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Note from a Proud Bed Sharer

by Stepha on July 24, 2014

babymother
I started writing this post earlier this month, but never got to finish and probably would have held of for a bit. Then last week, this gem came out, putting co sleeping back in the media and re-igniting the never ending debate, pinning crib parents over bed sharers all over my social media feeds. So on behalf of my closet bed sharers, who do not dare admit their sins in public, I thought I’d share my experience so far, as well as some resources who go beyond the headlines and discuss how to safely co sleep.

Depending on who you ask it’s either the most dangerous, irresponsible thing you can do or the best thing you can do leading (eventually) to a more secure, independent child. Either way you put it, co sleeping, especially bed sharing is very intense debate.

I was in the fence myself on whether or not we should do it, and what the exact arrangement would be…what co sleeper bed to buy…should I just have her in the bed…will we need an organic mattress…what if I roll over her? A million and one thoughts constantly raced through my head. To my surprise, when the issue came up with friends, it turned out that a vast majority of them bed shared, or co-slept at some point. Funny how nobody mentions these things until you’re about to have a baby.

When Anaïs was born, we started off with the Snuggle Nest, I loved the idea of just placing it between us and it’s portability for travel. We used it for all of 2 days! I was tired, lazy and I wanted to cuddle, so out went the snuggle nest and baby was right on the bed. We kept it around for naps or general use when I needed to put her down and do something.

I was nervous at first, but along with being a light sleeper, my mother bear instincts were at an all time high and I always seemed to be aware of her positioning, when to get up when she was hungry etc. Before long, the 3 of us were sharing the family bed with no problems, and my mind was confidently at ease. Breastfeeding was easier, and since I barely wake up when she feeds, I felt rested in the morning. Now that I’m back at work, I enjoy the extra cuddles and bonding time that we get at night.

Of course, this is not the ideal choice for everyone, and yes if done improperly it can be very dangerous. However, to paint ALL bed sharing as a “dangerous” practice that increases the risk of SIDS is misguided. There are guidelines for safe bed sharing, and those should be shared with families considering it as an option. Instead of constantly stigmatizing co sleeping or sharing horror stories of parents who accidentally rolled over their baby, the media should focus on spreading the word about different co sleeping arrangements, how bed sharing can safely be done, and the circumstances where it is never recommended.

Check out this post for a more in depth look at what that much discussed study, showed and didn’t show. I also came across this leaflet discussing the do’s and don’ts of safe co sleeping.

Happy Sleeping!

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Quarter Birthday!

by Stepha on July 11, 2014

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She Must Be A Boy

by Stepha on July 8, 2014

Anaïs doesn’t wear a lot of pink, nor do we adorn her with over sized, ridiculous looking bows. So naturally people assume she’s a boy, we stopped correcting them a while back. I do find it quite hilarious though, that even when wearing clearly girly outfit, she’s still referred to as a boy, simply because it’s not pink.

Here she is in her fave blue stripes, clearly looking like a boy…

Why would you this color on her if she’s a girl? Yup, some random lady actually asked me that…

Aww, such a cute outfit, I thought it was very feminine, but alas it’s not pink, so she MUST be a boy…

Here she is, hanging with her papa at the park. Again, wearing no pink, how dare we?

Why does that little boy have pink ruffles on his onesie? Weird.

Our little rebel is causing so much hoopla already. I hope she never decides to play with toy cars or trains, that would just be awful!

PS: I love pink! I just don’t happen to think it’s the ONLY color a little girl should wear. She does wear pink, and yellow and red and lots of other colors. I’m even getting fancy and putting more headbands on her, they looked so odd when she was younger, that I would take them off almost as soon as I put them on, but they’re growing on me.

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Dear Summer

by Stepha on July 7, 2014

As a summer baby, I’ve always looked forward to those precious 3 months, of sunshine, beach days and good times with friends and family.

This weekend was one of those perfect summer weekends. We didn’t have anything planned and decided to wing it based on how the weather was. Of as with anytime things are not planned, everything went off without a hitch. We made it to Brooklyn Bridge Park to see the fireworks, with prime seats. Grabbed ice cream at Ample Hills. Dined at my new favorite Mexican Restaurant. Visited the Kara Walker art display at the old Dominos Sugar Refinery and even made it to HU Kitchen for an all Paleo lunch, to repent our previous food sins.

All of it was of course topped with sweet smiles and baby cuddles every step of the way :)

Hope you enjoyed the long weekend. Happy Monday!

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My Sweet, Happy Girl is 2 Months

by Stepha on June 10, 2014

Anaïs turned 2 months over the weekend. She now weighs 11.2lbs and is 23.5 inches long. It’s been so fun watching the developmental milestones the last few weeks;

She’s more alert now when awake, often smiling at us and cooing
She loves to grab (and hold on to) her hair, especially when nursing
She’s a pretty chill baby, doesn’t cry much except for fussy time or when she’s super tired and is fighting sleep
She loves to be outside, when she’s fussy we just bring her out on the stoop and she immediately settles down
She laughed for the first time the other day while in the bath, of course stopped when I went and got the camera

If you notice from the top picture, her one eye is a little funky. The ped said she has a slight crossed eye, but it should resolve on its own by 6 months when the ocular muscles are stronger. I was a bit freaked by it at first, but I stopped worrying. She’s still the most perfect girl that ever existed.

Chillin’ with Papa at the park

Girls wear blue too!

Requesting privacy from camera crazy mama
she needs her privacy, lol

Cuzzie Tilly came for a visit, it was instant love!
She met cuzzie Tilly for the 1st time this weekend. Oh the love!

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Breastfeeding Part I: The Struggle is Real

by Stepha on June 9, 2014

latch2
Breast Milk is one of nature’s best gifts, the perfect food for baby loaded with all the necessary nutrients and antibodies to help your newborn thrive. The first few days breast feeding however will feel anything but natural. Maybe it’s because they are getting sticky colostrum and really have to suck harder, or that many of us have not been exposed to it enough but for what it’s worth in the early days breastfeeding sucks….really really bad. No pun intended.

Even if like myself, you’ve heard first hand accounts from family and friends, and have somehow tried to prepare yourself for the inevitable. You may find yourself looking in the mirror, nipples looking like you’ve been assaulted by Edward Scissorhands and you will just cry, not little cute tears either, I’m talking gut wrenching, deep from your soul sobs. “How long until this stage is over?” “Can I really make it until then…” I thought to myself every time I had to see my sore, cracked, skinned nipples. I cringed with each latch, and repeated the mantra “strong, confident, capable” to remind myself that I could do this, though I had my moments of doubt.

On day 3, when my milk came in and I could immediately notice a difference, my nipples started to heal almost instantly. The initial latch though still a little painful, was slowly getting better. My confidence got a boost when the next day, we went to the pediatrician for a weight follow up (she was on the borderline of losing too much) and Anaïs had gained 8oz in two days, and was almost back to her birth weight.

Of course now 8 weeks later, it’s easy to dismiss those early days when things are going remarkably well. But I’ll tell you one thing, those were some of the most stressful days of my life. When you’re pregnant you hear all the hoopla, about the pain of labor blah blah, but rarely does anyone mention the pain and the anxiety that comes with breastfeeding. There’s of course the anxiety of knowing that this small child depends on you for every meal, and not knowing if you will be able to deliver. I know some of you are currently expecting, so let mama Stepha tell you that the struggle is real!! If I wasn’t dead set on getting things right no matter what and exclusively breastfeeding, I would have totally given up or at least supplemented.

It’s so important to have a breastfeeding support team that will be there in your moments of doubt. Those moments where you may want to reach for that convenient sample of formula that magically appeared at your door out of nowhere, and was probably included in your hospital gift bag. The formula companies know all too well about the struggle, breast is best but…in case you feel completely defeated we have this for you, it’s just a little something to help you along, you’ll see how easy it can be, and inadvertently never get to build up your own milk supply and just get more of our stuff. No big deal, here have some!

I could go on and on, about how formula makers target vulnerable women, but that’s already a given. What I’ll stress instead is reading The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding,the only breastfeeding book you’ll likely need in your arsenal. Establish a strong support team ideally consisting of friends/family who are breastfeeding advocates (have breast fed themselves), a lactation consultant, and your meeting leader from LLL if you have one in your area.

I remember feeling a bit out of place when I went to the first La Leche League (LLL) meeting, at 8 months pregnant, I was the only one there not feeding a baby, just soaking in all of the info I could get. I can’t tell you how happy I was to be able to attend 2 meetings prior to birth and get feedback from other breastfeeding mamas. I would have never known anything about a tongue tie for example and how that can have a negative effect on feeding. Of course, she just happens to have a slight tongue tie, which explained the early painful latch in our case.

Breastfeeding is a journey, with challenges that at first can seem overwhelming, however if you hang in there and able to get the proper help and support, you’ll be on the road to experiencing one of life’s greatest joys. Before you know it, you’ll be looking down and seeing your “milk drunk” babe, smiling back at you, completely satisfied off of the ultimate soul food.

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FAQs About my Homebirth Experience

by Stepha on June 1, 2014

This is 1 of 2 post about homebirth related on questions I’ve received. See the other post here.

Here are some answers to the questions I’ve heard the most since sharing my birth story, I did them in an easy Who, what,when…format. I’m glad to answer any questions you might have, leave a comment below.

Who

…actually is your healthcare provider?

I’ve gotten a lot of questions about whether I had to go to the hospital or see the doctor afterwards or people assuming that the doula was the one in charge. No, no and no.

A certified nurse midwife is specifically trained in giving birth, and is qualified to give a woman all of her prenatal and postpartum care, so long as there are no complications. In many countries around the world, midwifes are the primary care giver of pregnant women. Most midwifes have a back up OB and hospital the work with, should complications arise.

Starting at about 14wks, I received all of my prenatal care from my midwife at her office. After 37wks, the weekly visits were at home, so she could get a bit familiar with our surroundings. She also did follow up home visits the day after and three days post birth.

A doula is a labor coach, think of them as your BFF during labor. Doulas are not qualified to provide medical care or advice.

What

…do you exactly have to have on hand for the birth?

You are assigned with ordering your birth kit from a website that will be specified by the midwife. Kits vary but contain items like chux pads, varying sizes of gauze, mattress liner, floor liner, gloves, antibiotic ointment, cord clamp, peri bottles and garbage bags for clean up afterwards.

In the pic below, you’ll see all of my supplied were laid out in the pack and play on the right:

You’re also going to need some miscellaneous household items, like towels, wash cloths, bowls etc. all will be in a list given to you by your provider. Of course, there will be things that you may want there candles, essentials oils and such. I would suggest you get those things well in advance and let whoever will be laboring with you know where they are and how you want to incorporate them.For me, a couple of things were completely forgotten about because it just wasn’t top of mind in the crux of labor.

…if you need to be transferred?

Birth is unpredictable no matter where it takes place. While it’s not good to focus on the possibility of something going wrong, it’s good to have a well laid out back up plan.

Very early on, my midwife had me fill out specific instructions of what to do in case of emergency transfer, which included exact directions to hospital, location of insurance cards and who I want to be ambulance of one was needed. I went a step further and had a hospital bag packed at 39 wks, just in case.

When

…does the midwife actually come?

Just as you would do with a doctor, you will call when you think it’s time. Based on your symptoms, they may head over right away or have you wait a bit and see how things progress. If you have a doula, the beginning of your labor would be the ideal time to call them, and they can come and be with you during labor. Though a midwife will spend more time with you than a doctor, they usually don’t come until birth is eminent.

The midwife stays until they are sure all is good with mom and baby. She cleans up everything, and also gives baby her first bath.

Where

…does it all happen?

We decided to set up shop in the living room because it’s an open space, has a lot of natural light and is at the back of the house so we were less likely to have someone randomly call the cops because of screams.

Soon after birth, I left the tub and went back to the room to lay down and delivered the placenta there.

Where you give birth and in what position is completely up to you. I labored mostly kneeling, and pushed in a low squat position.

…do you get the tub?

Since we have a tiny bathroom and tub, it was best to either purchase or rent a birth tub. I chose to rent the tub (this exact one) from a someone who rents them out locally. Who knew there was a market for that?! As the meme at the top suggests, we definitely took some time do to a dry run to gauge how long set up would take and even almost had a break down when 3 days before I gave birth, we realized the attachments weren’t working in the kitchen where we planned to hook up the hose. Thankfully, someone mentioned trying the shower and that worked fabulously!

Why

…did I decide to have a homebirth?

If you read this blog, you know I’m all about doing and experiencing things in the most natural way possible. I initially wanted to go the birth center route, but was turned down by the birth center because of my “medical condition”. You can read about it here. I was so angry when it happened but it turned out to be the best “no” I ever received and for that I’m grateful.

Did you scream?

This was a question I got from a lot of people, usually accompanied by did it hurt? and did the neighbors know? Especially, living in very close quarters.

Yes it hurt, and yes I screamed though it was more like a deep (and very loud), primal roar. The pain actually seemed bearable. Maybe due to the fact that it was expected or that I knew it was a means to an end and was being cheered on by some awesome supporters. It really is true that you completely forget about it once you see your baby, for me it wasn’t until 2 days later, walking a few blocks to the pediatrician office that I really felt ALL of it.

Would you do it again?

Absolutely!! I gave birth and an hour later was in my bed eating tostones with rotisserie chicken from my favorite place, showered right away, and was able to relax without unnecessary interruptions. Of course, there’s no guarantee that my next pregnancy and birth will be similar, but it will definitely be my first choice.

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Why I Chose to Have a Homebirth

by Stepha on June 1, 2014

This is 1 of 2 post about homebirth related on questions I’ve received. See the other post here.

If someone told me a few years ago, that I would at one point choose to have a homebirth, I would not have told you not a chance.

Even after doing some research and becoming more aware of options than the typical OB/hospital model, I thought of homebirth as this awesome sounding path that other people chose. I would probably choose a natural birth in the hospital or maybe even a birth center when it was my turn.

Then my turn came! At first I went to my OB of many years, but after our rather brief first meeting, where I was handed a pregnancy journal sponsored by Enfamil, I knew I would be taking my business elsewhere. Lucky for us, the only free standing birth center in the state of NY is right here in Brooklyn. Fantastic right? So, I spoke to my hubby about what I wanted to do and why, had him watch The Business of Being Born just to get a perspective of where I was coming from, and then we signed up for the required orientation at the birth center. At that orientation, we would set up our first appointment, for 2 weeks later. This was gonna be great!

We had the first appointment on a Saturday morning, so in lieu of sleeping in, I had the alarm set and we got up at the crack of dawn to trek to the other side of town and make it on time. We were so excited to be embarking on this journey, we could barely contain ourselves. The parking gods even looked out for us, and we got a spot right up front.

After signing in, the girl at the front desk showed me to the bathroom and instructed me on how to use the scale and the urine stick test. Something, that most midwife practices have the patient do themselves. Then it was on to meet the midwife. She started with just some general questions, wanting to know a little more about us, explaining the process, etc, then it was time for the medical history questionnaire.

She was zooming through through the questions asking about history of heart disease, Down’s, Autism…then she got to diabetes. Of course, I have diabetes. So I said ” Well actually, I do have type 1 diabetes but…” before I could even explain my rather unusual case, and the fact that I was already working with my endocrinologist who would be following very close…her entire demeanor changed, the air in the room changed. She listened briefly to my tale, but had to call her director to see if they could take me as a patient.

In her parting remarks, she said it was phenomenal that I was doing so well, and that I was probably healthier than most of her patients, but they simply could not take the “risk”. She offered to connect me to Maternal-Fetal Medicine at her affiliated hospital stating that’s who “should really” be seeing me. I declined. Not only was I not in need of Maternal-Fetal care, in the case I ever did I’d prefer my fancy hospital in Manhattan lady. Thanks.

I held off the tears just enough to make it to the car. I was so pissed! Chris was even more pissed and completely appalled by the way I was treated. I just stood there sobbing as he tried his best to comfort me. “They’re wrong…I’m gonna prove them wrong!”

With that it was back to the drawing board. I spent the weeks
after trying to figure out just what I would do. I could always stay with the OB, but though I kept my appointments, I really didn’t feel that was the place for me. I called the midwife practice that delivered at a local hospital, but wasn’t impressed with the front desk service, not to mention I called several times and no one got back to me.

One night, while discussing the obstacles with hubby, he said “well, what about homebirth?!” I paused, that was a good question. The thought had crossed my mind, I even did research on some local practices, but I always thought that perhaps I would go that route for baby number 2. With a little encouragement from him, I decided to do a little more research and narrowed it down to two offices I would contact.

Another few weeks would go by before meeting with my potential midwife. I had my final OB appointment in the mean time, mainly because Chris wanted to see a sonogram. I felt a little sad leaving, mostly due to silly nostalgia, I had been a patient for over 8 years, longer than Chris and I had been together. Should I send a card? Usually when I break up with doctors, it’s quick and painless, but this one was hard. Alas, I was a different person, with different priorities than that girl many years ago, and I needed much more than they could offer.

When it was finally time for our first midwife interview, I tried not to get too excited in fear of yet another disappointment. From the moment we walked in, the vibe felt good. As we were starting the interview, I abruptly interrupted the first question, stating ” I have type 1 Diabetes, is that gonna be a problem?” Memaniye calmly said no. I then briefly explained my history and recent birth center encounter. She was not only a midwife, but also a nutritionist and she too understood the intricate role food plays in healing the body, and also believed in the healing power of herbs. Sweet Jesus, someone who spoke my language!

The rest of the interview went well, and before we left, Memaniye encouraged us to continue our interviews, and let the office know when we made a decision. I played it coy and told her that we would be in touch, but at that moment I already knew our search was over.

4 wk old Anaïs, napping with midwife Memaniye

As you can tell by my pregnancy update posts, I loved the prenatal care I received and am beyond blessed to have welcomed Anaïs into the world exactly the way it was meant to happen for us. As cheesy as it may sound, more than just me choosing to have a homebirth, I believe that homebirth chose me. The rest as they say, is history.

Note: Aside from my midwife, I was under constant supervision from my endocrinologist and his staff to make sure there weren’t any diabetes related complication. There weren’t. I’ve already gone back for my post baby follow up, still kicking Diabetes’ Ass, no drugs needed!!

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1 Month of Anaïs

by Stepha on May 8, 2014

The best shot we could manage out of her

I can’t quite believe it, but a month has passed since sweet Anaïs entered our world. It’s been challenging and wonderful at the same time. We’re both making new friends lately, and have even gone on a couple baby dates with local moms. Slowly but surely, we’re getting in a groove and finding out our rhythm.

She discovered her hands and has started grabbing and holding on to our clothes, and just yesterday discovered she can also grab mama’s hair lol. Her smiles melt our heart, though I’m not quite sure she yet knows what she’s doing. She’s beginning to be more alert when awake, and sometimes fixates on specific items. She loves her mama milk, and has some pretty hilarious nursing positions. It’s so funny, that even at such a young age there is so much personality.

Looking forward to what the next 4 weeks have to offer.

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On Saturday evening as hubby and I went over our plans for the next day, I had a brunch which he would drive me to because he insisted that I not drive alone because I was “too close” and he would come home watch his basketball game, in peace without crazy, nesting preggo. Sounded like a perfect Sunday, even as I was thinking about it, I remember laughing out loud and saying “these plans sounds a little too perfect, watch her decide to come…”

Mother’s instincts I guess.

In the early morning hours of April 6th, I felt a couple of mild contractions. Much like the ones I’ve had on and off that whole week, they didn’t bother me much and I continued with business as usual which at that time was sleep. By the 2nd time I got up to pee at 7:30 am, I noticed blood, not just a light spotting like the previous night that prompted me to tell my doula to get ready, she’ll be here “in the next 2 days”. Actual blood, bright red and enough to flow into the toilet bowl. Still no contraction at that time, so I went back to bed.

I woke Chris up and told him what had happened and that I was going to skip brunch because I didn’t want to be the crazy lady going into labor in the middle of our meal. I also decided I would start measuring the contractions if they came again.

The first recorded one came at 7:48 AM. By the third one, my breathing had become so intense that Chris decided to wake up and see how he could help. I looked at the timer and realized the contractions were all about a minute long and came about 2 minutes apart.

“That can’t be right!”

Chris asked if he should set up the birth tub, and I said no, because surely it couldn’t be time for that yet. My first labor management technique was to get in the regular tub on all fours, swaying against a birth ball, with him aiming the warm water directly on my back, measuring contractions as they came. It felt great, but did little to slow down my contractions. So I told him to call the midwife, I explained to her what was going on, and she told me to alert the doula and give her a buzz in an hour with an update.

I decided that perhaps I should take a bath, that should help ease things up a bit. Hubby again asked about setting up the birth tub, “no!” I insisted, it’s not “that” time yet. He asked if I wanted to add my usual herbs to the bath, but I said no to that as well since I usually like to infuse the herbs in boiling water. We def didn’t have time for that, just my trusty lavender bath salts and maybe a few drops of oil from my labor oil kit.

With candles set, birth playlist going, I got in and tried to relax. The warm water felt good, I even had a few shorter contractions, a couple were about 4 minutes apart, intense but better. That however, was short lived, and I started to feel a little off. I asked Chris to check the time, an hour hadn’t passed yet. Sick of being in the bath, I drained it and headed for the room, to do what exactly I don’t know, but that’s where I wanted to go.

I barely made it to the edge of the bed, when I had the sudden urge to throw up. Within seconds I was hurling clear liquid all over the floor. Chris rushed to my side, with the largest towel he could find, I looked at him and whimpered “Set up the tub, she’s coming…”

I then had him call the midwife, at first I spoke, then of course the contractions were coming and I could barely breath so he continued the conversation for me, and she ended with “well this is it sweetie, I’ll make my way over.” Next up was the doula, she too agreed that it was time to head over.

Chris tried to feed me multiple times as we worked through the surges, first were the boiled eggs, I took 2 bites and was to weak to continue. Then once I was in the birth tub, he spoon fed me yogurt, I had some but couldn’t finish. So he just stuck to water in between each contraction.

Our midwife arrived at 10:30, she checked our vitals soon after and everything was great, she just encouraged me to go with the flow and let her know when I felt pressure.

“Pressure?!” I thought “but we just started, surely it can’t be time for pressure…” Again, I was slightly in denial. Not long after that thought, pressure showed up, and the contractions started getting even more intense. I stayed mostly on my knees inside the tub, hanging my arms on one side with Chris behind me apply counter pressure to my back as each surge came.

The brunch I was supposed to attend was a surprise in honor of my friend Judy, who also was supposed to be at the birth. I had yet to contact her, I thought for sure I had until later in the afternoon to alert her. I mean labor is supposed to last a little while, right? It quickly became evident that this was not the case and I had Chris call Judy to make her way over. Brunch would have to wait.

She came right away, then minutes later my doula finally arrived. I was deep in the crux of labor by then, well passed transition, breathing deeply, and moaning loudly to exhale. The entire block could hear me, I was sure. I have no idea how close the contractions were, but it sometimes felt like they never stopped, just one looong contraction. No breaks in between like I read in those books.

The pushing phase came quick, I have no idea how long I pushed for but it felt long, and it hurt, a lot! I did have a brief moment, where I questioned if it was really going to happen, in the middle of our living room nonetheless. Thankfully, my doula was in front of the entire time, with encouraging phrases like “you’re doing it!” “This is great!” as I literally squeezed her entire body. Everyone else was behind me, the midwife with calm reassurance, Chris in super coach mode with his “you got this baby!” , Judy in awe of the whole thing. I pushed, and pushed, and pushed with all my being until I had to hold it, yup hold it, and go a little slower so I wouldn’t tear.

Just when I became convinced the pushing would never end, I heard the midwife ask Chris “Do you want pictures?!”

“Holy shit! Yes pictures, we want pictures! OMG, this is it, she’ll be here any second!”

With that thought, and my favorite birth song playing on my iPod, I had a sudden surge of energy, it was time to meet my baby girl.

I pushed and puuuushed a bit more. Oh yeah, they weren’t lying about that “ring of fire” at all, but I just focused on the end result. I felt her head, and with one final push the rest of her body slid out. Then I heard the most beautiful words ever “Ok mama, come get your baby!”, I turned around, looked down and there she was my little water baby.

I grabbed her in disbelief.

“Welcome Anaïs, hiiii! We’ve waited a long time to meet you…” I gushed, looking at her, then at my hubby “omg, she’s here!”

Anaïs Josephine was born on April 6th, at 12:20 PM, just under 5 hours after I noticed the first “real” contractions.

Oh yeah, we had a homebirth. I know I never mentioned that whole part of the deal, but I promise we’ll discuss in an upcoming post. For now here are some pics of her and our early moments together.

First bath:

Weigh in:

Hangin’ with daddy:

Priceless Expressions:

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