as I went. I think the result was pretty decent. This egg was the fastest to make.

Crocheted lace egg.

The last egg I made had a plastic egg base. A couple of weeks before Easter, Erik and I went to a Yuri’s Night celebration at a local restaurant. There we picked up some schwag that came in a clear plastic egg. The schwag, by the way, was a key chain that makes Darth Vader breathing noise when pressed :). Since nothing in my house can be thrown out without first considered for re-purposing, I couldn’t just get rid of the plastic egg. So, I decided to make it into a flower bed. I was waiting to use my book on crocheted flowers for far too long. First I made the background that featured the grass and the sky. Then I made individual flowers and the greenery using the book and sewed them onto the egg. This is the egg I finished after Easter so I only have a picture of it with one flower that was done by the time the picture was taken. The egg is now complete and has 4 flowers.

"Flower bed" crocheted egg.

This concludes my Easter eggs exhibit. I shall see if I decide to continue this next year. I’m happy that I got to try different techniques and the process was definitely not boring due to that.

Special thanks goes to my amazing father-in-law John who made all the pictures of the eggs in this post. He spent hours taking these photos using the light box and I think the resulting pictures really do my eggs justice. :)

Three of the eggs together

Catching up or a little bit about what I’ve been up to

April 30th, 2011

It’s been a while since I posted anything here. I left off about a month before the wedding as our lives were getting busier and busier with the last minute projects. The wedding came and went (and it was awesome), the California reception came and went (it was also awesome albeit it was different). We started settling into the “life after the wedding” filled with post-wedding projects (like making and then writing Thank You notes – still need to finish the last batch of these and picking up pictures for a professional wedding album from our amazing photographers).

I transferred to a Usability department at work and am now settling into a new role in a completely new to me field. I don’t have any background in Usability but I have a passion for it and am trying to learn as much as possible on the job. It’s been going well so far.

I started exchanging postcards with random people from all over the world via Postcrossing.

We celebrated a bunch of holidays for the first time as a married couple. We still have a few more this year. We celebrated Thanksgiving at a wonderful house of friends that are like family to us. We spent a cozy Christmas at Erik’s parents. We hosted a New Year’s party. Russian Christmas on January 7th we spent in the company of friends. We tried a new fondue pot (wedding gift) on Valentine’s day. This Passover and Russian Easter Erik’s parents were visiting. It was great to have them in town and celebrate with them. We hosted a first-night Seder for which we made lots of yummy food. Some of the yummy brisket Erik made is now in the freezer for us to devour later. True to tradition, I spent the day before Easter cooking, making traditional paskha and kulichs. There were also hard boiled eggs dyed with onion skins and other non-Easter food. I was happy I was able to accommodate vegetarians and vegans this time. :) I’ll have to document the food I’ve made separately as a reference for next year. Erik made me a traditional mold for paskha. Paskha is the word for “Easter” in Russian and is also the name of the traditional sweet dish you cook for Easter made of, mostly, curd and/or cream. After the mixture is ready, it is molded into a shape of a pyramid with symbols on the sides – usually, “ХВ” for “Христос Воскресе!” or “Christ Has Risen!” is on one side a the pyramid and a Orthodox cross is on the other. Erik made the mold out of wood planks and was able to carve the designs into the sides. It came out beautifully. I’m still amazed at how talented my husband is! :).

I’ve done a couple of crafty projects of my own – I finished the cross-stitch for Erik that took almost 3 years to make.

I’ve completed another cross-stitch for my friend Sejal’s baby – it features characters from Finding Nemo, the name of the baby and his birthday. I bought the pattern after the baby was born and it can’t be considered the “name announcement” since I finished it when the baby was 1.5 years old :). But they say it’s the thought that counts. I couldn’t go past that pattern knowing how in love with fishes Sejal is :). I haven’t taken any pictures of it yet, we’ll have to do it when we go visit Sejal next time.

My latest project has been Easter eggs. I’m going to make another post about them since they deserve it.

I’m looking forward to posting here more. I still have lots of wedding stuff I’d like to document :).

So many projects, so little time

August 21st, 2010

You are probably waiting for the update on the “cake” cards box. Yet before I started working on that project, I made some progress on another project. I tried an embroidery machine! I haven’t yet mentioned on this blog that the latest obsession of mine has been to embroider my own veil. Once again I have to blame weddingbee for the uncontrollable expansion of my wedding DIY project list. Before I encountered the weddingbee post on the veil embroidery, I was only set on making my own veil. Like many brides before me, I had a sticker shock from veils in stores. To be honest, I was prepared for shock before even stepping a foot in any store; the Bridal Bargains book made sure I knew that veils are ridiculously priced. Still, nothing beats a $300 tag staring at you from a piece of tulle attached to a flimsy wire comb. I already had an experience of making a little silly veil for my bridal shower and was all ready to tackle the bigger veil project. This was about the time I came across a post about embroidering the veil and I was sold! Yet I was lacking the essential – embroidery machine.

I’ve looked online and had to admit that embroidery machines are no Cricut. They are pretty expensive. While the Cricuts are relatively easy to shop for, since there is just one brand, there are many companies that make embroidery machines and thus make the life of a  comparatively-shopping bride a nightmare. Plus at the end I just couldn’t justify spending $800 on an embroidery machine because I wanted to embroider my own veil … clearly spending $800 on an embroidery machine for one project beats buying a veil for $200. What, you don’t see a logic here? :) And with that (and countless hours on the internets and a trip to the local sewing machine store) I had to abandon the idea of buying an embroidery machine… oh well… but look how pretty!!!  (Don’t worry: my sweetie has said that we can look to get one after the wedding when and if we have more time and projects for it.)

This is what Husqvarna Designer Ruby Sewing & Embroidery Machine can do... And it's also $5,000. Sadness.

You have probably guessed that I didn’t just leave this idea alone though. I thought that there has gotta be someone we know who owns an embroidery machine. The Internet truly brings people together… after LJ and Facebook posts we found someone with an embroidery machine who was very sweet and let me use it. And so two Sundays ago I ventured into S.’s home to try the embroidery machine.

Side note: when I retire, I want to have a room in the house devoted just to sewing, like S. does. This all lies on the assumption that I will eventually have time to do things like quilting, or machine embroidery, or both. I’m also assuming I’ll like quilting – I haven’t actually tried doing it.

Ok, back to the embroidery machine. It’s SO cool! It doesn’t take a long time to set up it either. And it works like magic. You just sit back, relax and watch it embroider away. Periodically it’d want you to change the thread, but other than that it really doesn’t require any attention. When it’s done, you disconnect the hoop from the machine and wash the stabilizer away. In case you were wondering, stabilizer is needed to keep the machine from tearing the fabric while it embroiders. There are different kinds — for tulle I got water soluble stabilizer. It comes in a roll and looks like thick saran wrap. You put it on the fabric you want to embroider before you stick it in a hoop. After you’re done, all you need to do is wash it off. Once you rinsed all the goo off your fabric you’re left with the embroidered fabric – nothing else. Here is what we got  - and only on the second try!

What do you think? Sorry the picture is blurry - taken with my iPhone that I desperately want to upgrade to iPhone 4 :)

So now I just need to cut my veil and embroider it. S. has been so kind as to allowing me to use her awesome embroidery machine (that works great despite being 12 years old) again.

Now I have the resources but I don’t have the time. Oh, and apparently I also lack the sewing-pattern-reading skills. You see, I got a pattern to make the veil. Before I embroider anything I need to cut the fabric out and hopefully know what to do once I embroider it, i.e., I need a plan how to make a piece of embroidered tulle into a veil. I decided that this time I will get a pattern, since I am making a veil for my wedding, not a bachelorette party. And I got one! I got the pattern and I got the tulle. That was a while ago. Then I waited. Nothing happened. The veil did not magically sew itself. I then got excited about other projects…. Then the day before my first dress fitting came and I realized that I don’t have a veil to try with my dress. And the next time I will try my dress would be within 2 weeks before the wedding. Oops. So I got home and looked at the pattern. Now would not be the time to realize that I have no idea how to read patterns…. yet. I can’t understand what I’m supposed to do. I’m sure I’ll figure it out eventually. I mean, my seamstress appointment is tomorrow at 2pm (and it takes an hour to drive there), but I wish I started on this one earlier. Right now I’m just staring at what’s gotta be the pattern but looks more like a pile of tissue paper they stuff into the boxes with gifts from our Williams-Sonoma registry:

Does this look like tissue paper to you?...

I hope I can pull it off by tomorrow. If not I’ll just have to try my wedding dress on without the veil….

Change of plans – but just for a day

August 8th, 2010

You might have thought I’ve been slaving myself on my card box project. Nope, instead, I’ve joined Erik today on the basement cleanup project! But first we had a brainstorming session on the cake box project – check out the result:

This is the sketch of the cake card box. The top drawing is of the card box in the shape of the box of presents - we decided that we liked the cake idea better

After figuring out the basic idea for the cake box we decided to do a useful thing – clean out our basement! I think what made it so appealing was the incentive – we were cleaning out the basement because it would allow me to work on my card box project. Apparently it wasn’t safe for me to use the hot glue gun in our dining room… Who knew?!

So here is your “before”:

and “after” pictures:

Not everything is cleaned up, but the big pile in front of the shelf unit is gone. Yay!While cleaning up the basement we came across the boxes I could now use for the cake card box. We even found a cake stand!

Boxes for the "cake" and the "cake stand"! "Cake stand" is the network wiring spool. I'm very excited we are using so much cruft we kept around for a "future craft project" like this.

I can’t want to start on this project! Yay to cleaning the basement!