Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Vintage Photographs

This summer I went to Brimfield Flea Market and met up with an old college friend. I was super pregnant and did only a little walking around. My friend happened to love old photographs, which I normally pass over in my hunt for clothing and accessories. However this time I stopped to browse with her, and found a few favorites to bring home. This is a small batch I picked up from one vendor.

 This is one of the Flume here in New Hampshire. It's a natural landmark and it just captured a piece of my heart. I guess there's something special about seeing a place you've been in a photo from 60 years ago.

 I just loved the innocence of this one. Kids will never stop being silly.

 Now that it's winter, I love this one even more. The mother in her malliot with her sweet little baby girl, playing in the waves. What a lovely moment, likely captured by an adoring father.

Look at this beautiful lady, all dressed up! Luxe mink cuffs on that dress, and such a beautiful neckline. Really classic elegance. I love this photo!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Thrift Store Tips for Nursing Moms

So you were super excited to get back into your pre-pregnancy wardrobe as fast as possible ... only to realize most of it is not nursing friendly. Nursing is hard enough without having to deal with clothes. Let's just face it, whipping them badboys out at a moment's notice is essential when baby is crying. Additionally, despite your best efforts with burp cloths there's milk and boogers and eye gunk all over you at any given time. But you still want to look cute! I mean being a walking food truck with one special on the menu doesn't make you feel sexy, so nice clothes can at least do their part and help you out.

So what are a nursing mother's needs?
1) A comfortable fit
2) Easy access to boobs
3) Durable, easily cleaned materials
4) Fabrics that aren't too rough on baby's skin
5) Make you feel good to wear them

That's a tough list by any standards, so here are some tips for thrifting clothes for the nursing mom.

First, ignore all size tags. Your body does not have normal proportions right now, and thrift stores are notoriously bad for putting items in the correct size category anyway.

Next, look for materials that are easy to care for. Cottons, acrylics, polyester, some rayons... anything machine washable.

All well and good, but what styles do you look for?

The most obvious is button up shirts. These will be hard to find in a size that fits both your waist and your bust. You'll likely have to size up from your normal size simply due to the increase in your bust size. When you are trying these on, if you've just pumped or fed, remember that your chest will get noticeably larger the longer you go without expressing the milk, so something that fits now might not fit in 2 hours if it's very tight to begin with.
“Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.” — Charlotte Brontë

“Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.” — Charlotte Brontë by saint-mercy 

You can pair button up shirts with pencil skirts, or any other type of skirt, with a belt and accessorize from there. Remember that baby will play with your jewelry so make sure it's sturdy. You can also swing your jewelry around your back while you nurse if you don't want baby to play with it. 

Make sure to also shop the men's or oversized button up section! A belt will turn a big shirt into a cute tunic dress that can be worn with leggings and boots. If you go for a men's shirt that's much larger, consider cutting off the arms, which can be an obvious indicator that you've sized up, even if you belt the shirt.

Button ups are also great with pants and jeans, especially for the working mom who has to pump on the job. Wear colorful selections, and pair them with fitted cardigans for a more refined look, and blanket/kimono cardigans for a looser look.  

 
Pearls, leopard & a button down

Pearls, leopard & a button down by steffiestaffie featuring pointy toe leopard flats

Another great thing to look for is partial button downs. Look for comfortable henleys, sweaters, and blouses that have a few buttons near the collar. I find that unbuttoning these allows pretty easy access to the chest. 

Nursing / breastfeeding friendly outfit


Next up is crossover blouses and dresses (also called surplice blouses/dresses). I love these and find they are the easiest for breastfeeding because they require no buttons and are a simple matter of pulling the fabric aside. However, don't be fooled - not all crossover tops are nursing friendly! The fabric must be stretchy enough to be pulled aside without tearing. Jersey is great for this. I always try them on in the dressing room and see if I can get my breast out easily. If you find that the V is cut too deep for your liking, cut a tank top off half way and use it as a bandeau. Simply lift it up before you go to nurse.

Surplice Dresses for Nursing


Tent dresses and blouses are also easy when you pair them with leggings. These are simple oversized shirts or blouses that give you plenty of room to simply lift and nurse. They also serve as a nursing cover, because they are so large they can go right over baby.

Tent Dresses for Nursing


A few other things to look out for include:
- Soft sweaters (but skip the cashmere! It might feel nice but it's too delicate for the regular washing it will need) Go for acrylic, cotton, and sturdy blends that can stand up to machine washing.
- Button-up dresses
- Tank tops to make bandeaus 
- Accessories! Especially scarves which can make great nursing covers

I hope this has given you some ideas on how to dress while nursing! Sometimes you just feel like your sole purpose is feeding the baby, and it's nice to not have to sacrifice your personal style. Do you have any other favorites for nursing? If so leave a comment and let me know! 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Mama + Baby: Two Months of Telling It Like It Is


So we've made it to 2 months, and the journey has not been easy, but I'm glad we're here. The house is a dirty mess. I haven't swept in weeks. The kitchen stove looks like a messy day in a diner kitchen, but we're pretty happy and nearing a semblance of schedule that is heartening. I'm waiting for my first giggles, to be reached for when I come near, and more interactive play.

I found myself speculating at one point that I couldn't imagine my little man looking any different. It's almost like I could picture him before he was born, and this is the picture I saw. Of course I think I'm just projecting, but he feels like he belongs and always has. That makes the rough times easier to deal with, I think.

And boy are there some rough times. Days when my orders for my Etsy shops are piling up, and my to do list is huge, and I want to be independent and do it all, and he wants none of it. Will he sit idly by in his bouncy seat while I work? No siree... He wants feeding, and a diaper change for good measure, and some interaction, or to be held, or simply just to fuss and cry. And those are the days that are hardest for me, because I have to put aside what I want to be doing and my desire to be productive, and just give it up to be a nurturer.

And other days are magical, and we work in harmony and he is content to just be nearby, and he naps like a champ, and I get a lot done and it feels just like I imagined it would having a little one around.

I guess the gist of it is - it's all a mixed bag. Every day is a mystery, and learning to surrender to it is a tough thing for any independent, active person to do.


Luckily at this point we've gotten pretty good at breast feeding. I'm irrationally terrified of mastitis so that spices things up a bit... is my boob turning red? what was that pain? am I sleeping too far over on my side? It's a bit annoying to be so paranoid, but I am not sure I'd make it through a bout of mastitis and still come out breast feeding on the other side. So I try to be extra cautious and attentive.

I wanted to make this post a little more detailed and less philosophical, but it's late, and I'm tired, and my hot tea is running out, and there's nothing else I can think to say right now. I'm excited to see what the next month brings as we celebrate our first holidays together. I've already done a little Christmas shopping for our little fox... I'm just hoping I don't go too overboard, since I'm primarily indulging myself.

I'll leave you with this sneeze outtake from our 2 month photo session. Good night.


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Surviving the First Month with a Newborn

 
Wow! Sometimes it's hard to believe a month has passed since our little man was born, but other times (particularly the times when I think about my recovery and our struggles) it seems about right.

As a first time mom, I think my biggest challenge was absolutely not being prepared enough for the weeks post-birth. I was ready for the delivery and what labor would entail, but I just wasn't well versed in what to expect afterwards. I definitely should have done more reading...but you don't know what your questions and struggles will be until they happen...so I am not even sure if it would have helped.

I don't think anything can prepare you for the sleepless nights, the quickening of your heart when your baby cries his all-out cry, the mental and emotional struggle that is breastfeeding, the absolute lack of schedule, and the sense of loss when you realize that it's an accomplishment if you can even get a load of laundry into the washer - never mind the dryer.

So here are a few tips for getting through that first month. Some are things I had to learn the hard way, and some are things that other bloggers and moms helped me come to grips with.


1) Do what's right for you and your baby. You can read a million online posts and blogs and each baby is different. What works for some babies may not work for yours, or it might be spot on. Other moms or relatives may tell you to do things one way or another, but the bottom line is that it's YOU doing this day to day, not them, so you need to do what works for you and your baby. If you decide you need to supplement formula, or you want to give them a pacifier before they are 6 weeks old, or whatever - as long as you know the risks and benefits you shouldn't feel bad about making any decision you feel is right for you. After too many frustrated night feedings and screaming fits, I decided that my breasts needed a suckling break through the night hours and so did my mental stability, and so I pump and bottle feed through my night feedings. It lets me get back to sleep faster, I know how much he is eating, and he has no nipple confusion so why not?

2) Learn to make concessions and try new things.  We have a pretty picture in our minds of how life with a baby will be. Well scratch that out with a big marker because you're going to be making some changes and adjustments to suit you and your baby. Just think - you don't know their personality before they come out of the womb. You have no idea who they will be and how they will act. So you make lots of plans for their existence without knowing them. That's why when they come along you will have to make changes. After too many nights of having him fall asleep on us after an hour of soothing, then putting him in his bassinet only to have him wake up less than 10 minutes later, we realized he just wanted to be near us. So we bought a snuggle nest for the bed and now he sleeps much easier just being close to us, and I sleep better because I'm not always wondering if that snuffle he just made means I'm going to have to spring over to the bassinet for soothing in 5 minutes. Did I ever expect to share my bed with the baby? No. But getting some sleep, easier feedings, and the comfort of my little fox is worth it.

3) It's OK to cry. You just spent 9 months on a hormonal high, carrying and growing this much-anticipated baby, and now he's here, and you're just awash in mixed emotions. On one hand it's amazing what you've grown, and each day you see development as their limbs become more coordinated, their facial expressions more diverse, and their features becoming more defined. On the other hand there is a sense of loss for your own individuality, and the overwhelming pressure of this little life being absolutely dependent on you for survival (especially if you are breastfeeding). And sometimes you just need to cry. I cried almost every day in the shower for at least the first week, in the middle of the night when he was inconsolable, and sometimes even when things were going well and I was just enjoying the moment. You don't need to be strong - you already are just by pushing through each day. There's no need to hold it in.

4) It's OK to walk away. Sometimes you've done everything you can. You've fed them, burped them, they pooped, you changed them, you put them in fresh clothes, you walked around with them and bounced and soothed, and sometimes they just need to cry. It's OK to put them down in a safe spot and walk away. Close the bedroom door and go make some tea and sit on the other side of the house. Take 5 and don't feel guilty. You'll be a better, more patient soother when you come back and pick them up, or maybe they'll sooth themselves and stop crying. Babies can go from full tilt to dead asleep in seconds.

5) Remember...nothing they do is to hurt or manipulate you. This was one of the most important reminders and pieces of advice that I read while I struggled. Until 6 weeks to 2 months, and maybe longer, there's nothing you can do to spoil your little one. No amount of picking up, bouncing, feeding, etc is going to spoil them. They don't have the mental capacity to understand that crying means someone will come take care of them. When they aggressively suckle your super-sore nipple while your whole body tenses up they don't know they are hurting you. They don't understand night time and day time. They have no internal clock or circadian rhythm. So many times I had to remind myself "he's just a baby, he doesn't know."

6) Take a shower every day. Maybe you wake up covered in milk from leaking. Maybe your little one spits up on you. Maybe you get overheated through the night and wake up sweaty. Take a shower every day. Even if you also take a bath that day. The relaxation of a hot shower works wonders on the nerves, and makes you feel fresh again which will help give you a boost to get through the day. Don't skip it. If you have to skip something, skip sweeping the floors or loading the dishwasher. Take your shower and enjoy your me-time. It's limited.

7) Baby hair is the softest and best for a mother's nerves. The softness of my baby's hair and head is what keeps me sitting on the couch snuggling him. It's what I bury my face in when I come back from one of my "walk away" moments. It's what I smell when I pick him up and what I miss when he naps. It's helped me get through my toughest moments. Maybe it will help you too.


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Little Fox's Birth Story

Please note, this is a personal post, so if you're here just for the vintage you can skip over this one.


Time flies after you've had a baby. Newborns take up so much time and energy. So I wanted to record his story before I forgot too many of the details.

Christopher James Fox Jasper was born on September 24th, 2015 at 9:13 PM, after 24 hours of labor. He weighed 9 pounds and 3 ounces at birth, with a 14.25" head AND a 14" chest. He came out 22 inches long, with long fingers and toes that like to curl. He had a nice light head of brown hair and stormy sea blue eyes. But that's the end result, and to tell the whole story we have to start at the beginning.

The night of the 22nd I had a terrible night's sleep. I didn't get to sleep until after midnight (though that wasn't that unusual, Little Fox loved to wake up at 11 PM and jig around and get hiccups) and after I did finally fall asleep, it was fitful. I was overheated despite the AC running full tilt, and every time I woke I had the suffragette song from Mary Poppins stuck in my head on repeat. If I tried to sleep on my right side I had terrible indigestion that nothing could fix. Then I finally passed out around 5 AM and slept until 9 or so in relative peace.

Fast forward to the night of the 23rd, and I was ready to have Little Fox on the outside, not the inside. His first due date had come and gone and I was tired of being pregnant. We decided to try to get him out the same way he made it in - sex. (And this might be TMI but semen has the highest count of natural prostaglandins perfect for starting cervix thinning - basically the natural equivalent to PIT which they use to induce labor in the hospital) On previous occasions, I had gotten sporadic contractions afterwards lasting anywhere from 3 to 4 hours. This time, they came on quickly afterwards and after 2 hours of relatively regular contractions I decided to start timing. Early labor can take hours, or even days, and I wasn't supposed to really call the midwife until contractions were 5 minutes apart and lasting 45 seconds each. So I timed and timed until 2 AM, unable to rest in between for anxiety and excitement. Finally at 2 AM I got up and called the midwife to let her know that early labor was beginning and that if it didn't subside I could be in labor soon. She alerted her assistants and they developed a plan in case it was real labor - then she told me to call back when they hit a certain interval or when my water broke. One hour later, my water broke.

I had just woken Aj to tell him that it might have worked! I might be in labor! And if that was the case he might need to set up the birthing pool soon. We had decided to do a home birth, because the idea of recovering in my own bed, in the comfort of my own home was perfect. And I didn't like all of the hospital interventions, or pressure put on women to speed things up and not be in labor too long. And I hated the idea of not instantly holding my little one. And I didn't think lying on my back to give birth sounded like a good idea - why not let gravity help? Plus we wanted to try water birth, since I was going to do natural child birth with no pain medications.

So there was no packing into the car and heading off to the hospital, but I called the midwife and let her know my water had broken and she said they were going to be on their way to our house. She arrived at 4 AM and shortly thereafter I was checked by one of the assistants for dilation and effacement status. She said I was 6 cm dilated and almost fully effaced, and the baby was at 0 in my pelvis (3 is when they start to pop out!) I was so pleased! It had been somewhat painful but nothing unbearable and labor was looking like it was going to be a decent length but nothing too long. Unfortunately, and heartbreakingly, the assistant mistook how far effaced I was and it wasn't until hours and hours later that they checked again and the midwife said I still had a ways to go. This was devastating.

Time basically lost all meaning as Aj helped me through contractions, holding my hand, feeding me bits of food and water and juice. When 4 PM rolled around I started to break down. I hadn't slept since my fitful night of sleep on the 22nd. I hadn't eaten anything but tiny bits since dinner on the 23rd, and my legs were getting weak from walking and squatting, trying to move the baby along. I just remember hugging Aj and saying "I'm so, so tired."

Onward the night went. Around 7 PM he was finally in place to begin pushing. I pushed for 2 hours, moving from the couch to the floor, and trying a couple of different positions. Aj held my head and hand, and fed me water or crushed ice.

As the contractions really started to come on hard and beyond intense, and the baby's head was close to crowning, his heart rate plummeted. The umbilical cord had dropped down and gotten wrapped around his neck, cutting off oxygen supply. I had read this birth story from a fellow vintage shop owner and the same thing had happened to her. Somehow this helped me. I knew what had to be done. I was afraid to lose him. When the midwife told me she needed him out and I had to push with everything I had, I gave it every ounce of strength in me, but I still couldn't get him all the way out fast enough. She performed an episiotomy and told Aj urgently that we had to change positions and that I needed to get into a squat. My fear rose and I tried to comply as best I could. As he was trying to lift me a contraction came on so hard and huge I couldn't do anything but bear into it and try to get my little man out. Poor Aj had a bad foothold and struggled but kept me up despite my putting everything into bearing down. Finally, finally the baby popped out with an assist from gravity and they put Little Fox immediately into my arms and covered us up.

His heart rate rose quickly, though his breathing stayed elevated and he was alert and red and screaming and wonderful. I just remember thanking the universe that we were both alive, and OK. We made it through.

After such an insane, long labor with so little rest and food, my body was exhausted. My legs trembled, and I couldn't really move. Aj held Little Fox and sat next to me while I rested. I laid there for what I think was hours, trying to stay awake and alert and to eat a little and look at my baby, and my husband. I started getting worried about feeding Little Fox, and was moved to the couch to try to breast feed. We got only a few drops. My body was just too tired.

We decided that a trip to the hospital to get stitched up and ensure that I was not loosing too much blood was in order. So at 2 AM I was loaded into an ambulance, and taken to the hospital where they stitched me up. The nurse helped me use a nipple shield to feed Little Fox and he slept soundly. He was a very good baby through everything. We left the hospital at 6:30 AM. We made it home and Aj helped me into bed, and I slept a few hours before Little Fox started to cry for hunger.

Those first days were beyond hard. I couldn't even move. My arms were bruised from the blood test and hydration IV and weak from the hours of labor. My hip was bruised from hours of pushing on the floor. My neck was weak from straining into my pushes. It strained and hurt when I coughed or sneezed or blew my nose. I could barely hold Little Fox to feed him. Aj looked ragged and exhausted but took amazing care of me.

On day 3 in the morning we had a well visit with the midwife. The baby had already lost 9% of his birth weight, right at the limit of acceptable. My milk was FINALLY starting to come in and I felt like we could turn this corner and I was feeling better each day. Later that morning Aj took our little one to the pediatrician for his hepatitis B shot and another wellness checkup while I slept. He came back right as I was waking from my nap and I got the news that, though Little Fox was healthy in all other ways, he'd developed jaundice and the best thing to do for him was to feed him. He told me that they had fed him a little bottle of formula supplement and that he had absolutely guzzled it. This was devastating to me, and made me feel inadequate, and hurt my heart that my little one had been so hungry.

We had to go back the next day for another blood test to see if his bilirubin went down and his jaundice was disappearing. Now I know that jaundice happens to a huge number of newborns, but between our trouble getting a good latch due to poor positioning, my weak muscles, my large breasts and my (apparently I never knew?) flat nipples, I felt discouraged. But I knew that we needed to push through. I spent hours online looking for tips on breastfeeding. How to tell if they were actually getting anything. Good positions for latch with bigger breasts. How to breastfeed with flat nipples. Anything to help.

I pumped after he fed, and then we bottle fed him that. We gave him another supplemental formula bottle and we just kept feeding on demand. Learning together. The next day we went back and did another bilirubin test and it rose but just by one point. However he had gained 5 oz back overnight! So I knew he was getting enough food. We decided to keep nursing and feeding and do one more test. If it came back any higher we were going to have to do phototherapy treatment, which I didn't want to have to put him through. Today we went for that test and finally we are over the jaundice. It's on the decline and together we have learned how to nurse effectively. He's a hungry, hungry boy.

So there we stand. It wasn't an easy, run of the mill birth like I had hoped. If I had had the baby in the hospital it almost definitely would have been a C section birth. And the 3 days after his birth were probably some of the emotionally toughest days of my life. But here we are on day 5, happy and well fed and together and healthy and alive and there is nothing I've ever been more grateful for.


Monday, September 21, 2015

Vintage Maternity Outfit

Today is my "early" due date! Because we don't know EXACTLY when my last period was, we have two EDDs, one based on what I remember and one based on his size. Today is the day based on his size. Not that I think our little fox would do something as conventional as arrive on his due date!  To keep spirits high, I decided it was a good day to dress up.


One of the things I've missed most during my pregnancy is the ability to wear vintage. After about 25 weeks the body just really changes and normal clothes simply don't fit in most cases, even if you size up. However, I've found that 70s maxi dresses can be very forgiving, and I've been getting my vintage kicks that way.


Most days I just veg out in some stretchy dress or wear my "ninja" outfit (as my husband calls it) which is just a black tanktop and leggings with black flats. But it definitely feels good to get dressed up again. 


I went out to drop off some Foxburrow Vintage packages (the shop is still open!) and stopped by Trader Joe's for some frozen meals. 
I also picked up some mums and a pumpkin. I have an idea for a visiting board to go outside the house so that we don't get unexpected visitors at bad times, and I wanted some pretty fall stuff to go at the base.


Until he's born, they'll make a nice centerpiece on the table. 


Hopefully the next time I post a blog I'll have a little fox napping next to me. 

Dress - 1970s Vintage / Local Vintage Shop
Hat - 1970s Vintage / The Vintage Bazaar
Purse - 1970s Vintage Coach / Brimfield Flea Market
Shoes - Modern / Seychelles (Same)
Bangles - Vintage / Hollis Flea Market
Necklace - Modern / Zachary Pryor

Thursday, September 10, 2015

End of Pregnancy Blues...

A lot of people talk about pregnancy and motherhood, but I also think a lot of people don't talk about the hard parts. You want to show people your best side, that you're doing well and you don't want them to worry for you or about you. Sure it's easy enough to admit when you're physically not feeling great - morning sickness, back pain, it's part and parcel for most women's pregnancies and we don't have to feel out of the ordinary saying anything about it. But what if you're emotionally not feeling great? We have a hard time talking about our emotions without over thinking what people will say, or think about how we feel. But that's got to stop - because it shouldn't be something we're afraid to get off our chests and talk about.

So I'm here to talk about my end of pregnancy blues. You might think I mean "oh, sad face, my pregnancy is ending and I don't want it to" but that's not it.

About a week ago my little guy dropped into position. As you may or may not know, this usually signals the last 2-4 weeks of pregnancy in first time moms. Since my due date could be the 21st or the 28th (and most first time babies come at 41 weeks!) we're not entirely sure when he will come. And that's OK... he'll come when he's ready, but something else came along with him dropping. Feelings.

I've had an easy pregnancy by anyone's standards. Enviable even. No morning sickness, generally still energetic, without mood swings, only a few restless or sleepless nights, etc etc. And I haven't taken that for granted. But now I wake up and I don't want to do anything. I'm tired, both emotionally and physically. I don't feel like myself. I can't muster the enthusiasm for my businesses that I've always had. I feel like the days fly by and I get nothing done. I just don't want to do anything, and everything I do takes so long. I don't want to go out, I don't want to lay around, I don't want to do any of the things I told myself I'd do when I finally had time, I don't want to cook or clean or take care of things around the house. And it's weighing on me.

When the baby dropped it was like a weight suddenly fell into place. His head is firmly in my pelvis, his back to my font (a good position for starting labor!) but wow is it uncomfortable. Where before my whole body could support him and the growing weight, now it's all resting on my pelvis and straining my lower back. I can't sit for long periods of time. Laying down really isn't that comfortable. Standing isn't comfortable. Nothing is comfortable. I found this image today and realized why.

Yep. When they say your organs get squished, they mean it. Except drag that baby's head down about another half inch and there we go - that's where I am. How do our bodies do it? I don't even know.

But with the physical discomfort and exhaustion, emotional exhaustion begins to set in too. It's upsetting being at partial strength. Especially when you have always been an active and engaged person, it's like now there's this barrier between you and enjoying daily life. And there's nothing for it but to wait it out and try not to let it get to you. It's like this weird stage of stasis where you don't want to start anything new, but you still have to pass the time.

And that's hard. And it's OK to be blue.
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