Friday, March 28, 2014

A couple of treats

Lately, I have been thinking about how becoming a mother has changed something fundamental in me. I am still trying to find the words, but Lauren and Bits and Peaces have expressed some of it quite well:
"Having a baby made me free. Free to say no, to say yes, to live directly in the moment. (...). I feel like I have a firm grip on what exactly is important and what is not."

" And then? Motherhood. I began to chafe against the role of being “the one” who goes to takes the baby to bed while everyone else stays up and enjoys themselves. I cringed at having to give up my own meal to take care of my baby.... The new me has no room for selfishness. Because, frankly, even though I didn’t feel like I could push him out, the truth is – I did. And even though the breastfeeding seemed inhumanely hard – it is now one of my favorite interactions with my baby. And even though I may not like being “the one” who does the majority of the work – I’m learning to do it. And the major difference is I am learning to do these things and be these things innately, minus the resentment or frustration." 
I have become efficient. I no longer worry about irrelevant things, procrastinate doing the dishes of the day until the last possible second before starting to cook again or lose inordinate amounts of time reading one article, after another, watching videos and pictures of cats.  But I get tired, and lack of sleep makes me very irritable and short-tempered. I particularly remember one evening, after we'd had visits, crying in Mark's arms about how I got to do all the work, all the time, and how it was everyone else who got to enjoy our baby, to hold her when she was calm and peaceful. It was my own particular drama about how everyone forgets the mom (and though I cringe as I write this down, and it is certainly not my proudest moment, the feeling is not unusual).

And then there was the day where a very dear aunt pretty much forced me to go out of the house without baby Yu, since she's been home with us, for the first time, for fun. She took us to the  Royal Theater Carré in Amsterdam, to watch a ballet on the beauty of life. It was hard. It meant I didn't get to breastfeed her for at least 2 feedings in a row... and I had ringing in my ears all the advice I'd read about how you should not ever use a bottle before 3 months. And I had to disconnect and release the bond and trust that everything was going to be fine, because she was in the best hands that she could be in (her dad's).

That's when I started feeling like my old, old self again. I got to dress up, wear a pretty blouse, read a book in the train. And just for fun I painted my nails coral and I wear stripey-sandals around the house, in my pretend summer.

This is a non-sponsored post part of the Give yourself a Raise campaign of Raise. (Raise is a new marketplace to buy and sell gift cards on the web.  With the extra money you can save on discount gift cards to your favorite brands, you can spend more on the things you love.) The campaign focuses on the importance of rewarding yourself for all the hard work you put in every day, of taking time out for you!  Whether it be something as simple as indulging in your favorite dessert, or buying a new pair of shoes...  

What are your favorite ways to treat yourself? Sometimes a book and a cup of tea can make all the difference. And I could spend hours and hours in a bookstore. Now if only I could learn how to do the Smokey-eye makeup...

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Cloth diapering: 7 weeks in

 Last time I wrote about cloth diapers, we were still undecided as to what we would do (whether to go for disposable diapers or something else) for the first couple of months  until she fits her Bumgenius Elementals*. After reading your advice  and researching a bit more, we decided to go for the simplest option, that would allow for some versatility as well: prefolds (also known as flats).

We went for 20 cotton prefolds in size small and 4 PUL covers**, all of which are supposed to fit her from 2.5 to 5.5 kg (from 5 to 12 lb). We also got 2 wet-bags (to put the dirty diapers in the diaper bag when going out), 2 mesh-laundry bags (for the diaper pail), 5 rolls of flushable stay-dry liners, 6 Snappis, some neutral-non-enzymatic powder detergent and a nappy bucket.

For now, we are folding the diapers using the origami fold, where most of the absorbancy is in the center all the way from the front to the back. It is quite easy: you fold the diaper in 4, then take a corner and 'pull' it to the other extreme, turn the diaper around and fold the remaining piece in three. Of course you wouldn't understand anything by reading my explanation. Like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so here is one:

 After we fold the diaper, we lay a flushable-liner square in the center of each diaper and voilà, they are ready to use. I thought folding and prepping the diapers was going to be lots of work, but it actually goes quite fast, it's something we do while watching TV or hanging out in the couch and talking.

As for the washing, it really does turn out that with a baby you are doing laundry all-the-time anyway, so it really isn't more work to throw them to the laundry every day and a half or so. Actually, in our specific case, it would be more work to walk out the house to empty the diaper pail, than it is to walk to the washing machine at the end of the hallway. We have a high-efficiency washing machine, that does not allow a soaking program, so we start with a cold rinse, then we do a hot wash cycle with 2 scoops of powder detergent and after that we put them in the dryer or, when the sun is shining like it has been in The Netherlands this last few days, we hang them in the balcony to air dry. The sun really does miracles. We have had a few stained diapers, but the star-closest-to-us bleaches everything and the diapers end up stark white, disinfected (UV light kills nasty germs) and ready to use. Afer about a month of using them though, even when they looked and smelled clean after washing and drying them, they started to smell really strong of ammonia as soon as she soaked them just a bit, so we stripped them (as advised by cottonbabies): again starting with a cold rinse, followed by a hot wash (90ºC) with a tablespoon of Dawn dishwasher detergent, and finally by a second hot-wash without detergent. It was like magic, they worked as new.

We are really, really happy with our cloth diapers so far. They contain the mess really well (we haven't experienced [yet] the famous, explosive, breastfeeding-poop blowouts) and we've only had leaks a few times, when we accidentally left a bit of fabric sticking out of the diaper cover, or when baby Yu slept really long (4.5 - 5 hrs) and the cotton could not absorb any more.We are still learning, so the times when we have gone out for the whole day we have used disposable diapers. Also, the first 25 days of her life, when she was at the hospital she was on disposable diapers the whole time.

We wash the  shells by hand once a day, or occasionally more often, when they are dirty or too moist,  but it is quite a fast process. She has not had a diaper rash (cross our fingers), but since we are using the stay-dry flushable liners we are allowed to use creams, and sometimes we use a little bit of white Vaseline on her bum. My mom did use cloth diapers (the terry type) with me and my brother (not my sister) and she says that diaper rash will inevitably happen to babies at one point or another regardless of the diaper (she used both types, disposables on my sis).

We decided to use the biodegradable paper liners that get thrown away in the toilet, as because of the way our toilet is built we could not install a sprayer and we like the principle that the paper lets pass the moisture so that the baby stays a bit drier than if it was sitting directly on its stools.

She is growing fast, so we are figuring out new ways of folding the diapers, and just very recently have started experimenting with the Kite fold, with a small piece of folded-cotton acting as an in-layer. This makes the whole thing quite bulky, so we are hoping to find some alternative folds that will be trimmer.

 Does anyone have any advice or experience?


*Pieces of Anna  wrote good overview on her experience using and taking care of the Bumgenius Elementals,

**We got the Rikki diaper covers from Mother-Ease, two in small and two extra-small in the "Oceans", "The Wetlands", "Rainforest" and "Asia" patterns. They work really well and they are super cute, I particularly love the turquoise one as it reminds me of Finding Nemo.

For those of you in The Netherlands, we got all of our diaper supplies at KaatjeKatoen, and we were impressed by the quality of the service. Before making our decision we visited one of their consultants, who are all over the country and provide free advice. She showed us the diapers and explained the different systems. She was also available to answer our questions by email all along. When we finally ordered the diapers got to us really fast (in a matter of three days). When I was researching I found another two shops that sell cloth diapers in Holland: Babybum and Bumaround, with more or less the same pricing. But Babybum was not able to offer advice at the moment we needed them and I only found out about Bumaround weeks after we had already made our decision, through an ad in a pamphlet that came in a goodie box.

Images of the diaper folds via Blueberry diapers. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Who inspires you to be healthy?

I've written a couple of times about my struggle with exercising. I know I should move around a bit, I know my body needs the movement to stay strong and fit. There was the time I tried to start running and it didn't really work, then that time where we took dance classes for a semester but it was more fun than exercise.  I have yet to write about how I had big plans on taking pregnancy yoga lessons and never had the courage to actually move off the couch and head to the gym. So when the American Recall Center contacted me to ask if I would be willing to write a post for their 'Who keeps you healthy?' campaign I decided to participate.

The idea is to talk about our “Health Heroes”, those who keep us healthy: your gym buddy who motivates you to show up every day, your dog who requires to be walked and keeps you active, a loved one who needs you in their lives for a long time, your kids who keep you young and playful.

I had to think long and hard to find my health hero. I kind of have us covered on the eating healthy part of the equation. I enjoy cooking and I research and try to choose the best ingredients, to find new ways to incorporate vegetables every day, to make sure our diet is varied, starting with breakfast. Like I've said, exercising is the mountain. But I want to be able to continue walking the cities of the World... and age affects us all. I was thinking all these things when it came to me, my health heroes.

There are two people in my life, a dear uncle and my father in law who are both aged 65+ and are the healthiest, fittest people I know. They go on long walks and hikes and if you see them moving you wouldn't know their age. They climb mountains and hills, they get groceries up and down steep streets every day, twice a day. When I think (yet another time) about starting some kind of exercise routine I think of them and I think of our future, older selves and I get the motivation I need.

Who are your health heroes? What inspires you to be healthy? Are you succeeding at it? Any tips?
This is a non-sponsored post written for the "Who keeps you healthy campaign" of the American Recall Center, a site devoted to providing health and wellness news in simple, straightforward terms, to help readers take complete charge of their health by being fully informed. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Childbirth in The Netherlands: The midwifery system

 If you live in The Netherlands you have for sure heard the childbirth-related horror stories that circulate among expats. How midwives are very "hippie" and "natural" in their approach. How they promote births at home as if this was the best (and preferable) way, how they will try and convince you to do things in a certain way, sometimes against your wishes. How you might be denied access to an epidural, or instead of being provided with pain-relief options you would be encouraged to "take it" because you can and your body is made for it. I personally heard stories like these from girls I know and I saw a couple of birth videos that made me very scared of such a system. I like to be able to research and then take my own decisions, not to be pushed in one way or another.

When I heard the word midwife (partera in Spanish), what came to mind was an old, wise lady who would come to your place with buckets of boiling water, herbs and plenty of towels. I do believe that during childbirth the most important thing is feeling safe, however that is and whatever that means for each of us. This can mean different things for different women because we are all unique.

I have to say I was quite pleasantly surprised with the whole experience. First of all in The Netherlands, a priori, you do not get to choose the type of care you'll get. If your pregnancy is considered low risk*, you will be followed by a midwife, period. Only in cases where there is a medical reason or risk factor or if a situation arises are you transferred to medical care. Moreover, because it is a social system (for which we'll be eternally grateful), being followed by a midwife does not mean that you will see the same midwife during all your appointments, or even guarantees that you will know who will be there at the moment of birth. The midwives, same as the rest of the medical professionals work in teams and you get cared by whomever is on call at the moment.

The choice you do have is whether you give birth at home or at the hospital. Because of my background and my rational nature I feel a lot safer in a medical environment. I understand people are afraid of the "coldness" of a hospital, but for me it's quite the opposite. Needles, medicines, monitors and an environment full of medically trained, experienced workers suit me best (the relative anonymity of the care was going to be a factor anyway, as there is no personalized care as such over here).  So we chose a midwife practice that only did births at the hospital. I wanted a hospital birth anyway, and we did not really want to deal with the mess at home either; but after reading a few articles we decided it was the safer option for us. Research shows that "among women having their first pregnancy who opted for a home birth, 45% were transferred to hospital before or after delivery". Considering this information and knowing that in case of an emergency the time it would take to get to the hospital in the midst of the birth process could potentially be life threatening or have life altering consequences, we did not want to take any chances.(And yes, things that happen to less than 5% of the population can happen to anyone. Even if you are (or seem) perfectly healthy. Even if there are no signs or risk factors that would pinpoint to such a situation).

To my surprise, in The Netherlands midwifes are trained 3-4 years, at a technical level (HBO), as regulated by the Royal Dutch Organization of midwives (KNOV). (Yes, my mental image of a midwife was quite different from reality). Each and every midwife that cared for us (well, with one exception) was very knowledgeable, kind, nice and always took the time to answer our questions and make us feel comfortable. Even if I ended up being transferred to gynaecological care at the last moment, (though I went back to midwife care for the recovery period), I was quite happy with the care we received. I do have to say that the Dutch system works under very specific premises that are perhaps not transposable to other countries:

a). -first of all, only low-risk pregnancies and births can be handled by midwives. This is ensured by a very carefully thought of selection protocol (triage)* in which high-risk cases are carefully cared for by obstetricians. and, more importantly,
b). -the system considers the distance from a home to a nearby hospital and other conditions in the household (such as whether there are stairs or elevators, the height of the bed, etc.). If certain requirements are not met, you are not allowed to have a home birth, because it should always be possible to get to the hospital in a short period of time. I can not imagine this being possible in a country like Mexico, where distances between places can be quite big and services spread around a large area.

Even if I was reluctant to have to give birth the "Dutch way" (to put it mildly), I am grateful for such a system, and for anyone out there who'll be going through this, I would say:

- don't listen (only) to the scary stories, it's always the loudest voices that make the noise, but they do not necessarily reflect everyone's experience.
-don't be afraid, but do research your options so that you'll find a practice that adapts to your needs and personality, as every midwifery practice has their own philosophy and way of working.


 * "The principle idea is that a healthy woman with a healthy pregnancy (low-risk) is best  taken care of by a midwife.  Emphasis is placed on natural processes, with intervention only occurring when a problem arises. In this case, the midwife will consult or refer to an obstetrician.This optimises the risk selection and referral and is formulated  in a dialogue between primary, secondary and tertiary care professionals. A comprehensive list of preexisting,pregnancy-and perinatal-related disorders exists,in which:

A. the care of a primary care midwife is considered sufficient (eg. Previous miscarriages, previous premature birth (>33 weeks), cystitis.)
B. an obstetrician should be consulted (eg. Anaemia, Preeclampsia, psychiatric illnesses, hepatitis C).
C. the care definitely has to be shifted to an obstetrician (eg.  Diabetes mellitus, previous C-Section (from the 37thweek of pregnancy), >24 hours of ruptured membranes, meconium-stained liquor, breech birth,multiple birth, third or fourth degree tear.)
 D. the natal care should be given in a hospital but can be supervised by a primary care midwife (eg.
Previous Postpartum Hemorrhague (>1L), previous retained placenta (manually removed)"

Excerpt from the information pamphlet: Midwifery in The Netherlands by Myrte de Geus. 2012. KNOV (Royal Dutch Organization of  Midwives). Available here:
 Alternative versus conventional institutional settings for birth. Ellen D. Hodnett, Soo Downe, Denis Walsh, Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth group.  2012.

Perinatal and maternal outcomes by planned place of birth for healthy women with low risk pregnancies: the Birthplace in England national prospective cohort study. Brocklehurst P. National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit. University of Oxford British Medical Journal 2011; 343 doi: BMJ 2011;343:d7400


Images via: here, here, here, here, here and here

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Finding her baby crib in Ghent

Thanks for the cute lovey Anna

 When we were looking for bits and pieces to decorate Yu's nursery we pretty quickly realized that we were not going to go for ready-made baby room combinations. We found they were a). crazy expensive and b). pretty boring (the options were white, gray, black and variations of wood). As you can probably imagine we wanted some colour in her life. However, colourful items are tend to be called "design" and priced accordingly.

We of course looked at the Swedish place. Our backup option was the STUVA crib which at least had pretty green cabinets, bonus points for extra storage room and the ability to turn into a toddler bed, but at €167 it was still quite pricey.

Then, as we were walking the streets of Ghent (we spent a couple of hours there, back in October, on our way back from Paris), we found the cutest little baby shop: Monsters with an attitude. That's where we saw a pretty red crib. We took a photo, to keep it in mind, though at €295 it was still out of our desired budget. It was from the Bopita mix & match series.

 And then Mark did what all Dutch people do when they are looking for a bargain: he turned to Marktplaats. Voilà, magic. With a quick search he found the crib of our dreams, in red or light blue, NEW, at a fourth of its selling price because a shop in Utrecht was having an end-of-line sale. So we went and after looking at it in person, we ordered it at the moment. We are so happy with its lovely light aqua blue, we can not wait for her to start sleeping there and we hope she will like it.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Advice to young little women, on International Woman Day

One year ago, I was in Crowborough, East Sussex, taking a cake-decorating class. It was invigorating to take a trip all by myself after getting used to travelling with the boy every single time. On my way back, while waiting for the train that would take me back to the airport, there was a charity sale where I got a couple of books for a pound. One of those books was: "Ten girls that changed the world", and I bought it on a whim for our-yet-to-come kid. Today, the book sits in her small bookshelf, waiting for her to be able to read the stories of remarkable women like Helen Keller, among others. In the meantime, head over to Any Other Woman to read advice from us "older" women to a new generation of girls on "how to be a woman". There will be a new post every half an hour, all day long. Mine's here, but I am certain there will be pearls of wisdom coming all day long.

What would you tell the next generation of girls? What have you learned that is worth passing on?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Out and about

 Yesterday we went out for  a walk with baby Yu for the first time in her life. We had been out twice before, both times to appointments with the paediatrician and health center, but this was the first time we went out like a family of three, enjoying the sunshine and the blue skies (Sunshine! Blue Skies!).

Yup, Spring really is (almost) here, I just love the fresh air and watching nature come back from its long sleep with such strong force. I painted my toenails in a bright coral just to celebrate. And of course we had pancakes for dinner.

Last Monday, March 3 would have been my due date. Our little one's being growing a lot: she now weighs 3,546 grams and measures 50 cm., straight on average for a 40-week old. It is such a relief to see that she is doing well and that we are slowly allowed to do the activities that every family does since the beginning (I still have to write about the hectic start to her life, running around back and forth while pumping, recovering and trying to convince myself that I hadn't completely lost my mind, that what I was experiencing was just pretty extreme tiredness).

I hope you don't mind if I write tons of pregnancy and baby-related stuff for a while. I do plan on writing some of the January Joy posts that I had prepared as well, including a couple of recipes. I just have to find the time.

Thanks for all your kind comments to my last posts, I promise I will get to answer them soon.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...