January 13, 2017

Baby Hera’s 2-Month Update

 

hera_2monthsBaby Hera is 2 months old!

Baby Hera’s milestones

The last eight weeks have passed by so quickly! At two months, Hera’s communication and motor skills have drastically improved. She doesn’t cease to surprise me with what she new things she learns every day. We are both learning about each other and so far, it’s been a great adventure. Here are some of the milestones she’s reached in the last month:

Interested in Complex Designs

Little Hera is interested in the world around her! She is starting to focus her eyes on bright, flashing lights, colors , and can track patterns with her eyes.  She seems to be very aware of her surroundings and spends a lot of her awake time “observing” the things around her. This month, we have spent a lot of time traveling around the house to give her a chance to become more acquainted with the world she lives in. She is not yet reaching for objects on her own but is receptive to soft textures.

A Better Listener

Hera has started to look towards the origin of different sounds, one of those sounds being mommy’s voice! When I talk to her, she turns towards me and sometimes graces me with her beautiful little smile. I am not sure how many emotion’s she has developed yet, but it’s nice to feel that she is smiling because she is starting to possibly understand who I am. She is also interested in sounds around her but unfortunately this also means that she is more sensitive to it.

Communicating and Imitating

Hera is starting to communicate! Her words still sound like mostly cooing and gurgling but she does try to engage me in conversation. She tries to imitate sounds as well. I can’t wait to see whether she says Mommy or Daddy first!

PicMonkey Collage

Baby’s Favorite Products

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1.Aden+Anais Swaddles 2. Bright Starts Bouncer 3. Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Pacifier
4. Graco DuetConnectLX Swing + Bouncer 5. Tiny Love Cozy Rocker Napper 6. Comotomo Baby Bottles
November 30, 2016

Hera’s Birth Story

I’ve actually wanted to post about my birth experience for some time but between adjusting to a new baby and healing as a new mom, I didn’t have a chance to sit down and gather my thoughts. People say that you forget the pain of childbirth and only remember meeting your beautiful new child, I definitely agree. So, as I try to piece together how everything went down on that day, I can only remember the good feelings.

pregnant1Looking like a big balloon at 38 weeks pregnant!

As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I was so excited to meet my little baby and dreamed of what our first meeting would be like. I thought about what I needed to pack for the hospital, when I would go, what I would do, but as soon as I thought about what birth would feel like, my mind went blank. For months I searched and read birth stories. The closer I got to my expected due date, the more nervous I became. What if I didn’t know I was giving birth? What if I gave birth on the way to the hospital or on the bathroom floor? I had spent too many nights watching shows in which women hadn’t even known they were pregnant until they were in labor. No one had the answer I was looking for. Some moms described it as intense cramping, others felt like they were dying. Although the baby arrived a little over a week after my expected due date, I felt unprepared.

I wanted to have a birth that was as natural as possible but I did not limit myself. I knew that I was going to be in pain, I just didn’t know how much. If I needed medical intervention, I was not going to keep myself from it. As long as little Hera is healthy, I reminded myself. I spent months reading up on information about childbirth and began thinking about what decisions were best for our family. We decided to give birth at a natural birthing center that would give me more authority over my birth. In Korea, there are too many medical interventions and a high C-section rate. While I would NEVER beat myself up over having a C-section if necessary, I wanted it to be the last choice. After I hit the 36-weeks mark, I was assigned a midwife and was able to personalize my birthing plan.

My mother arrived on my due date. She came to spend some time with me and help me after the birth. Most importantly, she came to meet her first granddaughter! I had convinced myself that little Hera would arrive  before or on her due date so you can imagine how disillusioned I was when I went to the doctor that afternoon and my midwife refused to check how dilated I was. She reassured me that the baby would arrive soon and told me that my contractions were not happening often enough to warrant a check. Knowing that I was only a little dilated would make me even more nervous. She asked me to come the next week. Secretly, I was hoping that I would not be pregnant by next appointment.

A few days before my next doctor’s appointment, I started to experience intense lower back pain. It was a dull kind of pain that would suddenly spread to my lower stomach and down to my thighs. My body felt overly heavy, sitting and standing was uncomfortable. I could hardly sleep the last week of my pregnancy. I complained about how sick I was of being pregnant on a daily basis but my mom encouraged me to exercise.

My appointment day arrived exactly one week after my expected due date. My contractions were more consistent but not consistent enough for me to be in active labor. But, I was in pain. I was in enough pain that I had convinced myself that this doctor’s appointment would be it. I brought my bag with me.

But, little Hera needed to cook a little bit longer. I was dilated only 1 centimeter. I felt like crying and was anxious to know when the baby would come and if she was taking her time because something was wrong. My midwife assured me that this was not the case. She suggested that I go home and try to rest. Some first time labors go by quickly and if I was lucky, I’d be back in a couple of days. If nothing happened for one more week, when I hit the 42 weeks mark, we would begin discussing induction.

And she was right!

From the day of my appointment until about Saturday evening I experienced contractions that became increasingly painful. I worked on my breathing exercises and tried to hold on as long as I could by bouncing on my birthing ball. From all the birthing accounts I had read I knew that I would somehow “know” when the baby was coming. By Sunday midnight, that time had come. The pain came in waves, the contractions knocked the breath out of my lungs and made me feel vulnerable. I knew that this was normal, that I could do it if I tried my best. We contacted my midwife and she told me to come in.

We rode in the ambulance for about thirty minutes before arriving at the birthing center. Once we got into the room, my midwife first checked how dilated I was. It took me a few minutes to finally lay down. The pain was so intense and became the only thing I could focus on. All I did remember was thinking that I hoped that I was dilated enough, I couldn’t bear having to go back home because I was not ready. Thankfully, the midwife announced I was at five centimeters. I received antibiotics as I was GBS+ and waited as the nurses continued to prepare my room. I requested a birthing tub to try to relieve the pain. I was able to hold off for about thirty more minutes before I gave in and requested an epidural.

My midwife was not happy with my decision as I had talked to her in detail about my desire for a natural birth. At that point in labor I was so exhausted (I had not sleep for over 24 hours at that point) and had a hard time overcoming the pain. I vomited several times from the pain and had a hard time resting between contractions. It felt as if the waves kept hitting me one after another. My midwife hesitated for some time until my husband insisted. In the end, she agreed to give me a walking epidural but I had to wait for about thirty minutes before the anesthesiologist showed up. Finally as he showed up I was able to get some relief.

Apparently I slept for a couple of hours or so but it wasn’t long before I was ready to request another epidural.

I woke up feeling as if I needed to go to the bathroom really, really badly. I got up and walked to the bathroom then returned to the bed only to repeat the pattern several times. I asked for another epidural and demanded that my husband go and ask for one. The midwife came back and told me no. At least not until she could see how dilated I was. She reminded me that getting another epidural could slow down the birth and make it more difficult for me to give birth. It took a bit of me pacing back and forth before I was comfortable enough for another cervix check.

Surprisingly, I had reached 10cm and was ready to push!

I stood up and started pushing right away. My husband and I laugh about it now because the midwife had to remind me to slow down before I tore. The pushing felt like such a relief, and I think this was why it felt like the easiest part. It was while I was pushing, waiting for Hera to make her way down the birthing canal that my water broke. I often heard that many women knew they were in active labor after their water broke. Had I waited that long…well…I probably would have had little Hera on the road. Soon enough, I was allowed to lay down and push. After a few more pushes, little Hera arrived at 5:36 in the morning on November 13th, only 5 1/2 hours after I had arrived at the hospital and after what felt a lifetime of waiting. I held my little girl skin to skin, and so did my husband as we waited for her cord to stop pulsating before cutting it.

hera1About an hour after birth!

Looking back on my labor experience, I was overall satisfied and most importantly happy to know that my little girl was born healthy. My body bounced back quickly! Within a couple of days, I was able to do most things I could before pregnancy, just a little bit slower. While my birth was not a “textbook natural birth”, I felt so proud of myself and felt in awe of my body and what it could do. Having a group of supportive and loving people meant the world to me and made my birth an even better experience. Was it difficult? More than anyone can imagine! Would I do it again? Absolutely. I will remember the birth of my little Hera Seorya Kim forever.

hera2A few hours after being born! 

hera3Little Hera after being freshly bathed and swaddled! 

 

October 14, 2016

Relieving Pregnancy Anxiety

pregnancy-anxiety

I am officially 37 weeks pregnant! My little girl is practicing her breathing, packing on a bit more weight, and getting ready to make her big debut. While I am more than happy to wait until my little girl decides she is ready to meet us, I am kind of getting tired of being pregnant. But, I have a reputation for being impatient and instead of trying to find ways to “induce” labor, I’ve tried to focus on putting good use to the few weeks I have left.

1. Chill but keep yourself busy!

A lot of moms around me have been advising me to take it easy, sit down, this may be the last time I may be able to spend time lounging around as much as I want. While I appreciate the advice and have been trying to rest as much as I can, I grow a little more restless everyday. I am so anxious to meet my little girl and “resting” just hasn’t been cutting it for me.

I chose to stop working at the start of the third trimester because I kept hearing all the horror stories of fatigue, swollen ankles, heartburn, and constant contractions. But unfortunately I have been so bored! So, a couple of weeks ago, I bought myself one of those neat headband making kits on Etsy and have been busy making adorable little headbands.

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Pretty neat, huh?

So my advice is to use this time to pursue some hobbies, nothing that keeps you on your feet too long but something that does keep you entertained!

  • make something new: I’ve never really been one for arts and crafts because I can’t sit long enough to finish a project. Now that I am trying to spend less time on my feet and more time bouncing on a birth ball, making things have kept me busy. Try a new recipe, learning how to make something small off of Pinterest, or even making clothes or blankets for your little one.
  • record your experience: keep a journal logging your pregnancy or write a letter to your baby.
  • finish the nursery: take inventory and add things as necessary. If you have the energy, decorate!
  • keep in touch with friends and family: after the baby comes there might not be a lot of time for catching up with friends so take this time to meet up with a few, keep them inform, and spend some time together before the big day.

2. Pamper Yourself

Even though my birth plans are not set in stone, I am leaning heavily towards the natural birth route. While many moms can easily chose a route, I have had more trouble, mostly because I know that my pain tolerance is probably lower than most people. So, the last couple of weeks I have been working on being more in-tune with my body in an effort to encourage myself. “I can do it, it’s all in my head” I try to remind myself. I’ve researched as many forums as I can, hoping for a hint on how painful labor really is and what I can do to make it comfortable. Of course, there is no one answer and everybody is different.

However, after taking a childbirth class with my hubby, where we learned a variety of pain relief methods, I kind of got encouraged to try natural birth, at least to the point where I exhaust all of my natural pain relief options before jumping to the pain medication. I think that the great thing about the center I plan to deliver at is that they don’t try to enforce any one way. It is all about the safety of the mom and the baby. So, if I decide to get an epidural halfway, I don’t think I will get guilt-tripped by my doctor. As long as my little girl is healthy, I’ll do whatever I need to do.

In the meantime, I have tried to practice my breathing through a little meditation here and a little yoga here. Among a variety of pampering methods, my favorite one has to be: Lavender Essential Oil!

It is fantastic for relaxing, sleeping, mixing with coconut oil and giving yourself a nice belly rub. So far, it has been one of my favorite purchases.

  • take a walk: Explore new areas, try new restaurants, start or write in your blog!
  • take a bath: I am not a big fan of baths but now that my backaches are more of an everyday thing, baths have been a lifesaver. Add some essential oils or a nice (but safe!) bath bomb to make it a pampering experience.
  • get a massage: There are no spas in my area that focus on pregnant women but if you can find one in your area that does, book a few pregnancy massages or spa packages for yourself! I was able to get a few during our babymoon in Thailand and I must say, they were excellent!

3. Learn as Much as You Can

With new opinions, research, and ideas being developed everyday about childbirth and child rearing, there is always more to learn. While I can’t agree with everything out there, it is nice to be informed, especially when it comes to the liberties some hospitals take without the mother’s consent. In South Korea, birth is a mother-oriented thing but more often than not ends in a C-section, an episiotomy, and a two week stay in a postpartum care center.

Some of my favorite books so far:

 

 

 

 

How do you cope with the anxiety of an upcoming event?

August 13, 2016

Summer Beauty Favorites

Summer Beauty Favorites

Summer has kicked into high gear here in Korea and the humidity is killing me. I momentarily lost all interest in my skin. What’s the point? Any makeup I choose to wear usually melts off of my face by noon anyway. But with the hormones, the change in diet, and the heat, I needed to find summer and pregnancy-safe products fast.

Pregnancy and the weather has really helped me reconsider my beauty routine. Since I’ve got someone else to think about, much more thought goes into what I put on my skin. I read labels, I monitor my skin’s reaction, and I’ve even reduced my morning and nighttime skin routine from about 12 products to about 3 or 4. It’s been a big change for me and frankly not the easiest one. However, through trial and error, I have been able to find products that work for me.

The following list includes products that I have personally tried and had much success with. Is there a better or cheaper option? I’m sure there is but living in a foreign country makes my choices limited. The organic beauty movement has been a recent one in South Korea–a welcomed changed from all the “whitening” and “anti-aging” products that are a big part of the market. However, I have chosen to limit the Korean products added to this list because I am not too sure about the ingredient list. Here are my top summer beauty picks!

Aloe Vera Gel
Thankfully, I am not prone to sunburns. However, this summer aloe vera gel has been a huge help in helping me stay cool and helping my skin stay hydrated.

My Favorite: Nature Republic Aloe Vera Gel
Highlights: Refreshing! Putting some on right before I sit in front of the fan or air con has helped me stay cool. It also soothes my skin and is great for massages.
Drawbacks: It can get pretty sticky.

Facial Water Spray
Water spray is all the rage in South Korea and you can usually find at least ten different types in any beauty section across the country. Facial water spray acts like a toner for the skin and most importantly, refreshes you and keeps you hydrated. It’s a welcomed sensation after sitting under the overbearing sun.

My Favorite: Evian Mineral Water Facial Spray Duo
Highlights: Great for travel, refreshing.
Drawbacks: None.

Coconut Oil 
Apparently you can use coconut oil for almost anything. I got on the coconut oil train relatively late but am a big fan of its smell and moisturizing properties. Coconut oil is popular with people who oil pull and eating a tablespoon or so a day helps keep the body functioning in top form. My favorite use for coconut oil is to keep stretch marks at bay and moisturize some rough patches of skin (elbows, knees). Cocoa butter would have been my first choice but it is relatively overpriced here 🙁

My Favorite: Nutiva Organic Coconut Oil 
Highlights: Great moisturizing properties, smells yummy.
Drawbacks: Taste is not the best, feels greasy.

Lightweight Moisturizer (Body) 
Moisturizing in the summer is a must. But, if you have combination or oily skin, you may find yourself feeling yucky at the thought of being suffocated by another layer of product. My skin reacts strongly to moisturizers in particular so I find myself changing often. Cetaphil is a great product for sensitive skin but while it is approved for use on face as well as body, I didn’t want to take any chances and use it strictly as body lotion.

My Favorite: Cetaphil Fragrance Free Moisturizing Lotion
Highlights: Great for face and body, good for sensitive skin, not scented.
Drawbacks: Amount is key. Too much leaves me feeling super oily, too little makes my skin feel a little parched.

Toner
A recent staple in my beauty routine has been a toner. My battle with acne started relatively early and throughout college and even the early part of my twenties, I struggled with getting things just right. With my first pregnancy, I anticipated horrible acne that I could do little to nothing about. Thankfully, I have been able to manage things pretty well with this toner!

My Favorite: Cleanance MAT Mattifying Toner
Highlights: Lightweight, Calming, Easy to Apply, and Leaves skin feeling supple and hydrated
Drawbacks: None so far!

I will be posting a Korean beauty version of my favorite products in the near future. Drop me a line if you have a particular interest in mind! (best moisturizing products, best oily skin products, pregnancy-safe products, etc.)

What are Your Summer Beauty Favorites?

July 21, 2016

Second Trimester Essentials: My Super Foods!

I was blessed with second trimester morning sickness.

I say blessed because even though it is one of my most dreaded symptoms, I have really learned to live with it and prevent it. Furthermore, I’ve been convinced by those studies that suggest that morning sickness is a sign of a healthy baby. Before I got pregnant, motion sickness was always an issue. I could never enjoy reading a book or playing on with my phone in a car or boat without feeling like I was going to be sick. I envied people who could do homework or have full-blown texting conversations without a second thought. Imagine how much I could have gotten done with all that time I spend in a bus or a car!

When I first got pregnant, I convinced myself that I was not going to get sick. Maybe this pregnancy would turn things upside down for me and I would be one of the few people that got little to no morning sickness at all. No such luck. Soon after I found out I was expecting, I was spending most of my time feeling nauseous, avoiding every smell, and looking for a toilet.

As long as I knew where the toilet was and how long it would take me to get there, I was good to go.

I dreamed about the end of my first trimester when I would no longer have to base my life around toilets and bland food. But, my second trimester came and no change.And along with my continuous second trimester morning sickness, I had to deal with heartburn, constipation, and being super hungry all the time. Oh the joys of pregnancy!

I had to deal with it. And thankfully, I can say that I am more or less morning sickness free from 20 weeks. There are a lot of “oh my God, I think I’m going to throw up” moments but I’m ready.

Eating was a big thing for me during my second trimester, here are some of the best foods that every happened to me during my weeks of hell.

second-trimester

  1. Lemons: Some moms go the sweet tooth way, I went the sour and salty route. While super acidic, lemon was helped relieve my nausea or help my super sensitive sense of smell. Spritzing myself with lemon scented body spray, carrying around a lemon (yes, I did that), or even cutting up some lemons when I was having a particularly bad day made all the difference for me.
  2. Watermelon: Call me crazy but I was never really a huge fan of watermelon. But when I couldn’t even drink plain water without feeling like I was about to throw up, my mom and a colleague from work suggested I try this. It is a life saver. And what’s more, with the summer in full swing and my body acting all out of whack, I could live off of chilled watermelon all day.
  3. Sweet Potato: Constipation is a painful but pretty normal part of pregnancy. No one really wants to talk about it since it is a little embarrassing but there is really nothing more uncomfortable than not being able to use the bathroom. Not being able to eat like a normal person only makes matters worse. Again, my mom recommended that I try eating sweet potato. I try to bake a few at a time and eat them like a snack, skin and all.
  4. Almond and Peanut Butter Snack Packs: For some reason, eating peanuts made me feel ill but adding a dab of peanut butter on a banana at work never bothered me at all. The Justin’s brand in particular comes in a great snack size and are easy to store anywhere. I would eat this with saltine crackers, bananas, apples, anything that I could manage to get down. It is full of protein and a great energy boost.
  5. Milk: A glass of milk was a life saver late at night when my heartburn was at an all-time high. It cooled me down and gave me enough comfort to sleep through the rest of the night.

My little one and I still have a ways to go before we met. But at least we can both have a little fun while we wait.

 

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