Fourth trimester

Welcome, Elliot

 

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this space. If you follow my Instagram, you’ll know that’s because baby Elliot decided to arrive just over a week ago. We’re all very busy at home getting used to our new little family, but as soon as I find some time, I’ll share the story of Elliot’s birth and start updating with how these first weeks are going.

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childbirth, pregnancy

Seemingly-Simple Wisdom from our Doula

I’ve made references to our doulas in the past. We’re having a doula from Silver Spring Doula attend our birth. Since both of them share duties, either Jenny or Rose will attend the birth, but our “primary contact doula” is Rose. She’s a certified Hypnobabies instructor and has been really helpful as I’ve gone through my self-study, and has been working as a doula for over a decade. Plus she has two kids of her own. So she’s learned a thing or two. And I thought I’d share some of her little wisdom gems.

  1. Freezer meals: I’ve mentioned this one before, but rather than carving out separate time to prepare “freezer meals,” simply make a double-batch of whatever you’re making for dinner that night. And then freeze half. It’s so simple, and yet I hadn’t thought of it. I was dreading figuring out when I was going to have time to make casseroles, not to mention buying spare dishes to freeze them in and figure out the freezer space. But since I’m only freezing two servings at a time and cooking when I would already be cooking anyway, it works out with much less headache.
  2. Shelf-stable high-protein snacks: She suggests having some shelf-stable snacks that are high in protein stashed around the house for eating while breastfeeding. Energy bars and peanut butter are good ideas. I imagine beef jerky would also work (although I’ve heard you get incredibly thirsty while breastfeeding, so that might be counter-productive).
  3. Hospital bags: Rather than packing a “his” and “hers” bag, pack a bag for during labor and after labor. That way, you only need to bring one bag in with you when you get to the hospital, and your partner can run out to the car to grab the other one after the baby’s come out. We actually re-packed our bags after hearing this and I feel much more confident about our packing because it also gave us a better way to organize things to make sure we hadn’t forgotten anything.

I know, I know. This all seems so simple and obvious, right? Well, I hadn’t thought of it. And I’ve mentioned it to other pregnant women I know and they were surprised not to have thought about it. But it’s helped me feel so much more prepared for birthing and the postpartum period to have these little ways to get things done. That way, my mental energy can go where it’s really needed: washing so many things for the baby.

Exercise, pregnancy, Third Trimester

Exercise and Pregnancy: The Final Months

I’ve spoken earlier in my pregnancy about my exercise routine and how I’m incorporating that into my pregnancy. I managed to continue going to barre class about twice a week until the end of October, when I was about 34 weeks pregnant. Since then, I’ve continued to walk most days, and have tried to make time to do some yoga every week. I will admit, I did find it a bit more difficult to motivate myself to exercise since I stopped having the accountability and scheduling of the barre class. I mentioned in my weekly update that my doula has lent us a copy of the Spinning Babies Daily Essentials DVD to use for the last few weeks of my pregnancy and it’s definitely helped re-invigorate my workout routine.

So the first few weeks of November, when I officially cancelled my gym membership, I gave myself permission to be a little lazy. I mean, I still had to walk a fair amount, since I walk about 50 minutes, round trip, to get to and from work four days a week. And I tried to make sure I got in at least one more day per week of walking, usually our weekly trip to Vigilante Coffee. So I was still averaging over two miles per day of walking, though it was more like 3.5 miles five days a week, rather than a couple miles every day.

But after I got the Spinning Babies DVD, I made more of an effort to work on stretching and strengthening exercises from that DVD. The difference between that and my workouts before is that now I definitely see my goals as explicitly preparing for childbirth, rather than for general fitness. My doctor has even reminded me to walk for a half an hour every day, so I’m trying to make sure to fit in some walking time every day, even when I don’t walk to work. It helps that we have some lovely walking trails nearby.

And then, I do yoga and Spinning Babies exercises. I can do the full 35-minute Daily Exercises routine or the 28-minute yoga flow from the DVD when I have the time and energy, but I try to do a little every day, even if it’s just my favorite 3-4 exercises. And my Hypnobabies course actually recommends doing a small set of exercises everyday. So I do my pelvic tilts, squats, and butterfly stretch every day to keep my body supple and ready for childbirth, while windmills help release the lower back pain that has crept up as I’ve gotten bigger. Unfortunately, I had to stop doing forward-leaning inversions when my acid reflux got bad. But I notice that my body feels better when I do these exercises more consistently. Plus, I can still do my weekly lunchtime yoga class at work, since the instructor is a coworkers of mine and the class is small enough that she can tailor it to our needs.

In this way, I’m helping keep my body flexible and supple, and my mind quiet and prepared for the rigors of childbirth. I’m not going to be running any marathons soon, but I am preparing for the next endurance event on my schedule.

Hypnobabies, pregnancy

Hypnobabies Self-Study Course: Maintenance Check-In #1

Alright, so I’ve finished my Hypnobabies self-study course and I’ve been in “maintenance mode” for a few weeks now, so I thought I’d check in and let you know how it’s going. Currently, my schedule is that I’m supposed to listen to affirmations every day, one long hypnosis track (which rotates each day), and the shorter “Maintenance Techniques Practice.” Once again, I want to stress that this program is not “get fit in 20 minutes a day;” it’s really more like mental P90X, even in maintenance. It does require a bit of a time commitment, and I’m still finding that I need to make a conscious effort to fit in my practice. Oddly enough, I sometimes find that days when I don’t go to work are the days when I’ll struggle to fit in all my hypnosis practice because when I have all day, I’ll often put it off. When I’m going to work, I know that I need to work within a schedule, so I’ll make some time either early in the morning or at lunch to fit in one of my practice sessions so that I have less to fit in in the evenings. I still like to listen to affirmations on the metro.

But since I’ve started noticing the change in my mindset about childbirth, and I’m starting to feel these techniques integrating into my mental and physical body, I’ve also started forgiving myself for not practicing perfectly. I’ve also found that I’m more likely to fall asleep while listening to longer tracks, but that’s okay. And sometimes I’ll just put on a track and let it run while I drift off to sleep, if I haven’t made time earlier in the day. I’ve also found that I can tune into my body and my breath and put myself into hypnosis at times when I need the extra relaxation and support.

Another benefit is that, despite the fact that we’ve been slightly remiss at doing scripts, Dan and I are connecting more consciously over how we’re feeling about the pregnancy, upcoming birth, and childcare. Dan will initiate our version of the weekly partner communication exercise by checking in with me how I’m feeling, and then once in a while we’ll formally go through the questions in the exercise and see if there’s something we hadn’t discussed in a while. I feel like we’re really working together on everything, instead of me preparing for the thing that is going to affect my body, independent of him. I’m feeling better about childbirth largely because I trust that I can rely on him to help me through it.

So all in all, I’ve been mostly keeping up. I’ve had a few days where I didn’t get in all my practice, but I forgave myself and moved on. And in general, I feel like the course has helped my mindset, as well as my connection with my husband surrounding the actual birth of our child.

Previous Hypnobabies Self-Study Posts:

Week Six Recap

Week Five Recap

Week Four Recap

Week Three Recap

Week Two Recap

Week One Recap

Starting the Program

pregnancy

On Packing My Hospital Bag

This week, I’ve started actively packing my hospital bag (as opposed to just planning what I think I want to pack). At this point, I have most non-food items packed, although I’m quickly realizing that I probably need a separate bag to include some baby stuff. It’s been interesting because I tend to be pretty minimalist when I pack to travel, but it seems like a hospital stay for labor and maternity requires different things. For one thing, I needed to get a portable speaker to connect to my phone to play Hypnobabies tracks (I don’t usually think about “playing music” because I don’t listen to music much outside of the car), and I need stuff for after the baby comes out. But I probably don’t need much in the way of clothing.

It’s mostly difficult because it’s really easy to find lists of “things you’ll need in your hospital bag” as well as lists of “all the things I thought I needed but didn’t.” But it seems like the upshot of the latter type of list can be really personal. Like, one person insists you don’t need to bring clothes, where another insists you do because hospital gowns are uncomfortable. Now, I haven’t tried the gowns at my specific hospital, but I’ve never had a problem with hospital gowns in general, and because I generally have the modesty of, well, a community theater actor who has to change costumes in spaces without private dressing areas, I figure I’ll be fine in a gown most of the time.

So I figured I’d make a note of what I’m packing, and then maybe when I get home (and have time), I’ll make a note of what I used or what I particularly appreciated. In particular, anyone who reads my main blog or follows me on Instagram knows that I usually have a pretty involved skin care routine, so I’ve been putting a lot of thought into how to bring enough that I don’t feel like I’m neglecting myself, while being realistic about just how much energy I’ll have to do skin care while in the hospital.

So here’s what I’m bringing, so far:

Skin/hair/body care: I’ve divided my toiletries into face products, hair products, and other products and put them in separate, labeled bags (I used pink pouches from Glossier because I have so many of them because their cleanser is the only one my skin likes). For face care, I’m bringing micellar water and cotton, some pre-soaked hydrating toner pads, and a tube of Cerave Baby cream (this will also double as a hand/body cream). I’m also bringing a tube of sunscreen, for when I go home. For hair care, I’m bringing a sample of shampoo and conditioner I got from a Sephora order, along with a seamless comb, some scrunchies, a couple hair elastics, and a couple wide, soft headbands. My plan is to keep my hair braided as much as possible to avoid tangles. For body/other, I’m bringing deodorant, a toothbrush, toothpaste, lanolin (this doubles as a lip balm), and disposable nursing pads.

Clothing: I’m planning on mostly wearing hospital gowns, but I am bringing a couple draped-front cardigans and a robe in case I want an extra layer, plus a nursing bra in case for some reason I feel like I need to wear a bra. I’m also bringing a bunch of fuzzy, non-slip socks. Not really clothes, but I’m also bringing a fleece blanket and a camping towel, just in case because they roll up small. The only “outfit” I’m bringing is something to wear to go home in case my check-in clothes get ruined by, um, fluids. Going-home outfit is a pair of fleece leggings, undies, socks, a nursing tank top, and one of my favorite tunic sweatshirts that I mentioned in my last maternity wear post. I’m also bringing a babywearing wrap.

Baby stuff: From what I’ve heard, most of the things you’ll need are provided, other than stuff for the baby to wear home. So I’m mostly just bringing a couple sizes and styles of clothing from the box of hand-me-downs I got from friends so I can pick out an appropriate going-home outfit for the baby. I think I have some onesies, some footed PJs, and some pants, plus I’ll probably bring a hat and socks. Since I plan on breastfeeding, my husband is putting my nursing pillow in his car, but I’m also bringing a sample-sized can of formula and some bottles, just in case things aren’t working out. And of course I’ll bring the pediatrician’s contact info, just in case.

Comfort stuff: I’m bringing a few little things to remind me of the space I used to train with my hypnosis tracks, like a salt candle holder and some flameless LED candles, plus I’m bringing the aforementioned speaker. I got a Tribit bluetooth speaker from Amazon for about $30 and I have to say, I’m pretty impressed with it. And it has like 20 hours of battery life. I’m also bringing an extra-long iPhone charging cable, and a 32-oz. water bottle. As far as snacks go, I’m bringing lots of Larabars, some boxed miso soup, some juiceboxes, and tea. I’ve decided to bring Pique tea crystals instead of tea bags because they’re easier to deal with if my husband is making me tea. Plus, they’re slim enough that I can bring 4-5 packets of crystals in the same amount of space as one of my favorite tea bags, so I can have a better variety. I’m also bringing my own mug so that I don’t always have to drink out of paper cups.

Other: In addition to stuff to keep me happy, I’m also bringing some potentially necessary documents, such as the information for my work’s short-term disability insurance, and copies of my birth plan. I’m also including an “inventory list” of what’s in the bag so that my husband can get stuff for me without bugging me about it. I’m sure I’ll think of some other things to throw in, so I’ll mention that if it happens when I give my post-birth update.

So far, most of this fits in the small duffel bag that I used to use as a gym bag, though I’ll probably pack a separate small bag for baby-specific stuff and snacks. Husband will have his own bag (he needs more in the way of clothing, since he doesn’t get a gown). But at this point, I feel mostly-ready for going to the hospital, which is good because theoretically it could happen in a week or it could be another month or so!

Hypnobabies, pregnancy

Hypnobabies Self-Study Course: Week Six Recap

I’ve officially finished the main self-study course and I’m now in maintenance mode! Week six’s reading assignments are about learning about newborn care and how to navigate some of the choices you have to make as new parents. I was particularly impressed with the chapter on setting boundaries with guests. It was nice because I sometimes feel like I’m being overly strict with the boundaries we’ve decided on for our families and visitors, but the course actually went further in some cases, such as letting visitors who are coming to “help” know that the one thing they don’t get to “help” with is taking care of the baby. No, you’re not “helping” by offering to hold the baby while I take a shower, unless I specifically ask you to. Anyway, our baby will have two involved parents and my husband can always hold his child while I take a shower, and vice versa.

The course reading also went into some specifics about breastfeeding technique, which I appreciated. I probably should look more into classes on breastfeeding, as I know it doesn’t always come naturally, but I have a wealth of available resources, including lactation consultants at both the hospital and our pediatrician’s office, as well as doulas who will be making a postpartum visit and are lactation consultants, plus several friends who have breastfed successfully and can share their tips (such as making sure to always have massive quantities of water on hand to drink).

There were two new hypnosis tracks, plus a new practice track, but rather than doing a new track every other day, this week’s tracks switched to the maintenance schedule, which is a different track every day, sampled among the various tracks that were used throughout the course. It’s nice because this is the schedule I will now follow for the rest of the course. We’re also supposed to keep doing the mini-script exercise. Technically, you’re supposed to have your birth partner read the script every other day, but we only managed it once this week. That said, given that we’ve had early success getting through the scripts, I think we’re doing fine. The two new hypnosis tracks are “Fear-Clearing” and “Visualize your Birth,” plus the “Maintenance Techniques Practice.”

Fear-Clearing Track:

This track helps you put a voice to any specific fears you’re feeling and then visualize releasing them. It’s very relaxing and I like the way it prompts you to deal with just one thing that is worrying you. You can do the track as often as you want and choose a different fear each time. Honestly, this would have been a great track to have from the beginning of pregnancy because it’s not specific to fears just about childbirth.

Visualize your Birth:

This track walks you through your birthing time, kind of like a mental dry run of birthing your baby. Given how much media there is about the frantic and stressful nature of childbirth, it’s nice to have a calm walkthrough to help me feel prepared without feeling keyed up.

Maintenance Techniques Practice:

This is a master practice track that walks you through all the specific hypnosis tools learned throughout the course, including the finger-drop technique, turning your mental switch off, turning your switch to “center,” eyes-open hypnosis, pushing visualization, and the two hypnotic cue words “Relax” and “Release.” It’s a great way to keep these techniques in your mind so you remember to use them. I’m definitely finding it easier to internalize the cues and I’ve even been practicing using some of the cues and techniques when I feel certain kinds of discomfort in pregnancy.

Now that I’m officially done with the main course, I probably won’t be recapping every week, but I will check back in every so often to let you know how my maintenance is going. I’m still finding that it’s a bit of work to fit in all the hypnosis tracks I need to listen to every day, but as I progressed through the class, I realized how much good it was doing me, and I find myself wanting to make time for them, rather than stressing over how I’m going to fit them in.

Previous Hypnobabies Self-Study Posts:

Week Five Recap

Week Four Recap

Week Three Recap

Week Two Recap

Week One Recap

Starting the Program

Hypnobabies, pregnancy

Hypnobabies Self-Study Course: Week Five Recap

I’m almost done with my Hypnobabies home study course! Now, the birth partner is supposed to be reading all the courses with the mother-to-be, but week five is where the course explicitly brings in the birth partners. The slides are addressed directly to the birth partner at times, which meant that the best way to go through the course was for my husband and I to sit down and go through the slides together. Unfortunately, my husband reads a bit slower than I do, so this meant that going through the reading together took significantly longer, but it gave us a good chance to check in with each other about our feelings about the pregnancy and our preparations for childbirth.

This also gave us an opportunity to discuss scheduling some time to actually do the mini-script exercises that we were supposed to start last week. We managed to fit in two mini-script practices, which I’ll talk a little more about below. All-in-all, I liked the presentation of the information about birthing, once again. This week’s lessons focused more on the final stages of the birthing process, with emphasis on how the birth partner can help. Because I’ve already done extensive research while drafting a birth plan on childbirth interventions, I skipped a few of the extra class readings with information about specific procedures because I’ve either already found a lot of information on them and made my own decision, or I’ve already discussed them with my doctor and decided that we’re on the same page.

I also found myself continuing to love the Zenband headphones. Do you like my hypnosis practice selfie with wild morning hair and Zenband headphones? I’ve been trying to take advantage of the fact that I wake up about an hour or so earlier than I want to and use that time to get in some morning hypnosis practice. It’s still a bit of effort to get in all the daily practice sometimes, but listening to affirmations while I commute and doing at least a few sessions in my office during my lunch break definitely helps. I’ve found that if I make an effort to get as much practice done before I get home from work, I’m far less likely to fall asleep than when I do my practice after dinner, right before bed.

The new tracks this week are “Hypnotic Childbirth #2” and “Preparation for Comfortable Pushing,” as well as the two mini-scripts (one was introduced last week and one this week).

Hypnotic Childbirth #2:

This track introduces the “Release” cue and reinforces the “Peace” cue. It’s generally relaxing, and contains a mix of hypnosis with your lightswitch off and eyes-open hypnosis with your switch in center, which is nice practice. As I go through the two “Hypnotic Childbirth” tracks, I definitely can start to feel more and more like this is something I’m internalizing and will be able to use in childbirth.

Preparation for Comfortable Pushing:

This includes a brief finger-drop and eyes-open hypnosis practice, and then moves on to a breathing and visualization exercise to prepare you for using hypnosis during the pushing stage. I liked the instruction in specifically targeting hypno-anesthesia using the “Peace” cue, and I’ve actually been using hypno-anesthesia and my “Peace” cue to help alleviate pains in pregnancy, such as leg cramps and back discomfort. Additionally, the breathing practice includes something like a Kegel exercise to help you learn how to consciously relax your pelvic floor during pushing.

Mini-Scripts #1 and #2:

Mini-script #1 was actually introduced last week, but we were remiss and didn’t get to practicing it. So we practiced it this week. Mini-script #1 includes practice of the “Relax” cue, with the birth partner putting a hand on your forehead or shoulder, while mini-script #2 includes practice of all three cue words: Release, Relax, and Peace. I was really worried about how the script practice would go because I’d heard on the Hypnobabies Facebook group that it’s really common for you both to get the giggles the first few times you try to practice. But my husband turned out to be pretty natural and finding his “hypnotic voice” and having the music to play in the background helped a lot. We got through both scripts with no giggles, and I definitely appreciated how it helped me understand how the “Relax” cue would work. I was worried about it because I sometimes flinch at being touched, especially if I’m meditating, but I found the “Relax” cue paired with touch to be extremely soothing. And it definitely helped us figure out how this was going to work with the two of us together.

Week five kind of gelled things together for us, I think. Interestingly enough, this week was when we really started getting things together to prepare for childbirth and the arrival of our baby, and I think that going through this course together has strengthened our bond as a couple. See you next week for the final week of the course as I enter “maintenance” mode.

Previous Posts:

Week Four Recap

Week Three Recap

Week Two Recap

Week One Recap

Starting the Program