On being postpartum...

Monday, June 30, 2014

Stripes: J. Crew Factory (only $14.50 right now!)
Skirt: J. Crew (factory version here, retail version here)
Shoes: old, similar here

Despite everything that women say about it, the weeks postpartum are kind of like labor: nothing can really prepare you for it. I hit the rut that people talk about this week; the scale decided to stay at a standstill, I'm still just barely squeezing into my pants, and a look in the mirror shows flab where I never had it before and the little squiggly red lines that appeared on the sides of my stomach at 39 weeks pregnant.

It's funny because any time I've mentioned how awful labor was (I'm working on my birth story by the way - just not quite satisfied enough with it to share just yet) or how discouraging the postpartum body changes are, people always respond "Oh, but it's worth it, right?!" Of course it was worth it, 1000 times over. But that doesn't mean that labor wasn't horrible, or that postpartum body changes are more disconcerting than I thought they would be.

Anyways, I was more than thrilled to find this skirt in my closet from last summer which actually fits - thanks to the elastic waist, but I'll take it. Speaking of elastic waists, I just discovered that pull-on (a.k.a. elastic waist) shorts are totally in this summer. Perfect timing for the newly postpartum...I ordered these and these on sale to try, and I also found these from Old Navy.

And this is what Stephen Gabriel and I wore to mass yesterday, so we're linking up with FL&P.

Post-baby style tips (guest post by Mary)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Mary is a mom and personal stylist who blogs over at Atelier. She has the best tips on classy dressing to compliment your complexion and figure, and I'm so happy that she took time out of her crazy busy life as a mom to guest post today.

Erika has so kindly asked me to write a few words on postpartum style. Awhile back, I wrote this post on general tips for dressing postpartum. Today I want to talk about something more specific: tops. Finding tops that I feel comfortable in and that are flattering is my biggest postpartum challenge. After four children, I've discovered that there are certain styles that camouflage and flatter more than others.

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The Wrap / Crossover: Wrap tops and dresses are almost universally flattering. The v-neck creates some negative space around the face, drawing the eye upward. Also, the area around the tummy has a drape that camouflages lumps and bumps.

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The Bubble Hem: This type of top can be dressy or sporty or casual, but it's defining feature is always a fuller hem at the bottom of the shirt. The fullness may come as a result of the fabric being rolled under then hemmed, or a bit of elastic.

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The Optical Illusion: Patterns that continuously repeat like small stripes, polka dots, or chevrons are useful camouflage tools because they keep the eye moving. A well placed wide stripe at the narrow point beneath the chest can create the illusion of a smaller waist. Color blocking can draw the eyes upward. Just remember, finding the perfect optical illusion will usually take some trying on of tops, because where the graphic, patterns, line, etc. falls on your particular frame can make or break the deal.
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The Boyfriend Tee: Basically a tee that has a looser fit. Despite the name, you don't want to just wear your boyfriend's tee shirt. There is a nuance of cut to the women's shirt monikered "boyfriend," that isn't there in the original.

And just a couple other things to keep in mind:

Choose a bra that fits correctly and keeps the ladies up high.

Don't fall into the trap of trying to camouflage your midsection by buying tops in a sizer bigger than you need. It's always better to buy the correct size in a more forgiving cut.

Avoid tops with hems that fall at the widest point of your thighs, because the eye will be drawn to that point. Be especially careful of this with empire cut tops; in my experience this style tends to be longer.

Shoes: A Postpartum Pick-me-up (guest post by Kallah)

Monday, June 23, 2014

I'm thrilled to have the super sweet Kallah here today for a guest post. Be sure to check out her blog, Being Open to Life, for lots of pictures of her adorable little boys and posts on running, style, and life as a young mother.

Hey y’all! My name is Kallah. I have been an admiring reader of Erika’s for a while now… I was sucked in by the J.Crew Everything and I stayed for the sweet lovestory, adorable bump pics, and kind heart of this humble girl. Seriously - she puts me to shame!

Also. I love that, despite her missionary work and general self-effacing generosity, Erika has an appreciation for good quality and stylish taste. Life is all about balance!

I blog over at Being Open to Life… mostly my gushy, rambley reflections on my experiences being a mama at the ripe age of 25. I have two little boys and am SO excited for Erika getting to experience the boy-mom adventure with Baby Stephen.


Post-partum style is tricky. Let me rephrase that. Post-partum everything is tricky. Even in the best of pregnancy weight-gain situations, you generally have to be patient for your hips to shrink back to size; and while for some people breastfeeding seems to suck every ounce of fat off them, for others it is incredibly effective at keeping an extra 5-10 lbs of padding on your body until you wean. I was in the former camp for my first born, the latter for my second. Karma.

Don’t do what some people have done, and freak out at week 7 PP that this is the new normal for your body, and you will never be the same again. Just… wait it out. And look on the brightside. The awesome thing about having to put a hold on the best summer wardrobe of rompers and clingy jersey cotton etc etc while your body settles? SHOES. Some might see spending a good chunk of cash and time on getting the perfect shoe as a waste. I firmly regard it as an investment. See, shoes are not like summer dresses or trendy tops. A shoe that is well-made and well-designed will look good and be stylish for a very long time. The trick is to sift through the ads and decide - what is hype and what is a lasting, tasteful, good shoe investment?

Here I am, in all my unsponsored glory, to answer that question. Because a) one of my biggest passions on my own blog and elsewhere is finding ways to nurture yourself as a mom. And b) so I can play around with my husband’s Bamboo Graphics pen. Oh yes.
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An Instant AND Necessary Self-esteem Boosting Pickmeup for a PostPartum Mama

The first type of shoe you need to have for summer, obbbbviously, is Sporty.

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I had fallen in love with the Supergas as styled in all the J.Crew catalogs the last couple of summers. And yes they are *clay-oven-baked in Italy* to seal them up. Gahhh how sexy are Italians! I can just imagine the roaring fires in gorgeous big brick ovens, as ripped, brown Mediterranean men roast… shoes.


I bought these last summer when everyone else was buying Converse… I have fairly wide, big feet, and I always thought Converse All-Stars looked wayyyy too clownish. Or maybe I’m not hipster enough. Whatever. I love the roundedness of the Superga in contrast - and the fact that it doesn’t have that clowny little rubber lip on the tip of the shoe. This is much more my style.

I bought mine at Piperlime but you can find them at Nordstrom too! (They are sized a little big, btw). What’s Italian for “I wear them so much and I feel cool when I do”? Let me go check Eat Pray Love.

[Seen wearing in that first pic.]

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The second type of shoe you really need for summer is an easy Pretty sandal that gives any outfit a pop. But one that is also understated enough that you will feel comfortable wearing it all the time. My pick for a pretty sandal is wholly unoriginal and I have worn the heck out of them for the last FOUR years…

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Ok, so these have been around since the 60s, thanks to fashion icon Jackie O. But they have gotten a major resurgence in preppy sorority houses and private schools all over the South in recent years. Also I think there was a mass blogger gifting from Jack Rogers last summer. #trending. [I was not included, so be assured I am not paid to promote these.]

It can be really tiring seeing everyone and their daughter (literally - 13 year old mini-me’s) traipsin around town in the same old shoe.

But…. but… BUT… everytime I put this shoe on, I really do feel prettier. Instantly. I wear them with sundresses, with skinny jeans and a v-neck white tee, with preppy little J.Crew Chino 3 Inches. I have worn them with silk dresses to weddings and with ripped up old Levi cutoffs to the beach.

Here are my JRs being so fancy:


(The fact alone that they made hugely pregnant me feel pretty is the only thing you need to know, right!).

And here they are being casual:


I couldn’t imagine my summers without that little gleam of metallica on my feet. I have to recommend them. Though not if you want to feel ahead of trends or one-of-a-kind. And, after last summer, not if you don’t want to look like a blogger.

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Sporty, pretty… next up for summer is a sexy sandal. The kind you toss on for your date night while on family vacation. The kind that makes you feel a little high-maintenance.

My pick for sexy is…
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Literally, anything Dolce Vita/ DV by Dolce Vita. They are gorgeous. So on trend. These designers have the magic touch.

Now, full disclosure. I have lusted over this brand of shoes in store for a year or so now, and they feel like the real deal - soft, fairly heavy (good sign for quality material)... but I have yet to purchase a pair for my own closet. These inhabit my Pinterest closet only. ;) So I can’t speak to how long they would last looking amazing. But I believe they would hang in there for a long while.

If you can’t afford the selection at Piperlime or Nordstrom, Nordstrom Rack is always a good bet. Or 6pm.com! I have loved my experience shopping from 6pm so much, I have been reluctant to spill my secret lest everyone go buy everything before I can. But I give in for Erika and her lovely readers. The returns are a pain in the butt, (you have to pay for shipping and send it off yourself) but since shipping to you is free, it feels worth it. Sending a handwritten package of returns from your Post Office to a random warehouse address in Kentucky feels sketch, but they come through and refund you. Pinky swear.

I found these Seychelles (my second fav brand to Dolce Vita) from 6pm for literally $20. (They were $80 last summer in Anthropologie!):


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The last summer shoe that makes me happy I own it from June to September is another one I would like to be too cool for, but no such luck!tom.png
This is the exact style of TOMS I own. Its called the Hemp style, or something like that. I got mine in Nordstrom, because they’re sized a bit smaller, so its definitely one you want to try on in store.


Calling them cute is... a stretch. But goodness are they comfortable. Easy, breathable, and in the nude color, I felt like they were actually fairly flattering to my short legs. I wear them a lot because I can easily walk 5 miles in them without getting blisters later. They’re great for chasing little kids around the park!


So there you go… shoes that fill the summer needs of Sporty, Pretty, Sexy, and Ugly! [slash Disgustingly-Comfortable].

So. If you find yourself in the same boat as Erika as a newly Postpartum mom this summer, the best advice I can give you is relax. Try to soak in this season of the honeymoon of motherhood. And if the baby weight melts off, AWESOME. But if it seems to be taking awhile for clothes to feel and look normal on you? Join the club; don’t worry about it or feel like you have to settle. Your body is going to spring back; just give it the nurture and love it needs… and the best way to do that, obviously, is to buy the damn shoes!

Dearest Lovely Erika: a bazillion thanks for the opportunity to play Graphic-Designing-Fashion-Blogger for a day, without the risk of losing any of my own fragile readership slash fanbase.


Life lately...

Friday, June 20, 2014

I'm not sure how all you mommas find time to blog regularly (Grace, you are my hero) but I have all sorts of admiration for you. I've had so many post ideas bouncing through my head lately but every time I sit down and try to blog, baby Stephen wakes up or needs to eat or I get an email from my residency program with some really important thing that I need to address right now.

Here's some insta shots of life lately (for those of you who already follow, sorry that most of these are repeats).

1. The little guy's favorite way to be held, and favorite way to curl up on his arm (I'm convinced he looked just like this in-utero, only head down).

2. He changes every single day...he's starting to fill out his newborn clothes and can even wear some 3 month outfits, which makes me kind of nostalgic already (ha).

2 week glamour shot:

Can't resist this face...

One month birthday shot:

3. I cannot get over how incredibly wonderful Stephen (Sr.) has been. There's something indescribable about seeing the man that you love become a dad, and I feel like I love him in a deeper way now than ever before. I've also been surprised by the way that he's fulfilled the stay-at-home dad role while I've been at orientation. My always-super-macho man now gets excited about cooking dinner, folding laundry, and burping the baby. And I love it.

4. A few shots of the move. We did it, two-week-old in tow. We still have a lot of unpacked boxes but at this point we've found most of the essentials. We love, love our new house which is only two blocks away from the hospital.

5. I also somehow made it to Stephen's brother's wedding, which was a 9 hour drive away (actually 12 hours on the way back when baby Stephen decided to rebel against the car seat) and happened to be the weekend before I started orientation (call me crazy and you're probably right). I had decided to stay home for the sake of both me and baby (bringing a baby around that many people made me all kinds of anxious) but at the last minute changed my mind. I felt like it was important for me to go and support Stephen (I've been thinking a lot about the importance of being there for my husband despite our new baby and residency), and I have no regrets despite the craziness. I even wore a bridesmaid dress, safety pinned on since I had decided to order three sizes bigger than normal just to be safe.

6. Another benefit to the wedding - Stephen Gabriel met great-grandma for the first time. Isn't she precious? They were beyond thrilled to meet each other.

7. In case you've missed it, I've had some lovely ladies guest post while I've been away from blogging:
- Britt from the Fisk Files posted here on personal style
- Heidi from Notes from Heidi posted here on choosing a doctor
- Anne from In Residence posted here on style post-baby
- Theresa from The Brez Blog posted here on getting back into running postpartum
- Sarah from D-Isis posted here on having a baby during residency

Stay tuned for guest posts from Kallah, Mary, and Regina.

Linking my seven up with Jen.

I knew this day would come...

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Photo by Vafa-Koffman - they took some amazing newborn photos for us that I'll share later

Last Monday was my first official day of residency, Stephen Gabriel's 3.7 week birthday, and my first full day leaving him. Before I started residency, I had a lot of comments from friends, family, acquaintances, etc. to the effect of "I can't believe you're moving with a two week old" and "I can't believe you're starting residency with a newborn" usually followed by "I could never do it"...but here's the thing, when you have to do something, you just do it.

I didn't get off to the best start for the day; my institution requires a full suit for orientation, meetings, etc. so I had my suit all ready (which thankfully fit, albeit just barely). I laid out several shirts the night before that were looser on me pre-baby, but I guess I had underestimated the effect of breastfeeding because after trying on 5+ shirts that morning that were either too short or too tight in the chest area, I resorted to a plain black t shirt that I never would have worn with a suit pre-baby: normally this would have been a small crisis for me but having a baby sure puts life into perspective ha.

I didn't cry when I left. I had been preparing myself for this day for months...10 months really, since I knew from the moment that I saw that plus sign that I would need to start residency with a newborn. It helped also that I knew I'd be spending a month on maternity leave after orientation. It felt weird though without Stephen Gabriel...walking downtown among the huge clinic and hospital buildings empty-handed.

The hardest part was when Stephen brought the baby to me during my first break so that I could nurse him. The boys had a hard time finding my building and the lecture went a little later than planned, and by the time I got to the car to pick up baby Stephen he was crying his little eyes out, that unnerving newborn hungry cry that is completely heart-breaking. That's when I felt myself retreat into a sea of guilt, and the tears that I had held back that morning started to silently flow.

I know that there will be a lot of moments like this, and I'm not going to try to analyze it or downplay it or justify it. I'm excited to be a doctor and I feel incredibly privileged to have the opportunity to train at one of the top hospitals in the country, but at the same time I know that my baby will always come first. I'm not sure how I'll do it, but for now I'll just trust that I'm going to figure things out along the way. In my favor are that my residency program has been incredibly understanding and kind (in a way that I'm certain other residencies wouldn't be with a new resident coming in with a fresh newborn), one of my fellow first year residents has a two year old and has been a huge support for me, and most of all, Stephen Sr. has been a rock star in all sorts of ways. We can do this...I know it won't be easy, but few things in life that are worthwhile are easy...we can do this.

Having a baby during residency (guest post by Sarah)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sarah is a mom and pediatric neurologist who blogs over at disisd.com. She has been a great resource and example for me, and this post is fitting since this week I started orientation and left little Stephen Gabriel for the first time...

Thank you, Erika for inviting me to guest post on your blog. I hope you are enjoying your time with baby Stephen.


Erika asked me to write a post about my time coming back to work after having Daniel, my eldest. I was pregnantduring intern year and delivered Daniel my first month of second year of pediatric residency training.

Having children in residency was a choice that my husband and I made, though we knew that it is a tough road ahead with me being gone so much. To those not in the medical field or know of anybody who has gone through residency, let me paint you a scenario: imagine a person working 80 hour work weeks, at the hospital from 6:45a to 5:30p(sometimes 6:30p) everyday, with only 4 days off in a month, and also doing overnight call for 30 hours every fourth night…. Yes, that was me when I was an intern. And people thought we were crazy for deciding to have a baby when I was working A LOT.


 We were blessed to get pregnant right away… even during a month at Heme-onc wards (!) with nine overnight calls and only 4 days off that month. That’s proof that if you let the Holy Spirit open your heart and work within you, your hearts’ desire will be granted. 


I finished my last rotation as an intern at 36 weeks. We had a week off before starting 2nd year. While my co-interns were basking under the sun in the equator or southern hemisphere, I was left at home, gardening and nesting with nobody to take me places as they were afraid I would deliver outside of the country. 


I came back from maternity leave after 14 weeks of being home with Daniel. Nothing prepared me for the working mother’s guilt or the postpartum hormones. No mental preparation equipped me for what was ahead.


I knew that I would be coming back to an inpatient ward month. It was basically a repeat of above scenario. To make matters worse, I was scheduled to be on-call my first work day back. I should have listened to my chief resident’s advice to switch calls. But I was afraid to ask for a switch. I kept thinking “I am asking for special treatment just because I just had a baby. Plus, I told myself that it was a Friday and though I will be away from Daniel for 30 hours, at least I have Sunday to make up cuddling time.


Well…well…. Matters got even worse! It was the time of the H1N1 flu breakout. Visitor restrictions were implemented. That messed up my plan to see and nurse Daniel that evening.


I was a mess that first day back. I was miserable. I cried at the stairwell. I cried over the phone while talking to Derrick. I cried and cried. I tried to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We, residents (current and former) are good at that. I was glad I was the senior assist that night. It could have been worse if I was senior in house and in charge of the whole hospital. I was also thankful that I have a husband who helped me and dealt with postpartum hormones and stress of residency training with a smile on his face and a patient heart.


I apologize for making this such a downer post. But out of all those experiences, I learned a lot. I am a list-maker so let me give you bullet points. I understand that not all suggestions below work for all. These are just the things that helped me survive my months after coming back to work… and survive residency as a mom of three.


  Ask for a “lighter rotation” on your first month back.  Do not come back on a heavy ward month. Do not sign up for an ICU month, surgery block or busy hemeonc or liver transplant month.
  If you can plan it, ask to come back mid week. So that the weekend is near and cuddle time with baby is approaching!
  Ask if possible, not to be on call the first two weeks back.
  Use your vacation time and do not be afraid to extend residency training. What’s 1-2 months longer in the grand scheme of medical training?
  I scouted places for pumping. When I feel prepared, I am less anxious. I found call rooms to pump. I looked for lactation rooms. I checked with the clinic manager if I could use some rooms in clinic to pump at certain times.
  Do not be afraid to say: I will be gone for 15-20 minutes to pump. People will roll their eyes because why on earth are you leaving your post when there are 12 patients to be seen at the ER, right? Well, it was  mentally important for me and kept me sane that I was able to provide for my infant while I am at work. It was not enough just to bring a paycheck. The breastmilk liquid gold was a visual sign for me that I bring home for my baby.  So my mentality was: let me pump now = less anxious  and stressed = better doctor saving lives.
  Bring TONS of pictures. Save tons on your iphone. Record cooing noises and giggles and laughter.
  Take the stairs and listen to those recordings.
  During call nights, ask hubby to bring baby for a nursing session and maybe he will bring dinner too!

Pray, pray, pray.


Separation is tough… but it makes the reunion even much sweeter. I remember patient care changeover at 5p and I was already giddy….. I knew in half an hour or so, I will be cuddling with my little guy and kissing his beautiful face.

Things every woman should think about when choosing a doctor {guest post}

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Heidi blogs over at Notes from Heidi about family, faith, pregnancy, photography, and healthy eating. I'm so happy to have her guest post as baby and I recover :)

The inspiration for this post came a few months ago, and it's been simmering in the back of my brain since then. Now that Erika asked for guest posts and given her chosen profession, I am so excited to be able to write for her blog. The title is a little bit mis-leading, since I'm not exactly going to give you a list of questions. Rather, I'm going to tell you a story and offer a few suggestions, and you can pick "salad bar style" what you like and don't like.

When I was pregnant with my son, me and my husband planned pretty much from the get-go that we would have a home birth with a midwife. I saw a family practitioner when the midwife discovered an irregular heartbeat. Unknown to me, an irregular heartbeat is fairly common, and the doctor put my mind at ease when he told me so. But then the rest of my interaction with him gave me cause to question my choice in a doctor. When he asked me about my prenatal care, I told him I was planning a home birth with a midwife, and showed him my chart, which I had brought along with me. A lot of doctors give women a very hard time when they choose to have a baby at home. He did not give me a hard time, and the next time I saw him was at my baby's two week checkup. At this point, me and my husband were still researching vaccination and I asked about an alternate schedule. From the doctor's perspective, there was no discussion. No alternate schedule, and bring him back at two months old, please.

I was disappointed. I had really liked this doctor and was looking forward to developing an ongoing conversation and relationship regarding my child's medical care. When he put his foot down, we decided to find another pediatrician.

Based on the recommendation of several friends, we found a pediatrician who has a strict policy which requires all employees to listen to parents. She has an alternate vaccine schedule and doesn't bat an eye when she meets people who want to do more research (as me and my husband did). She teaches preventative healthcare to parents, encouraging them to use probiotics, vitamins, and to build their children's immune systems through good nutrition. Lastly, she answers any and all questions. She's still a doctor; she still wants to do the normal tests and well visits. But we have a relationship and she listens, and because of this she is one of the most popular pediatricians in the city.

What impresses me most is that of all the questions I bring up, she has an answer. I love exploring natural health and home remedies and I have never brought up a remedy she has never heard of, or mentioned a "health nut fad" that she was unaware existed. She is very obviously on my family's side and sees her role as more of a resource than as the one in charge of my family's health. Moreover, she likes learning and is willing to learn from her patients, just as much as she is willing to teach them.

Based on this experience, here are a few suggestions. Whether you are looking for the "right" doctor or just going in for a checkup, having high standards for your doctor will ultimately help you have a good experience.

  1. Develop a relationship. Even if a pediatrician like ours is not available, you should be able to ask questions, express concerns, and be respected as the primary caretaker of your family. To be respected, you have to give it too. No matter if the advice he gives is, to you, crazy, that person has been through a heck of a lot of school and has a lot of experience under their belt. Respect that. Even though we moms can learn a lot and take care of a lot of things ourselves, most of us are not doctors and need a healthy dose of humility. Disagreements may arise, but if your patient-doctor relationship is founded on that respect, odds are you'll have their support and respect when it comes down to the wire for you, too.
  2. Be aware of your diet and your general health. If you come to your doctor saying "I have bad headaches all of the sudden" and can't give him any information beyond that, he has no choice but to start from the beginning and put you through a whole rigmarole to diagnose you. But if you say "…and we've been to several parties and have had a lot more dessert and dairy than usual", he's got a bit more to go by and can have you looking for a food allergy. A general awareness of your "normal" state of health and your diet will go a long way in helping your doctor help you.
  3. Do your own research. I tried several home remedies for my son's ear infection before taking him in and putting him on antibiotics, so I was able to tell the pediatrician all of the things that didn't work and she was able to discern two important things: 1) I can be trusted to take care of my kids, and when I've exhausted my knowledge, I will come to her for help, and 2) antibiotics were definitely necessary. This was really important in our relationship, because it established me as trustworthy mother. Now, the first question she asks me when we go in is, "what have you tried so far?"...because she knows I'm not sitting on my hands!
  4. Write down your questions ahead of time. Before your appointment, write down your questions and if you have time, see if you can find some answers and ideas online before asking your doctor. This allows you to have much more of a discussion ("I heard that excess sugar can cause headaches; is this true?") and helps both of you learn in the process.
  5. Find a doctor who likes to learn. If your doctor seems disinterested in what you know or jumps immediately to correcting what you've studied or just plain isn't willing to talk, it might be that there is a conflict waiting for you down the road. Find someone open to learning, or at least open to discussion.
  6. Lastly, when it comes to fertility and childbirth, educate educate educate yourself. Learn all of the standard procedures, learn what questions they might ask you in the delivery room, come up with your own individual birth plan, and never be afraid to ask those awkward questions: "can you please come hold my gown so I can pee?", or "I'm having goopy spotting; is this normal?". Doctors see a lot and aren't phased by the gross stuff, so don't be afraid to ask. When it comes to the natural-hippy-home-birth-crazies versus the scheduled-c-section-all-I-want-is-a-baby-people…look at both sides honestly. There are really good things about both.

For the record, I didn't get my home birth. We ended up needing to go to the hospital and…well, it's a long story. Things happened the way they were meant to; God was watching out for us. In the end, I was so thankful for the invention of the epidural and the fact that we had access to immediate hospital care. I wanted the all-natural-home-birth, but I also recognize that I'm not in control…and sometimes, when God doesn't give us "what we want", it's for a good reason. Ultimately, we have a healthy 16 month old, a wonderful pediatrician, access to lots of information and support…and those are the things that really matter.