Monday, September 14, 2009

Preggo Tip #1: Stuff that helped me through pregnancy

So this is a long overdue post. Since I've found a lot of helpful tips from mommy blogs and online forums, and I know a number of ladies expecting this year, I have long wanted to do a series of posts on stuff I've learned along the way. Here's my must-have list of items to make pregnancy easier, with a focus on money-saving tips since I'm a bargain shopper who loves a good deal:
  • Belly bands - a knit band of fabric. In early pregnancy, you can use belly bands to wear your regular clothes longer - just unbutton and unzip your jeans and wear the belly band over so that it looks like a fitted tank top. Sure, you can loop a hair elastic around your jeans' button and just make sure to wear a longer top, but the idea of an elastic digging into my belly was never very appealing.
       Later, when you've outgrown your regular clothes but your maternity pants are still too loose, you can fold the band in half and wear it over the maternity pant's belly panel as a sort of soft belt.
       Even later, when your bump has filled out your maternity pants very well, you can still use the bands! I wear them as a kind of "bra" for my bump when I sleep at night, especially when you are supposed to sleep on your side during your third trimester. I feel like it helps support my belly and takes some pressure off of my side abdominal muscles.
       The most well-known belly band in the U.S. is the Bellaband, which unfortunately retails for close to $30. I found this great Australian eBay seller, a WAHM (Work At Home Mom) who calls her belly bands 4MumsTums. She ships internationally, and even with shipping to Taiwan, I was able to get 3 bands for about $7 each (given then currency exchange rates). This is the best purchase I've made throughout my entire pregnancy.
  • Comfortable shoes - I've already raved about my Dansko Mirabelle sandals. It's essential to have supportive, comfortable, safe, and easy-to-wear shoes during pregnancy (I'm having trouble now bending over to tie the laces on my sneakers when I go to the gym - with the Danskos, I just slide my feet into them). Even better if the style is versatile!
  • Prenatal vitamins - I take Trader Joe's Prenatal Once Daily Multivitamin & Mineral Supplement. They're about $8 for a 60 tablet bottle (so inexpensive in the realm of prenatals), vegan, and have all the necessary levels of vitamins and minerals one is supposed to have during pregnancy (i.e. folic acid, not too high with Vitamin A, 15mg of Vitamin B6, which a doctor has recommend to combat nausea).
       In addition to vitamins and minerals, the TJ's prenatal vitamin also has what it calls the "Gentle Prenatal Blend," which includes red raspberry leaf extract, ginger, spirulina, a bunch of different digestive enzymes, and the probiotic Lactobacillus sporogenes. So the red raspberry leaf apparently tones the uterine muscles (to make birthing easier), ginger helps with nausea, spirulina is regarded as a superfood, and the enzymes and probiotics are to help with digestion.
       I haven't had any pregnancy side effects like morning sickness or constipation. I'm not sure if it can be attributed to the prenatal vitamins, even though I did start taking them a few months before we started trying to conceive, but I definitely am a satisfied customer.
  • Maternity underwear - I got this tip from my friend Shan. Instead of spending big bucks on underwear you only wear for a few months, what I did was get the low-rise cotton bikinis one size larger than my usual size from Victoria's Secret. Of course, Victoria's Secret has their 5 for $25 deal. When my mom went to get them for me, she asked them how business was. No surprise, retail has been suffering this past year, so my mom asked the saleslady if she bought another 5, if she could have one for free. So I ended up with 11 for $54.12, including tax. Sweet!
  • Nursing bras - instead of buying maternity bras when the girls started growing, I bought nursing bras which I am hoping to continue to use after the baby comes. These were a life saver because I needed good support early on!
       Based on friends' recommendations, I've bought the Bravado Seamless Nursing Bra (because the sizing is more flexible) and the Bravado Nursing Tank. Both are very supportive, although I think the coverage of the nursing tank runs small, so if you're in between sizes, I would definitely order up a cup size. Although expensive, the quality is very high and I'd recommend signing up for their mailing list - they usually have a sale about every three months.
       The other bra that I like is a local brand, Mamaway, which also sells in the UK. They have a sleep bra (model #06884) that's made out of a very breathable fabric. There is enough support so that I can also wear it during the day if I'm not going to be too active, and it cost me about NT$600 each (less than $20).
       I did buy another a bra by another local brand, Mammy Village, which I HATE. The lining, while supposedly cotton, makes my boobs itch. It also has lace on the outside, which underneath my tops just looks lumpy.
       So when looking for nursing bras, my advice is to consider the kind of tops you wear, and pay special attention to the lining and seams of the bra - your skin will be sensitive enough!
  • Maternity clothes - I have friends that say, "I don't want to buy clothes I'm only going to wear a few months - I'll just buy larger sized clothes." Here are my four reasons why it makes sense to buy maternity clothes: 1) when you're pregnant, pretty much only one area grows - the proportions are different; 2) nowadays it's relatively easy to buy inexpensive maternity clothes for the same price you'd pay for regular clothes; 3) if you buy larger sized clothes, after the baby is born it can be too easy to slip into the mindset of "oh this fits and is comfy," instead of "these are larger clothes for a temporary situation" - so you lose a motivator to return to your pre-pregnancy size; and 4) eventually, regular clothes aren't going to cut it. At around 8 months, I started wondering when my loose, flowy baby doll tops became form-fitting.
       It's better to start shopping early (by that, I mean monitor sales and buy when the price is right) so that you have something when all of a sudden, nothing else fits. I didn't go crazy with maternity wear - I bought one pair of jeans, one pair of tan capris, one pair of brown guachos, and one pair of denim capris. I also bought four maternity tops. This does mean I have to do laundry more frequently, so that I have something clean to wear, but I've been able to get by with these items and my looser pre-pregnancy tops (e.g., the aforementioned baby doll tops that were so popular these past few seasons). I think the key is to have enough versatile bottoms that you can alternate with various tops.
My next post in this series will be on my favorite bargain maternity retailers!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

36/37 weeks: trapezoidal tummy

For about the past two weeks, the little guy has taken a liking to morning stretches, usually commencing at 7 a.m. However, this is not so fun for mommy because her tummy ends up being (painfully) stretched into a trapezoid, often a parallelogram.

Note that I'm taking the photo straight down. I have a big bump above my left hip and below my belly button, and usually a smaller bump above the belly button below my right ribcage. At first I thought the big bump was his head and the little bump was his butt, but at my last checkup the doctor told me his head is already in my pelvis so now I'm not sure - perhaps the big bump is his back and the little bump are his feet?

I take heart in the fact that this must mean the little guy is getting bigger and trying to get more comfortable, even though it certainly isn't comfortable to be woken up from a deep sleep when someone decides to rest his foot in between your ribs!

Do you see a difference between Week 36 (on the left) and Week 37 (on the right)?
My weight basically hasn't changed in the past 4-5 weeks. Since the little guy has been getting bigger, logic says that mommy has been losing weight.

Recap of the past couple of weeks: I caught a cold (just a cold! not the H1N1 flu virus) and even though my sniffles and sneezing were gone in 3 days, it wasn't until this past Sunday that I woke up feeling normal, instead of slightly-tired-slightly-congested-in-the-head. That definitely affected progress on my to-do list, since all I wanted to do was nap.

However, I was really grateful to have a long weekend filled with visiting friends, making presentations, attending an arts event to benefit the victims of Typhoon Morakot, and taking a class on breastfeeding and newborn care. I even got to visit the weekend flea market/fair in Tienmu!

Here's Sophie next to her painting, which ended up selling for NT$30,000 (yay! all proceeds to Morakot relief). They say that the sounds a baby hears while in the womb is what they find comforting as newborns, and as much as I enjoyed listening to this band, I really hope the little guy doesn't come out with a preference for Macedonian drinking songs as his lullabies.

I'm really lucky to have so many girlfriends with children, and that have had their babies this past year. In a one week period, I got to see a 6 year old, a 4 year old, a 2 year old, a 3 month old, and a 6 week old in person. It really does give perspective on what's to be expected in child development. Plus, of course, advice and support from moms who've already been there!