Learning about baby

Being a first time parent can be overwhelming.  I've certainly been around a lot of children and have a lot of friends and family members with kids, but now that I'm faced with having not one, but two newborns of my own, I have to admit, I'm a bit intimidated and scared.  Also excited and happy, but that fear keeps creeping in.  What do I do when they cry?  How do I change a diaper again?  Breastfeeding is best, but how do you do it?  And perhaps the most daunting - how am I going to make it through labor and delivery and what choices should I make?!

These are just some of the questions that have raced through my mind that I want answers to.  Thankfully, there are tons of resources out there.

Of course, my doctors/midwives/nurses are a primary source of information.  Thankfully they have been very good about answering the crazy questions that I've had so far.  And at taking panicked phone calls wondering if something I was experiencing was normal.  At my first appointment, they gave me a big packet of information with tons of information sheets including things like foods and medications that were (and weren't) pregnancy safe.  Later in the pregnancy, they assign you online modules that you watch at your own pace.  These cover important topics like what to expect at your hospital stay (and discharge), pain relief options and what happens if you need a C section.  All great information, but not interactive (which is the method of learning that I prefer.

My Hospital, Magee Womens Hospital has a great selection of classes as well.   I have taken advantage of the Baby Care Basics, weekend childbirth intensive (over one weekend instead of six evening classes) and breastfeeding.  They have all met or exceeded my expectations.  The instructors are real and down to earth.  They don't sugar coat what your experience will be, but they give  you information and confidence so you don't need to fear your birthing experience either.  The classes are also very hands on which makes it easier to learn and feel prepared.  At the baby care class, we practiced diaper changes, bathing and swaddling. In breast feeding, we learned about different positions that the baby can be held in and had the opportunity to practice them with dolls.  In childbirth, we had a variety of items including yoga/birthing balls and other relaxation items while we practiced labor positions and breathing.  If you are going to be a patient at Magee, I highly recommend their classes!  Or check out the ones offered by your hospital.  They will no doubt be just as informative had useful.

One thing that surprised me is that Babies R Us offers many classes - most being free!   I have taken advantage of their baby care basics class (where I learned that you need to have a pediatrician selected before you go to deliver - among other things), breastfeeding, avoiding a C Section, car seat safety and infant/child CPR.  The only one that you had to pay for was the CPR class, but it was well worth the price knowing that you have the skills to save your child's life if you ever need it.  Most of the classes are only an hour long - so they are more like introductions into the topics, but they are a great wealth of information and hey, even if you don't like it, they were free so you have nothing to lose.  Check your local store for times and offerings!

The thing I am probably most excited about is that we hired a doula.  I first heard of a doula when my friend Kristen had her first baby over two years ago.  I was intrigued at the concept but didn't think much about it again until I was feeling overwhelmed about all the choices that we are faced with during the child birth process.  After getting recommendations from instructors at my various classes, I have decided to go with Sharon of Blessed Arrivals.  Doulas will meet with you prior to delivery to discuss your birthing preferences, help prepare you for what you might experience and in general provide reassurance that your choices are valid.  When the big day comes, they will help you determine if you are in fact in labor and ready to go to the hospital (one of my fears is going in too early and being unnecessarily induced).  They are also your coach and advocate during the birthing process.  They will work directly with you and your birthing partner to help you through the labor and delivery process (including various labor positions and comfort measures).  They are also there to be your advocate and help navigate what can be a scary and intimidating process.  They are familiar with the hospital's process and procedures and know many of the nurses and staff which is a huge plus.  I'm extremely excited to have a professional on my side at the hospital, especially with having twins.

We are also taking a Hypno Babies class.  It sounds a bit out there, but it is all about how to relax and meditate during your birthing experience.  We've only done one class, but it has already been a big help in giving me peace of mind and taking away my fear of what will happen during birth.  I am looking forward to the rest of the classes!

Of course, I've read a bunch of the traditional resources as well (What to Expect, breastfeeding 101, etc).

I feel more confident and ready because of all the classes and preparation we have done.  Hopefully in July, I'll be able to report back with another post about how all of these preparations really did help me to have an awesome birth experience.  

The world of product reviews

I have recently been introduced to the world of reviewing products on Amazon. I had generally written reviews in the past of most of my purchases, but never knew there were so many opportunities out there to review products at a discounted rate or better yet, even for free! This has opened a new world of trying exciting and different products that I may not have otherwise been aware of or been able to afford. This is especially exciting because there are many sellers that have baby products! It is a huge help when you have twins on the way as your baby number one and two. I am still learning about all the exciting ways you can try new products, but here are some of my favorites:

AMZ Review Trader: On this site, there are a large number of products listed in a variety of categories. Everything from baby to electronics, clothing, health and beauty, automotive and more! Products range from free to about a 50% discount and it is quite a mix. When you are approved for membership, the product seller will review your Amazon profile and decide if you are approved for a product. If you are, you will receive an email with the promotional code to claim your product. Once you receive the product, you have ten days to leave a review and seller feedback. It is a simple way to get some incredible products and to help sellers boost their presence on Amazon. Some of my favorite products from this site include a car mirror for baby, silver infinity sign earrings and a great wine aerator. Check them out!

Another site that has products is Review Loop. You will need an invite to the site, but they do seem to come out fairly frequently. Review Loop can be hit or miss. I did get an awesome knife set but it seems at the moment, most of what is available is supplements. There are various reviewer levels on Review Loop and you qualify for different (and higher value) products as your level increases.
There are also countless Facebook groups that offer products along with Facebook groups that help you find products.

Do you like free stuff and deals? Is writing a passion of yours? Then reviewing may be for you! I encourage you to check it out!

A new adventure

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage. We knew we wanted kids and were open to them coming whenever it was God's will for it. When it took longer than expected to get pregnant, I started to get discouraged. Then in November of 2014, I had a positive pregnancy test. And then about five more before I believed it and went to the doctor for confirmation. Yes, our dream of parenthood was finally coming true! But now what?! I had a deep desire to be a mom, but have always been independent and done a million things on my own schedule. What does this mean for us? Wow how our lives our going to change! We found out in December just how much our lives were going to change... About a week before our first ultrasound, I had a vivid dream we were having twins. It didn't phase me that much because I always have vivid dreams and of course pregnancy multiplied that. All I was concerned about at the ultrasound was a strong heart beat and confirming I was about as far along as I thought I was. When I heard the heartbeat, it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen or heard. My husband and I both started crying tears of joy. But the ultrasound tech had a fun surprise! There were two strong little heart beats! TWINS! Because of the dream I wasn't as shocked as many probably are when they receive the news of twins, but it was still quite a surprise. One baby is intimidating enough but TWO?!
We knew walking into the ultrasound appointment that our lives would forever be changed, but we didn't know just how much. And despite it being scary, intimidating and a bit overwhelming, we are both extremely excited and feeling very blessed to start this journey towards parenthood and raising two babies together.

Fun website

I have been a member of Bzz Agent for a while. Recently I learned of a fun site called Influenster. You get "points" for your thoughts, reviews, etc. If you are lucky, you get selected to receive a box of samples. I recently joined and was invited to take a qualification survey for a box. Unfortunately, I did not qualify, but hopefully I will in the near future.

Found a new staple for my beauty routine

About two years ago, a friend told me about Bzz Agent. For those that aren't familiar, it is a website where you sign up, complete surveys and can qualify to receive free products. In return for you receiving the free products, you "Bzz" about the product. Write reviews, connect on FB with the product, tell your friends and family members. Sometimes it is hard to do these activities, especially if you don't love a product. Other times, you can't stop talking about it even if your Bzz Agent campaign activities have long been completed. One of these products is Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid. I have sensitive, fair toned skin that is prone to breakouts. A lot of products will help with the breakout but make my skin dry and flaky. Or they cause redness that becomes extremely visible because of how pale I am. This always makes me skeptical to try new things. I wasn't sure what to expect from Paula's. It had great reviews online, but then again, so did Proactive and that killed my skin. The first time I used it, I was pleased that when applying, it didn't burn my skin or cause tingling as this type of product sometimes can. It has a texture thicker then water but not my much and almost no scent (which is a plus in my book). I didn't really notice anything with my skin until about three days into using the product. I've never had smooth or glowing skin and I started to notice that for the first time, my skin felt smooth to the touch. Perhaps the most surprising was that I didn't get my usual hormonal breakout around the time of my period like I usually do. I had one small pimple on my chin instead of the multiple breakout locations I can sometimes have. I am very grateful to have been a part of this Bzz Campaign and can picture myself using and talking about this product long after the campaign ends.

Starting Over

I started this blog when I began my visits to Pittsburgh to record some of my observations, thoughts and experiences. To say a lot has happened since the last time I posted would be a massive understatement. Since my last post, I got engaged, moved to Pittsburgh, changed jobs, got married, honeymooned in Rome, met Pope Francis and have been adjusting to the daily struggles of newlywed life. All that being said, I am going to start writing in this blog again but instead focus on the daily life of a Catholic girl who got married later in life (I was 34 when I got married). What are some of the ups and downs? Good things that happen? The bad? Emotions associated with it and everything in between.

A Valentine's Day Surprise

Valentine's Day was on a Tuesday this year.  Not really an ideal date night for anyone, but especially not if you are in a long distance relationship.  Chris had resigned himself to the fact that we weren't going to see each other that night and we made plans to celebrate while he was in Buffalo the previous weekend.  What he didn't know is that I had made plans to come down for a surprise visit and treat him to a dinner cruise on the Gateway Clipper. 

I've pulled off surprise parties and events before without a hitch but I was worried about this one.  What if Chris made other plans?  What if he had the same crazy idea and decided to come to Buffalo and we passed each other on the 79?  Luckily my friend Jason works in the same office as Chris and kept tabs on him throughout out the day.  I kept getting updates like "Chris just went to a meeting" or "Chris is away but not offline." 

I had given away the secret that Chris was getting a Valentine's Day surprise but he was convinced it was something like a cookie bouquet or Sherri's Berries.  When I called to thank him for the beautiful purple roses he sent to my office, he commented "I still don't have my surprise."  When we talked at various points throughout the day, I assured him that it was coming.  When I left the office to head to Pittsburgh, I texted him that I had just received confirmation that his surprise was officially on the road.  As I approached Pittsburgh, I (not surprisingly) got stuck in traffic.  Right around the same time (as the end of the work day was fast approaching), Chris texted me again to say that his surprise had not yet arrived.  I giggled as I replied "it is stuck in traffic but should be there soon." At this point he was convinced that his surprise was something I left with my friend Jason to deliver to him and not something being delivered by a company to his office. 

Chris was shocked to learn that his surprise was actually me coming down to visit him.  He was very excited that I was there but we almost weren't able to take the dinner cruise!  A test he had to run was scheduled for 7:00 that night - right when we'd be cruising on one of Pittsburgh's three rivers.  Thankfully the test was cancelled and didn't interfere with our plans. 

We met up at Station Square, the home of the Gateway Clipper Fleet (and also where Chris parks for work and where we first met).  With time to kill, we took a trek up the Monongahela Incline.  As the incline inched away from the Station Square station to the top of Mount Washington, the Pittsburgh skyline came into full view.  I don't think I'll ever lose the awe over the stunning views from multiple angles that the City of Pittsburgh provides.  After departing the incline, we spend some time observing from the platforms that jut out over the edge of Mt. Washington.  It was chilly so we didn't stay too long but I could picture myself sitting on a bench on a summer day enjoying the view and getting lost in thought about all the stories that were taking place down below.

The Valentine's day dinner cruise on the Gateway Clipper exceeded my expectations.  We boarded the Majestic and the interior resembled a two story banquet hall.  The decor and atmosphere were much different than I expected as I felt more like I was in a hotel ballroom than on a boat.  We were escorted to our window seats (after a quick photo opportunity) and were greeted with a friendly waitress presenting is with drink and appetizer options.  Drinks were a bit pricey but that is to be expected at something like this. 

Dinner was served buffet style and with great precision as the large number of tables were all served quickly and efficiently.  There were a variety of options and I found the food to be quite tasty considering it was generic banquet food.

The cruise itself was a lot of fun.  There was some narration about the buildings we were passing along the way but not so much that it distracted from the romantic experience of the dinner cruise.  There was a live "band" that played the music for the evening.  I'm a musician so I'm a bit of a snob when it comes to musical quality and this group was certainly not destined for large scale success any time soon.  But they knew how to get a crowd into the music and have fun and ultimately, that is what really matters.  After dancing the night away we took some time to explore the other decks of the ship.  It is quite spacious and each area has its own character. 

It was fantastic seeing the skyline of Pittsburgh and the areas surrounding downtown Pittsburgh via the water at night.  Once again I marveled at what a fun and unique experience was available in the Steel City, especially in the middle of winter.  I look forward to taking a Gateway Clipper cruise again - perhaps one of the one hour sight seeing tours.