How to Build a Postpartum Recovery Kit

Ah, the necessary evil of postpartum recovery!

If you’re here you either

A – Just gave birth

B- Are preparing to give birth

C – Are one of the 7 people that read my previous post about my Postpartum Survival Guide

Either way, hello! And I’m glad you’re here. You’re either about to or are currently embarking upon those early days of motherhood. If you’d like some more tips and tricks on postpartum healing that aren’t super gory, check out the aforementioned blog post. If you want the nitty gritty, gloves off, how am I supposed to pee details of postpartum recovery, keep reading.

*Disclaimer* The following can get a little hairy and TMI, you have been warned.

If you had a C-section, I’m sure there are a few things you can add or omit from this kit, a few of these items solely will help vaginal birth recovery.

Anyways. Ya’ll. No one can prepare you for recovering from a vaginal birth, you just have to go through it yourself. I highly highly recommend you educate yourself as much as possible about what happens to your body postpartum. So much of our pregnancies are spent getting prenatal care, and while that is necessary, I don’t think we place enough stress on postnatal care. Your body is stretched and pushed to limits it never has before, and it’s going to take a while for things to get back to normal – and that’s ok! It only makes sense – it took 9 months for you body to get into the shape it’s in now. It’s not going to get back to normal overnight, or even in a month for that matter.

To help you along the way, here a few things I think are essential to help your downstairs heal as quickly and easily as possible.

First, go to Target and get yourself a cute little basket to fit in your bathroom, and fill it with the following goodies.

Tucks Pads. Tucks Pads. Tucks Pads.

I was a naive little girl and thought to myself “It can’t be that bad, I’m not going to spend my money on those.” WRONG. SO WRONG. I tore pretty badly in two places, and tucks pads were my best friend. I didn’t have any prior to giving birth, so needless to say we stopped on our way home from the hospital to pick some up. I think by the end of it all, I went through at least 4 jars of them. There are tons of posts about creating your own tucks pads and keeping them in the freezer, but let me tell you. The absolute last thing on my mind was pouring witch hazel and aloe on a pad, and sticking it in the freezer. I was more than happy to spend $5 on that little jar of relief.

Your Handy Dandy Peri Bottle

The hospital will more than likely give you one during your stay and let you take it home. If not, be sure to buy one and treasure it – keep it close to your heart.  Before every bathroom trip, fill it up with warm water and your potty breaks will be so much easier. Be sure to keep it clean and germ free, you don’t need to expose your already sensitive parts to more bacteria!

Baby Wipes

Steal a pack of wipes from your little ones nursery, and keep them in your basket. It can take a few weeks for things to calm down in the blood department and toilet paper will not be your friend for a while. Baby wipes may not even be your friend for a while to be honest. You can however use them to clean surrounding areas, and freshen up in between showers.

Super Soaker XL Pads

Whether you choose to use disposable underwear or regular pads, stock up on them. Buy what you think you will need, and they buy one more box. It’s also important to note, many women find the material of their pads to be very important. Soft cotton materials are much more sensitive on your lady parts, and tend to tug less if you have any stitches. I usually use Always pads, but after having my daughter I switched to Kotex ones. I found them to be much softer and was never afraid of them getting stuck *ouch*.

Granny Pannies

You know what I’m talking about. That pack of bright pink and purple Fruit of the Loom underwear your mom used to buy from Wal-Mart? Girl, go get you some. Personally, I’d buy them a size up from what you usually wear. Things are swollen, you’re stuffing them with pads and tucks pads, you’ll want the extra room. And if they get sacrificed to the postpartum war gods, you won’t feel bad about throwing them away.

Keep all of these items on your bathroom counter, right beside the toilet within arms reach. You may be like me and think you won’t need any of the items, and while that may be true, I bet you’ll benefit from at least one of them. It is so much nicer if you’re already stocked at home instead of sending your husband out to the feminine care aisle. In the meantime, I promise – you will pee like a normal human again. But until then, keep your arsenal stocked.

Alright momma, go forth and raise you babies. We are all in this motherhood thing together, and know that I am here for you! Motherhood is a crazy ride, and we need to grab our fellow moms and hold tight. Let’s get to know each other! Share your childbirth stories below!

A Millenial Mom’s Postpartum Survival Guide

*This post is rated PG-13 for graphic real life content and tons of TMI’s. You have been warned.*Congratulations! That sweet little bundle of joy you have been oh so anxiously waiting for has finally arrived after nine long months. You are on cloud nine, pure bliss, nothing can kill the natural high you are experiencing. Until you’re discharged from the hospital and on your own. You walk (more like waddle) into your living room and are suddenly hit with the reality of postpartum. Not only are you now responsible for keeping that tiny little squish alive, but your body is recovering from one of the most grueling experiences it can go through. The emotional aspects of postpartum recovery can be even more taxing than the physical ones, but we’re going to save those for another post. In order to make your postpartum recovery as easy as possible, here are a few things you should have in your arsenal before coming home from the hospital.

An Extension Cord

Even if you are lucky enough to be able to sleep in your bed at first, you’re probably going to be spending a good amount of time in your living room. And if you’re living room is anything like mine, outlets are placed in the most inconvenient places possible. To keep from having to awkwardly bend over while your phone is charging, do yourself a favor and have an extension cord ready for action.

The Big Comfy Couch

No, not the classic 90s TV show with Lunette and Molly. A pillow fort worthy couch. If you’re a super human woman, ignore this one. My tiny 5 foot nothing body birthed a 7 1/2 pound baby – AKA – I stretched and swelled up in places I didn’t know were possible. Add this to our humongous bed frame that comes up to my chest – and I couldn’t even think about launching myself into bed. My husband and I camped out on the couch for the first 5 or 6 days we were home with Em because I literally couldn’t get up into the bed. I made sure to cover the couch with blankets I didn’t mind ruining, and propped up with lots of comfy pillows. Em slept in her pack n play right in the middle of our sectional, and I was SO much comfier.

A Warzone Kit for your Bathroom

I feel that this is so important – I dedicated an entire post to creating your warzone kit. Whether you deliver vaginally, or have a C-Section, you likely have a long and uncomfortable road to recovery ahead of you. Within my first few days home after having my daughter, I had accumulated several staple items that I just left in a pile on my bathroom counter. Check out my post here to find out what I kept at arms reach.

A Cute Reusable Cup

It is no secret that breastfeeding can be incredibly difficult. In those early days it’s best you stay as hydrated as you can, and replenish your body! Personally, I found that the reusable cups with lids and straws worked perfect for me. I would rotate between two, constantly filling and refilling them with water and juice throughout the day. Keep it sitting beside you at all times, and let it be a constant reminder to you to stay hydrated!

Drugs and a Timer/Alarm

Don’t be like me ya’ll. Fill that prescription for your extra strength pain killers, and buy a bottle of laxatives. Even if you don’t end up using them, it’s better to have them on hand instead of wishing you did. I cannot stress the laxatives enough. When you think you’re finally back to normal and don’t need them anymore – keep taking them for another day or so. Your booty will thank you. Keep whatever medicine you’re taking on your coffee table, and set a timer on your phone to remind you of your next doses.

 

Now I know what you’re thinking. If you haven’t had children yet, or are expecting your first, you’re probably terrified. Recovering from childbirth may be one of the most uncomfortably difficult things you go through, but I promise you will get through it. I’m simply sharing these things with you in hopes of making your transition into motherhood a little easier!

What was one item you couldn’t live without those first few weeks after giving birth?

3 Easy Tips to Style Your Family Photos

Family photos are one of those things you love to hate. You of course love the outcome – beautiful photos of your sweet family that you’ll cherish forever. The process however, isn’t as peaceful. As a mother and a photographer, I completely understand both sides. You want your family to look their best, because you don’t want sloppy looking photos to share with friends and family, right? One of the easiest ways to help your photos turn out the best they can be, is by planning your outfits ahead of time. I know, you can hear the kids and your husband grumbling already. The idea of matching clothes makes your family members cringe, but if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy – so they allow us this one little pleasure 🙂 Here are a few family photo ideas for you and your tribe.

Don’t Be Matchy Matchy

My first and most obvious tip to you, is to avoid the super matchy. We all know the family that has photos done on the beach, and everyone is wearing white tshirts and dark wash blue jeans. While those photos are beautiful, they are very dated in my opinion. You can get so much more creative with your outfits! The usual tip I give to families, is to choose a color scheme with two or three colors to stick with. Within that scheme, you can add some prints and solids.

Family Photo Ideas

Take a look at the Clark family for example. Nicole choose a beautiful deep purple and gold as her main colors, and accented them with neutral colors like cream and gray. The different prints between she and the girls aren’t quite identical, yet the colors compliment each other perfectly. She found her pants and the girls dresses at Old Navy – which is truly the one place I always suggest people go when looking for outfits for family photos!

 Family Photo Ideas

The last time my husband and I had family photos taken, we got a few pieces from Old Navy that all coordinated perfectly. We chose coral and blue as our main color scheme. My husband’s shirt and my shawl came from Old Navy, and BOOM we had the perfect outfits. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, you can always count on Old Navy to have clothes across the entire store that coordinate with one another.

Take Care of the Kids First

Tip number two is honestly the most important one – buy your kids outfits first. Even if your kids are young, you know what brands of clothing fit them best and what they’re comfortable in. If your kids are uncomfortable, your photo session is more than likely going to end with frazzled parents and unhappy kids. To avoid mayhem, go with what you know! Whether it be Old Navy, Cat and Jack, The Children’s Place or Carter’s, find a cute piece that you know will be comfortable on your kids. Also, it’s getting harder and harder to find solid color kids clothing these days, so let them wear the bold prints. You can easily accent them yourself with solid colored pieces.

Layer it Up

The last tip is an easy one – dress in layers. Even if you’re getting photos taken in the summer time, you can buy a loose coverup and wear it over a tank top or t-shirt. Wearing different layers will first of all add texture and depth to your look. Layers can hide areas you may be insecure about, accessorize your outfit, and even act as a buffer. And by buffer, I pretty much mean kid proof. If you have your son wearing a plaid collared shirt with a colored shirt underneath, you have a back up plan. Just in case he gets a stain on his plaid shirt, no worries! You have his colored t-shirt as a backup that still matches.

As with anything, try not to stress about getting the perfect family photos taken. Your kids will pick up on your tension, and likely feed off of it. Not every single photo is going to be perfectly posed, and that’s honestly a beautiful representation of your family. No family is perfectly dressed and well mannered all the time. Embrace the crazy, let your kids make silly faces and enjoy yourselves. When was the last time you had family photos taken, and how did they turn out?

How to Take Better Photos on Your iPhone

You’re scrolling through Instagram, looking at everyone else’s beautiful photos, and you think to yourself “man, I bet they took those photos with a nice camera, that’s way too much work.” While I’m sure that there are some super dedicated people who do just that, I’m not willing to put in that much effort – and if you’re reading this you aren’t either. It is 100% possible for you to take beautiful, Instagram worthy photos of your kids, home decor, dinner, or even a selfie from your iPhone. All you need to do is learn how to make your phone work for you.

Work That Light Girl

First, you must find a great source of natural light. Whether it’s a window, screen door, or even outside on your back porch, the easiest way to improve your photos is to frame your subject with natural light. So many times we can look at our photos in our camera roll, upset with the shadows, grainy quality or weird tint from fluorescents. Even on a rainy day, great natural light can take your selfies to the next level.

Once you find. your source, it’s time to play around with your shadows. If you want a backlit photo, place your subject directly in the light, and stand in front of it. If you want a softer “lit from within” look, stand in between the subject and the light source. Be careful while doing this though, and make sure you or your phone isn’t casting a shadow.

iPhone Photography Tips

Take this photo my sweet momma took for example. This shot of my daughter and i would be so cute – if it weren’t for the shadow of the stroller, and my mom’s head. (No offense momma. I still like this picture). Anyways, instead of just snapping a photo and moving on, take a moment and make sure there aren’t any weird shadows being cast on your subject. Sometimes you may have to curl up into an awkward position to avoid this –  oh the things we do for the perfect shot 🙂

iPhone Photo Composition

Next, you want to think about your photo composition. For more information about this, check out my more in depth post about the rule of thirds. In a nutshell, you can play around with the focus of your photo. Don’t be afraid to place your subject somewhere other than dead center! One of the easiest way to understand this concept, is to turn on the grid in your phones camera. To do this on an iphone, go to your Settings > Camera > Grid. This will divide your “viewfinder” up into nine sections, helping you decide where to place your subject.

Also, you want to pay close attention to where you are cutting off your subject. Let’s look at that same photo of my daughter and I again.

Iphone Photography tips

The tip of my head is cut off, which you may have never even noticed if I hadn’t pointed it out to you. My rule of thumb for body composition is simple. If you have to cut off part of a person, do it in the natural bends on the body. By that I mean if you’re zooming in or cropping an image, cut the person at the neck, elbows, knees etc., anywhere the body bends.

Photography Tips

Take this shot of Nicole for example. I wanted a close up shot, but not a full bust shot. So I chose to fill my viewfinder with her torso, and cut off the bottom of her body at the knee.

You also want to pay attention to the background and foreground of your photo. Most of  the time, you’re just concerned with the foreground of your photo and you zoom right in on it. Take a moment and step back, what is in the background of your photo? Is there something laying on the floor that takes away from the subject? Move it! Is there a piece of trash outside that would be a distraction? Change your angle until it moves out of sight. Are there really clean lines on the wall behind your subject? Play around with how much of the wall you include and see what adds context to your photo.

Turn that Phone!

Now I know this is crazy talk – but don’t be afraid to turn your phone horizontal. Pay attention to your subject. Are you taking a photo of a long vase with beautiful long stem roses? Leave your phone vertical so your focus stays on the flowers. Or, are you taking a photo of the massive 12 inch sub you ate for lunch? Turn your phone horizontal and don’t cut off any of the delicious meat and cheese. Don’t be afraid to play around with your shot, and take some photos both ways – see which one you like best! I will add, anytime you take a video on your phone – TURN YOUR PHONE HORIZONTALLY PLEASE! Phones today take full HD video, and it is truly maximized when you fill your frame and turn your phone sideways!

Photo Editing

Lastly, I would be amiss if I didn’t mention editing your photos. Personally, I try not to edit my photos too heavily. You should be taking a good enough photo to begin with, that it doesn’t need much work post comp! 

Now there are literally thousands of photo editing apps out there, and I’m sure they are all great. There are two main ones that I use regularly. The main app I use is Snapseed. It truly is the one photo editing app that does it all – and it’s free. Seriously ya’ll. If you download any app, please make sure it’s this one!

Snapseed

On it’s main page, you have several filters, or “looks” for you to choose from. If you want to get more detailed, you can go to the tools tab. Here you can adjust your photos white balance, curves, add a little bokeh, you name it. You can truly just play around for hours and get to know all the different tools available for you here. I’m working on an entire post dedicated to this app, check back later for an in depth description!

Pic Tap Go

If I just want a quick edit of a photo to share, I use Pictapgo. It can help you rotate and crop your photos, do a quick adjustment of the contrast and color and adjust the lighting. Pictapgo also has several filters you can use, and I personally find them to be much more natural looking than the preloaded ones on Instagram. 

I hope you have found these tips helpful, and are ready to start taking better photos on your phone! Drop some of your photos in the comments and tell me which tip was your favorite!

A Hearth and Hand by Magnolia Style Guide

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past several years, you’ve probably heard of Chip and Joanna Gaines. Like the rest of America, my husband and I love sitting down on Tuesday nights to relax and watch their hit TV show, Fixer Upper. They released their own home decor line in what I like to call the motherland (Target) called Hearth and Hand with Magnolia. Basically everything on my Christmas list came from this collection.

Before we get into the pieces I love, let’s take a moment to appreciate the simplicity of this line! When it comes to decorating, I’m definitely a less is more type of person. I love simple lines, designs, prints and accents – and that is exactly what this line encapsulates. Joanna did an incredible job putting everything in this line together, and genuinely made it idiot proof! You can pick and choose between all the pieces and not worry about them matching your own decor or each other.

So without further adieu, here are my favorite pieces!

Dinnerware

I have always wanted to have a beautifully set table ready for my guests when they walk into the dining room, and this line has fulfilled just that.

DSC_0944

It starts with the galvanized charger with gold welding. While these are a little more rustic than my usual taste, the plates and linens I chose help to balance them out. On top of the chargers are the cream dinner plates. They have a smooth glossy finish, but still have that beautiful handmade feel. If you look closely you can see tiny dips, grains and imperfections in every plate. No two plates are alike, and their unfinished edges set them apart. On top of the dinner plates I chose the black salad plate. They are probably my favorite of the whole set! They have a matte finish opposed to the gloss of the cream plates, and the contrast of the two is just stunning. The simple contrast of the matte black against the shine of the creamy white is such a powerful style statement that I just love!

DSC_0945

Linens

DSC_0940

For the linens, I chose not to incorporate a table runner. Instead I picked out the X pattern napkins. Once again, the neutral tones of the napkins would match absolutely anything from the line, but sitting on top of the black salad plate just makes them pop! For now I’m keeping them folded and held together in the galvanized napkin ring, tying in perfectly with the chargers.

Living Room Decor

For the living room, I chose to keep things pretty simple as well (are you seeing a pattern here 🙂 )

DSC_0948On our coffee table, I have the black stoneware pitcher on top of another galvanized charger. Side note, the pitcher was the first thing in the collection that I saw, and I told my husband that if it wasn’t a gift I was going to buy it for myself 🙂 Anyways! I love how the pitcher plays up the dark metal we have on our coffee table as well as our bookshelves.

On the couch are the lumbar pillow and throw.

To my knowledge, they are actually no longer available after the release of their new spring line. I feel bad taunting you with little pretties that are out of reach, but I have to share them, right?

Speaking of their new spring line, there are a few new items on my wish list! I’ll be sure to share those items with you if they join the family 🙂

5 Things You Don’t Know About Miscarriages Until You Have One

Three things you aren’t supposed to talk about at the dinner table: Church, politics, and miscarriages. Wait, what … miscarriages? You’re not crazy, I said miscarriages. Even more taboo – miscarriage recovery.

The conversation topic of miscarriage seems to be right up there with politics – it’s a topic that almost never is brought up, and when it is it’s in hushed tones. Miscarriages aren’t necessarily a controversial topic, they’re a sensitive one. 1 in 4 pregnancies today end in miscarriage. To put it in perspective, think of your 3 closest girlfriends. 1 of the 4 of you are likely to have a miscarriage – if someone hasn’t already.

So if miscarriages are so common today, why does the room fall silent when we bring them up? I’m writing to you today to do my part in starting the conversation. Miscarriages are tough, emotionally and physically draining, disheartening and stressful.  My husband and I miscarried our first child in the Summer of 2015, and the rest of that year was the roughest of my life. I would have loved to have found a post like this one during that time, so I’m writing to you in hopes of helping YOU. Whether you’ve gone through one yourself, or you’re trying to help a friend, let’s talk about it.

You Probably Already Know Someone that Has Had a Miscarriage

Since miscarriage rates are so high today, I would almost guarantee that someone you know has gone through a miscarriage – you just don’t know it. My husband and I chose not to “go public” with our miscarriage, and just shared the news with our close family and friends. We hadn’t publicly shared the pregnancy, so it wasn’t too difficult. Once we shared the news, it’s like people started coming out of the wood works. So many sweet ladies texted, sent messages and offered a listening ear – because they had gone through the same thing. They shared their experiences with us so graciously, letting us see a deep part of their heart that few other people had seen. My husband and I were absolutely dumbfounded with the number of friends that had experienced loss, and had we not gone through it ourselves we probably would have never known. My advice to you, is just to simply listen to those who have gone through this before you. Whether or not you take anything from their kind words, you are likely helping them heal too. If you do find healing in sharing experiences with another women, then that is absolutely wonderful! Find your “people” and hold them close. However if you don’t find comfort in them, that’s ok too.

Everyone Heals Differently

I’m not talking about the physical healing – we will get there in a second. I’m talking emotional healing. Losing a child you never saw takes a toll on your emotional well being. But just like every other human emotion, every person is going to handle this situation differently. Some people may curl up and not leave the house for several days. For others, they may get right back up and jump right back into daily life to distract themselves. I’m not here to tell you how to heal and how not to. I will just say to do whatever you feel is right. And if something feels right one day, but not the next – that’s ok too. There will be people with the best of intentions, trying to help you and tell you how to feel better. That is what we do when our friends experience hardships, isn’t it? We offer kind words, meals and prayers, and a shoulder to lean on. Accept everything your friends have to offer, and let them know you appreciate them. 

You’re Not Done With the Doctor Just Yet

Ah yes, now for the physical healing. So if you’re like me, you hate going to the doctor already. Well let me tell you, you’re about to hate it a little more. After that initial visit to confirm your miscarriage – you have to keep going back to get your blood drawn – and that’s if everything happens naturally. Some women have to have an outpatient procedure to ensure their body fully heals and recovers from the miscarriage. Thankfully I did not have to have a procedure, but I was still miserable. Now of course, your recovery time is going to vary based on your body, and how far along the in the pregnancy you were – but the follow up process sucks just the same.

Doctors like to see your HCG levels return to a normal pre-pregnancy level, which means you have to tote your miserable self to the doctor once a week until you get the doctor’s ok. I myself wasn’t terribly far along, but it took 9 weeks for my HCG levels to return to normal. 9 weeks of a painful reminder of loss. As if getting blood work done isn’t miserable enough, the simple fact of why you’re in the doctor’s office is enough to take a toll on a girl. If I were you, I would try and take a friend or spouse with you to each appointment. You won’t feel as lonely in the waiting room, and they can help you take your mind off things. Personally, I think it’s much easier for that emotional healing to begin after this is over.

You May See a Side of Your Significant Other that You’ve Never Seen Before

Now yes, I realize everyone is different and grieves differently. I feel like I’m beating a dead horse with this. But everyone’s relationships function differently, and they handle stress in their own ways. However at least some sort of grieving happens – even if it’s completely hidden. Women are typically very up front with their emotions, while the men take the backseat and grieve internally.

And this is why Husband’s deserve an Olympic medal in this situation. They provide emotional support all while dealing with their own emotions. I’m not saying that women are not supportive to their spouse in tough situations. I’m not saying women are such an emotional mess that they can’t function without their partner. I’m just saying that in any sort of emotional distress, women often turn to their spouses for guidance and support.

For my husband and I, our miscarriage was the first emotionally draining experience our marriage had been exposed to – and I saw a side of him I had never seen before. The idea of fatherhood already had him on cloud nine and it was quickly ripped out from under him. He was vulnerable, hurting, and dealing with loss like I had never seen before. Thankfully we were both there for each other, and understood each others needs during that season. There were many nights we fell asleep sharing our hearts, in a vulnerable way like never before. But that is the beauty of marriage – for better or for worse.

If You Get Pregnant Again, it May Be Scary

Just kidding – it WILL be scary. I would be lying if I said pregnancy after loss is all sunshine and rainbows. Pregnancy alone is such a roller coaster of feelings and emotions. But pregnancy after loss? You haven’t even tapped into your emotional range until you’ve been through that.

On one side, you are absolutely elated about being pregnant again. On the other side, your mind immediately sends you back to those thoughts and fears of miscarriage. You will look forward to every single doctor’s appointment, simply because it will give you reassurance that everything is ok. I would like to tell you that the feeling goes away as your pregnancy progresses – but again, that would be a lie. It really won’t go away until you’re in the labor and delivery room and that baby is placed in your arms. All I can say is try and find peace. It’s so hard, but don’t live in fear of what may happen. Enjoy every single day that sweet little life grows inside you.

All in all, miscarriage is something that I wish my husband and I had never gone through. So many women in the world have gone through it without having the support of a loving spouse and family like we did. Some women experience multiple miscarriages, each one bringing new scars and emotions. I’m just hear to tell you that you are not alone, it’s ok to grieve, and if you have a relationship with our Lord and Savior – you WILL have the pleasure of meeting your sweet angel one day! If you or a loved one has been through a miscarriage, feel free to share your story below.