the 4th trimester



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let us discuss the 4th trimester, shall we?

much like the weird pregnancy math where 40 weeks = 9 months, there is another bizarre mathematical occurrence known by new mamas as the 4th trimester. in so many ways, it is the very best time. but this wonderful season can also be strange and awkward.

you are done with the business of growing of baby, all the glowing anticipation has worn off. the bump yields a baby but leaves you with a deflated, waist-less and squishy midsection. your belly button looks all wonky. your hips are all spread out. there can be tiger stripes left behind or a slowly fading linea nigra. and then there is the lovely recovery stuff. and the milk production. and hormones.

i think that more time should be spent talking about all this particular time of “pregnancy”. we read and talk so much about what your body does and what you need to do in order to be healthy and at your best for trimester 1, 2, 3…but what about taking care of yourself in the few months after baby arrives? what about what to expect after you are expecting? honestly, that’s when it can be the toughest. you have a new baby and your body is healing and recovering and you may have other little ones at home and a job to return to and a husband that you want to have time for and…and… it is a lot. and i think there needs to be an equal amount of support and care and attention paid to the 12 weeks postpartum as we do the rest of pregnancy. it really is a 52 week deal. so, i can do that math. that’s a year. growing the baby, birthing the baby, and then caring for baby and adjusting and “bouncing back”.

it is SO amazing what God created the body to do. to change and adapt to sustain a life and birth a life and care for a life. but man, it can be a messy thing. a major upheaval. an adjustment. i have been blessed with two healthy and easy pregnancies and two natural births, resulting in two healthy, beautiful babies. and i have also had it pretty good in the postpartum department. i felt invigorated and powerful and amazing after giving birth. and i healed well too. with ridley, i felt rested and healed almost immediately. and everything was pretty much back to normal after about three weeks. so, no complaints here. but in many ways, things were anything but “back to my normal self”.

for me, the 4th trimester is definitely the most eventful. it is such fun to see a growing baby bump but the shrinking baby jelly belly isn’t as glamorous. even though i felt really good after baby, i also didn’t feel all the way like me. and that is mostly because i have ridiculous expectations. i shouldn’t expect to be just like i was before baby but a part of me really really wanted to be that, like now. i was very impatient. and i have had to learn to extend some grace to myself in this particular area. and be patient. darn you, patience. i want it my way right now!

there is also a part of me that thinks, “hey God, if you can create the female body to assist you in creating a miracle…can’t you make all that pregnancy stuff vaporize once the baby arrives? i mean, i know that you made it so that the body stores fat to have some reserves for feeding the baby. BUUUUUT, we don’t exactly live in a hunter-gatherer-wanderer-famine society. i don’t really need those reserves. if baby needs fat, i have plenty of tasty sources for all that. cheese. ice cream. butter. peanut butter. et cetera. so, you could probably make it so my hips and thighs just drop those pounds, okay? thanks.”

come on, who’s with me? there’s gotta be some kind of postpartum heavenly petition we can sign…

so, here’s the deal. i have 10 pounds to go to get back to my prepregnancy self. and they are stubborn little buggers. i lost 20 pounds within the first couple of weeks after giving birth to ridley and then, those last pounds just seem to want to hang on for dear life. based on last time, i know that i lost a big chunk right after birth and then held onto about 15 pounds until i hit the 3 month mark. then, they started falling off. the 12 week mark is a magical one that triggers a metabolic shift (which is somewhat linked to breastfeeding) that tells the body, okay, you can let go now. those first weeks seem to be about survival and establishing a new normal. once your body feels okay with things, it starts to release some of those reserves. yay! and once i get within 3-5 pounds of my prepregnancy weight, i am essentially there. those last pounds are 100% breastfeeding and will drop off in due time. (more on breastfeeding below).

so, here’s what’s been happening around here in the self-care department:

i took the first four weeks off from any exercise with the exception of some walking and light stretching. this was to give my abs time to come back together and, well, because it was a nice break from the norm. but i got back into exercise as soon as my body felt up to it. and once ridley was sleeping through the night, he kind of took away my “but i need my sleep” excuses…

my initial workouts were home based exercises. my go-to insanity stuff. that made it easy to just pop in a DVD and work up a nice sweat for 30 minutes. i could go at my pace and it was flexible. it felt good to get some endorphins flowing. it helped me clear my head and gave me an energy boost. not to mention, it helped me feel like i was strengthening my body. the goal was to get moving and get back into a nice routine. i wanted to jump back in before i got too comfortable… this also helped jumpstart the dropping of those final pounds. i wanted to attack those guys early on so they didn’t get too comfortable either.

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now that the seasons are shifting and we are shifting ridley’s schedule to 7:30pm-7:30am, it is the perfect time to get back into early morning runs. (plus, i got myself a new pair of shoes and some rocking earbuds that i don’t need to adjust at all. game changers.) i can wake up early and get in a pumping session (running after a full night of zero feedings is well, no bueno) before hitting the pavement. that gives me time to get in 4-6 miles, depending on the day, and get back home with enough time to stretch and hydrate and shower before i wake ridley for his morning feeding.

but enough about exercise. food. nutrition. that’s really like 75% of postpartum. i have been eating a lot to nourish myself and the little man. focusing on super foods and ample calories. breastfeeding burns anywhere from 300-700 calories a day so with that burn plus my workouts, i need to keep my caloric numbers up to keep myself satisfied and healthy and to support milk production. plenty of plants and nuts and seeds. all the fats. all the protein. lots of smoothies and eggs and avocado and green juices and kombucha. plus, i take my raw prenatal and krill oil to give me a boost. good nutrition gives me good energy and healthy milk for a growing man. so, no skimping in the calorie department. plus, i am ravenous when i am breastfeeding. the plan seems to be working well since ridley is packing on the pounds and i am feeling healthy and vigorous and balanced. speaking of balance: you gotta enjoy some pastries and chocolate on occasion. and some creamy coffee and a fun adult beverage here and there. #treatyoself

my other random postpartum musts?

get some sunshine. that vitamin D is essential. immediate mood-booster and immune-booster (and helps baby with the bilirubin levels, early on).

buy yourself a few fun wardrobe additions. things that you can wear during those initial awkward weeks that will smooth your transition from bump to baby. shoes or comfy-cute dresses or a fab statement accessory. whatever will make you feel a little more normal and polished.

speaking of polish…buy yourself a new nail color or lipstick. little things can go a long way. a fresh manicure or a pop of color on your lips can make you feel fab even if you are dealing with diapers and spit up.

oh, and dry shampoo. thank goodness for dry shampoo. and while you are at it, master the art of the topknot.

finally, find a way to make dates happen. even it is a coffee date or brunch or an afternoon outing or something after bedtime. carve out some time to be you and your spouse again. laugh, talk, cry, dream, plan. take time to be you, sans baby, with your man. it will do wonders for pretty much everything.

xo.

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the story of ridley’s birth

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thursday, june 18. ben’s alarm went off around 5:00am, as usual. he whispered that he didn’t want to work out but would rather have some early morning relaxing time with me and some coffee before the day began. sounded good. we went downstairs and settled into the couch for about 45 minutes of quiet time together. around 6:00am, as ben was getting ready to shower and head off to work, i started feeling a little “off”. he asked me a couple of times if i was okay and i told him i just felt a little funny, that’s all.

as he was walking out the door at 6:30am, he gave me a final, “are you sure?” and i assured him that i was fine and nothing was happening yet. so, the day moved on.

i did my morning reading and then pulled out my computer to do some work before elinor woke. on this particular morning, elinor slept way past her usual 7:30am/8:00am…probably because she was out partying the night before while ben and i were out celebrating our anniversary. 8:45am rolled around and i went in to wake her. around that time, i started feeling kind of crampy and experienced some twinges in my lower back. i knew something was going on but it was nothing intense enough for me to think it was actual labor. mild sensations. and honestly, i thought it was just final weeks of pregnancy discomfort. i brought elinor into my room and decided to take a warm shower to see if that would make me feel more like myself. the shower was nice but the tightening continued.

around 9:00am, ben texted me and asked if anything had changed. i replied that something might be happening. he (astutely) replied that he was going to wrap things up and work from home so that he could be here just in case.

elinor and i went downstairs together and had some breakfast. and shortly after 10:00am, ben returned home. and i set up shop on the couch to try to rest and see if things progressed or calmed. at about 10:30am, the tightening became much more intense. really strong, in fact. and it took me by surprise. the surges were coming on top of each other. i got up and started to sway and walk and rock. i got my birth playlist going and tried to settle in. i put my calming blend of essential oils on the palms of my hands, rested my face in my hands, and breathed it in. i tried to time things but i couldn’t get a grip on it. i would have a super strong surge lasting for about a minute and then another 3 minutes later that wasn’t as bad and only lasted 30 seconds. then another weak one and then another that was intense. i convinced myself that i just needed to get my body to settle into a rhythm, that this wasn’t active labor because there wasn’t a clear pattern or progression. there wasn’t a 30 second surge then a ten minute break – 45 second surge then an 8 minute break – 60 second surge then a five minute break – 60 second surge then a five minute break – 60 second surge then a five minute break… it all felt sudden and erratic. it felt like my body was just freaking out and doing crazy things that weren’t actually productive, just painful. unlike elinor’s birth, i didn’t have time to get into it and focus. this time, it just started up and very quickly, i was in the thick of it and didn’t even know it. i couldn’t get ahead of the surges. there was no time for relaxing. it was just, happening. i focused on breathing deeply and working with each surge to help my body to open. i swayed and rocked. the tulip chair in our living room was my home base. i would squat and sway during breaks and then bend over the chair and breathe during surges. the sensations were familiar but it was happening much differently. i kept convincing myself that i needed to get my body to relax and settle into a productive pattern. at about 11:30am, ben knew that things were getting real. he asked me about contractions and timing and how i was feeling. he reminded me that we didn’t really want an unintentional home birth and needed time to get to the birth center and get set up. i told him that we should probably call my parents and ask them to come over so they could be here with elinor.

around noon, my parents arrived. i was back on the couch, attempting to force my contractions to settle. bahaha! delirious lady in labor. around that time, i called the birth center and told them what was happening. they were calm and told me to come in whenever. and i totally downplayed the whole thing, as i am wont to do, so i don’t think they were expecting us until WAAAAY later. at about 12:30pm, i announced that we should probably just go to the birth center and, you know, just hang out there for “all the rest” of the labor. my mom said that she would put elinor down for her nap and then make her way over to the birth center after. again, we were all being pretty casual about it. my bad.

ben and i grabbed our stuff and between the heavy and constant surges, made our way to the car. ben (ever so practically) put a towel down on the seat for me. we were on the road for about five minutes (of the 13 minute drive) when i felt overcome. i couldn’t get comfortable. i was overwhelmed. i wanted to cry. i told myself that i didn’t think i could do it… and then, it hit me. oh my gosh. i am in transition. i remember these exact sensations and emotions from labor with elinor. oh my gosh, we are REALLY REALLY close. how did i let it come to this? why didn’t i go sooner? are we even going to make it? and then, quite suddenly, i felt the baby shift and with it came intense pressure. my body began to bear down. i started grunting deeply. those familiar earthy, raw, gut sounds of a woman pushing. i was pushing. pushing a baby out. in the car. i told ben that i was pushing. and he pushed the pedal down.

we walked into the birth center shortly before 1:00pm. one of the midwives escorted me to the birthing suite and told me to get situated and they would check me. ben went to get stuff out of the car… and i folded over the side of the bed and bore down. another midwife said, “oh rachel, you are pushing. i don’t think we need to check anything. this baby is almost here”. almost here. what? is this real? but, i had only listened to five songs on my extensive birth playlist! i didn’t even heat up the crock pot with warm towels that my mom brought for me…

the midwives jumped into action and filled the tub for me. i breathed into a few more surges with ben applying counter-pressure to my hips. once the tub was filled, i climbed in as quickly as possible. forget all the birth clothes that i had packed. my bathing suit etc. hurray for being over prepared. and oh, the water felt so good. it immediately relived the pressure. it helped me to be calm and focus on what i was doing. the midwives gave me oxygen to help support the pushing and keep baby happy. i gripped ben’s hands as each surge gripped me. it was intense. unrelenting. one after another. my body tightened and pushed and squeezed. i breathed and grunted like a wild woman. deep and intense sounds. with the occasional howl. i knew he was close. i knew it would be over soon. but, it seemed like it would never end.

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my very favorite midwife was there with us. encouraging me and pushing me. instructing me on how and what and why. helping me to focus my energy properly. i became more productive with each push. she helped me feel the baby’s head – so close, right there – it strengthened me. and she informed me that my sac hadn’t broken yet. she said that she would leave it intact. it meant more pressure but it also meant a nice cushion for baby. then, she looked at me and told me that it was time. it was time to get the job done. i needed to work with those powerful surges and move baby out. two more pushes and he emerged – en caul – into the water. the sac was peeled away while i grabbed him and brought him out of the water and onto my chest.

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at 1:28pm, he was here. about three hours from the onset of real labor. and about thirty minutes of pushing and thirty minutes after our arrival at the birth center.

relief. joy. bliss. tears. laughter. all the oxytocin goodness at once.

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i got out of the tub and climbed into the bed for some cuddling and nursing. our little man was here. he was perfect and sweet. and long! he was so different from elinor. yet there were glimmers of familiarity. it was like i already knew him. and yet, it was all so new. this new little life to discover. our son.

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my mom arrived at the birth center and was able to meet her grandson… none of that birth stuff to deal with, just happy hormones and new baby smell and squeaks. we stayed at the center to do all the new baby paperwork and measuring and checking and to revel in the moment. it was such a sweet time to just enjoy our little man. he was healthy and perfect. and i was floating. i was so relieved to have him in my arms. and i was so amazed at what had just taken place. so surreal. such happiness.

and a couple of hours later, we returned home.

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upon our arrival, we were greeted by an exuberant elinor. she went down for her nap and woke up as a big sister! what a cool afternoon.

the evening was spent with family getting to meet this new little man. and a big burger for me. with buckets of water and some kombucha and cold pressed juice. all the liquids.

we passed the baby and soaked up those fresh moments. it was such a remarkable, whirlwind few hours and such a tremendous day. our little ridley noble whitehouse. when he decided to make his way into the world, he did it in a bold way. he was no nonsense. he was strong and particular. he didn’t make a huge fuss when he arrived, he didn’t make a lot of noise, but he did it with intensity. i know he will be quite a force. but a gentlemanly one at that. oh how we all love our little prince. we trust that he will be used mightily. he has already done grand things in our hearts and home.

1 peter 2:9

but you are a chosen race, a noble priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

bébé numéro deux | 1 week old

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baby boy has been here for one whole week and we are all officially smitten. he is just the dreamiest. he is a bit of a leisurely eater but is learning to pick up the pace. he has pee’d pretty much everywhere as his parents work to figure out this whole diapering a boy business. he has lost his umbilical stump so there is a legit bellybutton now. he poops a billion times a day and usually while he is eating – stuff goes in and stuff comes out. he has a quiet little whimper cry that he likes to use when he is displeased with something (which isn’t too often. again, he’s the dreamiest). he loves to give his mama little hugs while burping and hold hands while eating. he thinks his papa is fascinating and funny and likes to mess with his beard. he gets so tickled by his big sister and stares at her sweetly. he has the longest arms and legs…and feet. he has the coolest widow’s peak. he has deep, dark, blue eyes that are ever so intense. he has the pinkest skin. he loves to be held tightly while he curls up like a little frog. he seems to enjoy mama’s lullaby and hymn singing during nighttime feedings. he likes to sleep on his side, all swaddled up. and he loves to sleep, in general.

baby boy has gained some solid weight since birth and is currently 6lbs 14 ounces. good job, buddy. he is letting his mama get some solid sleep too which is just grand. everyone is healthy and over the moon delighted.

life is good. God is good. we are so grateful for our family. and it just gets better each day.

soli deo gloria.

bébé numéro deux | 39 weeks

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progress & countdown: 39 weeks down & 7 days to go. one week. ANYtime. my pregnancy countdown posts with elinor only went to 39 weeks because she was born on her due date so…this could be the last one for ridley. CRAZINESS.

baby size: a mini-watermelon.

food & drink: same stuff, for the most part. BUT we added some extra tasty room service breakfast and fancy-schmany resort dinners to the mix over the weekend. and it was amazing. i really went for it to give baby a final caloric and flavor boost before he enters the world.

bump stuff: it is just so big. this last month has been so wild. everything has doubled in size, i’m pretty sure. and since he is shifting down into position, i have this super funny belly ridge at the top of the bump that is a total shelf before, pop…ball of baby.

highs: wrapping up projects at work and around the house so we can feel more settled and ready (did you hear that? ready. we are ready.) AND being able to enjoy a resort weekend to give us the feel of a little staycation-celebration-babymoon. just a little chunk of time at our favorite oasis to sleep in a hotel and have other people cook for us and watch some TV at night and enjoy the spa and pool. the good life. 

lows: oh, just the last weeks of pregnancy stuff. it isn’t always a picnic but i am grateful that my body is getting ready. that means, home stretch!!!! almost done. almost baby time.

new developments: baby is just waiting to greet the world. he may measure about 20 inches long and weigh over 7 pounds. (boys tend to be slightly heavier than girls. yup. that is absolutely true, from what i can see and feel.) baby is busy building a layer of fat to help control body temperature after birth and the outer layers of skin are sloughing off as new skin forms underneath. 

meaningful moments & hormones & feelings: i am beyond grateful that he has stayed put this long. and i am also eager to get this show on the road and meet our little man! i hope that he joins us in the next few days… and it could totally happen! i just want to know when. sheesh. what a lesson in patience and control and submission.

superficial stuff: you know, feeling pregnant. the belly is crazy. the weather is heating up. and i am just doing whatever it takes to stay comfy and cool. and let me tell you…floating around in a lazy river at the pool is my very favorite thing. amazing weightlessness! i think that every pregnant lady should get some kind of water/pool/ocean/river/buoyant/weightless situation to go along with pregnancy. it feels so good, especially in those final weeks.

looking forward to: labor…birth…BABY!

celebrating ridley (and elinor too)

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on sunday, our crew went out for dinner at the home of longtime family friends. and we were greeted by this shebang. the sweetest decorations with personal touches galore. and presents presents everywhere! perfect packages with precious notes for our little man affixed. we were pretty overwhelmed by this kind gesture. and, i mean, we were already pretty fired up for just the dinner part (freshly-caught and quick frozen halibut!!! yes please) but to know that additional time and energy had gone into making it a fabulous fete for our little man? that kind of took the evening over the top. an incredible meal with my mom’s famous spice cake paired with presents for dessert…what a splendid way to spend an evening.

there are about a million things that i could share from the evening, but for the sake of this post, i will keep things simple. i will share some pictures of specific gifts in my letter to our little prince…because in addition to cute baby boy outfits and sweet soft cuddle items and all the generous and fabulous baby swag, our Ridley Noble was given some heirlooms and keepsakes and handmade treasures that i want to talk about.

and it must be noted that Elinor Grace made out pretty well too. she ate ALL THE CHOCOLATE and received a sweet playmat that she can place on the floor next to her baby brudder’s playmat. she also received a precious little romper that is simply perfect for summer. and she had such fun bringing boxes to mama and papa to open for her brother. such an eager girl. such a little helper. and she might have swiped a few of Ridley’s pieces…there is a little hat that i haven’t seen in a few hours and the last time i saw it, Elinor had stretched it over her noggin a la skullcap, with her cute curls peeking out the bottom. funny girl.

oh boy! it’s official. we will have a little boy so soon. and what a generous and loving village he will be welcomed into. so many people who pray for him and cherish him and are waiting with open arms to hold him and care for him and play with him and teach him. what a blessing. we are so overwhelmed by God’s goodness and grace…and the sweetness of our friends and family.

bébé numéro deux | 38 weeks

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progress & countdown: 38 weeks down & 14 days to go. two weeks. two weeks.

baby size: as long as a leek. 

food & drink: pretty much the same. mostly focusing on anything easy and refreshing and cooling. pounding a lot of liquids right now. and fruit and veggies and smoothies. toast with peanut butter or avocado has been a favorite. and some eggs for breakfast when the mood strikes. but the days have been pretty light. my appetite kicks in at dinner and before bed…because i think baby boy would rather have plenty to work with in order to pack on those pounds while i am asleep. two of my “cravings” have been raw cacao date balls from kaleidoscope juice and the trail mix cookies from uprooted kitchen.

bump stuff: growing by the day. no joke. this one saved all the bumpage for the last month. elinor filled out toward the end of the second trimester and then gradually added an ounce here and an ounce there. plus, i was bigger and wider and thicker overall so i think things just spread out and settled in with her… but with this little man, wowee! i have a serious ball of baby going on over here. it just sticks right out. and as he has been shifting into final position, my midsection has become ridiculous. a massive bump filled with one solid and active baby boy. goodness.

highs: nesting like a woman possessed – it feels good to get some random stuff done. God knew what He was doing when He built in that biological urge to get the nest ready. it is amazing what i have been able to accomplish with my superpower bursts! a lot of it is not related at all to baby but just tasks or projects that i have neglected that am now checking off my list. i seriously did about seventeen odd jobs in the course of an hour the other day. wahoo for accomplishments! in other news, i passed my GBS screening so that’s good. and we have had quite a few meet-ups and family date nights lately which i am loving. now, if ben and i can manage to slip away for a movie night out before he arrives, we will be living large!

lows: nothing really. i mean, the expected final weeks of pregnancy stuff is obnoxious but it also means that i am in the final weeks of pregnancy and there will be a baby here soon so…

new developments: baby has really plumped up. he weighs around 6.8 pounds as is over 19.5 inches long. the weight, i believe. but the height…we’ll see about all that. baby now has a firm grasp and his organs have matured and are ready for life outside the womb. in some fun facts: if baby is born with brown eyes, they’ll likely stay brown. if he is born with steel gray or dark blue eyes, they may stay gray or blue or turn green, hazel, or brown by the time baby is 9 months old. a child’s irises may gain more pigment in the months after birth but they usually won’t get “lighter” or more blue.

meaningful moments & hormones & feelings: setting aside items for the birth bag + a enjoying a sweet celebration for ridley with family and friends + putting the infant car seat back in the car. overall, i am feeling excited and ready and excited and ready, some more. just playing the waiting game now.

superficial stuff: feeling large and lopsided.

looking forward to: a wonderful work event on the weekend + celebrating our 9 year anniversary (sheesh. nine years and two kids. what are we, grown ups or something?) + and OF COURSE, welcoming a baby whenever that actually happens…