Beat the Heat: Surviving a Summer Pregnancy

As a Canadian, the heat is one of the things I dream about from October to May, each and every year. When the cold sets in and the days get shorter and shorter, I long for the never-ending days of summer. How wonderful is it to leave the house without bundling up in four layers of clothing, or to pull out of the driveway without scraping, shoveling and brushing a path to freedom?

It’s finally summer here, with temperatures above 25 degrees Celsius and bright clear skies. Looking out the window makes me happy, and my mood lifts when I can throw on a pair of sandals and go. Yet, for two out of the last three summers, the heat has been my nemesis. Due in August with K, and September with M has meant that the longest, hottest days are also my most uncomfortable on the pregnancy front. I balloon up – my feet and ankles swell to the point where even flip flops are uncomfortable. Humidity makes it tough to breathe, and sweat accumulates in places that have no business getting sweaty in the first place.

So – how can a pregnant mama keep cool, happy, and actually enjoy the (brief) months of summer? Here are my top five tips for keeping yourself comfortable when the temperature soars.

1) Popsicles: I’m a die-hard fan of Chapman’s banana popsicles; are they just a Canadian thing? They’re magical, and I’ll probably go through a few boxes between now and the end of August. This recipe for hydrating pops looks delicious, and has the bonus of not being filled with added sugars and colouring. Another favourite of mine are herbal tea popsicles; I use tea like strawberry rhubarb David’s Tea, brew it fairly strong, then pour into popsicle molds. Again, no added sugar, no caffeine, and incredibly kid-friendly as well. Hellobee has featured plenty of other ‘pop’ recipes over the years; check out these mango pops, these tropical yogurt pops, or these great breakfast pops!

2) Swimming: The water is your friend, swollen pregnant lady. When you’re fully submerged, you’re nearly weightless, and that’s a feeling I’m sure you’ve forgotten at this point! I’m fortunate enough to have a pool in our yard, but even if you’re pool-less, there are still ways to enjoy the water. Sign up for an Aquafit class, use the local public pools, call up a friend with a pool and offer to bring snacks if you can float for a bit. If you’ve already got kids running around, make use of local splash pads, water parks, or a good old sprinkler in the yard. I’m guilty of floating my puffy feet in K’s water table while she splashes and plays…even a bucket of cold water on your back porch might help!

3) Air conditioning: find it, get it, embrace it. Again, if you’re lucky enough to have A/C in your house, then you’re set. Yes, it’s summer; but you can go outside in the cooler part of the day, and stay inside from 11-2, when the sun (and heat) is strongest. No A/C? No problem. Find a coffee shop with cool air, or take the kids to an indoor play place. They’ll have fun, and you can relax in the frigid air. For me, just going to work some days is wonderful relief; eight whole hours of freezing aid blasting on me.

4) Clothing: maternity clothing is getting so much better in recent years. You don’t have to confine yourself to heavy synthetic materials and items that don’t breathe. Embrace cotton, linen, and anything in light colours. I’ve been loving jersey skirts and cotton dresses; you look put together, but aren’t restricted by hot, heavy clothing. Old Navy has these great skirts, and these maxi dresses from H&M are comfortable and really affordable!

5) Swelling happens: The hotter it is, the puffier I get – and I’m sure most of you are the same. Surefire tips for alleviating the worst of my cankles involve amping up the water intake (yes, you’re retaining water, but I promise, staying hydrated helps), minimizing the salt that you eat, keeping your feet elevated when you can, and avoid sitting for long periods of time. Please note, while swelling is completely normal, any excessive or sudden swelling can be dangerous – give your doctor a call if you’re concerned (especially if your face starts to swell).

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These are just a few tips in my toolbox; really, there’s no way to completely avoid the heat when you’re pregnant in the summer. But hopefully you’ll find a way to stay comfortable; those little babies are worth the unsightly cankles and boob sweat!

Banana Toffee Cake

I’m a lover of all things chocolate. When it comes time to try a new recipe, or experiment with some ingredients, I’m usually drawn to dark cocoa powders, luxurious bars of chocolate, and other rich things that are best served with a scoop of ice cream.

But sometimes, a bunch of bananas sits on your counter until they go mushy and brown. And the carton of whipping cream in the fridge is begging to be used. And sadly, the pantry is devoid of anything remotely chocolate.IMG_5815

That’s where this cake comes in. Banana Toffee Cake, straight from the oven, doused in caramel and served still warm. Better yet, the whole thing comes together in about half an hour (lets face it, isn’t that the hallmark of a good dessert?)

IMG_5845Sure, its a little heavy for a long, hot summer day…but its been raining here for two days straight. Bake this up, and either embrace or imagine a little bit of chilly weather.  IMG_5840

Banana Toffee Cake

Banana Cake:
1 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
3 medium bananas, mashed (the riper, the better)
splash of vanilla extract

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. In a separate bowl, mix together butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and banana until well blended. Stir in the dry ingredients just until blended. Pour batter into a greased 9×9 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Toffee Sauce:
1/4 cup salted butter
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup of whipping cream (35%)

In a saucepan, mix together the ingredients and bring to a boil. Stirring frequently, boil for about 10 minutes, or until the sauce thickens slightly.

Poke holes all over the surface of the cake, and pour about 1/2 cup of toffee sauce over the top. Let it sit for a few minutes while it soaks in, then add more sauce. Reserve the remaining sauce to pour over individual slices as you serve them.

If your carton of whipping cream has any left, you can innovate like Mr O did, and whip the cream up with 1/2 oz of Fireball Whiskey. Spiked cinnamon whipped cream is a pretty excellent addition to this cake.

IMG_5848

Prepping K for a Baby

There’s a lot you can say to an toddler that they’ll understand. Stop, don’t, please, cookie, Paw Patrol… K knows exactly what I mean when I use those phrases. But try to tell her that ‘Mommy has a baby in her belly’, and you’re met with a blank stare, a jab in the belly, and a lot of confusion.
Over the last few months, we’ve been trying to introduce the idea of a baby (and more recently, a baby brother) to K. And while several times, she’s tried to jam her baby doll into my belly, or look into my belly button to see the baby, I think she might understand that somewhere there’s a baby named Max, and he’s coming to meet us sometime soon.

So how have we gone about preparing Little Oats for the impending arrival of a baby? Here are 5 things we’ve been working on (and will continue to work on) until Baby Oats arrives.

1. Books: There are a ton of great books on the subject of getting a little sibling; some specific to brothers and sisters, some a little more general. We’ve looked at a few from the library that are big-sister-specific, but there are a ton of other titles that might be worth checking out.

2. Baby dolls: When my little sister was born, my parents bought me my own newborn doll to take care of so I didn’t feel left out. I was a little older than K will be (I was four), but I still have that doll. We went looking for a baby brother doll for K, and I was a little shocked by the price tag on some of them. But then, on a chance trip to Ikea, we found this doll  – and K is already in love.

3. Baby clothes: Since we’re having a boy, we can’t really use many of K’s frilly pink clothes as hand-me-downs. So, in order to prep K for the baby, we’ve been letting her help choose new clothes for him. So far, she has chosen this fox hoodie from Carter’s, and these Robeez crib shoes. Kiddo has good taste – M will be a well-dressed little man.

4. Feeling baby kicks: K knows that Baby is in my belly, and she knows that he’s growing bigger. Now that he is finally kicking on a regular basis, I am so excited for her to start feeling baby kicks. It’s just getting to the point now where J can feel them from the outside, so in no time at all, K should be able to, too.

5. A big girl room: The final step to getting ready for baby is transitioning K into her ‘big girl’  room. While I would love to keep her in her current room, her nursery is much closer to our bedroom, and is already ideally set up for a newborn. By bringing her along and letting her choose cozy blankets, fluffy pillows and pictures for the walls, we hope she will feel that her new room is all about her (and NOT about the baby). We will be transitioning her into a single bed as well, and our hope is that this is done before M arrives in September. We want her new room to be a sign of ‘big girl’ status, and not evoke any feelings that she’s being replaced by the baby.

Even with all five of these things working together, she will still only be 25 months when M gets here. I know she won’t fully wrap her mind around it…but it sure is fun getting her ready for what’s to come. Poor kid’s world is going to be completely rocked. But at least she’ll have her new baby doll, Winston (her choice), for company.

Birth Plans: Then and Now

When I was pregnant with K, I was swimming in birth plan information. Between our prenatal classes, meetings with my doula, and appointments with the midwives, I didn’t know where to start. I knew it was important to advocate for myself, but I didn’t want to be pushy. According to message boards and books, nurses and hospital staff either loved birth plans or hated them. It should be either formally typed and laminated, or mentioned casually at hospital check in. I should make preferences well known to everyone, or just voice my opinions to my doula. I wrote pages and pages of plans; bullet point lists, full essays, and everything in between. I was confused, overwhelmed and completely unprepared (despite all of my preparations).

So, gathering all of the information I could, and armed with a checklist much like either of these (Baby Center checklist, Healthy Baby Network checklist), I sat down and drafted an outline of what I hoped for on the birth front.

1. As few interventions as possible: I hoped to go epidural-free, but I also hoped that I wouldn’t need my water broken, wouldn’t need antibiotics or Pitocin, and wouldn’t wind up with a cascade of interventions that led to an unnecessary c-section (something presented as a very real possibility in my prenatal classes).

2. The ability to move around in labour: I was hoping to labour at home for as long as possible, walk around and use my exercise ball once I checked in, and spend time in the labour tub and the shower. The idea of being confined to a bed when I was in pain wasn’t appealing at all.

3. Support personnel: I wanted my midwife, doula, and husband present, and that was all. No family popping in to say hi, no unnecessary visits from anyone.

4. Comfort: I wanted to bring my own music, labour in my own clothes for as long as possible, fetal monitoring only as long as it was necessary, cervical checks only when needed.

5. Other: I was also hoping for delayed cord clamping, immediate skin-to-skin contact (for at least an hour), no supplementing with formula or a pacifier, and discharge from the hospital as soon as was possible (with the midwives, this meant 4 hours after birth as long as all went well).

How it went:

I was in early labour for about 36 hours; I certainly got my wish to labour at home and move around. By the time I called my midwives and doula to come to the house, I was dilated to about a 7. My hospital bag was chock full of all the comforts of home to make my hospital room more homey, but since I was in full-on active labour by the time I was checked in, everything stayed in the car. My wishes for support personnel were granted, though my whole family popped in for a quick hi when they arrived at the hospital. Thankfully, everything was such a blur that I didn’t have time to get annoyed.

By the time I hit 40 hours of labour, I was completely worn out, and really didn’t care about the dreaded ‘cascade of interventions’.  I’d been eating and drinking to keep my energy up, but I hadn’t slept in days. My  doula was applying counterpressure to my back to help with the back labour, but it was fairly useless. I received nitrous oxide through a mask to help with the pain, but when my blood pressure dropped rapidly because I was inhaling too much, they put a stop to it. I even had sterile water injections (more on those in another post) to see if it would help. But by that point, my pain was so intense, and I was so exhausted, that I begged for an epidural. Forty minutes after the epidural was placed, K was born. They delayed the cord clamping, gave me almost-immediate skin to skin (after the respiratory therapist checked her airways to make sure she hadn’t breathed in meconium), didn’t supplement or give a pacifier, and I was discharged within about 10 hours.

So that was no to item 1, yes to 2, sort of to 3, maybe to 4, and yes to 5. Not too bad, for the first time.

The Second Birth Plan:

This time around, we aren’t hiring a doula (I don’t think), and we’re not taking prenatal classes. I’m feeling less and less confident about what I do and don’t remember about birth. I was sure that I wouldn’t need a birth plan this time around; didn’t things happen the way they wanted to anyhow? The checklists made me laugh in the first few months postpartum, but I found myself searching for them anyhow in the last couple of days. Birth is unpredictable, and my birth plans might not get read, but I need to at least think about these things in order to ease my mind. So, with 12 weeks left (give or take) until the arrival of Baby 2, here’s what I’m thinking:

I’d like to labour at home again; it was relaxing to be in my own space, though my water bill from the hot shower was pretty high that month. I’d like to bring my music to the hospital again, but will leave basically everything else at home. The hospital gown was practical, so I don’t care about wearing my own clothes. I’m comfortable with family coming in to visit, and I’ll stay in the hospital as long as they’ll keep me (home isn’t as relaxing with a toddler underfoot). My plan is to not really have a plan, and see how things go.

Did you have a birth plan? Were you surprised by how it played out?

Easing Back and Joint Pain in Pregnancy

Pregnancy has proven to be hard on my back and hips. With K, I had severe SI joint pain. Any time I switched positions (sitting to standing, laying down to getting up), my back felt like it popped out of place. I could put no weight on my right leg for at least 5 minutes after getting up; it was ridiculous. Chiropractic helped a little bit, but there wasn’t a cure-all (except giving birth).

This time, I’ve been dealing with SPD (symphysis pubic dysfunction) and awful round ligament pain. My hips click in and out, turning over in bed is painful, and I feel like I’ve been kicked in the groin pretty much constantly.

So, how have I been dealing with this pain? As much as I’d like to say I’ve been sitting on the couch relaxing and letting everything settle, reality is that with a full-time job and a toddler, I needed to find some coping strategies. Fast.

Here are some tips I’ve gathered from friends, midwives, and general experience:

1. An exercise ball. Rather than sitting back on the couch which compresses your spine and misaligns everything, sitting on an exercise ball helps. It keeps everything straight and in place, it absorbs the weight on your hips and pelvis, and it honestly was my best friend during my pregnancy with K. Just make sure that you buy one that’s the proper height for you; most boxes have a chart for height on them. I’m 5’7 and I believe my ball is 65″ round.

2. Chiropractic: Seeing a chiropractor freaks me out, to be perfectly honest. I hate the cracking and crunching so often associated with visits, and I’m so nervous that it will hurt or go wrong. That being said, when I’ve visited while pregnant, the actual popping/ adjusting isn’t something that he did. Instead, he focused on stretching and moving my body to open up hips and back, and alleviating pressure put on my joints. I haven’t been yet for the SPD, but I’ve heard fantastic things from others who have dealt with it. Make sure you find a chiropractor comfortable with pregnant women, however. The wrong types of adjustments can be harmful.

3. Swimming. The great thing about having two summer babies is the opportunity to spend the worst, hottest, most uncomfortable months in the pool. Swimming has been the most recommended form of exercise and relief offered to me by my midwives and chiropractor. Because you’re significantly lighter in the water, pressure is taken off of your hips, back, and joints. Whether you actually swim, take Aquafit, or just float around (my preference), being in the water allows you to stretch out sore joints and get some exercise when you might otherwise be in too much pain.

4. Hot water: On the water front, I’ve found that hot showers are excellent at alleviating pain. I can’t handle super hot water, so the concern about raising body temperature isn’t really there. If you’re someone who can tolerate really hot showers, just be careful how long you’re spending in the water; my  midwives’ rule of thumb is to get out when your skin is turning pink/red. Hot tubs are a pregnancy no-no, but if you can handle sitting, a warm bath will also help with the pain.

5. Yoga: the stretching, bending and strengthening of yoga is fantastic for helping with joint pain. Even on your sorest days, stretching can really help. Don’t overdo it; stay away from intense classes and hot yoga. Any prenatal yoga classes or videos should be good, though!

6. Support belts: This is something I used for my SI joint problems, but not yet for SPD. Pregnancy support belts are designed in a few different ways. Some of them are just for your hips and pelvis: they tighten right at hip level, and keep everything locked into place. This is great if your hips and pelvis are slipping out of place; sometimes, the extra stability is all you need. Other belts are designed to support your belly, keeping the extra weight from pulling too much. These are more helpful for lower back pain and round ligament pain.

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Have you dealt with any serious back, hip, or joint pain while pregnant? What did you do to ease the pain?

The Bedtime Battle

For the last few weeks, bedtime has been a complete and total disaster.

While K didn’t start sleeping through the night until about 15 months or so, she has been remarkably good at going to bed on her own since about 7 or 8 months. We have the same bedtime routine (stories, singing, prayers, and bed), and she usually snuggles up with her buddies, then falls asleep on her own within about 15 minutes. It’s a wonderful trait, and I didn’t realize how much I relied on my ‘me’ time after 7:30pm until this phase hit. The sleep monster phase.

On Sundays, I have K to myself while J works. One Sunday night, as we were winding down our evening, I asked K which pyjamas she wanted to wear. And instead of choosing some, and lying down for me to put them on her, she started screaming. “No Mama, I don’t WANT that jammas.” The fighting, flailing and general tantrum-ing didn’t stop until I relented, and decided it was warm enough in her room to go to bed in just a diaper. So we chose a few books to read, and I went to sit down in the rocking chair. “No Mama, MY chair! I sit there!” The screaming began again, and once again, I gave in and let her sit down in the rocking chair. We read three books, said our prayers, and I lifted her into her crib.

Her little legs clamped around my waist, and she started wailing. “No Mama, I don’t WANT bed. Not bed!” I had to peel her off of me, lay her down in her crib with her buddies, and rub her back until she calmed down. I sang another few songs, and left, hoping that this was a one-off and she would fall asleep soon.

Over an hour and a half later, she was still chatting in her crib. She demanded a banana, more songs, another book, all of her buddies (she’d thrown them on the floor), and a new diaper. I’d given in to all of the above (especially after she removed her diaper), and she still wouldn’t fall asleep. Finally, I lay down beside her on the floor and held her hand until, magically, she drifted off to sleep.

I texted J at work to rant about the awful bedtime we’d had, never thinking it would be more than just a one-off.

That was three weeks ago.

IMG_6144J, lying beside her crib, trying to get her to sleep.

IMG_5966One of a thousand bedtime stories (she’s ditched the Zippy now)

IMG_6154Sorting her bedtime snack, tucking them in; another stall tactic

Since then, we’ve been dealing with similar iterations of the same thing. Demands for snacks, diaper changes, more water, more books, fewer books, and many, many more songs. We gave in at first, attributing some of it to the springtime cold we had all caught. Then we started getting stricter, capping the books at 4 and the songs at 9 (three renditions each of Frosty the Snowman, Jingle Bells and Jesus Loves Me, her nightly requests). We’ve tried moving bedtime later, and then earlier, both to no avail.

As I sit here writing, she has been in her crib, talking to herself, for over an hour. She’s not upset (though getting her pyjamas on was a nightmare), but she just won’t fall asleep. She woke up from nap at a reasonable hour, had plenty of time outside and activity to tire her out. She hasn’t had any sugar close to bedtime. And yet, she still won’t sleep.

I’m at a bit of a loss at this point in time. With a baby on the way, I’m a little terrified about what this prolonged bedtime might do to me. On the other hand, I know that this is just a phase, and that eventually it will pass.

What has your experience been like? Please don’t tell me its time to drop a nap (she’s 22 months…I can’t handle that!). Any tips for this weary mama?

Choosing a Midwife: The Second Time Around

When I was discharged from midwife care after having K, they jokingly told me that the next time I got pregnant, I should call them before I called my husband. That was their way of saying that midwife care, especially in my small city, books up FAST – as soon as there was a chance I might be pregnant, I should get my name on the list.

I had a wonderful experience with midwives the first time around. The care I received was incredible; they spent an average of 40 minutes per appointment with me, discussing all of my options, everything there was to know, answering questions, and providing me with the information to make informed decisions. I weighed the pros and cons of twelve week screening, of receiving tests for group B strep and other things, all the way down to being given the option of a hospital birth or a home birth. I appreciated the care and time they took, and, as a first time mom, I loved that they answered all of my questions without making me fee l like, well, a first time mom. Post-partum, they came to my house six or seven times, to check up on Little Oats, to check in on me, to help me with everything from breastfeeding to establishing a routine, to getting me into the emergency room with no wait time when my stitches wound up infected. When I was discharged from care at six weeks postpartum, I was honestly sad to say goodbye to my friends and primary caretakers.

And yet, when I got pregnant with Baby #2, there was still a question in my mind. Should I go with my family doctor, who has been delivering babies for ages, and has provided excellent care? Or should I stick with the midwives, who were wonderful and whom I know? There was really one reason that I was debating, and one reason only:

The epidural.

After 40 hours of labour with K, I asked for an epidural, which resulted in my care being transferred, last minute, to the OB on call. I had never met him and I couldn’t tell you his name; he never even introduced himself. The midwives in my province don’t have license to oversee the care of someone with an epidural, so instantly, their hands were tied. They could care for my baby, but as far as my care was concerned, the OB was in control. I hated this aspect of my care; after 41 weeks of being carefully watched by the midwives, I was now left to the mercies of an on-call OB (who didn’t know my name) to deliver my baby. It ended up working out all right, because the OB was in an emergency surgery when K was actually born, so he didn’t have anything to do with her birth, but on all of my birth records, it still states his name as being the attending doctor.

To avoid this the second time around, I could be under the care of my family doctor. I would see him until 26 weeks, when my care would be transferred to an OB that I would actually get to meet several times. This OB would be able to prepare me for an epidural, should I want one, and would (hopefully) be the one on call to deliver Baby #2. There would be no transfer of care during labour, no real uncertainty, and no chance that the drugs wouldn’t be available when I wanted them.

Herein lies the dilemma. Do I go with the midwives, knowing that if I end up with an epidural, my care will be transferred again? Or do I go in with the expectation of an epidural, and see an OB from the start? Do I have faith in myself that this time, I can make it epidural-free? Or do I even bother to try, knowing that I have pain meds available to me whenever I like? My decision making process had really come down to a fight between med-free birth and medicated birth; a decision that’s difficult to make at 5 weeks pregnant.

Though it seems like this debate went on in my head for ages, it was really settled within about a day of my positive pregnancy test. I knew that, despite the confusion my transfer of care caused during my labour with K, the uncertainty of it all was worth the impeccable care I would receive for the majority of my pregnancy, labour, and birth. With any pregnancy, there’s that sense of the unknown; even if I had chosen an OB, there was no guarantee that the same OB would be on call to deliver Baby #2, leaving me in the same boat (but with pain meds). With choosing the midwives, I could be guaranteed that one of my team of 3 midwives would be the one with me at the hospital, and as long as all went well, be the one to deliver Baby #2.

I called my midwives office at 5 weeks pregnant, and sure enough, I was one of the last on the roster for September 2015. On my first visit, I was pleasantly surprised to realize that my primary midwife this time was the same as with K. We spent ages catching up, sharing photos of the baby that she hadn’t seen since our final appointment at 6 weeks postpartum. We chatted about my expectations for this pregnancy, and ultimately, it felt a little like coming home.

I’ve been to see them a handful of times now, and my decision was the right one for us. I’m excited for the rest of this pregnancy, and I’m looking forward to the birth experience I’ll have this time around.

How did you choose your primary care practitioner?