Monday, July 27, 2015

Ella - 3 months old

Ella Kaitlyn is now three months old and she is so fun to be around! We had our three-month photo shoot today and she was a good sport, but it was work to get her to smile with the camera in front of her face. She seems to regard it so seriously! Fortunately, Isaac was here to help me and he coaxed a lot of smiles out of her.

At three months, Ella is a little chunk. She's got delicious fat rolls on her arms and thighs. She eats like a champ and breastfeeding is still going well. I returned to work this month and she's been going to daycare two days a week - so far, so good. It helps that Hannah is there with her. Ella is a very happy, easygoing baby who loves to smile and coo at everyone. Her grin fills my heart with so much joy. There's nothing I love more than coming home after work and seeing her smile. She is starting to make sounds like she's trying to laugh ... she's slowly figuring out how her mouth works!

Ella has been spending a lot of time in her play gym and loves to interact with the mobile and the hanging toys. She's starting to grasp toys in her hand though she has not intentionally grabbed them yet. Ella still likes to be worn. I bought a Lillebaby carrier and we've been using that a lot. It came with "sleepy dust" as she almost always falls asleep immediately in it.

It's been a very full month and we're so looking forward to what next month brings!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Kindle Case

So, while I was at my mom's last weekend, she handed down her Kindle to me as she had bought a new one. She had made the cutest Kindle pouch for hers and I was secretly hoping the new Kindle wouldn't fit in it and I'd get it handed down as well. But, alas, they're the same size. So, I raided my mom's fabric stash, picked out some fun fabric and whipped up a pouch of my own!

I quilted the panels with 1/4-inch quilting because I like the look and it give the pouch a little more stability. I used a cute Japanese dog print and an Art Gallery blender for the bottom.

My mom just so happened to have a 9-inch zipper in her zipper stash, so I picked a pink one and it matched perfectly.

All in all, this was a very quick project (I completed it Sunday morning while the grandparents bounced the baby for me), but very satisfying. I'm enjoying using my new Kindle - it came loaded with over 700 books!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Art Fair on the Square - Madison

Just some shots from Madison's Art Fair on the Square. Ella and I went with my mom this year ... it's the first time in a couple years I was able to go. Ella rode in the carrier the whole time and was absolutely wonderful - couldn't have asked for a better baby!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Friday Favorites: Breastfeeding gear

Something a little different for Friday Favorites this week - all my favorite breastfeeding gear! It's very important to me that I nurse my babies. When my son was born 12 years ago, we had a lot of issues nursing. He was tongue-tied, which we didn't realize until he was 3 months old. This meant that he had a very poor latch and did a poor job transferring milk. It made nursing very uncomfortable and he was always starving and wanting to eat. When he was 5 weeks old, I finally gave him a bottle of formula and I remember it clearly - he actually sighed in relief to be able to drink it. I didn't know enough then about breastfeeding to realize that I could have been pumping breastmilk and giving it to him in a bottle until we had his tongue-tie clipped at three months (and then maybe we could have tried nursing again). Instead, I just jumped straight to formula. When my daughter was born 6 years ago, I knew I wanted to give breastfeeding a better try than I had with my son. Fortunately, we had absolutely zero issues and she was a great nurser. We breastfed until she was one. I'm hoping to do the same with Ella.

The Medela Pump-in-Style Advanced with On the Go Tote is my hands-down favorite breastfeeding gear item. I used the same pump with Hannah six years ago and I knew when I got pregnant I wanted this same one again. It's very efficient and well-designed. My last one withstood a year of pumping with no issues, so I had no hesitation about buying another. They're pricey, but well worth it. (Consider what formula feeding costs and you'll find that it's actually relatively inexpensive.) Although I'm still home on maternity leave, I will be returning to work in about 10 days. I knew that in order to feel comfortable, I needed to have a freezer stash of breastmilk in the event that I couldn't pump enough during the day to make up for what she ate at daycare. I started pumping when Ella was about 4 weeks old and I am proud to say that when I return to work I will have more than 400 oz. in the freezer. I have also struggled with a low supply this time around. I use the pump to pump for 10 minutes after nursing Ella most nursing sessions to stimulate milk production. This has worked well and allowed me to keep up with what she's eating. What's nice about this package is that it comes with an insulated cooler and ice pack for transporting cooled breastmilk. I've used this when traveling and it does an excellent job of keeping milk cold for up to eight hours. In fact, I liked this pump so much that I bought a second pump only (here) - I have one in my bedroom to pump at night and one in the living room where I pump during the day. When I return to work, I can take one and leave it there and have less to carry back and forth.

To store my breastmilk in the freezer, these Lansinoh Breastmilk Storage Bags are my go-to item. I've used them with both Hannah and Ella and never had an issue with them leaking, even through freezing and defrosting bags. Pouring thawed breastmilk out of them into bottles is also a breeze. They feature a write-on tab on the top of the bag to write the date, time, name and amount. I squeeze all of the air out of them and freeze them flat, like bricks. I use the gift bag method to store them.

To feed Ella, I've been using the Medela Breastmilk Bottle Set in the 5 oz. size. I have seven of these bottles in my rotation. I love them because they are compatible with my breast pump and feature slow-flow nipples which are good for babies who are nursing and getting a supplementary bottle now and then. They are easy to clean and have no other parts, which is nice.

This is the Boon Grass Countertop Drying Mat drying and it's been wonderful for drying bottles and nursing pump parts. The grass part separates from the base and you can dump any excess water out. I have the smaller size sitting on my countertop and use this thing multiple times a day, every day. It looks a little bit crazy and you can get twigs for it to hang bottle pieces, but I just use the plain mat and it works great for my needs. If anything, I wish I would have gotten the larger size, but it can accommodate seven bottles and their parts pretty well.

This Simple Wishes Hands Free Pumping Bra has been indispensable for pumping. I initially was having a hard time justifying spending the money on it because when I pumped with Hannah I just held the bottles, but I have to say, having your hands free to do other things while your pumping is well worth the money. There have been so many times I've had to pick up on console Ella while pumping and I could never have done that without being able to have my hands free. I like this bra because it is designed to fit you through all stages of breastfeeding and features a velcro back and a zipper front extender to customize the fit to your shape. I'm currently debating getting a second one of these to take to work for pumping there.

The last item on my must-have list is the Bravado! Designs Essential Nursing Bra Tank. I originally bought two Basics Women's Felicity Slimming Nursing Cami tanks from Target in black and white. I've worn them pretty much day in and day out since having Ella. The one thing I didn't like about the Target tanks is that they pilled pretty horribly in the wash. I do have one nursing bra, but don't really care for the way it fits, plus I like the coverage the tank offers as I'm still self conscious about my tummy. I needed something with more support for running around at work, so I ordered one of each of these in black and white. It did take a couple tries to get the right size. According to their website, I should be wearing a C cup, however every bra I've tried on I needed a D or DD cup. So, I ordered the D/DD cup size. When they came, they were a little too big, so I ended up returning them and getting the B/C cup size. Much better fit. The clasps on the tank are a little different than most nursing bras/tanks and they take a little bit of getting used to. They aren't as easy to do one-handed, but it can be done with some finesse.

So there you have it - my favorite nursing items. What's on your list that you cannot live without?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Ella - 2 months old

Ella turned 2 months old on June 27th and I finally got her to pose for some pictures (and found time to edit them). At her most recent doctor's appointment, she was 11 pounds and 22 inches long.

At two months, Ella is really a joy to be around. It seems her fussy crying peaked at about 6 weeks and for the most part, she is a very happy baby. She's happy to sleep in her Momaroo now and enjoys being worn in her wrap. Within the last couple of weeks, we've been seeing some true smiles. She now smiles in response to my smile, or my voice, which absolutely warms my heart.

Speaking of her heart, we got good new this past month. Ella was diagnosed with two heart defects prior to going home from the hospital - two separate VSDs or ventrical septal defects, which is essentially two holes in her heart between the two lower chambers. When we were discharged, we were referred to Children's Hospital in Milwaukee and a pediatric cardiologist. We met with her at the end of May and she informed us that in addition to the two VSDs, Ella also had a defect between the upper chambers of her heart. So, Ella had a sedated echocardiogram last week to determine how significant these holes were. It turns out that the hole in the upper chambers of her heart is a PFO, or patent foramen ovale, which is a flap of muscle that usually closes at birth, but doesn't in approximately 30 percent of people. It presents no long-term issues and if Ella didn't have the two VSDs, they wouldn't even follow her. Her two VSDs have closed by approximately 50 percent and they gave us an 80 percent chance that they would close on their own completely by the time she is a year old. They are also located away from the valves, which is good, and she is asymptomatic. So, we don't have to return for the follow up until Ella is a year. All good news!

Ella still loves to move - whether it's in the car or in her stroller. We usually walk in the evening for about an hour and while she used to sleep through every walk, she's now awake more often and looking around, checking out her surroundings. She seems very intrigued by her big sister Hannah and will smile in response to her doting on her.

Breastfeeding is going strong. I'm so happy to have that bond with Ella and I hope we can continue until Ella is at least a year old. I made it that far with Hannah, so I know with some determination (and cooperation on Ella's part) we should be able to do it. I'm also pumping and Ella takes a bottle from me or dad without any issues, which is good because I go back to work in two weeks and she'll be in daycare three days a week.

For now, I'm just trying to enjoy every minute of time with Ella and remembering that she's only ever going to be this little once. And since she really is my last baby, I'm trying to soak it in all that much more.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Stocking the shop and sewing again

So, despite being depressed - or maybe in an effort to snap myself out of it - I did start sewing again sometime in the past few weeks. I reclaimed the kitchen table and started making some Open Wide zipper pouches. One of the large size and three medium ones. It's taken me painfully long to work on these ... cutting them out, piecing them together, quilting the panels ... as Ella seems very content to start screaming the minute I try to start sewing. I had high hopes of being able to put her in her wrap and sew away, but alas, no such luck. So, instead, I tell my husband "I need a hour of sewing time" and then have him watch the kids. So, hour by hour, I make a little progress.

The largest pouch will have a combination of number fabric and Essex linen while the other three medium pouches all feature a variety of camera fabrics with the same Essex linen (which is a favorite of mine for this project!). They are all quilted with 1/4-inch lines, which add detail and give the pouch a little more structure when it's finished. All I have left to do is assemble all of the pouches - all the pieces are ready to go, I just have to find the time.

I also re-opened my Etsy shop. There's a link to the right. All that's listed so far are a handful of vintage feed sacks. My shop has always been a combination of modern fabric creations and vintage items I love and I'm working on getting it stocked with some sewn items as I write this. But, for now, the few feed sacks I have sold have brought me a little extra spending money at a time when money is pretty tight. (Maternity leave will do that to one's budget!).

On post-partum depression and anxiety

I've blogged over the years about my struggles with depression, during the good times and the not-so-good times, through med changes and other treatment options I've entertained. My depression has been relatively stable the last two years or so and was until I got pregnant - and stayed pregnant - this past fall. I wouldn't say that I was so much depressed while pregnant as I was just exhausted. It meant that I stopped doing many of the things that I loved and that gave me such enjoyment - such as sewing, painting, blogging and gardening. I had high hopes that following Ella's delivery, my energy would return and I'd be back to doing those things I loved. My psychiatrist thought the medications I was on during pregnancy would go a long way to help avoid post-partum depression following delivery. We had high hopes.

And then I had Ella. It didn't hit immediately. At first there was just so much relief at not being pregnant anymore. At marveling in this brand new person my husband and I had created. At remembering how to breastfeed again and the joy that came with that. At adjusting to having one more child. At adapting to a changing routine. And I had my mom around for the first couple of weeks, which helped immensely.

But eventually, as the weeks went by, the depression - and this time overwhelming anxiety - crept back in. I had two goals every day: take a shower and take a walk. I tried not to put too much pressure on myself to accomplish much more than that. And many, many days, that was all I was able to do. I met all Ella's basic needs, but beyond that, I was a mess. There were many days I would just lay with her on the couch and cry. Sometimes for a reason - she was growing up so fast... I was overwhelmed - but more often for reasons I couldn't even identify. I was sad much more than I was happy, at a time in my life that I had so looked forward to. And I was angry about feeling sad.

As if the never-ending sadness wasn't enough to deal with, I got hit with the double-whammy of anxiety on top. While I've been on anxiety medication in the past, it was more to help me sleep than to deal with actual anxiety - and according to my psychiatrist, wasn't safe to take during pregnancy or breastfeeding, so I had stopped it when I became pregnant. I quickly became anxious about everything. Was she a "normal" baby? Why didn't she cry more? Where the meds I was taking harming her in some way? Why did she cry so much? Was she eating enough? Was she gaining enough? Was I making enough milk? Was she breathing? And on top of the things I wondered about every waking hour, I was suddenly having anxiety about everything I couldn't control ... of horrible things happening to me or my family, especially my children. I had horrific mental images of Hannah getting run over by a car in a parking lot. Of finding Ella dead in her crib. Driving became challenging because suddenly every car, every semi truck was a weapon, destined to crash into us as we drove. I began having panic attacks while driving - my chest would tighten, I would sweat, be swallowed up by nausea to the point I'd have to pull over and dry heave on the side of the road, and I'd just have the most overwhelming sense of dread that something terrible was about to happen and I was powerless to stop it. I thought perhaps these attacks would be better if I wasn't driving, but that just made it worse because it was one less thing that I could control. Eventually, I just stopped going anywhere that wasn't absolutely necessary.

And with all this anxiety came extreme irritability. At everyone. At my husband. At my daughter. At my step-son and my son. I just wanted everyone to leave me and the baby alone. Perhaps if it were just the baby and I in some sort of bubble, everything would be okay. But it wasn't. It clearly wasn't. I finally went and saw my psychiatrist and asked for some help.

Last week we started changing my meds around. We doubled my Saphris dose. We started a Prozac taper. We're adding Lexapro this week. And I started taking my anxiety medication again. After talking with the kid's pediatrician, doctors at the Infant Risk Center and my psychiatrist, we decided that it was probably safe to continue breastfeeding on the medication I was taking provided we monitored Ella for excessive sedation. This was huge, as it is really important to me that I breastfeed Ella. So far there have been no issues. I'm trying to be patient and give the meds time to work. I also started seeing a counselor and have a place I can talk about all my fears and develop some coping mechanisms to deal with the anxiety.

Hannah started going to daycare three days a week as well, which has given me some much needed just us time at home with the baby during that day. I have bowed out of all non-essential social and family events and am just trying to focus on being well. My family is going up north to our cabin for the holiday weekend and I will be staying home with the baby - enjoying just us time. I'm looking forward to it. And I know if things suddenly seem too overwhelming, I can call my mom and she'll come up and stay with us.

If you or someone you know is suffering from post-partum depression, please reach out and get some help. It's okay to not be able to do this on your own. Postpartum Support International is a great starting resource. Check out their website here.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Friday Favorites: Kids Clothes Week

Kids Clothes Week kicks off June 22 and runs through June 28. The idea is that you spend one hour a day for those seven days sewing handmade items for your children. I've participated in the past and it's been a lot of fun. This time around, I'm going to be happy if I can finish up the five pairs of pajama pants I have for Hannah. This year's theme is "traveling." More information can be found on their website if you're interested in joining - as well as links to many wonderful children's clothing patterns (many of which are free!).

Friday, June 12, 2015

Friday Favorites: Go Anywhere Bag

A round up of some of my favorite bags made from Anna of Noodlehead's Go Anywhere Bag pattern. I have made this bag three times and loved every one of them. Since I've been carrying them for years, it's about time I make another one as mine looks, let's just say, very loved! You can buy Anna's pattern here.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

My go-to breakfast

This homemade Egg McMuffin has been my go-to breakfast as of late. When my mom was visiting following the birth of Ella, she brought up a dozen pre-made muffins - we kept some in the fridge for quick eating and put the rest in the freezer. I loved how handy they were for quick meals in the morning while balancing a baby in the other hand. When I visited my mom a couple weeks ago, I bought all the ingredients and had her whip me up a batch to take home.

Since being back home, I've made two more batches - half with english muffins and half with plain bagels. The ingredients are really simple:
- 1 dozen eggs
- 1 package english muffins
- 1 package plain bagels
- 1 package sliced cheese of your choice
- 1 lbs. sliced lunch meat

To prepare, separate muffins and bagels and place cheese and meat on one side. Fry up the eggs, taking care to break the yolk (you don't want it runny in this case). Add egg to muffin or bagel. Allow to cool, then wrap up individually with plastic wrap and either place directly in the fridge or in a Ziplock bag in the freezer. Then, as you need them, simply defrost them one by one by placing in the fridge. I usually pull out what I need the night before and they're ready to go by morning. To serve, simply unwrap and microwave for 50-60 seconds. Preparing a dozen of these takes only minutes and gives me a week's worth of healthy breakfasts - well worth the time investment.

And the best part, the ingredients cost only about $15 ... so your cost per meal is roughly $1.25. Much cheaper and healthier than you could get at McDonalds!