Friday, February 26, 2016

Preparing for a new baby, postpartum etiquette, and realistic expectations for recovery

I can't believe there are less than 3 months left until baby #9 is due! We still do not know if we are having a boy or a girl, and likely won't find out, but my guess is boy. I am feeling really good, with lots of energy as long as I don't skip my daily 20-minute afternoon nap. Without it, I tend to crash and burn by dinnertime, which is NOT a good situation as the hours from dinner until bedtime are some of the most intense in our house.

This week, I started with the usual pre-baby preparations. It's just a lot easier to do that when it's not so hot outside yet, and I'm not too huge to comfortably be on my feet.

That, plus the fact that we have had 5 babies born at our church this month, with two more coming any day now, got me thinking about this post.

For me, some of the best ways to prepare for baby are to:

- Wind down all homeschooling before baby comes, and plan on taking three months off from it completely after the birth. Being due at the end of May works out pretty nicely this time around, as this coincides with our usual summer break.

- Make and freeze at least one month's worth of food, plus have lots of stuff in the house for throwing together easy meals. I find that this usually ends up feeding us for more like 6 weeks or longer, since others might bring dinner, Dad might take the kids out or cook up something, etc.

- Buy enough paper dishes for at least the first month.

- Stock up on all non-perishable household supplies for at least one month (diapers, TP, laundry soap, toiletries, etc.) so you won't need to run to the store unnecessarily. Utilizing automatic subscription services such as Amazon Subscribe and Save can save you time and money, plus they help counteract mommy brain. 

- Familiarize yourself with same-day home-delivery services for groceries and other goods in your area. If you do end up needing something urgently right after baby comes, you will know where to find it, fast. Where we live, not only do most items ship same day on Amazon (and virtually everything ships within 48 hours), but we now also have Amazon Now, which offers free delivery by courier within two hours, including every imaginable household staple, groceries, and even refrigerated and frozen goods, with many natural and organic choices. So, so worth it, even if you tip the courier (as I suggest you do).

- Have a good routine in place for yourself and the older kids before baby arrives (bedtimes, chore assignments, meal plans, etc.). Not only will they be better able to help take over for you after the baby comes, but it will also keep them busy, and make them feel like an asset to the family.

- Stock up on oodles and oodles of good books and other entertainment for the older kids right before the birth. You could stash some books out of sight, and pull new ones out as needed. If you have one library card for every member of the family, you will be able to get out enough books to last quite a while! ;) Most libraries will let you renew online for 3 times, for a total of 12 weeks or more, so this really is an endless, free treasure trove of quiet entertainment for everyone in the family.  

- Have good reading and other entertainment in the house for yourself. You will want to have something better to do with your brain and time than just scrolling through Facebook on your phone for hours each day as you nurse. Books on possible postpartum issues such as breastfeeding and newborn care are always good to have on hand in case you need them (even veteran moms do!), or you might enjoy doing some favorite crafts with baby in arms, read through your cookbooks in search of new recipes to add to your regular meal rotation, finally have time to read other books that have been collecting dust, browse Pinterest for inspiration on any given topic, view a free Craftsy class, find something wholesome to watch on Amazon Prime - the options are near endless.  

- Plan on finishing up any necessary projects (home repairs, deep cleaning, de-cluttering, organizing, seasonal wardrobe switches, etc.) before baby comes. Your husband and older kids can be a great help with this. You will be spending a lot of time sitting down in your house after the baby, and you won't want to be looking at dirty windows and dusty blinds. These are great projects for kids to help with, though! Even a toddler can wipe down surfaces with a damp rag. Don't be afraid to toss things and projects mercilessly that just sneer at you day after day, unfinished. You don't need that kind of negativity. :) For example, if your mending pile is only ever growing, it might just be easier to toss clothes than to fix them. If you bought a pair of shorts for you son at a garage sale for pennies on the dollar, there is no reason to keep them in the mending pile, collecting dust for months and making you feel defeated, only to find he has long outgrown them by the time you finally get around to fixing them. 

As a friend of the new parents, here are some ways to help the growing family if you are so inclined:

- As the birth is approaching, do not make comments about when the baby will show up. Never use the term "past due" - this is not a bill, it's a baby. When mom is in labor, do not call and/or text for updates.

- Bite your lip and do not criticize their name choice, even if it's before the birth and "there's still time to change it."

- If there is a meal train being organized, sign up for one of the days. If there isn't, offer to bring a meal for the family, being careful to inquire about allergies, food dislikes, dinner times, etc. Try to make something that is good for mom's milk supply, won't bother the little nursling, and will be appealing to the rest of the family. Bring food in disposable dishes, labeled, and with instructions attached if necessary. If you are taking a meal, send a text message first with your approximate time of arrival. When you drop off the meal, do just that - drop it off and leave. Don't be offended if the family does not want any meals - there could be many reasons for this.

- Do not invite yourself over just to visit, or drop hints about wanting to come see the baby. Definitely do not show up unannounced, no matter how close you are with the mom! Even if you are wanting to come over to help out, realize that unless you are very close, most moms would rather be at home alone with their family in their own mess, than for you to putter around their house cleaning up for them.

- Don't ask to hold the baby. If mom offers for you to hold her precious bundle, wash your hands first, even if mom doesn't care. Don't go near the family if you are sick, and don't touch baby at all if you have been around someone who is sick. Don't kiss baby's face or hands (I realize the temptation is real, but still). Do not wear perfume or other strongly scented body products - many babies are bothered by them, especially if the smell rubs off on their clothes, or lingers in the house long after you are gone.

- If you do visit the family for whatever reason, leave your own children at home. Yes, they are precious, but you want to be as quiet and calm as possible. Not to mention your kids might be bringing all sorts of germs with them.

- If you are visiting mom at the hospital, step out of the room anytime medical staff comes into her room to take care of her, so as to give her privacy. 

- Respect her breastfeeding preferences: If she would rather be alone to feed the baby, step out. If she wants to feed the baby without a cover, relax and get over it.

- Try to never disrupt nap time. This is a rule that should be observed for all families with small children, not just during the postpartum period.

- Give extra attention to the other siblings

- Don't expect a thank you card

- Listen more than you talk. Mom might want to share her birth story (or not) - don't try to one up it by telling her your own. She might have questions if you are more experienced, or she may just want to pour her hormonal heart out to you. Be sensitive and listen, offering help and/or advice only when asked. 

- Don't put any pressure on mom to volunteer for any tasks, especially not during the first three months postpartum.

And for all the new moms out there, here is a realistic timeline for recovery:

- Don't leave the house AT ALL for the first 2 weeks (exception: stepping just outside the front door to soak in the sunlight and fresh air with baby in arms), and strictly limit any and all visitors. There will be plenty of time to show baby off later.

- Stay home, rest, and enjoy baby as much as possible for the first 6 weeks (i.e. no school work, cooking, errands - don't do anything you can prepare ahead of time, or have someone else help with afterward). This is also a great time to focus your attention on the older kids while you are "stuck" at home.

- Slowly ease back into a new routine between weeks 6-12. No exercise or weight loss efforts yet, though adding a daily walk outside with baby is great at this point.

- By 12 weeks, you can expect to have found your new normal, with breastfeeding well established, baby having fallen into a predictable "schedule" that suits him/her, and the rest of the family having adjusted to the new addition. 

These time frames are of course just approximate, and a MINIMUM, so if anything, take longer if you need to. No trophy will be awarded to moms who prove they can do it all the day after giving birth. We all could, if we needed to. Being able to slow down is the real challenge - but both your baby, as well as the rest of your family, will be thankful for the chance to adjust at a gentle pace. Not to mention your recovery will be that much smoother, and your long-term health that much better. 

Motherhood is a marathon, not a 100-yard dash. Just as there are seasons throughout the year, and just as all living things go through cycles of harvest followed by hibernation, it is important to recognize these same needs in our own lives if we are in it for the long haul, and don't want to lose our sanity, health, and family relationships along the way. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Maui Trip, Day 7 (Wednesday, January 13)

For Day 1, click here.
For Day 2, click here.
For Day 3, click here.
For Day 4, click here
For Day 5, click here
For Day 6, click here.

Wednesday was a day I had been especially looking forward to, as we were scheduled to go snorkeling at Molokini crater that day. In planning activities for this vacation, snorkeling there was my #1 top priority of things I wanted to experience, even if we didn't get to do anything else.

There are many snorkeling charters going out to the crater every day, as it is one of the most popular snorkeling destinations in the world. Typically, the cheaper charters have larger boats with bigger crowds that don't necessarily have the best atmosphere (an open bar can do that), and they also get out there later than the smaller, faster vessels that charge more for being somewhat "exclusive". After much research, I decided to book our tour with Friendly Charters, which turned out to be perfect. Not only was their price about as low as they are offered anywhere, but the boat was small, fast, out to the crater early, and the crew was true to their name and super friendly and helpful. Because the weather and waves are unpredictable, and the currents outside the protective half-moon of the crater are dangerously strong, there are never any guarantees that a snorkeling trip booked to Molokini will actually end up there, or might have to be moved to a different location along the shore where waters are calmer. While these sites are still very cool, they are accessible from shore, whereas there was no way for us to get to Molokini except through a chartered boat tour out there.


Having slept in a bit later than intended (6 a.m. - ish - HA!), we barely made it to the pier by boarding time at 6:45 that morning. Continental breakfast was offered on board, though my husband was not overly impressed with it because he doesn't care for bagels or cream cheese. He ended up having some peanut butter on purple rolls with some fresh fruit and juice. I think he's a bit spoiled from bacon and eggs being a staple at home. :)

You can see the whale in the background

On the way out to the crater, we spotted several humpback whales, which migrate to Hawaii during the winter months. The boat would stop the engine anytime they got very close to us, which gave us an opportunity to see many of them up close.

With the sun still not fully up, and the air cool, the vast majority of passengers (including myself) opted for wetsuits, which in hind sigh were totally not necessary once we actually got out in the water (which was a comfortable 74 degrees). One thing I had been wanting to try was SNUBA - like scuba diving, but no certification is necessary because the oxygen tanks are floated on little rafts up at the surface. Being pregnant, I was not allowed to sign up for this, something I was really bummed about. As it turned out, I was glad it didn't work out, because not only would it have cost more, but I also don't think it would have been as cool as having the freedom to snorkel about and explore by myself. There was no benefit to being able to go deeper than my snorkel would let me, because everything was right there, and the visibility under water was awesome.

Molokini crater is visible in the back of the picture

We snorkeled at the crater for a full hour. The sights far exceeded our expectations! My husband and I snorkeled side by side, and would nudge each other anytime we spotted a cool new creature. Besides tons of beautiful tropical fish, we also saw an eel, and a trumpet fish. We got a little farther from the boat than we were supposed to, but unlike other charters we saw there that day, our crew never tried to stop us, nor did they have one of their people out in the water to stop snorkelers from going outside a limited zone right near the boat.

 Not my photo, but this was taken on location. We forgot the GoPro at home, and took no underwater pics. (Source)

After Molokini crater, we cruised to another popular snorkeling destination, where sea turtles can often be spotted. Again, my husband and I ventured out beyond the group, and unlike anyone else on board with us that day, we got to see a huge sea turtle swim out right in front of us. They live in underground caves in the water, and come up briefly for air every half hour to an hour. We could have reached out and touched it, but of course we didn't because we knew we weren't supposed to. The one we saw was very large - at least as big as my husband. I also spotted an octopus.

Back on board, there was a buffet lunch of sandwiches provided, which my husband liked much better (they say hunger makes the best chef), especially the cookies. We also saw many more whales.

In all, this trip took five hours. We got back to the guest house around 1 p.m., and took a long nap until about 3 p.m. Both of us felt groggy, and like we were still bobbing in the ocean the whole time.

Since it was Wednesday, we were planning on going back to church that evening, but taking a detour along the northern shore of West Maui after not being able to drive that road earlier in the week when it was shut down by an accident. First, though, we stopped for some Hawaiian shave ice from Ululani Shave Ice, an island staple. It was delicious! I ordered a small one, which was still almost too big. My husband ordered the largest size, and added a bunch of extras, which turned out to be way too much even for him.

Along the remote northern route, which again was covered in lush rain forests, we pulled over to take pictures with a crazy cat/chicken lady. And when I say "crazy", I mean it in the nicest way possible. She was in the process of dumping tons of cat and chicken feed out for stray animals. I asked her if she lived nearby, but she didn't - in fact, she was about a half hour from home. This is just what she does every evening on her way home from work. And sure enough, the back of her truck was full of feed sacks to prove the point.

We got to Lahaina a little early for church, and stopped along Front Street to listen to a street musician playing Latin guitar. Church was once again great, and the people super nice.

After the church service, we had dinner at Roy's Hawaiian restaurant, which is also in Lahaina. Unlike the branches on the mainland, the ones in Hawaii are owned by the real "Roy" Yamaguchi. A family in our church who knew about our trip had gifted us with a very generous gift card to the place. We shared the "Canoe for Two" appetizer, then I had a filet mignon and my husband ordered the Seafood Collection. My meal was simply superb!! I love a good steak, but this one was out-of-this-world good. For dessert, we split a macadamia nut tart.

By this time, I was very tired, and slept the entire 45-minutes it took to drive back to the guest house. We arrived there around 11 p.m., and both crashed.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Maui Trip, Day 6 (Tuesday, Jan. 12)

For Day 1, click here.
For Day 2, click here.
For Day 3, click here.
For Day 4, click here
For Day 5, click here

On the morning of Day 6, we were in for a special treat neither of us had seen before: watching the sun RISE over the Pacific. My husband is from California, and we have often gone there for family vacations, so we have seen the sun set over the Pacific many times. But being on the far eastern shore of Maui, we now got to see it rise.

For breakfast, we had some of the leftover banana bread from the previous day, toasted and slathered in butter, which really made it taste even more wonderful.

My husband then headed out to do more cliff jumps at the bay across from us, while I went back to sleep for a while, and then read some tour guides and brochures to decide what to do on the rest of our trip. When my husband got back, we leisurely packed up to go, and made our way back to Hana one last time. Even though we were still pretty full from breakfast, we had an early lunch at the same food truck as the day before. Since my meal had been so great, I ordered the exact same thing again.

From there, we headed out to drive back to our side of the island along the southern route. Evidently, there had been a mud slide from excessive rains, because part of the road was mostly closed down, and they were moving huge boulders out of the road with a backhoe, which we enjoyed watching.

Early on this drive, there are several more popular waterfalls and pools.


Along one of these stops, my husband saw this roadside stand that sold conch shells. I thought they were pretty and wanted to get one, but he was not interested in buying one until he learned that they could be used to make a sound that is very similar to that of a fog horn. He loves instruments, and since blowing into the shell is very much like playing a trumpet, he was able to do it perfectly immediately (whereas I made a sound like you would expect a dying cow to make). I also bought some rings made from shells for the girls, but misplaced them somehow and have never found them since.

Since many of the curves were one-way only, and blind to boot, cars are supposed to honk before entering. My husband got to make good use of his new shell instead. ;)

One of the most popular spots on the Road to Hana are the "Seven Sacred Pools", which are actually about 30 minutes past Hana. This was the first and only waterfall/pool along this entire drive where I got into the water, because most of the ones my husband had been swimming in were too dangerous to get to when pregnant, or too cold because the rain water in these waterfalls comes from high up on the island. This water was still pretty cold (high 60s, maybe?), but I am so glad I went for a swim here.

After this stop, most people turn around and drive back the way they came, along the northern route. The southern route is said to be too rough and dangerous to drive, with parts of the road supposedly almost impassable. After talking to others who had actually done the drive, we decided to go ahead and take that route anyway. Indeed, we are very glad we did! Either some people have a strange idea what a "bad road" is, or the islanders are intentionally spreading misinformation to keep tourists from this part of Maui (which, really, was nice for us as traffic was far less than on the way to Hana).

Unlike the northern shore which gets a lot of rain and is covered in rain forest, the southern shore is fairly dry, and looked a lot more like Arizona. I think much of this is ranch land. The views of the Pacific from this side were breathtaking. 

Remember this map from yesterday?


You would think that coming up from the southern shore, there would be a road connecting it with Keoneoio, but those dotted lines are a very rough hiking trail through some stark, black, extensive lava fields that date back to an eruption sometime between A.D. 1480 and 1790. I don't know if building a road is not possible, or if they don't want to do it because La Perouse Bay is a nature preserve now, but in any case there is no connecting road there.

A few miles farther north, past the lava fields, one would then expect to find a quick, easy way to cut over from Ulupalakua or Keokea to Makena or Wailea, rather than having to go all the way back up to Kahului, and then down the shore again. Indeed, locals have been asking for such a road connecting this 4-mile stretch for at least 40 years now, but no dice. Interestingly enough, you can see such a road (Kealakapu Rd, in grey) on the above map, and it is also visible on Google maps. The satellite view shows that it is paved and well maintained, so naturally, I was wondering why no GPS system or route planner ever includes this road. Google, as always, held the answer, and it's pretty weird: Oprah Winfrey owns 1,000 acres of land right there in Upcountry Maui (in addition to 100 acres in Hana, but who's counting). Kealakapu Rd. is on her private land. She had it paved and developed for her own personal use, so unlike the rest of us mortals who have to drive an hour on overcrowded roads to cover 4 miles as the crow flies, she can jet from her estate near Keokea to the resorts in Wailea in mere minutes. You know, when she's even on the island, and not at one of her other estates in Montecito, Fisher Island, Lavallette, Douglasville, Telluride, or the island of Antigua. Sigh. For all that, she has neither spouse nor children to enjoy these beautiful sites with, so I actually pity her. She can keep that private road, and I'll enjoy the longer drive with my awesome husband. But yeah, I'm pretty sure the locals would be much obliged if she could open it up to through traffic, as many private roads on the island are. 

For dinner, we stopped back in at Da Kitchen for a great Hawaiian takeout of chicken katsu, teriyaki beef, and kalua pork, which we enjoyed on the beach. Not only is the food at Da Kitchen delicious and very reasonably priced, but the portions are so huge that even though we split a plate, and both ate as much as we wanted, there was still food left when we were done.

When we got back to the guest house, another party had arrived that we got to meet. They were staying in one of the other wings. I was hoping this would put an end to my husband wanting to get up before sunrise every day, since we didn't want to wake the other guests.

 Relaxing on our balcony