Nursery Organization Tips

I’ve been obsessed with organizing ever since I can remember. I used to spend way more time setting up and putting away my Barbies than I did actually playing with them (I may or may not have used a small tackle box to store their shoes by color). When it came time to set up Lyla’s nursery, I wasn’t sure where to start. I had never had a baby. How was I to know where all that tiny stuff should go?! Now that I have eight months of experience under my belt (baby months are like dog years), I’m sharing my tips on how to organize your nursery storage!

RYMD6989

Grab and go: Many things babies need, they need urgently. Make sure those items are stored where you can grab them quickly. For example, bibs and burp cloths for spit up, blankets for tummy time, and a diaper changing station stocked with everything you need. You’ll need to be able to grab things with one hand, so avoid containers with lids or fasteners. Pictured above is our diaper changing station. The bin contains diapers, wipes, diaper cream, hand sanitizer, and lotion. The top drawer of the dresser is always stocked with an extra container of wipes, extra diapers, extra disposal bags, and clean changing pad covers.

IMG_1814

At a glance: Make staples easy to see so it’s obvious when you’re getting low. There’s nothing quite like realizing you just put the last diaper on your baby’s bum to strike fear into a parent’s heart. I keep our diapers, wipes, and extra changing supplies on this cart.  You can use them creatively in so many ways. They’re attractive enough to be out in plain sight, but the wheels allow you to tuck them away if needed.

RHTV0940

Out of sight: There will be a lot of things you need for baby eventually, but you don’t need them front and center right away. Store those items in a place that allows you access to them fairly easily, but keeps them out of sight and mind in your day to day routine. This cube storage worked perfectly for me. The top three cubes hold clothing in sizes she hasn’t grown into yet, the bottom three hold feeding supplies, bedding, and towels. Things I do need are easy to grab (like a towel for her bath each night), but infrequently used items are neatly stored away all within the same piece. I like that cube storage can grow with her needs as she gets older, and we can swap out bins as her tastes change.

IMG_1809

Bonus Tip: Baby things are so small! Drawer dividers or small bins will go a long way in helping you keep it all sorted. I use these in Lyla’s drawers to separate her clothing by type so I can get her dressed quickly and easily. I use tape for labels so I can switch them out as the seasons change.

Babies are constantly changing, but these storage solutions have grown with Lyla and served her ever-changing needs. I’m a firm believer that life will throw you plenty of chaos you can’t control, so you might as well organize the chaos you can control!

 

I Gave Up On Breastfeeding And I’m Still A Great Mom

Breastfeeding was the most difficult part of my postpartum experience. I’m sharing my story because these are the words I needed as a brand new mom. If you are wrestling through these feelings right now, please know you are not alone.

I gave birth at a “baby-friendly” hospital. If you’re not familiar with that term, it’s a healthcare initiative started in 1991 by UNICEF and the World Health Organization. It encourages newborn care practices like round-the-clock breastfeeding, skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby, and rooming-in (the baby spends most of his/her time at the hospital in the room with the parents instead of the nursery). It is considered prestigious for a hopsital to achieve this distinction.  I am not against baby-friendly care. I can, however, say from experience that in pursuit of the “baby-friendly” label, the care of mothers is sometimes set aside—yielding potentially dangerous consequences.

I cannot fully articulate the amount of pressure I was under to breastfeed. At every prenatal appointment, I was asked at least once if I planned to breastfeed. Each time I gave the same response: “I’m going to try my best!” There was no acknowledgement on the part of my healthcare providers that breastfeeding might not work. I was reassured that lactation consultants would work with me to overcome any issues that may arise. I was given stacks of literature on breastfeeding. Ever the rule follower and authority-figure-pleaser, I took multiple classes at my hospital where I was given even more breastfeeding info. Each pamphlet contained a seemingly endless list of “don’t’s”—things not to do if I hoped to breastfeed successfully. The amount of information overwhelmed me. The ideology surrounding breastfeeding was dogmatic, requiring an on-demand feeding approach, exclusively offering the breast until feeding had been firmly established (at least one month but probably longer), and forbidding the use of the pacifier lest the baby develop “nipple confusion” and start rejecting the breast. I left our breastfeeding class saying to Andrew, “Wow…breastfeeding is the hardest thing I’ve ever heard of.”

For every message I received about how incredible breastfeeding is, I received two about how inferior formula-feeding would be. Bottle/formula feeding was treated as an afterthought in conversations, classes, and written materials. The attitude was that formula feeding would be a last resort only for those who stubbornly refused to feed their babies breast milk. I was even given one pamphlet that said, “Breastfed babies’ stool will be fairly sweet-smelling. A formula-fed baby’s stool will have a foul odor, more like an adult.” So…quite literally…if you breastfeed your baby, their poop won’t stink.

In spite of all this, I tried to keep an open mind toward feeding during my pregnancy. I planned to breastfeed but knew I might not be able to. But  nothing could have prepared me for the way my hospital’s messaging about breastfeeding would seep into my thinking.

Lyla’s birth was not long, especially for a first birth, but it was challenging. For the duration of my labor, there was reason to believe the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. The high risk doctor was called in. I had a small hemorrhage during and after the birth. I prayed and fought with everything I had to get her here safely. I was physically and emotionally spent by the time they laid her on my chest. I think it’s safe to say all women are spent after giving birth. During our initial skin-to-skin contact, Lyla latched and seemed to feed well. There were a couple times in the hospital she breastfed successfully. The rest of the times (and there were many) were complete disasters.

Lyla was born over eight and a half pounds. She was hungry. Everyone kept assuring me that she just needed the tiniest amount to fill her tummy. The shrieking baby on my chest begged to differ. Over the course of our time in the hospital, we saw five different lactation consultants. After working with us, each one confirmed that both Lyla and I were “doing everything right.” We always got her latched after some work, her suck was strong, she had no physical issues preventing her from feeding well, and I was doing all I could to help her get what she needed. My body simply was not responding. After one particularly traumatizing feeding, the lactation consultant asked me if I had tried something I had already tried a hundred times, as if that was going to be the solution to all our problems. I opened my mouth to calmly respond, and instead began sobbing uncontrollably. The consultant suggested, very timidly, that we supplement Lyla’s feeding with formula. I said, “I just want my baby to have what she needs, I don’t care how she gets it. She needs to be fed!” At the hospital’s suggestion, we began syringe feeding her. The mindset of syringe feeding is that if you give them a bottle to start, it will be difficult or impossible to get them back on the breast because the bottle is so much easier. So, in my weakest moment, I was yet again reminded that our goal was not to get this baby to eat, but to get her to breastfeed.

Andrew, ever my hero, asked that Lyla be taken to the nursery and syringe fed so I could get some sleep. The consultant agreed. I cried as they wheeled her out in her plastic bassinet, feeling like a failure but simultaneously knowing in my bones that I had nothing to give her. Andrew helped me to the bathroom as my legs were still weak from the epidural. He brought me a cup to use to brush my teeth because I couldn’t stand up long enough to do it at the sink. I did my best to get comfortable and closed my eyes for the sleep I needed more than I had ever needed it in my life.

Less than one hour later, the door opened. It was a nurse wheeling Lyla into the room. “Time to feed the baby!” she said. Andrew said, “I think there’s been some miscommunication. We have to supplement with formula so she was supposed to be fed in the nursery so Ashton can get some sleep.” The nurse replied, “Oh they did feed her, but we still want her to keep breastfeeding, too.” I cannot express what came over me in that moment. It’s something I try to block out when I think back to those first days with Lyla, which should have been some of the happiest of my life. In that moment, I knew on a cellular level that I was alone. Even if I had the best husband in the world. Even if I showed every lactation consultant at that hospital that I was giving it my all. Even if I hadn’t slept in days and wasn’t strong enough to stand up on my own, and had wept like a baby myself begging for help. None of that mattered. Unless I continued putting that baby to the breast, I was not going to receive any support from my caretakers. When I had that realization, I went to a place of survival mentality. Getting out of the hospital became my sole objective. I made another unsuccessful attempt to feed Lyla. I didn’t ask for the lactation consultant. I asked Andrew to go to bed and I stayed up holding my baby for hours. It was us against the world.

When we left the hospital we were given a syringe feeding plan and an appointment at the lactation clinic. When we got home, the first thing I did was try to feed Lyla. I honestly don’t even remember how it went. It’s all a complete blur. After a day at home, my milk came in but wouldn’t let down. I was severely engorged. No one at the hospital had mentioned engorgement. Everyone I worked with kept saying, “It will be so much easier when your milk comes in!” It wasn’t easier. It was extremely painful. I pored over the literature I had been given. There were very few mentions of engorgement. Suggestions for remedies included alternating hot and cold compresses, pumping around the clock and feeding around the clock. I tried all of the above to no avail. My breast pump literally got out vapor. VAPOR. Lyla was screaming bloody murder because she was trying her best but not getting anything from me. All of it hurt like hell. In the midst of all of this, the syringe feeding was causing Lyla to suck down a ton of air during feedings. This gave her painful gas and was making life a nightmare for all three of us. Still determined to feed my baby the “right” way, I locked myself away in the guest bedroom to try to hand-express breastmilk. After days of trying, the maximum I had been able to express was 1.5 milliliters. I rushed to Andrew with the syringe filled with it. I was so proud watching Lyla drink it. I had finally given her breastmilk! But I knew it wasn’t enough.

I laid there in the guest bedroom weeping. I felt like I was failing my baby in every possible way. I felt angry at my body. I knew if I went to the lactation clinic, I would be asked to strip myself topless and strip my baby naked. Lyla would be weighed. The consultants would then watch me attempt to feed her. They would weigh her after the feeding to confirm what I already knew in my heart. Lyla was not getting food from me. Then they would give me the same tips they had given me at the hospital. They would tell me that I was doing everything right and I just had to keep trying. I couldn’t imagine anything more humiliating. Sensing my distress, Andrew came in the room with Lyla. He told me how amazing I was. How I was the best mother he had ever seen. How I had given this baby every single thing I had to give and then some. I cried and cried because none of that seemed to matter if I couldn’t breastfeed her. We both knew we had to make a decision right then and there. Once I had calmed down enough to speak, I said in a moment of clarity, “I feel like right now I have to choose between breastfeeding my baby and enjoying my baby. And I’m not prepared to sacrifice this time with her just to be able to say I breastfed. Not when formula is a perfectly viable option.”

After discussing it at length, we decided we had to call it. We were pursuing an exercise in futility. Our baby was literally starving and I was severely depressed. We decided to start bottle feeding. I knew if I called the hospital, they would try to pressure me into changing my mind. Andrew called and explained our situation. They STILL insisted we go to the lactation clinic and continue with the syringe feeding. Finally, fed up with the whole thing, Andrew spoke very firmly. “We have done everything you told us to do and it isn’t working for us. Now I want you to stop counseling me as someone you’re trying to convince to breastfeed and tell me how much formula I can give this baby in a bottle.”

Then and only then were we given a straight answer.

Lyla is almost eight months old now and she is thriving. Except for a milk intolerance that required us to switch formulas, she has had no issues with formula feeding. Formula has met her needs and has worked well for our family by allowing Andrew to be an equal part of her routine. It has taken me every bit of that eight months to heal from the trauma I experienced surrounding breastfeeding. And yes, I think calling it trauma is appropriate. There are still days I mourn the fact that it’s something I couldn’t do for her. The further and further I get from my decision, the more I realize it was a decision I made for my mental health as much as anything. My hospital spent so much time preaching to me about watching for signs of postpartum depression and telling me to ask for help if I needed it. But when I asked for the help I needed, they didn’t support me. Because the help I needed didn’t look the way they wanted it to look. Because if they admitted I couldn’t breastfeed, they had to admit their methods might not work.

If we’re going to support women postpartum, we have to support all of them. Not just the moms who breastfeed. If we’re going to talk about mental health and PPD, we have to acknowledge that it’s not just hormonal. It’s external. Breastfeeding is just one example of the mountain of pressures heaped upon new and expectant mothers.

I wish my story had been different. I wish the information given to me about breastfeeding had been empowering rather than lecturing. I honestly think if I had been given the space and support to figure it out in my own way, I could have done it. But I’ll never know. My body literally could not perform under the pressure. There is a part of the experience of motherhood that I will never have, and I can’t get it back. But I know in my heart that I made the choice I needed to make to be the mother I wanted to be. And no one can make me feel ashamed of that.

I wish every mom in the world was able to breastfeed. If you breastfed your baby for any amount of time, I fully and genuinely believe you have done the hardest thing in the world. I literally think you should win an award. But if you find that you can’t, please hear me say that it is OK. No one told me that, so now I’m telling you.
Please note: I take no issue with any individual doctor, nurse, or staff person who administered my pre-natal and postpartum care. I know they were doing their jobs and I truly appreciate and respect all those in the medical field. My birth experience was wonderful and I loved my nurses and doctors. The lactation consultants were trying to help me, I know it. My concern is with hospital policies made at a corporate level by people who are not medical practitioners that affect the mental health of new mothers.

Lyla’s Favorite Things

The two types of content that have been most helpful to me during these quarantine times are: 1) Deep Feels and 2) What people are buying/using. In light of that, today I’m sharing a list of Lyla’s favorite things. These are the toys and baby gear we’re getting the most mileage out of as we spend our days stuck at home.

Learning blocks

These blocks are soft enough for Lyla to chew and bonk herself in the head with, and they have lots of play options for when she’s older. Each block has a number or math symbol, an animal, fruits for counting, shapes, and textures. I love toys that can grow with her so we’re not constantly buying something new. And, selfishly, the colors on these are to die for, which is a nice break from the usual loud and gaudy baby fare.

V-Tech Sit to Stand Walker

Speaking of loud and gaudy…I finally broke down and bought a toy that makes noise. As much as I hate background noise, I had to face facts. Poor baby was getting bored, and this thing is a feast for her little senses. I pull this out when things are getting desperado and I need her to be entertained for a hot minute. This is another toy that can grow with her, as the activity portion can be attached to a walker for when she starts pulling up.

Silicone teethers

I’m sure every baby has their own teething preferences, but for Lyla’s money you can’t go wrong with a silicone teether. The other things she chews on most are wood and metal, but I don’t find those as easily. I’m linking this teething blanket that she munches on in the carseat and stroller. I ordered it because she hadn’t really taken to a lovie, but she was always putting blankets and burp rags in her mouth. And the fact that it’s a rose for Lyla Rose didn’t hurt, either.

Fisher Price Sit-Me-Up

Alas, Lyla is on the verge of too chunky for this seat, but I’m going to squeeze her in it as long as I can. This has been my favorite baby seat we’ve had. It has toys attached but also has a tray where she can play with other toys. I linked our gender neutral one here but I love this one and this one that are new since we registered, too.

Excersaucer

There are a million varieties of these bad boys. It’s a stationary play gym that allows your baby to stand and jump without going anywhere. They come in every theme and DEFCON level you can fathom. The barnyard theme spoke to me. I like that this one has multiple different types of motor skill and sensory activities, but it doesn’t look like some insane sproingy thing that a Who child would get for Christmas in Whoville.

So that’s how we’re surviving these days! I just move her from toy to toy as she starts getting bored. On nice weather days we go for a walk outside. It’s so hard to wrap my head around navigating the first year of my baby’s life during a historic event. How are you all making it? Are there any products that are saving your sanity right now? Let me know in the comments!

What I Packed in my Hospital Bag

KSYA7901

Packing our hospital bag was one of the things I stressed about most during my pregnancy. The only way I had a clue what to bring was by reading blogs, so I thought it might be helpful to share what I packed. I wanted to wait until after Lyla was born so I would know what we actually ended up using. Taking a childbirth class at our hospital was also really helpful because it gave us an idea what the hospital would provide. I highly recommend taking a class if your hospital offers one!

For mom:

-Phone charger

-Toiletry bag (you’ll want your own shampoo, soap, etc. and contact solution & glasses if you wear contacts.)

-Basic skincare products (face wash & moisturizer)

-Makeup (I just brought the basics)

-Nursing bra if you plan to breastfeed

-Nightgown if you want to change while there. I ended up just wearing the hospital gown because I was too exhausted to even think about changing clothes until we were leaving. Make sure it is nursing friendly if you plan to breastfeed.

-Loose outfit for going home. You will still look about six months pregnant at first. If you end up having a C-section, you won’t want anything tight pressing on your incision.

-The biggest pair of shoes you have. Your feet will most likely be even more swollen than they were in pregnancy.

-Grippy socks or slippers for walking around your room

-Sweater or sweatshirt. I ended up not needing mine because it was 100 degrees the day Lyla was born, but it may be cold in your hospital room.

-Pillow & blanket if you want your own. The hospital will provide both.

For dad:

-Phone charger

-Toiletry kit

-Snacks (so he doesn’t have to leave your side during labor but also doesn’t faint from not eating. Make sure they don’t smell too strong in case you have nausea during labor)

-Pajamas

-Going home outfit

-Slippers for walking around hospital room

-Pillow & blanket if he wants his own

-Contact solution & glasses if he wears contacts. Andrew’s eyes got so dry he was glad to have his glasses.

-Socks & underwear

-Comfy shoes. He may have to do a lot of walking depending on how large the hospital is.

For baby:

-Onesies in varying sizes (I brought preemie, newborn, & 0-3 month since I wasn’t sure how big she would be. Before we left I donated the preemie onesies to the NICU.)

-Socks

-Mittens (baby’s nails will probably be long & they’ll want to scratch their face)

-Going home outfit (we just did a plain onesie and wrapped her in a pretty swaddle for photos. Just keep in mind you have to unswaddle for the car seat if you go that route.)

-Portable sound machine. We put this in Lyla’s bassinet and she slept great.

-Nursing cover if you want any type of modesty. People will be in and out of your room constantly.

-Swaddles if you want to change them out of the hospital swaddle. Keep in mind, the American Academy of Pediatrics cautions against swaddle blankets that could come loose during sleep and cover baby’s nose and mouth. The safest options use Velcro or zippers. If you put your baby in a plain swaddle blanket without fasteners, make sure to monitor them closely.

Even with this relatively small list, there were still items we didn’t use. Honestly, our hospital stay was terrible because we couldn’t get ANY sleep with all the people in and out of our room. So there were a lot of things that went out the window, like changing into a nightgown and changing Lyla’s outfit. But every person who took care of us was wonderful, and I’m so thankful for the nurses who helped me! Moms out there, any items that made your hospital stay better? Items you wish you’d left at home? Let me know in the comments!

 

Lyla’s Birth Story + My Epidural Experience

IMG_0477

Our baby girl is finally here! Lyla Rose Cude joined us at 5:37 pm on Monday, September 9th, 2019. I’m sharing her birth story today because it was so special and I always enjoy reading birth stories from other mamas. I chose to have an epidural, and I’ll also share how that impacted my birth experience. Please know that I would never try and sway any woman toward any particular choice when it comes to birth. I just think the more information you have, the more informed your decision will be. I had a completely positive experience with my epidural and I feel like most of the things you hear about epidurals are negative. So…without further ado…the story of Lyla’s birth!

They say every labor is different. My labor progressed over a period of weeks. Lyla was head down and VERY low for most of my third trimester. This made the waiting extra hard because it felt like my body was teasing me. I was so uncomfortable. Every contraction I would think “Is this it?!” but it would inevitably subside. I wanted labor to be like a checklist, and I had completed every step except the baby coming! I reached the point every pregnant woman talks about…I wanted that baby out! We had discussed the possibility of induction on September 10th with my doctor, but for some reason an elective induction just didn’t feel right for me. As much as I wanted to meet our daughter, I wanted her to have every chance to come on her own. I ended up going into labor on my own at 39 weeks, 5 days pregnant.

Andrew and I spent all day that day just relaxing around the house. We were both trying not to be anxious, but we were so ready for her to come. I paced the house, did squats (yes I tried to squat my baby out), and tried my best to stay somewhat comfy. I was so sad when we were getting ready for bed because I had the whole weekend with Andrew and she didn’t come, and there it was time for him to go back to work the next morning. As we lay down to sleep, I began to pray. I prayed that God would help me to trust his timing. I prayed that if Lyla wasn’t ready, that she would stay in my belly. I prayed that he would help me have peace knowing that if she wasn’t coming, that meant she needed to stay in there for some reason. I prayed that if she was ready, that he would compel my body to respond to her so she could make her way into the world. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that as soon as I prayed that sentence, my water broke. And this was no maybe. Lyla has a flair for the dramatic and there was no denying that’s what had happened. I gasped and said, “I think my water just broke!” Andrew turned on the light and confirmed what I already knew…this baby was coming!

Andrew packed the last minute items in our hospital bag while I showered and tried to figure out what to wear while my water was actively breaking (Spoiler alert: there is no right answer). During the drive to the hospital I was nervous, excited, anxious, and everything in between. We checked into triage where they confirmed that my water had, in fact, broken and admitted me to labor and delivery. By that time I had been in labor for about two hours. My contractions were painful but nothing I couldn’t handle. I chose to labor for a little longer without medication while I felt like the pain was manageable. We watched The Golden Girls on the hospital TV to distract me. After three more hours of labor, I decided I was ready for the epidural. I wanted to get it before the pain got too intense just in case there were any complications and we needed to re-do it. Even as confident as I felt about my decision to get the epidural, I was absolutely terrified. My entire body was shaking. Andrew helped me calm down as much as I could. My anesthesiologist was patient and reassuring. Thankfully my epidural “took” on the first try. The only tiny hiccup was that it didn’t numb my contractions at first because it didn’t get up high enough. We consulted the anesthesiologist and all it took was for me to lay completely flat for about half an hour and we were in business!

I know every woman, every labor, and every baby is different. For me personally, the epidural was the right choice. I was completely lucid and fully present for the whole birth. I didn’t have any complications with the placement. I was able to feel everything I needed to feel to push. And most importantly, the relief provided by the epidural allowed me to focus on my baby instead of focusing on the pain. Had I opted for natural childbirth, I would have had to devote all my energy to dealing with the pain. I’m not sure I would have had enough remaining energy to push. I also have anxiety, and I was concerned that if I went natural, the pain would get to a point where I could no longer cope and I would enter a state of panic. If that were to happen, I knew there was no way I would calm back down because the pain would only intensify as labor progressed. For me, the epidural was the most empowering part of my birth experience, because it provided me the relief I needed to take on the task ahead without fear.

After I had labored another several hours, my dilation stalled at five centimeters. Since my water had already broken and time was of the essence, they gave me Pitocin to speed up dilation. At my next check I was up to seven centimeters. Lyla didn’t love the Pitocin, so they stopped it and allowed me to progress on my own from there. The next time they checked me it was time to start pushing. This is where things really got interesting.

What we didn’t know until it was time to push, was that Lyla was in a position called LOP. Her head was turned sideways with her chin tilted upward. They couldn’t just turn her because they couldn’t tell where the umbilical cord was. My whole labor, Lyla’s heart rate had dropped with every contraction. This led to concern that the cord may be around her neck. My doctors wanted to give me a chance to push, but they also had to act with an abundance of caution for Lyla’s safety. My doctor explained everything to me and said, “Babies in this position can be delivered vaginally. I’ve seen first time moms do it…It is very hard.” She let me know that if at any point they felt I was exhausted or Lyla was in danger, they would do a C-section before the situation turned into an emergency. I was so thankful for her honesty and I trusted the team of people in the room to make the right decision if a C-section became necessary. But there was just something in me that told me I could get my baby here by pushing. She had been so low for so long, I just felt sure that she knew what to do and that I had the strength to help her.

With each push, Lyla made progress. Then she promptly scooted back up and all progress was lost. That pattern went on for an hour, with her heart rate continuing to drop each time I had a contraction. They put me on oxygen to give her as much air as possible. At that point they brought in a high risk doctor. I also had a whole team of nurses ready to prep for a C-section if the need arose. They all cheered me on and, no matter what happened, they never gave up on me. I really think that made all the difference in helping me not feel defeated when I kept losing progress. I told them I could keep pushing and we decided to go for one more round and then assess the situation.

I have never been so focused on anything in my life. I kept my eyes closed and listened to Andrew in one ear and my doctors and nurses in the other. Andrew said I was like Lebron James before a big game…completely in the zone. I prayed and prayed that the Lord would be near to us and help us as he had so many other times during my pregnancy. Finally, during that last 30 minutes of pushing, Lyla began to keep her progress after each contraction. Andrew said, “She knows you’re in charge now!” After 30 more minutes of pushing, Lyla made her entrance into the world! I was so relieved and overjoyed! She weighed 8 pounds, 9 ounces and had the chubbiest cheeks.

IMG_0475

I’m so grateful for my birth experience. The epidural helped me feel empowered to face labor, delivery, and the after-birth care I needed. The team of doctors and nurses around me were encouraging and positive. I trusted them to make the medical decisions necessary, but still felt like they let me have as much say as possible. Andrew was incredible. He never left my side. He comforted and supported me during labor and cared for me so tenderly during my recovery. We are so blessed with a healthy baby, and all of my prayers for my birth experience were answered.

IMG_0478

If you’re nervous about giving birth and you have any questions for me, don’t hesitate to ask! I’m an open book. Whatever type of birth you want to have, you can do it! My only advice is to stay open-minded because you truly don’t know what will happen. Every birth is different. Make sure you’re comfortable with your doctor and be willing to take their input, knowing they want you and your baby to be healthy and happy. And know that you’re allowed to change your mind as circumstances change. If you wanted a natural birth but it starts to get overwhelming…get the epidural! Don’t suffer. There’s no award for whose labor sucked the most. If you thought you’d get the drugs for sure but the time comes and you feel like want to go natural, do it! If you end up needing a C-Section to get your baby here, then thank God for C-sections! That is MAJOR surgery and could potentially save your baby’s life or avoid dangerous complications. Don’t let anyone tell you a C-section is somehow “less” than a vaginal birth. My wish for every woman is that she would come out of her birth experience feeling strong and empowered. I’ll get off my soapbox now, but I really mean it when I say to reach out with any questions.

Mamas, what are some of your sweetest birth memories? Any pieces of advice you wish you’d been given beforehand? Share them in the comments!

Baby Registry Tips + Lyla’s Showers

IMG_0368

We were so blessed by family and friends with baby showers for Lyla. Andrew’s family threw us one, one of my childhood best friends threw us one at my home church, and our Sunday school class here in Lexington threw us another! As first-time parents, we truly would not have been able to get everything we needed for baby if it hadn’t been for the generosity of loved ones. We are so grateful that Lyla is already so loved and cared for!

When it came time to create a baby registry, I was completely clueless. Now that we have everything ready and waiting for little miss to make her debut, I wanted to share the tips that were helpful for me!

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetProcessed with VSCO with m5 preset

Do your research

Do not…I repeat…do NOT just walk into a baby store and start scanning. They will have you convinced you need every gadget on the planet. Before you register, do some research on what you’ll actually need. I asked friends and posted a new mama SOS on Facebook. I found Lucie’s List helpful. She’s practical and her info keeps up with current safety regulations.

As far as advice from others, remember that every baby is different. Try to take in what’s helpful and forget the rest. I’ve personally found that other moms are happy and willing to offer their insight in a non-judgmental way. Don’t feel bad if you get overwhelmed. Learning about car seats alone made me feel like I was earning an online degree. No one knows what they’re doing the first time around, but thankfully there are lots of great resources out there.

Processed with VSCO with m5 preset

Register for everything…except clothes

We had serious sticker shock as we realized a lot of our baby must-haves were big ticket items. We didn’t expect people to spend tons of money on our baby, but we also wanted to be honest about what we needed. We registered for everything from our crib and rocker to small items like baby shampoo and Infant Tylenol. Having a range of price points on the registry will allow people to select a gift in their budget. Having larger items will be helpful for family who want to gift you one of your major needs, and allows groups to go in together on a gift.

Some people advised me to register for clothes so people will know your style. Truth be told, baby clothes are the most fun thing to shop for, and people are going to get you the clothes they think are cute regardless of what’s on your registry. I registered for a few basic onesies in varying sizes to make sure she had simple things to wear at home. Other than that, I personally wouldn’t use my time to pick out clothes. Trust me…you’re going to get them anyway.

Processed with VSCO with m5 preset

Location, Location, Location

Think about where your baby item buyers live before you choose where to register. The truth is, there really aren’t that many options when it comes to baby stores. Make sure the places you select have a user-friendly online option where people can view and purchase from your registry. We registered at Buy Buy Baby and Target. Our hometown doesn’t have either of those stores. I tried to register at Walmart, but their registry system was so difficult to use I gave up after three attempts. I explained to friends and family back home that they could view our registries online and were welcome to purchase similar items at Walmart instead. Many people chose gift cards, which allowed us to complete our registries after the showers without spending much money. Also be mindful of the customer service at the places you are registering. Do they offer any discounts on non-purchased items? How do they handle returns? For example, Buy Buy Baby was very easy and fun to register with, but their return policy is very strict. I ended up having a much easier time returning things purchased from Walmart.

Processed with VSCO with m5 presetProcessed with VSCO with m5 preset

Don’t be afraid to edit

Don’t be afraid to make updates to your registry as your pregnancy progresses. I took items off and swapped things out as I learned more about baby gear. You may also have to make updates as you receive gifts if those shopping didn’t scan your registry. If your registry gives you a coupon for items that didn’t get purchased, make sure to add anything and everything you may need as those coupons are often for a one-time use and only apply to items on your registry. I ended up adding a floor lamp and a storage cart to our Target registry before completing it. Discounts on larger items like that really adds up.

Remember, at the end of the day, all your baby actually NEEDS is love, food, a car seat, and a safe sleep surface. Everything beyond that is just for convenience and…let’s be real…fun! Other mamas, what are your baby registry tips? What do you wish you’d known when you were registering? What are your must haves and what did you never use? Spread that mama wisdom wealth in the comments!

Lyla’s Nursery Reveal

NDHL1051I’m so excited to share Lyla’s nursery with you! I had so much fun (and a few sleepless nights) putting this room together. Interior design is a great outlet for creativity. I think we all feel like we have an inner Joanna Gaines just waiting to come out! Today I’m sharing my inspiration for her room, how it all came together, and where all the pieces are from.

The inspo:

The first thing I chose for Lyla’s nursery was the color. I love everything pink, but I didn’t want to design a room for me. I also believe in how colors make us feel. I chose a very soft lavender because I knew it would be soothing. 

The next step was to choose a “theme.” I didn’t have anything that I wanted to commit to, so I chose Team No Theme. I just wanted the room to be soft, timeless, and feminine. I wanted it to look like a baby lived there, not an adult hipster. I knew I wanted to incorporate florals, but I didn’t want to go too crazy. I also had the luxury of knowing we are moving sometime next year when Andrew’s residency ends, so her nursery didn’t have to transition into a little girl’s room. As long as we were living in this house, it only had to be a room for a tiny baby.

MBRW5119XXDK7711

The process:

Decorating this nursery proved to be one of the hardest projects I’ve done. You only get to bring your first baby home once, and I wanted everything to be just the way I envisioned. That desire combined with pregnancy brain gave me decision paralysis like I have never had in my life. I am normally a VERY decisive person. But while putting together the nursery, I second-guessed everything. I literally lost nights of sleep over the curtains. I kept having to remind myself that all my baby actually needs is love, food, and a safe place to sleep, and I had those covered.

To somewhat preserve my sanity, I made a list and a Pinterest board of all the elements I wanted for the room. That helped me stay focused while shopping.

MHRX1007RYMD6989

RHTV0940

The sources:

I’m not a cool enough blogger to have an account where I can link all the sources for you, so I’ll list them here for those curious:

Crib: Buy Buy Baby

Dresser (used as changing table): Leah Shea Interiors in Paducah, KY

Blanket ladder: Facebook Marketplace

Paint color: Sachet by Valspar

Rocker: Target

Side table: Marshall’s

Cube storage & floral cubes: Walmart

Gallery wall: Frames are from Goodwill, Marshall’s, and At Home. Mirror and cross are from Hobby Lobby. The wooden sign is from Home Goods. The other pieces in her gallery wall are:

-“The Rose Fairy” print from this series by Cicely Mary Barker. She was an English artist in the 1920’s and 30’s, and I love her prints for nurseries or little girls’ rooms.

-Vintage sheet music for “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” I’ve had this sheet music for years and I saved it knowing I would want it in a nursery someday.

-A vintage Barbie sketch print from a set of greeting cards like this one.

-The Art of Disney theme parks “Vision” postcard. I tried to link this but couldn’t find a source I trusted. This is a postcard I bought while I worked at Disney. It depicts the land on which Magic Kingdom is built as it looked when Walt purchased it, with a hologram of the castle over it.

That may be more detail than you ever wanted to know, but that’s the story on our little girl’s nursery! We can’t wait to bring her home!

The story behind our baby name

BA6AA738-D439-42EB-B1F5-74F7EC07E234

I tried to brainstorm non-pregnancy topics for the blog, but what can I say? I’m 35 weeks pregnant and I have baby on the brain! We haven’t kept our baby name a secret, but we also haven’t made a big announcement. Word, get ready to meet Lyla Rose Cude! I thought I would share the story behind her name for those curious and anyone who may be in need of baby name inspiration!

Andrew and I both have middle names that were passed down from family members. I’m named after my great-grandmother Myrtle Rose. She and I had a very special connection. By the time I was old enough to really interact with her, she had suffered a stroke which took away most of her verbal abilities. I would sit with her in her chair and she would pat my hand and hug me, unable to speak. Once, after sitting with her for a while, my aunt asked me if Grandma had said anything to me while we were together. I instantly replied, “No, but I heard her say she loved me in my head.” She passed away when I was four. Through the years, I’ve learned more and more about the woman she was, the impact she had on my dad’s life and therefore my life, and about the things she and I shared in common. Needless to say, I wanted to pass her name on if I was ever blessed with a daughter.

With a middle name of Rose already chosen, I knew I wanted her first name to be Southern, timeless (not trendy), and a little bit unique. I love my name because it’s not a name you hear every day, but it’s recognizable. I have a soapbox about “different” names. If you give your child a difficult name, their first interaction with every person they meet will be correcting them. I chose a name that could be easily pronounced and spelled.

In the spirit of full transparency, I got the name Lyla from the show Friday Night Lights. I thought it was so pretty and I didn’t get tired of it over the years. It’s also fitting that my daughter’s name would come from a TV show, because my first name came from the TV miniseries “North and South.”

Andrew and I are both very Type-A, so we had our baby names picked out when we were engaged. If you’re struggling to choose, I would say you’re probably over-thinking it. I know it’s a huge decision, but if you think about it that way, it’s almost paralyzing. Decide what’s important to you in a name. If you’re uninspired, try searching popular baby names through the decades. Or dive into your family tree and look at middle names and maiden names as well as first names. You just might have a hidden gem somewhere in there!

What about you? What’s the story behind your name or your child’s name? Tell me in the comments, I’d love to hear it!

 

& Baby Makes Three.

#TheMalicotes-124

Andrew and I celebrate our three year anniversary this week. Three years ago on July 9th, we chose forever with each other. This year is extra special as we await the arrival of our first baby. Below is a letter I wrote to our little lady as we celebrate this milestone and look forward to all the milestones to come.

#TheMalicotes-99

#TheMalicotes-145

Dear Lyla,

As I write this, I am 30 weeks pregnant with you! You are very active in my belly, which may be uncomfortable at times, but keeps me reassured that you are doing just fine in there. You’ve already shown us some of your personality. At our first ultrasound, you were so stubborn we couldn’t get all the pictures we needed. When we came back for our follow up to get those pictures, you stuck your tongue out at us the whole time as if to say “Ha ha! I won!” Our ultrasound tech said she rarely sees the tongue that well, but you were determined to show off. We already love you so much and can’t wait to meet you!

Each week with you brings new milestones to celebrate. This week is extra special because we’re also celebrating three years of marriage. You see, before there was you, there was just me and your daddy. We had three wonderful years together where we were just Ashton and Andrew, not mommy and daddy. It’s impossible to put the significance of those years into words. But as you come into the world, I want you to know how sweet those years have been. I want you to know that they were full of laughter and so much love…true love like you read about in fairytales. I want you to know what a good team we are, and that no matter what comes our way, we stick together and trust Jesus to get us through. I want you to know that even though we’ll always be your mommy and daddy, we’ll also always be Ashton and Andrew-the husband and wife who love each other very much.

I know this season marks the end of something we will never get back, and yet the beginning of something even greater. The best is yet to come for our little family, and we are so humbly grateful to the Lord for giving us the gift of you. The sadness that these years of “just us” are ending is vastly overshadowed by the anticipation of all the joy set before us. You are going to have the best daddy in the whole world, baby girl. Trust me, I’ve had him all to myself for three years now.

With love,

Your mama

Transitional Maternity Style

I’m alive! I recently shared on Instagram that pregnancy has made it challenging for me to keep up with my blogging goals. I’ve been blessed with a healthy pregnancy so please know I’m not complaining! In the interest of keeping it real with y’all, my first trimester kicked my butt a little. I had fatigue like I’ve never experienced. I also had hormonal acne that I couldn’t treat because most acne products are unsafe for pregnancy. As you can imagine, being constantly fatigued with severe breakouts didn’t exactly encourage weekly photo shoots. I was so determined to be consistent in the beginning because I’ve heard from experienced bloggers that consistency is the best way to build a following.  The more weeks went by without me getting a post up, the more defeated I felt. I wanted to get back into blogging, but I felt like I had already blown it. BUT…the belief that you can’t do something just because you don’t do it perfectly is a LIE and I’m not letting it hold me back!

This week I’m sharing some ways you can build a maternity wardrobe that will transition past your pregnancy. Pregnancy is such an awkward time when it comes to clothes. You don’t want to get rid of things that don’t fit anymore because you don’t know whether they might fit again after baby. You also don’t want to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe for just nine months. Even if you hope to be pregnant again, that’s still a lot of clothes to buy to only wear a few times. To add another layer of struggle, your pregnant belly doesn’t appear overnight. You outgrow things gradually. What fit one day might look ridiculous the next. I’ve found the best way to combat these challenges is to find non-maternity options that work for pregnancy. That way I know I’ll continue to wear the items I’m buying long after baby arrives. These three categories have been my wardrobe staples throughout my first and second trimesters. I know in my third trimester I’ll need to rely more heavily on maternity clothes. But for now I’m getting the most bang for my buck (and the best fit) out of these pieces!

1EDA62B0-D859-4097-B289-CBD5A3150211

Empire waist/loose-fitting tops

The first thing I bought when I found out I was pregnant was a bunch of these tops. I knew these styles would carry me through most of my pregnancy and be a welcome relief from tight-fitting shirts in those new mama days. These shirts have made me feel cute and comfortable…a huge win for anyone but especially those of us with a bun in the oven! The top I’m wearing was a Goodwill find so I can’t link this exact one for you, but I’ve linked a few options that are currently available:

Forever 21 Blush pink ruffle top (I love this tucked into something high-waisted for after pregnancy, or worn loose during!)

Target Knox Rose peasant top

Old Navy flowy floral top

6F1976DD-A75B-487E-A056-579FA4CF57AB

Flowy Dresses

Over the course of my pregnancy, I’ve attended a Derby event, two graduations, a banquet for my husband’s class, church on Sundays, and during my first trimester I was still working as a bridal consultant. That’s a LOT of dresses for one pregnant lady to wear. This is where opting for non-maternity styles has saved me. Anything that has a higher seam at the waist and a flowy skirt leaves enough room for my growing bump. Another great thing about dresses is they allow you to create an outfit with just one piece. When your body is changing every day, it’s so much easier to throw on a comfy dress than to put tops and bottoms together. Maternity dresses can be really cute, but your options are fairly limited in terms of style and price. Expanding your horizons to other styles will keep you from having to be a serial outfit repeater. (Honestly still not over that moment in the Lizzie McGuire movie.) The dress I’m wearing above is from TJ Maxx, but I’ve linked a similar one below along with other styles I love!

Off the shoulder floral dress

Old Navy Cami dress (I bought this in an ivory floral print and wore it to a graduation.)

Old Navy wrap dress (I have my eye on this one for 4th of July!)

7B80143C-6187-4752-8D93-EECFD6BCBF4A

Elastic waist shorts

The day I walked into Aerie and found an endless supply of elastic-waist shorts, I think I heard angels sing. These have been a lifesaver since most of my pregnancy falls in the summer months. They will be so cute worn high-waisted with a shirt tucked in after baby comes. For now, they stretch comfortably around my bump and are so much more comfortable than maternity shorts. I’ve linked the two pairs I have along with another pair I’m eyeing.

White tie waist shorts

Frayed denim shorts

Striped guaze shorts

Other tips

Here are a few other rules I’ve learned as I’ve built my maternity wardrobe:

-Avoid buttons. Unless the top is super blouse-y, there will definitely come a day when those buttons are begging for mercy. And no one needs that weighing on their self esteem.

-Minimize layers. Choose tops you won’t need to wear with a cami. The less layers you have to put together, the better. Plus, camis trap heat and you will be plenty hot without their help! I was cold-natured before I got pregnant and now I feel like I’m in the midst of a nine-month hot flash!

-Size up. One of the simplest ways to make non-maternity styles work for you is just to size up one or two sizes to give you a little growing room.

-Watch your length. Make sure tops and dresses are long enough to accommodate your growing bump. Crop tops are such a huge trend right now and it’s not always obvious at a glance that a shirt is cropped. Unless you want your belly playing peek-a-boo, make sure you either try on or at least hold items up to you to check length.

Now you know everything I know about building a cute, comfortable maternity wardrobe! Everything I’ve talked about should also work for those who aren’t pregnant but prefer a more relaxed fit, especially for summer. Thank you so much to everyone who has continued to support and encourage me, even when I was MIA. Let me know if there are any other pregnancy topics you want me to cover!