The Truth About Breastfeeding, Sleep and Babies

That's not my baby, it's a stock photo. |  The Truth About Breastfeeding, Sleep and Newborn Babies

That's not my baby, it's a stock photo. |  The Truth About Breastfeeding, Sleep and Newborn Babies

My brother and I are both new parents. Recently, we had the following exchange:

Brother: How's sleep going?
Me: Great, actually. She's sleeping through the night mostly.
Brother: Jump off a bridge.

I didn't take it personally. Nearly a year after the birth of their first baby, nights were still terrible. You know, the specific kind of hell that only a newborn baby can unleash. You'd be a raging, cranky shell of a human if you never slept more than four consecutive hours for a year.

I'm grateful that my baby is a sleeper.

I'm reluctant to say this, but Arlene first slept through the night (aka six hours in a row) at five weeks old. I know. I KNOW! It wasn't every night, and we've had a few sleep regressions. If I were him, I'd tell me to jump of a bridge, too. 

But here's the thing: Even though sleep was magical, breastfeeding was another story.

I'd read a lot about breastfeeding prior to Arlene's arrival.

I knew it'd be hard. Everyone says it's harder than they expected. I prepared for the worst, but what I got was so far beyond what I could've imagined. 

"I hate to use this term," said one of the six billion nurses who waltz into my hospital room post C-section. "But sometimes it takes a while for your nipples to toughen up." She said it would get better. Everyone said, it gets better.

So I waited for it to get better.

And while I waited, my chapped, bleeding, bruised nipples started getting impatient. Which really sucked (no pun intended), because breastfeeding is relentless.

If you've never breastfed, here's the gist: For the first 2-3 months of baby's life, a breastfeeding mom gives baby the boob every 2-3 hours. If it's going well, it's only moderately painful and becomes much less so over time. You know, once the nips toughen up. For me, each session hurt more than the last. It's kind of like being forced to walk in a pair of shoes that give you blisters for 45 minutes, 12 times daily. 

A week and a half after Arlene was born, a met with a lovely nurse for postpartum care. When she asked how breastfeeding was going, I showed what was left of my nipples.

"Oh dear, those are very cracked," she said. She suggested I apply some nipple cream, and then gave me a nipple shield. "Try this, it'll help."

I did. The clouds parted, and the sun beamed down from the sky and Celine Dion sang from the heavens.

Aaaaand I knowwww that my niiiipppps will go onnnnn! 

I started using the nipple shield with most feedings. When things healed up, I tried feeding without it. The baby barracuda'd the crap out of my nips and I'd have to start all over again. I was a month into motherhood, and breastfeeding only got harder.

So, I hired a lactation consultant.

This a breastfeeding expert who came to our house. She helped tremendously in some ways, teaching me the laid-back method, which I still use. She encouraged me to ditch the nipple shield as soon as possible, and to not give the baby a bottle yet, warning it could diminish my supply or confuse the babe. 

She also mentioned that she thought Arlene may have a tongue tie. That's when the thingie that connects your tongue to the bottom of your mouth is too tight. This can lead to a shallow latch and painful breastfeeding, remedied by a frenectomy, where the band beneath the tongue is clipped.

I know. Ouch.

"You can't just have that taken care of anywhere," she warned. "You should really go to a pediatric dentist that specializes in tongue ties. Here's a number for the only one in town I'd recommend."

In town was kinda pushing it, as their office was located in western Wisconsin (about 45 minutes away). But I was desperate. I called, and they couldn't get us in for almost a month. I took the appointment, hung up the phone and cried.

I look so calm, but inside I was crying. |  The Truth About Breastfeeding, Sleep and Newborn Babies

I look so calm, but inside I was crying. |  The Truth About Breastfeeding, Sleep and Newborn Babies

During the following month, I did everything in my power to keep breastfeeding.  

I took Arlene to a craniosacral therapist, who gently massaged the baby's mouth, neck and head to improve her latch for $70 a pop. I asked all my mom friends for advice. I sent a bazillion texts to my lactation consultant.

Don't use the nipple shield-- it will only confuse your baby!
Use the nipple shield if it's working.

Don't bottle-feed your baby too often. It'll only make them lazy and less likely to return to the breast.
Give her a bottle and give yourself a break.

This only made me feel more confused and helpless.

And still, breastfeeding only got worse.

At six weeks postpartum, the baby fed for up to 90 minutes at a time (!). I ended up with milk blisters (Google it if you dare). She wasn't gaining weight. I did, however, catch up on every TV series and podcast that's ever existed in the history of the world. 

I couldn't bare the thought of quitting. I produced enough milk to keep her fed and then some, but just couldn't get it into my baby's pencil-sharpener of a maw. I'd keep telling myself, "Make it one more week. It's got to get easier." And it just didn't.

Finally one night, I broke down.

"I want to be enjoying our baby, but feeding her hurts too much," I sobbed.

My calm, collected husband said, "I'm giving her a bottle and you're going to bed."

"But... but... but... I can't because it's going to ruin breastfeeding for her in the future!!!"

He essentially responded with a nicer version of go the #@$& to sleep

I did.

From that point on, I did whatever it took to get me through the day. I used a nipple shield almost every time I breast fed. When that was too painful, I gave Arlene a bottle. We survived.

A week before Arlene's tongue procedure, I brought Arlene to the pediatrician for her two month checkup. The doc expressed concern that she hadn't gained much weight, and I mentioned the upcoming frenectomy. 

"Her tongue does look tight, " she said. "We can take care of that today if you'd like. But if you prefer to go to the specialist, that's fine."

Wait. What?! Somehow in my crazed new mom stupor, it hadn't occurred to me that my pediatrician could do this in her office. 

Yes. Yes! YES!!!  

The whole procedure took three seconds, literally. The doctor simply cut the band with tiny scissors. Arlene cried, but honestly, her shots affected her more. It healed almost immediately.

We got this, baby.  |  The Truth About Breastfeeding, Sleep and Newborn Babies

We got this, baby.  |  The Truth About Breastfeeding, Sleep and Newborn Babies

Within a week she was eating faster.

My nipples healed.  

I ditched the nipple shield.

At Arlene's four month appointment, she'd nearly doubled in weight. 

This experience gifted me two invaluable lessons.

The first: Do whatever it takes to get you through the day.
Everyone has an opinion on how to best care for your baby. You'll get all sorts of input, solicited or not, from parents, doctors, specialists. What works for one baby may not work for yours. The first few months as a parent are really hard. It's about survival. You know your baby best, so take a page from AA and tackle it one day at a time.

The second: It's always going to be something.
At 14 months, my one-year-old nephew still isn't sleeping through the night. A friend's baby had GERD and couldn't breastfeed at all. Another had debilitating postpartum anxiety. Another friend's newborn spent a week in the NICU for potential sepsis (luckily, she's just fine); another's kid is allergic to eggs, dairy, gluten and peanuts. Another's is three-years-old and just started talking. And these are just the people who are lucky enough to have a baby in the first place.

The truth about babies is that they're hard. 

You just don't know what brand of hard you'll get. But it really does get easier. 

Breastfeeding, sleep and hormone issues... there's one thing that binds all new parents. Here's the truth about babies.

Breastfeeding, sleep and hormone issues... there's one thing that binds all new parents. Here's the truth about babies.

How to Have a Fun Winter Weekend in Boston

How to Have a Fun Winter Weekend in Boston  |  Hey Eleanor

How to Have a Fun Winter Weekend in Boston  |  Hey Eleanor

I never used to say no to a cool travel opportunity. 

But when my husband asked if I wanted to meet up with him on a work trip to Boston, I hesitated. It meant flying by myself with a 5 month old baby, and then traveling with said baby. How much would that change the dynamic of our trip? Would it be so stressful and exhausting that I'd wish we'd just stayed home?

Ultimately, I decided to go.

I figured Boston would be a great place to travel with a baby. It's compact, walkable, plus people seem to be really family-oriented based on what I've seem of Bostonians in the movies. ALWAYS a good way to judge people and places, right? I mean, Mark Wahlburg is from Boston, and he's all about "saying hi to your mother for me." 

We ended up having a great time, and are so lucky to have a flexible baby. We even enjoyed two nice dinners out while the baby slept in an Ergo carrier. I know these days are numbered, so we're enjoying it while we can.

Here's how we spent our winter weekend in Boston.

Where We Stayed:

We dropped out bags at the Chandler Studios in Boston's South End. Boston is one million years old, and when it comes to hotels, we all know that means teeny-tiny rooms. Chandler Studios offered nicely appointed, standard-sized rooms (unlike the Chandler Inn across the street, which had shoebox-sized rooms according to my husband who'd checked out both); clean, modern and featuring a kitchenette-- perfect for storing breastmilk and washing bottles. Or keeping your beer cold. Whatever.

This wasn't a luxury hotel experience, but it was absolutely perfect for what we needed. Not too expensive, right across the street from a drug store, in a more residential neighborhood full of cool shops and restaurants, yet close enough to walk to Boston Common and downtown.

What we did:

Since we had just over 36 hours in town, we needed to narrow down our activities substantially. 

We're into eating/hiking/seeing historic things when we travel, so we opted to walk the Freedom Trail. This 2.5-mile, red-lined route leads you to 16 historically significant sites — like the Massachusetts State House, old churches, and cemeteries.

Follow the red brick road.  |  Freedom Trail - Boston

Follow the red brick road.  |  Freedom Trail - Boston

It was actually the perfect thing to do with a baby in December. We bundled up, got a little exercise and some fresh air, then dipped into a historic church, landmark or restaurant every 20-30 minutes to warm up. At 32 degrees and breezy, Bostonians kept commenting that the weather was unseasonably cold. As a Minnesotan, I didn't think it was too bad.

You can sign up for a guided Freedom Trail tour, led by actors in 18th Century garb. While I love having someone who can answer all my questions, I find the costume thing to be terribly embarrassing. Instead, we downloaded the free Freedom Trail Walking Tour App, which included maps, GPS, lots of info at every site and allowed us to set our own pace. Recommended!

Paul Revere does not live here anymore.  |  Revere House - Boston

Paul Revere does not live here anymore.  |  Revere House - Boston

The Trail started about 1.5 miles from our hotel and we opted to walk, stopping for breakfast (more on that next) on the way. King's Church, Quincy Market (which was totally awesome on the outside and a totally lame tourist trap on the inside), and the Paul Revere house made for great pit stops. King's Church accepts donations, and the Revere house costs $3.50 to tour. It's old AF as far as American history goes (1680!) and well-preserved as far as I could tell. 

Where We Ate:

Sure, Boston. You're full of history and stuff... but when we travel, everything is planned around food. Here's where we ate. 


I'm obsessed with breakfast, and Flour Bakery + Cafe does one of the best in town.

Best egg sandwich ever.  |  Flour - Boston

Best egg sandwich ever.  |  Flour - Boston

Owned and operated by Chef Joanne Chang, this order at the counter spot does incredible baked goods, coffee, salads and sandwiches. It's also SUPER busy on weekends, but the line moves fast, so relax. They make the most incredible breakfast sandwich. The eggs are beaten (with lots of cream), then baked, rendering a souffle-like egg, then topped with cheese, roasted tomato, bacon and dijonnaise. And PS I just found this video for how to make it at home! Thank you, internet!

We also visited Mike's City Diner-- a beloved South End neighborhood breakfast spot. It's got that 1950s diner vibe, with big portions and friendly service. They weren't even annoyed when we rolled in with a stroller-- they folded it up and put it in a back room for us.


We were only in town for one lunch, and opted to eat in Boston's North End. Famous for its Italian food, there are lots of great restaurants to choose from-- notably, Regina Pizza and Neptune Oyster. We tried to go to the latter, but it's literally the smallest restaurant I've ever seen, doesn't take reservations and had two-hour wait for a table. If it had just been Josh and I, we for sure would've put our name on the list. 

We did not eat at Neptune Oyster, but you should.  |  Neptune Oyster - Boston

We did not eat at Neptune Oyster, but you should.  |  Neptune Oyster - Boston

Instead, we went down the street to Antico Forno, a Neapolitan pizza place with ample space. The pizza was nothing special, but it suited our immediate food needs. Plus, even mediocre pizza is still pizza.

If we'd had more time, I would've checked out Santarpio's. Established in 1903 and still family run, the place is legendary. I mean, just go to their website and look at the guy who's pictured in the header. Seem like someone who knows their stuff. Oh well, next time. 


Mid-afternoon, we stopped at Modern Pastry for a coffee, pastry and general warm-up. Open for over 70 years, this ain't your hipster, pour-over coffee bar and that's precisely what I like about it. One of our Uber drivers recommended it over Mike's (the North End pastry shop everyone talks about). I didn't think I liked cannoli, but I tried a bite and it turns out they're delicious. 

Get the cannoli.  |  Modern Pastry - Boston

Get the cannoli.  |  Modern Pastry - Boston


We ate two dinners in town, both within walking distance our hotel. Coppa, Chef Jamie Bissonnette's intimate and casual Italian restaurant specializing in charcuterie, plus pizza and shareable pastas/proteins. It's small, candle-lit and dare I say a little romantic... even if you are trying not to spill food on your sleeping baby's head. Bissonnette, along with business partner Chef Ken Oringer, operate a few restaurants in town (Toro = Spanish food; Little Donkey = "global" cuisine). They're all excellent choices.

Up past everyone's bed time. No regrets.  |  Coppa - Boston

Up past everyone's bed time. No regrets.  |  Coppa - Boston

My husband is all about Italian food, but I'm all about the Asian cuisine. On night two, we visited Myers + Chang-- Joanne Chang's (remember her from breakfast?) full-fledged restaurant. Inspired by Taiwanese soul food and Southeast Asian street food, it's big/bright Asian flavors with loads of modern style.

Sweet & Sour Brussels Sprouts  |  Myers + Chang - Boston

Sweet & Sour Brussels Sprouts  |  Myers + Chang - Boston

We ordered a lot of things to share, notably the smoked spare ribs, sweet and sour Brussles sprouts, braised pork belly buns, and dan dan noodles. Each item was better than the next, and even my Italian-loving husband was like "this stuff is delicious." 

Of course, no trip to Boston is complete without some clam chowder. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to eat any in town. BUT! Our flight was delayed, and there are a bunch of Legal Seafood outposts at Logan Airport. Josh and I each ordered a cup and you know what? It was delicious and the perfect send-off to a successful Beantown trip. 

What are some of your favorite spots in Boston? Share in the comments-- I'm sure we'll be back!

How to Have a Fun Winter Weekend in Boston  |  Hey Eleanor

How to Have a Fun Winter Weekend in Boston  |  Hey Eleanor

Photos: 1 / 2 / 3

The 11 Biggest Fears When Flying with a Baby

Flying with a baby... and tons of their crap.

Flying with a baby... and tons of their crap.

Just the thought of flying with a baby strikes fear in the hearts of parents. 

But when my husband asked if baby Arlene and I wanted to meet up with him during a Boston work trip, I said sure. I can do this! I reasoned that I would've gone prior to having a baby, so why let that stop me now?

However, as the trip approached, the panic set in. Here's every fear that raced through my head prior, followed by how it played out in real life. 

* * *

Fear: Getting all the crap from the car into the airport.

I hate lugging my own suitcase. How in the hell am I supposed to carry a suitcase, stroller, carseat, diaper bag and live, tiny human through the airport?

I'd considered curb-side check-in, but lingering outside in 10 degree weather isn't exactly baby-friendly. Fortunately, my friend Liz offered to drive us to the airport, park and help me carry everything in. Life-saver!

Fix: If you can get help, ask for it. People want to help you and your little babe! 

Fear: Going through security.

I worried about holding up dozens of irritated business travelers giving me the stink eye as I piled bag after bag through the x-ray machine. 

Truth be told, security ended up being the chaotic shit-show I envisioned.

Because our flight was delayed, I brought the stroller with me. TSA asked me to send it through the x-ray machine, which was precisely the same width as the stroller-- something no one realized until it was fully stuck inside. Whoopsies!

Not only that, I'd accidentally left a zipper open on the diaper bag, which meant that my chapstick, car keys, change and a pacifier all fell out, spewing forth on the filthy conveyor belt. Ick.

The good news was few people were behind us in line, so we didn't hold anyone up. I also had TSA Pre-check, which meant I didn't have to take off my shoes. I simply carried the baby through the metal detector, then reassembled the colossal pile of crap needed to travel with a 15-pound person.

Fix: Try to go in as organized as possible. Have liquids out and in their own bag. Breastmilk, even if it's in a cooler, gets sent through the x-ray machine, then is inspected. You'll need to take baby out of the carrier/stroller, so try to do that while you're waiting in line.

And if it does take a while to get situated, you do not need to apologize! Think of how many solo adult dummies have made you wait at security. 

Fear: Delays.

I worried I'd end up stuck at the airport for hours with a screaming baby. 

And guess what? Our flight was delayed nearly three hours. Luckily, this was before we'd boarded the plane. I think I would've lost my mind if we'd been trapped on the tarmac. 

Fix: Bring your walking shoes. I easily earned my 10,000 steps walking the airport with my lulled-to-sleep baby. 

Fear: Dealing with a serious poop situation.

Blowouts, mega-barfs and snotfests always seem to happen at the most inopportune times. Like when you're traveling.

With that in mind, please enjoy this video.

I felt fortunate this happened when I had access to MSP airport's fancy family bathrooms. I can't even imagine trying to clean poop out of my baby's hair while trapped on a plane.

I made the executive decision to throw the onesie away and changed the baby into her backup outfit. I then bought a $24 pair of backup pajamas at the airport. Expensive, but worth it in case this happened again.

Fix: You can't really control this one. My advice is to travel with TWO extra outfits, and a gallon Ziplock bag for poop and puke covered clothes. Maybe carry-on extra shirt for yourself, just in case.

Fear: Missing the flight.

The only thing worse than flying with a baby is missing the flight!

The only thing worse than flying with a baby is missing the flight!

Time works differently with a baby. When they're melting down, it moves slow like molasses. When you need to be somewhere, it's speeds along like a coked up Charlie Sheen.

After spending who knows how long remedying our poop fiasco, I walked back to our gate, which was boarding! Arghhhh! I knew I needed extra time, so I budged through 30 people to get to the ticketing agent, exasperatedly handing her my ticket. Anxiety sweat dripped down my back.

"KATT, KATT.... HMMMM KATT.... I DON'T SEE YOU ON THIS FLIGHT," she shouted at the top of her lungs as the entire gate looked on.

As it turned out, our gate had changed due to the delay... and I still had plenty of time. So I rolled my pile of crap back through the crowd, trying to act like I wasn't embarrassed at all. 

Fix: Wear a watch, set an alarm, download your airline's app for updates. Just keep an eye on the clock for your boarding time (and gate). 

Fear: Getting a middle seat.

Middle seat with a baby? No thanks.

Middle seat with a baby? No thanks.

What could be worse then finding yourself squelched between two huge body builders on a flight, let alone a flight you're on with a baby?  

Fix: As soon as you're able, get on your airline's website and try to book a window or aisle seat. My play here is ALWAYS for a window seat. I love looking out the window, not to mention it's easier and more discrete to breastfeed. But there's something to be said for sitting on the aisle with a babe. Easy access to the walkway and bathroom, just in case. My thought is whichever you're naturally inclined to select when traveling without a baby is your answer. 

SIDE NOTE: Try to book a seat near the back of the plane. This is good for two reasons: One, it's noisier-- perfect for drowning out your baby's cries AND lulling them to sleep. Also, if there's ever an empty row or seat on the plane, it's often at the very back. If you're nearby, empty rows pretty much automatically go to the person with the baby!

Fear: Sitting next to a weirdo.

I figured I'd end up next to an eighth grade boy who pretended like he wasn't trying to look at my nipple. Or worse, end up next to some sales guy named Steve who acted just a little too comfortable around a new mom and her baby.

Fix: Charm the pants off the gate agent. These people truly want to help you. My prayers must've worked because there were four wide open rows in the back of the plane. I sprawled in my own row, breastfeeding my baby confidently, luxuriating with my tiny plastic bowl of ginger ale.

Fear: Germs.

I've never considered myself a germaphobe... until I had a baby. Now I look at every surface, picturing teeny-tiny bacteria waiting to pounce on my precious, illness-prone babe. Considering how many people spend hours coughing, sneezing, farting and who knows what else on a plane, it seems like a cold waiting to happen.

Fix: Wash your hands. Wipe down the area around you if you can, and buy one of these dohickeys to clip your babe's pacifier to their clothes. You do not want anything they put in their mouth to touch the disgusting floor. And let's be honest, if the paci falls out, you're probably never going to find it anyway.

Fear: Dirty looks from people.

I worried people would be A-holes to the lady with the baby. 

Fix: Who cares. As it turns out, no parent should give two rips about this. Ninety-nine percent of passengers are incredibly empathetic-- shockingly so. The other one percent are people who suck at life anyway. And think about it-- among the top 10 most annoying people I've ever shared a plane with, zero have been babies. 

Fear: Constant crying.

We've all been on the flight with the baby who won't stop crying. One minute of screaming feels like an hour, especially when it's in confined public space. 

Fix: Feed 'em. Or give them a pacifier. Everything I've read said to feed the baby on takeoff and landing to help their ears acclimate. I followed the advice and she barely made a peep! Airplanes also work as giant white noise machines. That mixed with a little turbulence and being snuggled next to mom actually makes for an ideal sleeping situation.

And if they do cry, most people understand. Just close your eyes and think about how you won't see your fellow passengers ever again. 

Fear: Changing a diaper on the flight.

Half-way through the flight, I felt a rumble. Uh-oh. How do you change a baby's diaper on an airplane? As I walked to the bathroom, a guy gave me a thumbs up and said, "Good luck!"

Thanks, man.

Fix: There was a sketchy-but-workable changing table in one of the restrooms. There was even a sign for it on the door-- something I've never noticed until I flew with a baby! It was a little complicated when I had to pee. Long story short, I hope you have strong quads and aren't on a turbulent flight. 

* * *

Flying with my baby was not as hard as I'd imagined.

To be fair, I do have a chill baby. Two, most people are incredibly helpful to anyone traveling with an infant. 

I am so glad I ripped off this band-aid early into parenthood. I was legitimately filled with anxiety about flying with the baby, but it was not as bad as I'd imagined. It gave me a lot of confidence and made me feel like I can still do fun things even though I have a baby.

Yes, becoming a mom has made me different, but I'm still me at my core. I'm excited to share my love of travel and adventure with my daughter. Next time, let's hope she doesn't poop everywhere.

Flying with a baby isn't easy. Here's how to do it without the panic attack.

Flying with a baby isn't easy. Here's how to do it without the panic attack.

What It's Like to Have Your Placenta Encapsulated.

That's my placenta, in pill form. Not as gross as you'd think, right?

That's my placenta, in pill form. Not as gross as you'd think, right?

The idea of eating my placenta grosses me out. 

Do you throw it on a grill, like a steak? Maybe slice it thin and use in a stir fry? Steam it? Ew, ew, and definitely ewwww.

And yet, the purported benefits of consuming placenta after birth intrigued me. Allegedly, it increases your energy (definitely a plus), helps with milk production and is said to lessen postpartum depression. Plus, many animals consume their own placentas in the wild, which sounds like a reason why you might want to do it. We are animals, after all. 

Then again, tigers are known to eat their young and my dog's favorite food is rabbit poop. So...

Postpartum depression topped my list of birth fears. Depression runs in my family (LOL doesn't it run in everyone's family?!). The thought of drowning in overwhelm and sadness-- all while needing to care for a baby-- scared the ever-loving shit out of me. While I wasn't about to go all Sizzler on my placenta, eating it in pill form seemed doable. And since I am a firm believer in continuing to challenge my comfort zone, I decided to do it.

I live in the Twin Cities, and heard about Bywater Birth through a friend. They offer all sorts of birthing services, including placenta encapsulation. The whole thing cost $225, and when you think about how much they do (and the quick turnaround!), that seems more than fair. 

Here's how placenta encapsulation works:

1. I told Bywater Birth where I was giving birth and exchanged phone numbers with co-founder Anne so we could call her once the baby was born. Since I was having a scheduled C-section, they knew when to expect to pick up the placenta, but many of their clients who don't have a scheduled birth just text once the baby is born. 

2. We brought a small cooler and two gallon-sized Ziplock bags to the hospital. You gotta double-bag that stuff!

That's my placenta in the bag. I made this black and white to chill out the gore factor. 

That's my placenta in the bag. I made this black and white to chill out the gore factor. 

3. Before my surgery, the nurse asked if I had a birth plan. I didn't really (aside from "have healthy baby"), but did need to tell her that we wanted to keep the placenta. I was kind of embarrassed to tell her, but when I did, she was just like, "Okay, you got it!"

4. Because I was still in surgery, I'm a little fuzzy on this part. I think the doctor set the placenta aside in a bag, then put it in a bucket. Someone brought it to our room, where my husband (I think) placed it in the Ziplock bags and set it on ice.

5. A few hours after Arlene was born, Anne from Bywater came to our hospital room. It was probably 10pm. She chatted with us briefly, then took the placenta. 

6. Anne brought the placenta home. She gently steamed, dehydrated, then ground it into a powder. Next, the placenta is put into capsules-- anywhere from 100-200 (depending on your placenta size). Mine made 138 pills.

7. Within 24 hours, Anne had returned to the hospital with the pills, plus a dried, heart-shaped umbilical cord "keepsake" that I'm still not sure what to do with! Spray paint it silver and hang it form our Christmas tree? 

Heart-shaped placenta. Pen for scale!

Heart-shaped placenta. Pen for scale!

* * *

Anne suggested I take 2-3 pills each morning for the next 2-3 weeks. Then, maybe dial it back to one a day for the next month or two. After three months, the pills go in the freezer and can be taken as needed (if you're looking for a more balanced feeling, or need more energy). Apparently some people save them for when they hit menopause. I don't know how you can keep track of something in your freezer that long, but if that's your thing, more power to ya.

The pills look like... pills. I thought they had a slightly gross flavor (though it may be more in my mind), so I made sure to have a flavored drink ready to go prior to popping them. 

So, the big question:

Did eating my placenta help? 

Claim: It helps with postpartum depression.
While my birth was fairly straightforward (planned C-section), the days following were not. I was in a lot of pain, tired and overwhelmed-- aka the exact same things all new moms feel. I had an extremely hard time breastfeeding. Arlene had a weak latch, a late-diagnosed tongue-tie, and breastfed for anywhere from 6-7 hours a day for the first two months. I experienced milk blisters, and my bruised nipples felt like they'd been run through a pencil sharpener. 

I cried a lot of tears over breastfeeding. And yet, I never plunged into a deep, dark place. In fact, I remember at my lowest of lows thinking, "I mentally feel a lot better than I would've expected."

Claim: It keeps you energized
The first few weeks were exhausting, but there were only a few times where I was so tired I barely felt alive. I wasn't bouncing off the walls or anything, but in general, I felt more awake than I'd expected. 

Claim: It helps increase milk production
While I had many latch and breastfeeding problems, production was NOT an issue. I feel fortunate that I always had enough milk for the baby, plus extra for the freezer. 

Verdict: I'd have my placenta encapsulated again.

It's really hard to say if the pills truly helped or not. Arlene is my first baby, so I have no other postpartum experience to compare to. That said, the big three items ingesting your placenta is said to help all rang true for me. I've had a mostly happy, energized and milk-filled postpartum life. 

Could it be placebo effect? Definitely. Could I just be lucky My baby is awesome, so I for sure am lucky. But it could just be my dried, encapsulated placenta working its magic.

Next time, I'll make the same decision. Just in case. 

* * * 


The idea of eating my placenta grosses me out. However, the purported benefits made me face my fear and try it. Here's what I learned.

The idea of eating my placenta grosses me out. However, the purported benefits made me face my fear and try it. Here's what I learned.

What I Wished I Known Before Having a C-Section

Me and mini-me a few minutes after my C-section. 

Me and mini-me a few minutes after my C-section. 

"It's not that bad."

... said every person about having a C-section.

My OB said it's a quick surgery and I'd be walking the following day. Our birthing class grazed over C-sections; most of my favorite pregnancy websites hardly talk about them at length. So it must not be that bad, right?


My baby was breech and at 37 weeks, my doctor and I decided to schedule a C-section. In the two weeks leading up to my surgery, I barely found any helpful info online. Frustrating, considering something like 30 percent of American mothers give birth via C-section

So here's a exhaustive list of everything I wish I'd known before having a C-section.

The bad news? It's unpleasant. The good news? A month into your recovery, you'll feel pretty good, thinking to yourself, "Hey, that wasn't that bad!" Ha. Hahahah. Really, you will think this. 


In the days before...

I know most C-sections aren't scheduled, but in case yours is, here's what you can do to prepare. Honestly, no matter how you deliver, most of these points are relevant. 

Stay occupied.
On the day before my surgery, I'd already packed my bag, gotten a manicure and pedicure and stocked up on baby stuff, so I literally had a free weekday and nothing to do but think.

I spent the majority of the morning sobbing hysterically, clutching my dog. 

My advice to you? Schedule something, ANYTHING, the day before your C-section or induction. This is no time for thinking about things!

Stock up on snacks & drinks.

You'll get grub in the hospital, but it won't be what you really want (or available exactly when you want it). Bring crackers, fruit, nuts, cookies, Boom-Chicka-Pop-- quick, easy snacks to eat whenever you damn well please. You're going to be hungry!

As for drinks, load up on Vitamin Water, juices, whatever you like. You might think you'll want soda or LaCroix, but you're going to be gassy and bloated, so avoid the bubbles.  

Everybody poops.
That is, everyone except people who've just given birth.

Pooping after having a baby via any method is no joke. Do yourself a favor and eat lots of leafy greens and fruit to get things moving in the days leading up. Bring prunes to the hospital. They're actually delicious!

One poop-related pro to a C-section: you probably won't poop on the table! One less thing to worry about, right?

Buy the embarrassing stuff now. 
No one like to buy things that are used near your lady parts. Get over it and stock up on Tucks medicated pads, stool softeners, Preparation H, maxi pads and pantyliners. Truth be told, after giving birth, you probably aren't going to care about asking someone buy this stuff for you. Even still, you'll just want it exactly when you need it. 

PS One more reason to do this early: If you're anything like me, you haven't used maxi pads since, like, seventh grade. Even you don't really know what you want, and I can't even imagine what a man might bring home (after his head explodes from all the options). PPS these are the ones you want for the first few weeks. 


Fasting isn't that bad.
My surgery was scheduled for 3:40pm. I get anxious and crabby when I'm hungry, so I worried that I wouldn't be able to eat the entire day of surgery.

As it turned out, I only had to fast (no food or drink... not even water) for six hours. While that sounded like a long time, it still allowed me to eat a huge breakfast, and then I spent the next three or so hours taking a shower, setting my out-of-office, and buying a few last minute supplies. I arrived at the hospital two hours before my surgery, and by that point, food was the last thing on my mind. 

Be nice.

I know you'll probably be nervous. However, everything will be so much more enjoyable if you're nice to your nurses and doctors. These people are going to poke you with needles, cut your body open, and bring your baby into the world. Trust me, you want them to like you. 

Prep your support person.

I was so grateful to have my husband in the operating room with me. However, he didn't join me until the doctor was ready to get down to biz. This meant he had to wait outside for twenty minutes. It probably felt like forever, but I told him that this would be the case. A friend of mine's husband didn't know, and started getting really worried as the minutes passed. Give your support person a heads up that a long wait is normal. 

The Operation

The operating room is actually IS similar to TV.
Dressed on a stunning paper gown with IV in tow, I walked myself to the operating room. I expected it to be just like TV: bright, white, chaotic, with classic rock playing softly in the background (why classic rock? I don't know. It's just what I pictured, and it's what was playing!). There were about eight doctors and nurses tasking around the room. 

It was also very cold. But I was so nervous, I barely cared.

Good news about epidurals/bad news about anti-anxiety cocktails.
Once in the room, I hoisted myself onto the operating table. A nurse asked me to sit on it, straddling it like a surfboard. 

Next, the anesthesiologist prepped my back for the epidural. I was so scared, but after he numbed the site (which stung), I didn't feel a thing. 

I'd heard many anesthesiologists give patients an anti-anxiety cocktail pre-surgery. Mine said he hates to do it because they make most people foggy, and he wanted me to remember the experience. So I went without. It wasn't easy, but I made it!

The epidural will work... but on more than you might imagine.
When I think of an epidural, I think of my lower half being numb. With a C-section, they place the needle much higher in your spinal column. Therefore, you'll probably experience numbness in your chest (which made breathing feel more labored) and arms (which I think were strapped to the table?). I couldn't move at all and wasn't prepared for that, but now you will be.

You might puke.
Apparently, it's common for the pain meds to make you nauseated. I didn't, but I almost did. If you feel a barf comin' on, say something and they can add an anti-nausea medication to your IV.

Curtain: Do or don't?
In pre-op, my nurse asked if I wanted to watch the surgery, or if I preferred a curtain to block the action.

Puhleeze. While watching my own surgery seems very Hey Eleanor-y, I figured the birth of my first child was no time to see how I might react. Maybe next time. 

The second most intense moment.
When my husband entered the OR, donning scrubs, a face mask and adorable hairnet. Seeing the fear in my husband's eyes while looking at the fear in my eyes was a holy shit moment. THIS IS HAPPENING!

The most intense moment. 
Within 10 minutes of my hubby entering the room, the doctor announced, "You're going to feel some tugging." I honestly didn't feel much... except for in my heart, which exploded with emotions. I heard a baby choking, then crying, then my husband shouted, "She's so cute!" as he leaked tears on me. 

I'd heard some people say their cesarian birth felt anti-climactic. To me, it was only climactic-- like nothing, nothing, nothing, BOOM GOES THE DYNAMITE! 

Hi, baby! Bye, baby!
Three seconds after our baby was born, someone popped her over the top of the curtain. "Here she is!" Before I could even get a good look at her, the baby and hubby were gone. I could sort of hear the baby crying in the next room as they cleared her lungs, cleaned her up, weighed and measured her. It felt like they were gone for 15 minutes. Who knows how long it really was.  

Chit-chat is a good thing.
My doctors and nurses casually chatted while they stitched me up. About the weather, weekend, their kids... banal water cooler talk. Initially, I was like, hullo... I'm in surgery here. But then I thought about it and decided that this is what they literally do every day, and regular conversation just means everything is going well. 

Yay for skin to skin. 
You probably know that skin-to-skin contact is a big thing in the birthing world. After the baby was cleaned up, a nurse asked if she could place her on my skin. Obvi! The only skin available was my neck, so they placed her there. It was totally surreal.

Then, the nurse said I should talk to her because "the baby knows your voice!" I couldn't think of one single thing to say. So maybe think of something to tell your baby... not that it really matters as your brain will be mush.


Moving to your room.
Next, I walked myself to our hospital room. Just kidding! Here's what actually happened: some nurses inflated some sort of raft-like contraption under my body, then picked me up and hoisted me onto a gurney and rolled me to my room.

Who in the hell are you?!
For the first few hours post-op, nurses will check on you all the time. It's something like every 15 minutes for the first hour after surgery, then every 30 minutes for another hour or so, then every two hours. You also might have someone showing you how to breastfeed. There might be a resident popping in, or a cleaning person emptying your trash or someone delivering food. Long story short, there will be lots of people you don't know popping in and out of your room. 

Caring? You're soooo over it.
I didn't grow up in a house where people walk around naked, or even talk about naked things. I don't pee with the door open (unless I'm home alone), and I never fart in front of my husband on purpose. 

Have a baby and next thing you know, you won't care who sees your nips, your lady bits or helps you out of your giant mesh undies. I needed to "pass gas" before leaving the hospital, and it became a major topic of conversation between me and my husband. Not giving a shit about anything was actually very liberating!

The itching. My god, the itching!
In the first 24 hours post birth, nothing hurt. The most excruciating thing was my reaction to the morphine. This is administered in your IV for long-term pain management. It works like magic on the pain, but makes most people itch like a mofo! Totally miserable, but way better the pain. 

The bleeding.
Most articles talk extensively about postpartum bleeding after a vaginal birth. I had no idea what to expect after a C-section. The first day or two were pretty intense, but I downgraded from the phonebook-sized pads to more normal ones on day four PP. When I got home, I ended up buying those Always Infinity pads, which I used for five weeks PP. 

Don't fall in love with your nurse. 
Or should I say, nurses. I was at the hospital for five days, and assigned no less than 20 nurses. Some for four hours, some for 12. The bad news is that you'll say bye to nurses you love. The good news, you'll say bye to nurses you can't stand. 

By the way, I secretly suspect they give you the varsity nurses on day one, then downgrade you to JV, then benchwarmers, to finally some person they may have picked off the street. 

Don't get behind on your meds.
You'd like to think your nurses are keeping track of your needs.

They probably aren't.

You're going to need to ask for all medication every time you need it. If you can take pain meds every four hours, be ringing that call button every 3 hours and 48 minutes. You're responsible for you. 

Walking sucks, but you have to do it.
About 18 hours after my surgery, they removed my catheter. And that meant one very important development: I needed to walk to the bathroom to pee. The first time I tried to get out of bed, I thought there was NO way I'd be able to get to the bathroom (even with help, which is necessary). But I did it!

That evening, I took a stroll down the hall. And by stroll, I mean I slowly lumbered down the hall with the grace of a zombie. But by day five, I was for sure walking at a respectable 1.5 mph clip.

Nightgowns aren't necessary.
I hate wearing a nightgown, but every "what to pack in your hospital bag" post I read said to bring one. I took the nightgown thing literally, thinking you wouldn't want pants on your incision. As it turns out, loose fitting yoga fats or sweats were fine, and I ended up having a friend bring me a pair. Tip: get black ones or some you don't mind getting blood on... sry, it's just the truth.

Stay in the hospital as long as possible.
I was able to stay in the hospital for up to 96 hours. Luxuriate as long as you can. It's nice to have the help (and secretly, you might enjoy being treated like a queen).

Take all the stuff.
Diapers, pads, mesh underwear, cold packs... pretty much anything disposable can come with you.


It'll probably be harder than you think (but it will go faster than you think).
My doctor said I'd be able to normal things when I got home-- like walk up and down the stairs, take showers, get dressed, carry the baby in her carrier. Technically, this was true. But in reality, it was the last thing I wanted to do. Everything hurt, I could barely get out of bed or off the couch without help. 

This probably lasted two weeks, and every day did get easier than the last. By four weeks, I was feeling pretty great. 

Don't skimp on the ibuprofen.
You might not think it makes that big of a difference, but all the nurses told me I'd regret it if I stopped taking Advil. I trust them.

Coffee, how do I love thee?
For about 10 days after delivery, I experienced the worst headache of my life. It could've been from low iron, hormones, the epidural or something else entirely. Eventually, I burst into tears out of frustration, crying that "I just want to enjoy the baby and my brain feels like it's about to explode!" My husband got me a large iced coffee, which I'd been avoiding because I thought it might keep the baby awake. Downed it. Poof. Headache gone. Baby's sleeping patterns didn't change a bit. 

Caffeine is your friend, people!

You're going to be soooo bloated and puffy.

You might know that they sometimes give women pitocin to induce labor. You might not know that they often administer it after the baby is born to keep mom from bleeding too much. This is a good thing! But that, along with fluids from IVs, will make you puffy as hell. It might not go away for a few weeks, so embrace it as much as you can. Honestly, you probably won't care as you'll be busy with a newborn. 

About that scar...
It's really not that bad. In fact, if mine was any lower, it would literally be off my body. It's about six inches long and very neat. I'm currently three months postpartum and it's a little pink line. No biggie. There's about a half-inch above and below the incision that's completely numb, which I'm told will go away over time. I've also heard it's good to massage the scar, which I've only recently started trying. 

Supplies you may want.

Gap high-waisted underwear. They're comfy, and won't bug your incision. 

Always Infinity pads. I swear they didn't sponsor this post.  

Compression belt. Trust me, you're going to want pressure on that incision, and the one you get at the hospital will soon become too big. A midwife friend of mine told me to wear mine for 40 days, and I did. 

Wheat Thins. Maybe it was just me, but I couldn't stop eating them.

Roku. Unless you're too cool to watch tv, this device made my recovery heavenly. Amazon TV, Netflix, HBO and more... all at my finger tips! No regrets.

* * *

Long story short, it's hard, but you will get through it. And the best part? You get a baby out of the deal!

If you had a C-section, please add anything you wish you'd known in the comments. This is just my experience with a scheduled C-section, and I'm sure there's lots more helpful advice to be shared! I say the more you know, the better off you are. You can do it!

There are a lot of things I didn't know before I had a C-section. The process wasn't quite like I expected, but we made it (and have a beautiful baby, too!).

There are a lot of things I didn't know before I had a C-section. The process wasn't quite like I expected, but we made it (and have a beautiful baby, too!).

It's Not Okay.

It's #notokay.

It's #notokay.

In ninth grade, a male friend of mine tackled me on a bed during a party and "pretended" to hump me. I laughed it off because I was embarrassed.

While interning with the Minnesota Twins, a pitcher from another team held two fingers to his mouth, wagging his tongue between them while two teammates spewed disgusting language at me in Spanish. I understood every word. At the time, I was escorting two 6-year-old children to the field. No bigs! 

In college, a "friend" of mine figured out where I was going every weekend night, then creepily followed me home every evening. Once I got home, he'd call me four or five times throughout the night. It happened for a full semester, even after I asked him to stop.

When I was 23, a very large man approached me at a bar two blocks from my house. He asked if he could buy me a drink. I said I no thank you. He wouldn't stop talking to me, bragging about his job and his Escalade. Eventually, I said I needed to leave. He offered to give me a ride home. I said no. He then got angry, and started shouting at me. A bouncer walked me home. 

During the first Obama term, my friend was under consideration for a job at the White House. The FBI ran an extensive background check, which included interviewing me, her college roommate. After an hour-long meeting with a giant man from the FBI, he said some 'flattering' things to me and that he "really hoped we could go out sometime." He'd already told me he was married. He knew my name, where I lived and worked, what I drove, and probably my social security number. I laughed uncomfortably.

A few years ago, I was working, alone, in my office. It was 4 in the afternoon and an acquaintance came in and sat down. He asked how things were going-- about work, my life, my boyfriend (now husband). He then told me he and his wife hadn't been intimate in a while and wondered if he should "look elsewhere for sex," and winked. Again, I laughed uncomfortably. 

And here's the worst of the lot:

On the night of family birthday party, I went to bed early. I awoke to a 33-year-old man standing over my bed, drunk, looking at me. I immediately got up, and left my room. I wasn't sure what to do. I was 16. 

I didn't want to "ruin" the party going on in our basement. So instead of telling my dad or one of my many uncles in our basement (which I should have done), I politely sat at the top of our stairs for twenty minutes, chatting with this creep who'd walked into a teenager's room, uninvited.

He told me that if I'd come visit him in Minneapolis, he'd buy me and my friends alcohol. He also complimented me on how good my friends and I looked in our swimsuits the last time we'd hosted him at our cabin.

Eventually, he went to the bathroom. I grabbed a blanket and pillow, and slept behind my dad's desk in his office. 

Two years later, that same guy was serving an eight-year prison sentence for raping his 12-year-old niece. 

* * *

I don't have one female friend who doesn't have a story like this. 

Most have many. Personally, I've lost count. I'm fortunate that nothing turned physical. Many of my female friends have not been so lucky.

These guys are everywhere. They're in our neighborhoods, at out place of work, in our homes. You might think "locker room" chat is harmless. It's just guys being guys, right? But for some men, it's not just chat. Want proof? Ask the woman you care about most. She'll have a story like this and it will break your heart.

Women already do a lot to protect themselves.

We don't walk alone after dark (which in Minnesota is over 12 hours of the day in winter). We think twice about footwear before going out-- could I run away in these? We walk to our car with 911 already dialed into our phones, just in case. 

As women, we learn to laugh off sexual harassment. We're scared of what might happen if we don't. We also learn early on that saying something usually results in a big, fat wad of nothing.

Oh, he's harmless!
He's just joking. Where's your sense of humor?
You're overreacting.
I'll talk to him later. 
[never talks to him later].

Men, it's your turn. 

If you overhear your buddy objectifying women, don't be his Billy Bush. Call him out. Laughing it off or ignoring it says this behavior is okay.   

Tell your daughters, sisters, wives, female friends and coworkers that they need to speak up. When they do, take them seriously. Do something, even if it makes you uncomfortable.  

Teach your sons about consent. That women don't owe them anything, ever, no matter what. 

As I write this, I'm sitting next to my perfect 13-week-old daughter, knowing it's just a matter of time before she has stories like this of her own. It's inevitable, unless we all collectively decide it's not okay. 

Because it's not okay.