Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Top Gear: Postpartum Edition

I thought I should follow up my Top Gear: Pregnancy Edition with some of my postpartum recommendations.

I'll try not to turn this into a "everything is going to be horrible and you'll have stuff coming out from everywhere" post, though inevitably, some of that kind of stuff will be mentioned.  Postpartum (the first three months or so, in my mind) is such a sensitive time, and as someone who is still there, I think any useful tips from someone who has "been there" are helpful.  Thinking back to that time period definitely brings back some... feelings.  I was in pain, exhausted, and in teary awe that there had been such a delightful little guy in me all those months.  But mostly, I felt (and still feel) like I was way in over my head in thinking that I could be someone's mother and that I have no idea how to take good care of another human being.
For the items below, note that I had a Cesarean section, so this list might be different for those who don't go that route. Also, I decided I'd do a separate "Breastfeeding Edition" of this post, because many, MANY of the items I had to run out to get postpartum had to do with that specifically.  I anticipate it to be a lonnnnng post.

1) Pads, liners

Yes, people who get the ol' slice-and-dice need these, too, even though you'd think they would do a pretty good job cleaning out the premises before sewing you back up.  You'll see these on every one of these postpartum list, but I underestimated the need.  Get ones that are comfortable as they are functional, because you should make every effort to be comfortable at this point when everything else is going crazy.  Switch to liners as soon as you can, which might take a few weeks, but you'll love when you make the switch to them.

Also, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that "granny panties" are not really necessary unless all you wear normally are skimpy things.  I mean, I'd imagine whatever worked during pregnancy should be able to support a pad... right?  Anything that is "normal" will make you feel better during a time where everything is but.

2) Food

This was so, so, so important during those first few months.  I was hungry and didn't have the hands to cook.  People brought food, bless them.  My family brought a lot of soups and rice, Japanese snacks, and even a Thanksgiving meal.  My in-laws brought cake, and I totally almost ate the whole thing single-handedly in a few days.  My friends brought over Chinese food, breads, pizza, tamales, and pie.  I have always been one to bring food to new parents, but I greatly, GREATLY underestimated the need for this, too, so if anyone else has a baby, I will make sure to bring more (or maybe I was particularly hungrier than most).

The freezer covered the balance, and I'm not talking about fancy freezer meals that people actually had time to prepare -- I'm talking about Trader Joe's meatballs, enchiladas, and pizzas.  The other balance (told you I was hungry!) was covered by oatmeal, cereal, and bars/trail mixes from Costco.  Speaking of which, bulk is great.  In the beginning, I'd keep food by my bed and on the couch because I was hungry and on my butt in those places a lot.

3) Belly Bandit

I wonder if people will find this post by Googling "does the Belly Bandit work?" hoping to find an answer.  Unfortunately, I don't really have one.  I did not really use mine, since it was uncomfortable to sit or nurse with it on, and I did a lot of those things.  I imagine it would help with things flattening out after delivery, as well as provide core support post-surgery.  I ended up getting something similar from the hospital, though I did not wear it when I got home due to bad associations/memories of pain. I think what helped get my stomach mostly back to normal (because it still isn't what it was, let's face it) was nursing, small amounts of exercise, and whatever I had built prior to pregnancy plus the time period I was exercising during pregnancy.  I'm sure I would have done better had I been on top of wearing this.  Everyone is different, though.

These are not discreet under clothing necessarily.  If you are going to try this, get the bamboo version, as bamboo is known to be soft.  I can't imagine what the non-bamboo version feels like.

4) Hip Shrinkx

This I also ended up not really using, for the same reasons stated above.  I haven't bothered to check if my hips grew due to pregnancy, and now that I'm a few months out, these no longer would work on me because they work with the hormone relaxin in your body that only lingers in the first few weeks afterward.
5) Ginger

All the hospital and pregnancy fluids were horrid.  I remember coming home wondering why I only lost 10 pounds after birth, only to shed the remainder over the next few weeks (through sweat and pee, lovely!).  One thing that helped immensely was ginger.  My mom made a bunch of ginger stuff for me, including tea, to hasten the process.  Try infusing it with water or buying ginger tea.  Drink water in general... it's important for flushing out things as well as milk supply if you're doing that.

Speaking of weight, one thing you don't need: a scale.  I mean, you're going to WANT to keep weighing in, but in my opinion, that's quite stressful.  And anyway, that weigh-in will happen sooner or later... like at the postpartum appointment.  I had mine 4 weeks out, and I was pretty pleased with the results -- unfortunately, no progress since then -- *cough*.

6) Hand lotion

All the hand-washing, feeding accessory washing, and hand-sanitizer made my hands soooooooooo dry.  Now that I'm constantly slathering moisturizers on my baby, I no longer need this, but it really did get bad before.  Choose your favorite, preferably something you wouldn't mind touching your baby with, though usually by the time I would pick up my baby in the beginning, I would have already washed my hands again.

7) Yoga pants

Of course, right?  My favorite comes from New York and Company.  I have a pair from years back that I love... by the time they went on sale again online in my size, I feel like something changed about them, yet I still like them.  They are probably the most flattering things that I wore for a while.  Due to multiple clothing changes that will be necessary due to your or the baby's bodily fluids, get a few.

8) Prunes & Colace

I hate to bring more TMI into this post, but you should really pick up some of these things, even if you think you won't need them.  You will, regardless of how your baby is born.  Heck, you might already have some of this stuff lying around from pregnancy.

9) Vitamins

I'm still taking prenatals leftover from my pregnancy (due to nursing, but even if I wasn't, what would I do with them otherwise?), but vitamins are just helpful in general because I don't know about you, but healthy eating is questionable during this period... and vitamins are very much needed to replenish your body after all the madness.

So that's that.  Really, though, what you need postpartum are not items, but mostly: help with the baby while you take care of your basic needs, showers, people to talk to (especially people who recently had a baby and can help you answer your 4784957403 questions without Google), fresh air, and sleep.  Oh, how I (still) miss sleep.

FTC Disclaimer: I was not provided any samples for this post... just sharing my opinions!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Los Angeles Chinatown Firecracker 5K -- 2015

EVENT: Los Angeles Chinatown Firecracker 5K
DATE: Sunday, March 1, 2015
LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA
RACE BEGAN: 08:00 am
FINISH TIME: 1:03:50

This was nearly a DNS/DNF (did not start/did not finish) for me, which would have been a first!

As I've mentioned in a previous post, I am trying to collect all 12 of the Chinese zodiac medals from this race.  So far, I have:

- the horse (2013)

- the snake (2012)

- the dragon (2011)

And now...

... the ram (the medal doubled in size this year, but darn my photography for not capturing that well)!

So that means "only" 8 more.

I registered for this race a couple of months before Baby Tuesday was born, planning to either wear him in a carrier or use a stroller.  Well, we haven't quite gotten the hang out babywearing, so the stroller it was.  The decision to actually show up to this race was a last-minute one.  It was predicted to be a rainy weekend, and I had been running a low-grade fever for a few days, coinciding with my return to work (or maybe due to my return, lol).  These things wouldn't have stopped me in the past, but now that I have to worry about making my baby cold or making myself too sick to take care of my baby or go to work when I have no sick time left... more considerations are needed.

I kept checking the forecast overnight (and overnight involves way too many opportunities to check, unfortunately), and the rain seemed to stay away.  Two hours before the gun, I decided we were good to go.  So I quickly got ready and put the little one in a plushie monkey suit, and we all headed to Chinatown.

We picked up our bibs and hung out for an hour before the start.  I covered the little guy's (real, not fuzzy) ears as they set off 100,000 firecrackers near the start (we were also standing way in the back, but still).  The starting time for the 5K coincided with nap time, so that kind of worked out.  One of my friends decided to drop down to the 5K from the 10K to walk with me, while my other friend and "The Ukrainian" did the 10K, which started half an hour later.  There were several others with strollers and dogs who kept the back, a total contrast to my normal "sneak as close to the front as allowable/possible" tendencies.

The weather turned out to be quite nice.  A little breezy, some sun, but mostly cloudy.  Tuesday slept for half an hour and then started babbling the rest of the way.  The 5K course seems to have changed since I last ran it, from a loop at Dodger Stadium to an out-and-back nearby.  It was definitely hilly, and moreso pushing my heavy stroller up the hills.  I remember just making the first turn when the leaders were coming in to finish, haha!  I continued to walk through the finish area, and due to the lengthy 5K, "The Ukrainian" found us not too long later.

Close to the finish, I circled myself, lol.

Overall, doing this race was pretty uneventful, but the mini-streak is still alive for now.  Everything is definitely harder and more unpredictable with a baby, though!!  Hopefully next year or the year after, Tuesday can do the Kiddie Run.  While this could be considered the baby's first race out-of-utero (see: Big Sur recap from last year), I can't wait until he is old enough to do his own race!!

This new year's race continues to be one of my favorites because it can be as serious or casual as you need it to be.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Top Gear: Pregnancy Edition

Now that pregnancy seems infinitely long ago and I can't remember what it felt like to lug around 30 extra pounds, I thought I'd share some of the "things" that made the experience just a little bit easier.

I should preface this by adding, you don't really need any of this, just as you don't really need most of the stuff I review here for running and fitness.  But stuff is fun to talk about, right?

1) Burt's Bees Mama Bee Belly Butter

There is no real defense against stretch marks, of course, but it did make me feel better to put something on my sensitive stretched skin that seemed natural. Plus, it kind of became a ritual.  After I had the baby, I felt a little nostalgic as I would rub on the last bits of my third jar on my post-partum belly.

Did it work?  Well, I used it from 9 weeks on and didn't get any stretch marks until the last few weeks, and those are the kind that I think I wouldn't scrutinize over too much because they kind of just went down as my belly did.  Who's to say whether the same thing would have happened sans this stuff?  Let's just say that if I ever am expecting again, I would use this stuff again.

2) Bare Food Ginger Chews

I was pretty nauseous during the first trimester, and these were the ginger candies that were sold at the convenience stores around my workplace.  Again, I felt better about the "natural" aspect of these.  I kept these on hand for train and car rides, especially.  Given how much I hated being nauseated, I would definitely eat these again if I had to.

3) Sour Candy

I actually ate less candy while pregnant than I did prior (and after, but that's a story for later, I guess).  However, in the very early weeks, these were also a staple in the car. 

4) BE Band

I got one of these at Target.  Now, I know how silly this looks, but in the first and part of the second trimester, I still wanted to wear my usual work pants and jeans.  I tried the "hair tie" trick where you use a hair tie through the button hole to hold your pants together, but it was not smooth nor comfortable because of possible exposure.  Around the mid-way point, I decided to go for actual maternity jeans (see #5).

Looking back, I think going directly to the jeans would have been a good idea, since after the mid-way point, my BE Band became pretty useless since it kept rolling up.  I thought I would use it again post-partum to hide my stomach while nursing or something, but again, the rolling.

5) Maternity Jeans

When I needed jeans, they weren't "in season" at the maternity store, so they only had stupid "skinny" ones that I hated. I was handed down a pair that had a partial panel instead of the full-type pictured above, but I guess I carried low because I could NOT get partial panel to work on me.  I got a straight-leg pair from Motherhood Maternity during a shopping spree that took place once I ran out of acceptable work clothes.

Jeans gave me a sense of normalcy, even though it was very hot weather-wise for most of my pregnancy.  I definitely recommend getting clothes that make you feel "normal" during an otherwise tough time!  When it comes to maternity clothes, I think used is the way to go.  They are so expensive!  I got many items handed down, but with a good dry clean, I think used is the way to go.

6) Boppy Sleeping Pillow

Speaking of hand-me-downs, I was lucky enough to have this given to me around the beginning of the second trimester when I was starting to break down from uncomfortable sleep and was searching for one online that wasn't $60+.  I wouldn't say this was the best of the pregnancy sleep pillows, but it did work better than my couch-pillows solution.  I even brought this with me when I stayed with a friend.  It could have stood to be a bit firmer and more supportive, though.

Toward the end, nothing, and I mean, nothing, would make sleeping a comfortable act.  Still, even if I wasn't given a pillow, I would have bought one, even if another brand.  I randomly saw some cheap(er) ones at Burlington Coat Factory.

7) Bra extenders

These can be purchased on eBay.  They allowed me to not have to get a ton of new bras when my already large rib cage wanted to expand even more.  Or maybe it was weight gain.  Either way, sometimes I'd chain two of these on...

8) Flat shoes, shoe horn

I wore my usual heels at work, but at lunch and during my commute, flat shoes (really, any kind that will fit!) were the way to go.  Also, toward the end, I had a tough time putting them on, so a shoe horn was useful here.

9) Smart Phone

As much of a curse it was to have Google at my fingertips to be paranoid, it also gave me access to prenatal workouts.  Plus, it was the only way I'd have something on hand to get belly shots in.  Although I found it weird to take selfies, I'm glad I snapped them now that I'm on the other side.  I can't believe I looked like that not too long ago!

10) Trader Joe's Cleansing Pads

I had to stop using a few of my usual skincare items when I realized they could be harmful, so I switched over to these cleansing pads.  They are strong, so you might tear up a bit at the smell at first, but they really do get rid of grime.  Perfect for problematic, hormonal skin.

11) Traditional Medicinals Organic Red Raspberry Leaf Tea

I read that drinking this close to the end of pregnancy would help with labor.  Obviously, I didn't get to test that theory completely, but based on how things went, I don't think it had any effect.  I probably started too little, too late (like at around 35 weeks because I was afraid it would cause early labor).  I'm not sure that I would try this again due to my risk/benefit mental calculation.

However, I will say that this stuff is worth having around.  I was drinking this stuff for quite a while before my pregnancy, and I think it is just a good tea for hormone regulation and supposedly cramps.

Well, that about rounds out (lol) this pregnancy gear list!  Hope you enjoyed it... because I'm planning on doing a post-partum edition and a "baby's first three months" edition when I get the chance.

FTC Disclaimer: I obtained these items on my own and am providing my honest opinions about them.