Monday, December 8, 2014

Review: Dollar Shave Club




Pros: High quality products. Low cost. Natural ingredients. Pleasant scents. Honest, down to earth company.
Cons: Not Made in America. Cannot order products on demand.



I signed my husband up for the Dollar Shave Club in October 2014. We signed up for the $9 level, but you can be supplied with basic razors for as little as $1 every other month.
I'd heard about the club from some passing ad or something. When Jason mentioned he was just about out of razor blades, I suggested we check it out. I placed an order for the Executive blades. We were close to the normal shipment date. So, they went out almost immediately. My credit card wasn't charged until the day the product shipped. The package arrived days later. It was well packed, with environmentally friendly material, and contained a free sample of the Easy Shave Butter.
We were very impressed with the company and it's products. We plan to sample more of them with each of our upcoming shipments. I highly recommend this company to anyone who shaves, male or female. You can't beat the quality for the price!
And if you do sign up, please use my links so we can get $5 off our next order!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Flynn's Birth Story

Man, has it been a crazy few weeks! Let's see if I can get you caught up.

Around 35 weeks, I started gaining water weight really bad. Around 36, my blood pressure started creeping up. I didn't develop pre-eclampsia or anything, but I was definitely keeping an eye on things.

At 37 weeks, 4 days, my blood pressure spiked. It was pretty scary alone. Combine it with having gained almost 40 lbs of water weight in the last 2.5 weeks and we weren't willing to just give it time to stabilize. Jason took me into the hospital for monitoring. All tests came back healthy. My blood pressure eventually dropped on its own.

Against my better judgment, I allowed a pelvic exam. Yes, I know these are pointless, and nothing good ever comes of them. I was scared and desperate for answers. I got stupid. They accidentally popped my membrane during the exam. And did we at least get some useful information for the trouble? *eye roll* Ya, right.

It was actually 37 weeks and 5 days by the time the membrane popped. The baby wasn't ready to come out, and my body wasn't ready for birth. I had some contractions, put wasn't going into labor. That meant pitocin. Pitocin sucks. A lot. In every way possible. Not the least of which is how painful it makes contractions... Even unproductive ones!

I had both of my other kids without pain killers. It was hard work, but totally manageable without drugs. I even dealt with a couple hours of pitocin enhanced contractions just fine. After about 6 hours of pitocin... And several dosage increases, which exponentially effect the pain level, the bronchitis started to play it's part. Oh ya, I still have bronchitis. The pain was just too much and I started having wicked coughing fits with every contraction. It became quickly apparent that I wasn't going to be able to push when the time came. I couldn't even catch my breath between contractions.

Faced with a choice between an epidural and possible vaginal delivery, or an almost guaranteed emergency c-section, I opted for the epidural. It was nearly impossible to hold still enough to get it placed, while basically not breathing so I wouldn't start coughing. In the end, it did it's job and there are no signs of lingering problems. Phew! That might have something to do with the length of time it was in. As soon as the pain had subsided enough for me to breath again, Flynn was on his way out. The epidural went in around 6:30am, and Flynn was born at 7:19am. The epidural was back out pretty quickly. Maybe 7:45am at the latest.

We didn't have our home birth, but the hospital staff rolled with most of our preferences with nothing more than curious questions. They caught Flynn in the cute towel Jason had chosen for the task. Liam and Cora were there for the whole thing, and watched Flynn's birth. The Dr impatiently waited for the cord to stop pulsing before clamping it off for Jason to cut. They just had us sign a form to keep the placenta. No one batted an eyelash. The vitamin k shot was their line in the sand though. When we told them we were on the fence about it, they freaked. They got all frantic and started calling pediatricians and social workers and anyone they could think of in to convince us. Not one was capable of holding an informed discussion about the pros and cons, or had any clue how babies body normally functions or how the shot effects those functions. It only made them more frantic to realize we wouldn't respond to anything but facts, since none of them had any. In the end, Jason and I had a gut feeling there would be an issue with Flynn, and decided to get the shot because we feared he'd need an IV or worse. It turned out that we were right.

Upon first appearances, Flynn was perfect. 7 lbs, 11 oz. ... 21 in. ... Scored a 9/10 on the APGAR. He latched on perfectly and nursed well. He was a calm and happy baby. He and I were released after 24 hours.

But he was losing more weight than he should. He was eating constantly but always crying for more. I started pumping between feedings so we could supplement with bottles. He couldn't even handle the low flow bottle nipples without choking and gagging. He became lethargic. He kept losing weight. His Dr put him on a high calorie formula. By then, he was becoming jaundice. His numbers were inflated by the dehydration, but he wouldn't have yellowed so fast if he hadn't had that vitamin k. Three cheers for straining his little kidneys. That got him admitted to the NICU before any damage could be caused. Plus, their standard procedures, as overkill as they may seem, gave us answers we may never have gotten.

Flynn was born with underdeveloped muscles in his mouth, tongue, and throat. He wasn't ready to be born and hadn't finished growing the muscles he'd need to survive. 15 minutes of what appeared to be very productive breastfeeding was earning him only 10ml of breastmilk. At 10 days old, that just didn't cut it. It took 5x as much to maintain his weight, and 7x as much to gain steadily. Unfortunately, he was still choking and gagging and barely actually eating anything, even with the best nipple the NICU had. He would eat 3x as much (just enough to maintain his weight) if we bottle fed him breastmilk fortified with a calorie boost mixed in. I was able to pump just enough to keep him in breastmilk, but I have never had luck with long term pumping. They brought in nutritionists, lactation consultants, feeding specialists. We had loads of information. We had developed a physical therapy for him, that we could continue when we went home. We had a great game plan...if we could just find a nipple he could drink from. He was on the fast track to feeding tubes.

Then nurse Ann came on shift. She realized that if things didn't turn around fast, Flynn was looking at feeding tubes at the end of her shift. She made it her mission to find a way to keep that from happening. She asked lots of questions. She called the Dr and specialists for clarification. Then she disappeared from the NICU for a couple hours. She came back with specialty nipples for us to try. She had called around to lactation consultants and stores for recommendations. Then, she'd convinced a local store to donate enough of the best options for us to have a supply at home if they worked. Flynn was able to drink from two of them. It still takes a lot of work on both our parts, but his intake increased. Nurse Ann had gone home by the time we saw results. Flynn was gaining weight. In fact, he gained so much overnight that he went home the next morning.

It turns out there are some hearing issues too, and he just keeps having more tests to figure out what's going on there. Other than that, Flynn is super healthy now. He's gaining weight quickly, and growing, and today he had his first full meal straight from the breast. We don't expect him to do that regularly for a while, yet, but it's huge that he's nursing productively at all.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

36 Weeks: Bronchitis

I had this really cute idea for last week's blog. Jason has totally caught the cloth diaper bug, and there's all kinds of diaper adorable happening in our baby prep. Unfortunately, another kind of bug seized control of our lives.

Liam and Cora went to this really awesome teen leadership program, run by our state 4h organization, about a week and a half ago. It was a wonderful, enriching experience for them both. The downside was that they both came home sick.

Cora had a stomach bug. Incredibly, I'm the only one who didn't catch it! It was pretty mild and mostly short lived. It threw Liam's whole digestive system out of whack pretty bad. It's an easy target. :/ I expect it to take about 2 months to get him back to 100%, but he's back to a fairly functional level already. He is finally starting to swallow his pride and eat to support his system when it gets messed up like this. That's a huge relief to me, though I wish he would learn this life lesson a little faster.

Liam initially came home with a chest cold. It was really rough for about 3 days, then faded quickly to a bit of a cough when something (smoke, early morning air) aggravates his lungs. He doesn't seem to understand that the winter inversions are on their way, so he's stubbornly insisting it'll be fine in it's own time. I predict a winter of lung problems for him. Jason caught it too, and was perfect again after 3 days. A week later, he's started having a lot of trouble breathing as of today. I'm hoping it's more because his body is exhausted and not functioning well. He doesn't work for a few days, and should bounce back in no time - if that's the case.

I, on the other hand, ran smack into my nemesis. Like Liam's weak spot is the digestive system.... Mine is the respiratory system. I was able to provide remedies that instantly soothed my family, and aided their bodies in healing quickly. It seems like I can never do anything for myself though. *eyeroll* I totally avoided my sweet family while they were sick. I've been obsessive about one cup, plate, and bowl being mine. No one else can use them, and I use nothing else. For a couple days there, it looked like I might have managed to avoid it. Then it got me, and I knew I was in for it.

I can't even describe the misery of the last week. At some point, the chest cold cleared up. For almost a day I thought I was in the clear. Then, something new happened. There wasn't much to cough up anymore, there was no fever, and my throat wasn't sore. Now, my lungs felt like fire with every breath, I couldn't take a breath without coughing, and if I laid down at all I would quickly begin to suffocate. Jason has been quietly panicking. He texts all the time from work and barely sleeps because he's too busy doting on me. I wish I felt well enough to really appreciate it!

Last night I coughed up a very small amount of blood.  I planned to go to urgent Care first thing in the morning, but Jason couldn't take any more. We went to the er. Flynn and I were highly monitored. There were several tests to be 100% certain what was going on. It's only bronchitis - the mildest of the possibilities considered. Then there was a huge ER wide debate and research festival to find a prescription that is safe enough that the Dr and I were both comfortable with my taking it. I was very impressed with his attitude. He dismissed several drugs that most Dr's wouldn't think twice about giving me, and wasn't at all shy about looking up every single suggestion. We finally came up with one thing that turned out to just make my lungs burn more, and one thing that is slowly and steadily easing the inflammation so this vicious cycle of pain can end!

I've only found one herbal that works, so I'm all over that. A lot of respiratory remedies aren't safe in pregnancy. The rest either make me nauseous (aversions?) or make my lungs burn. It turns out the main ingredient in Good Earth Tea is hard to get ahold of herb, used medicinally in rural Africa for respiratory issues. It's pregnancy safe, and my system not only tolerates it but responds to it. Woot! The other ingredients also happen to be useful in easing my symptoms, so double Woot! for the surprising find. I was even able to lay down in my own bed for a nice long nap today! And I could still breath, albeit painfully, when I woke up. It was amazing! I can't wait until I can sleep a whole night again. :D

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

34 Weeks: DIY Prenatal Care (AKA Unassisted Pregnancy)

First, the update. Flynn and I are both healthy. He's super squirmy and really strong. I'm having a totally typically 3rd trimester. That means I'm very fatigued, get crazy edema if I don't keep my feet up, and will actually break down in tears if I don't have taco bell multiple times per week. Of course taco bell gives me indigestion so bad I end up in tears anyway.... But as far as pregnancy symptoms go, that's all pretty mild.

So the topic of this entry is unassisted pregnancy. That means monitoring your own health, instead of paying a doctor to do it for you. It doesn't mean refusing to ask for help when you need it. It just means not asking for help when you don't need it. I have a history of first trimester miscarriages. Whether I need it or not, I feel more comfortable with a lot of monitoring and testing in the first trimester. This is very hard to accomplish on my own. So, I saw my family doctor. Then, we moved. My husband changed jobs and I was no longer insured. Obamacare actually makes it more expensive to see a doctor if I'm insured, than if I pay out of pocket. And since my husband has decent full time work, we don't qualify for medicaid. We had just planned to pay out of pocket for my checkups. The last half of my pregnancies tend to be pretty boring. Weight, fundal height, urine test...."everything looks good. See you in a few weeks." Rinse. Repeat. Out of pocket costs don't even equal our portion of an insurance premium unless I have 4-5 visits in a month.

Unfortunately, there's no such thing as a pay as you go option for prenatal care. Even the low cost community clinic refused to see me for a single check up, unless I signed a contract and paid thousands of dollars up front. In this area, it's $2000-$7000 up front. That just covers the check ups. If I need any kind of treatment or testing, or choose to go into the hospital to birth, that's all extra. $400+ per check up (because the cheaper place will induce at 38 weeks, which you agree to in the contract)?????? That's just ridiculous. I don't need to pay an expert to tell me how much I weigh, or read a test strip for me. I'll just do it myself and save my money for things I can't actually do myself.

There are lots of ways to go about an unassisted pregnancy. They range from just trusting that if everything seems good, it is...to anal retentive monitoring and record keeping. Being a medical profession and prone to doting, Jason is always wanting to check my blood pressure or something anyway (even when I was having regular care) so I figured it would be better to just do the charting. The amount of different sources I had to reference to find out what to chart, and what is normal in each of those areas...that's why I wrote this entry. There's no reason for this stuff to be some kind of big secret.

Our family is having weekly prenatal checks. This is mainly because Jason and the kids really enjoy being involved in the pregnancy in this way. Everything monitored at a standard prenatal visit is literally so easy a child can do it. So, this has not only been a great bonding experience, but empowering for everyone involved. That's not to say doctors are useless, though. They are invaluable when it comes to deciding what to do when things go wrong. If I start seeing signs of gestational diabetes or something is just testing way off, I'll be making a b-line for urgent care or the ER!

Back to the cost thing, we bought everything we need to monitor everything an OB would, and more, for $80 on amazon. If I didn't spend so much time finding just the right deal, I still could have found everything for $150.



As you can see in my pic, we are just using a plain old notebook for charting. At the top of each page, I wrote my name, birth date, and due date. This is to make things easier for the medical staff, if I end up needing to be seen for something.

Then, I added sections for each of the following;

Date -

Weeks Gestation -

Weight - We bought a new scale for this. I was having doubts about the accuracy of the old one.

Fundal Height - We bought a new tape measure for this. I couldn't figure out where we put any of the flexible ones. Fundal height is easy. The bottom can be felt just above the pubic bone. The top, below the belly button at 20 weeks. It rises an average of 1cm each week until birth. Average isn't specific though. Don't get all hung up on that number, like OBs seem to nowadays. Normal and healthy is a range of up to 3cm more or less than gestational age. So, at 30 weeks a normal fundal height is anywhere from 27-33 cm. That's what doctors are talking about when they tell you how many weeks you're measuring.

Presentation - This is what position the baby is in. If you know the clinical terms, great. If not, layman's terms are fine too. I haven't entered mine yet because Jason wants to use the clinical terms so he can learn them, but hasn't looked them up yet. :) Head down, facing rear, is good enough though. Head up, feet down, facing left. Head right, feet left, facing up. These are all examples of what I might have written.

Fetal Heart Rate - We bought a stethoscope for this. I dare to say that someone less practiced with a stethoscope than Jason might have to use something more powerful, like a home doplar. This can be a hard vital for us to get. Even when we find the heartbeat easily, Flynn likes to change position while we're counting beats. The range for a healthy heart rate changes throughout the pregnancy. It starts faster, and slows a bit as the baby develops. By the third trimester, about 110 - 160 beats per minute is considered a healthy range. Of course, drastic changes in habits are often more telling than pure data. Flynn's heart rate is around 150-160. If it suddenly dropped to 110, I'd start monitoring. If it stayed there for several hours, or there were other abnormalities, I'd probably go into urgent care to make sure everything was OK.

Fetal Movement - This is a place to generally describe what the baby's movements have been like. Mostly this just helps you recognize his personal patterns and know what's normal for him. When Flynn was reacting to the pain from my abscessed tooth a couple months ago, his movement became "frantic" because he was in mild distress. His heart rate was also high, and I spent the night in the hospital getting him calmed down.

Edema - This is the swelling, bloating, or water retention that is so common in pregnancy. I find that I'm so used to it that I actually underestimate the severity. So, it's helpful to have someone else poke at my wrists, ankles, and knees, and give their opinion of how bad it is. I'd still be writing "mild" but my family assures me I am firmly into the "moderate" category, at my best.

Blood Pressure - We bought a basic blood pressure cuff for this. We use the stethoscope to hear my heart beat. Alternatives are to buy a digital cuff that does it all for you, or just use the free machine at your local pharmacy. Normal range is still just as high as ever, but up to 20 lower than when you're not pregnant. Below 90/60 in either area is considered hypotension (aka low enough to cause problems). Above 140/90 in either area is considered hypertension (aka high enough to cause problems).  Blood pressure can do crazy things during pregnancy though, so I try not to get caught up in the numbers unless they're WAY off, or stay outside normal ranges for more than a couple weeks.

Preterm Labor Signs - This is a descriptive area. A place to note anything that could be a sign of preterm labor, even if I'm sure it's not. It helps identify patterns that can either reassure me that everything is fine, or realize something is amiss.

THE URINE TEST
We could have picked up the same tests the OBs use. Glucose, protein, and maybe ketone. Those are about as complicated to read as a pregnancy test. We opted for something slightly more complicated. We spent the extra $0.02 per strip and picked up the ten test strips. Ten tests on each strip, and each has to be read a specific number of seconds after dipping. We often use a second or third strip to confirm our results, and the kids don't get to be as involved. 100 strips for $12 means we can be pretty wasteful and probably still have strips left after the birth.
I did look up healthy ranges for everything on the urine test strips. That is just too much info for one entry, though. So, the short version is that glucose, or high levels of protein or ketone is bad. If I see those for more than a couple weeks, I'll be going into urgent care for further testing. The other stuff is mainly just extra info, unless I start getting really crazy results.

Then, at the bottom of the page, I list anything else of note. Allergies are acting up, or short of breath lately, or maybe breasts are starting to lactate.

And that's that. Prenatal chart info, all in one place. If I notice something missing or in need of updating, I'll make edits. ;)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

32 Weeks: Really Starting to Feel It

Well, first thing's first. The baby is doing great. Don't go embroidering anything yet, but Flynn seems to be sticking as a first name. It feels right. We have yet to find a middle name that works though. He's big and active and did I mention active? He's going to have a lot in common with Liam. I'm betting he'll hate being swaddled or enclosed in any way, like Liam did. He does the same shoving thing Liam did. It's like there isn't enough room for him and he's instinctively trying to push my hips and ribs and organs out of the way all the time. He's about as strong as Liam was, too. Liam's the one who put a softball through the bathroom door at one year old. I'm always freaking someone out by jumping out of my seat or making an awful face or noise because he startles or hurts me. *eye roll*

I'm actually doing really well, other than being a bit whiny. I'm super exhausted. I can only stay awake for a couple hours at a time. I literally fall over from exhaustion when I try to push it. My hips and lower back are absolutely killing me because our furniture is so not built for pregnant women. The mood swings have settled down some, to something closer to normal for pregnancy. The heartburn and swelling are really mild, which is awesome. I'm forced to be a picky eater because I get nauseous if I eat anything other than cravings, basically. Luckily, I still don't have much of an appetite most days. Now, it's because Flynn is shoved up into me so there's no room. I'm always starving. I just don't have anywhere to put the food. And strangers always think I'm lying if I mention being pregnant. *more eye rolls*

So, all in all...things are good. Flynn and I are healthy. And this is still a pretty easy pregnancy.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

31 Weeks, and a 16th birthday

Yesterday was a big day. I hit 31 weeks, but Liam hit 16 years. He didn't want to do anything huge this year. So, we just had a really nice, mellow day.

He started his day at seminary. He has a really amazing and inspired teacher, and a class of kids he really gets along with well. So, that's always a good start to the day. He walks the other kids to school. Then, comes home. He did some chores, studied the birthing course homework a little, and almost finished unpacking his room. A birthday card and gift came via email.

In the early evening, his grandparents arrived. They timed their road trip with a stop over for his birthday. We took him to dinner. He chose Texas Roadhouse. The meal was yummy, and the staff made a fuss over him. It was a great time. Then, home for cake and a movie.

We are still missing some kitchen essentials in an unpacked box. We decided to order the cake. We found a very nice local bakery, and Liam picked out the flavor weeks ago. We asked them to put the frosting on the side, though, so Cora could decorate it. She had a blast with that and it looked great. It was a very tasty pumpkin spice with chocolate chips.

Liam's on a Robin Williams kick lately. So we bought a couple of his movies we didn't already have. Liam chose to watch License to Wed. His grandparents went to bed early, but a friend from seminary joined us.

All in all, it was a really positive, low key day. Exactly what he was hoping for. =D

Monday, September 15, 2014

Week 30: Does he really need a name?

We were totally sure we had the name thing figured out from the start. That was one thing we didn't need to worry about.

Patrick Alexander Shepherd. Easy. Patrick was my dad. We both love the name. Alexander is Jason's middle name, and he really loves the name. He strongly considered having it legally changed to his first name in his 20s.

Then, around the beginning of the second trimester, baby started moving more. We started thinking of him as a real person. And the sadness and loss I feel whenever I think of my father started cropping up whenever I thought of the baby. We started discussing alternate names.

All those name discussions got Jason to thinking. It felt like giving the baby any part of his name would be making an untrue statement about his feelings about this child, as well as Liam. He offered to have Liam change his middle name. Liam likes the name he has, though, and doesn't feel left out if baby takes the name. Jason decided it just didn't feel right, though. If we manage another boy after this, he gets the middle name. That way, there's no implications about first born sons. As far as Jason and his family are concerned, Liam is Jason's first born son.

So, now we're at square one. It feels like every week we have some change or variation to the name. Right now, we're leaning toward Flynn. If I can stomach giving my kid the name of a Disney prince, that is. One or the other of us feels very strongly towards one or more of the following names;

Angus
Dylan
Flynn
Gareth
Loki
Quinn
Ronan
Ryan

We've also played with word and letter combinations that aren't traditional names. Why should his sense of identity be tied to some ancestral expression of creativity. His name should make a statement about who he is, whoever that is. Figuring that out this early in his life is not an easy task. Unfortunately, all the more alternative names we've come up with that we really love - they all seem to have an overly soft or feminine feel. I wonder if we're instinctively picking up on something about his personality? Maybe he'll be more delicate and artsy like Cora, and less rough and tumble than Liam.

I'm not at all above input. Do you know a great name we might not have thought of? I'm starting to think he's going to be one of those kids that still doesn't have a name a week after birth! Lol