The First Pregnancy Roundup

Wow so yeah. Sorry. I really let things go by the wayside the last like 9 months or so. I’m nearly 39 weeks pregnant now and this pregnancy has really been characterised by one thing: exhaustion. It came in waves, but it was never not there. I’ve been super tired the whole time. It’s a symptom I’ll take over some less-pleasant others (nausea for example, from which I only suffered for about 4 weeks), but it has still been varying levels of debilitating and blogging just wasn’t a priority. I didn’t even post much on instagram. Turns out growing a human is hard, and with working up to 37 weeks I had stuff to do.

Anyway, I’m nearly at the end now (please god let it be over soon, kid is wrecking my shit) and I thought I’d run through a few things that I’ve found to be quite useful throughout the last three-quarters-of-a-year, in no particular order.

Pregnancy Pillow

I bought the LeachCo Snoogle Pillow. It’s great. I think I got it when I was about 12 weeks along, because my back and hips were already a little janky (though nothing like the absolute mess and tangle of bone and sinew that they are now, ugh) and the first time I laid myself down in its loving embrace, I was sold. It’s really great. It has a couple of drawbacks. One is that if you run hot throughout your pregnancy, as I did, you might find yourself being very comfortable but a little overheated, and you’ll kick it out of the bed anyway. Another is that it takes up quite a bit of room and if you have a queen sized bed or less, your partner may have a severely restricted amount of room. The last is something that I’ve just come across recently and that is that I can really only lie on one side for so long, so I want to turn over a lot (like, a lot, and seeing as how it requires a business case and strategic planning meetings to do that, it’s really annoying) and that is next to impossible with the Snoogle. So next time around I might go for something simpler like one of the bean-shaped pillows that just support your back and belly. But in saying that, the fact that you can really tuck yourself in to this pillow is lovely, and it does have the section that goes between your legs to help with hip discomfort. So I have no regrets. It’s even great for propping up a baby etc after it arrives, or so I’m told!

Maternity Bras

My boobs have cycled through various levels of intense discomfort. Sometimes they feel normal (they look huge but feel normal). I was recommended the Bravado Body Silk Seamless Nursing Bra and well let’s just say I now own four of them. Yes they’re expensive,  but worth the investment, I truly feel. Super soft, easy to put on, easy to un-snap for nursing (I’ve been practicing), nice and stretchy, all that good stuff. Are they the best support you’ll ever have? No obv, they have no underwire, but what are you gonna do in it, go for a run or something? Get over yourself.

Belly Band

These are a lifesaver for when you really want to wear something that still mostly fits, apart from the gaping hole at your abdomen because you are starting to show and that’s how physics works. My amazing friend Corinne actually gave me mine, but I’ve heard great things about this one. I really liked it and wore it all the time, particularly over shorts during summer. Gosh those days seem so far away now that it’s December in Vermont and below freezing. But anyway, grab yourself one of these. They even feel good with their support and their holding you in and whatnot.

A No-Bullshit Book

I absolutely loved Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong, and What You Really Need to Know by Emily Oster, who is an economist at the University of Chicago. The beauty of Emily is that she’s not a midwife or a doctor (and she makes this very clear throughout the book) but she is someone who deals with numbers and statistics as part of her job and so what she does is takes what research and studies there are on things related to pregnancy (caffeine intake, alcohol intake, labor outcomes etc) and sees what they’re really saying. Of course, as she points out, it’s very hard to get definitively accurate information on pregnancy because performing studies on pregnant women is, at best, unethical (can you imagine? “Ok so you guys are gonna have 10 alcoholic drinks every single day and you guys are gonna have none. Cool?”). But she does her best with what there is, and the book really calmed my anxious brain. Well, a little.

Preggie Pop Drops

Ok it sounds silly because technically it’s just candy but for some reason these really worked for reducing nausea for me. They were another gift from Corinne and let’s be real she’s just the ultimate pregnancy fairy godmother and I can’t thank her enough for the box of goodies she sent me early in my pregnancy. Speaking of which!

Stretch Mark Cream

Everybody has different preferences, scent/packaging etc, but I really loved the bottle that Corinne sent me which was Palmers Cocoa Butter Stretch Mark Massage Lotion. Let me be clear: I fully understand that you can’t really prevent stretch marks in the vast majority of cases. If they’re coming, they’re coming, and it’s mostly genetic. BUT! I have a tonne of stretch marks from my previous life as a teenager whose boobs and curves exploded out all at once and since I used this stuff from very early in pregnancy I don’t have a single one. In saying that, a lot of people say that they appear right at the end. I feel like I’m right at the end now and I still haven’t seen a sign of one. If I get them I don’t care a single bit – the ones I have already on other parts of my body are super faded and silvery so it’s no biggie. Midwives and my doula have all commented on the fact that I don’t have any. Is it because of the cream? I honestly have no idea. What I’ve been doing is squirting out one pump of this and one pump of a little bottle of Palmer’s Skin Therapy Oil with Vitamin E that my friend Jaime sent me along with about a thousand onesies from my favorite brands in Australia. Then I mix those together between my palms and give my belly and sides a good rub. If nothing else, it feels good when the skin gets a bit itchy and dry, and it’s nice bonding time too. I often take that time to have a little chat to LB (our nickname for the baby) about whatever I want, this week’s subject has been “what if you didn’t mash your skull into my cervix or bladder at every opportunity though? Just work with me here.”

There are a few other things that are less tangible. An incredibly supportive partner who never judges you when you tell him you ate 4 packets of ramen, or who holds you when you cry hysterically about the fact that your landlord mowed the lawn so the woodchucks who lived under the patio now have to re-make their protective tunnels. Bonus if he agrees to read something like The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin and it totally changes his perspective on labor and suddenly you have your own built in at home prenatal doula.

Oh and that reminds me – a doula (if it is in your budget or covered by your insurance). A lot of people in my life will laugh at this because I was always a bit disparaging about doulas but you know what? I was wrong. Everyone needs a little extra help. Especially since my mum can’t be with me for the birth. It helps so much to know that she’ll be on my side, advocating for me, cajoling me when I need it and bossing me (and Ray) around when I need that too, because that’s bound to happen.

The last thing is, a sense of humour and a backbone. People are gonna ask stupid fucking questions, constantly. Your body is gonna do some weird shit. Some of it will be embarrassing. Some of it will be scary, and it’s ok to be scared. People who had perfect pregnancies or people who forget what it was like to be pregnant AND ESPECIALLY people who have never been pregnant love to tell you that whatever’s meant to be will be, that all you have to do is relax and enjoy the pregnancy, and that pregnancy is beautiful and wonderful and magical and natural. Those people appear whenever you have the AUDACITY to complain about some of the extreme discomfort, illness, fear, anxiety, body image issues that come with pregnancy. Where do they even come from!? Nobody  knows. Feel free to tell them to shut up. Other people who can shut up: people who tell you their horrible birth stories totally unprompted. People who act entitled to information about your baby, pregnancy, birth etc. People who tell you to get plenty of sleep now because you’ll LITERALLY NEVER SLEEP AGAIN EVER after the baby comes. People who tell you that if you don’t give birth exactly how they did you’re totally DOING IT WRONG. But there are people you should keep around, too. There are wonderful people who will help you every step of the way, who will never judge you, who will answer your stupidest questions, who will bring you your weird food cravings right when you need them the most, who will be there for you when you’re scared and sad and sick. There are people who have no idea what you’re going through but who will be there for you anyway. You keep those people close! Hold them tight and never let them go. Those people are golden. And so are you. You got this.

I think I’ll write another blog post about some cool but not totally necessary luxuries I’ve found useful as well so stand by for that. But this one is long enough, I think!

 

Style: My “Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” Experience

That’s right, I jumped on the bandwagon. Sue me. Give it a go. I have a great lawyer.

But no really, when I first read about this book I was skeptical. From what I was reading, the author recommended a lot of purging. Like, a lot. And I’m by no means a hoarder but I am quite materialistic so that made me a little nervous.

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My husband and I come from different backgrounds and we hold onto things for different reasons. I was worried that her recommendations would be too much upheaval for our household. It was important to me that I was respectful to his feelings. But I also strongly felt that I had too much stuff to ever feel like I had a tidy home.

A note on our home: we live in around 270 square feet of apartment space. For you Aussies and Brits and every single other country on earth, that’s about 26 square metres. Yep. It is insanely small. When you live in a small space, untidiness is not only more noticeable, it is really in your face and I found myself constantly trying to tidy which subsequently made me feel quite stressed out.

So I decided to give this book a try. A lot of people I knew and trusted had followed it with great success and none of them seemed to be sobbing with regret, or missing discarded items terribly. In fact, they all sung its praises.

So, let’s talk about the premise. Marie (Kondo, author) is a tidying guru in Japan. Her seminars book out instantly. She has a 3-6 month waiting list of clients. She’s hardcore. She advocates having ONLY what you need and what “sparks joy”, and discarding everything that does not meet these criteria. She uses that phrase a lot – “spark joy”. I’m going to be really honest with you. I’m still not clear on what exactly that means. There are some things I own that are necessary to my life, that I use all the time, that would be a great hindrance if I lost them – that do not ~~spark joy~~ in my heart when I touch them. But I like them? I love some of them? I feel like this book likes to attribute characteristics to objects that, to me, they do not hold. But that’s okay – I get her point. Keep things that you feel good about. Don’t keep stuff just “because”. Sure, ok!

I started with clothes. I got rid of a tonne of things that I had either not worn ever, or hardly ever worn, or that didn’t fit. I didn’t think I had any “maybe one day” items but turns out I did. No. Stop that. You deserve all of your clothing to be able to fit you now (unless you are pregnant etc in which case of course your entire wardrobe should not consist of maternity wear, that shit’s gonna end one day) so get rid of anything that doesn’t fit right or that doesn’t suit you.

One of the main tips she gives is to “thank” each item before sending it on its way. I like this! Instead of just callously trashing an item, thank it for whatever role it fulfilled in your life for however long (even if it was just “thanks for teaching me what styles DONT suit me”) was something that made me feel better about ditching things. She also talks about treating your items kindly, for example, don’t ball up your socks – just fold them because they have been working very hard and it’s nice for them to have a rest in your drawers, not be balled up and stretched all the time. Ok, sure, that makes sense. And it looks attractive. Bonus!

However, here is where I want to start in on my first “con” of very few cons. Sometimes, feeling that way about things makes them harder to discard, not easier. If you anthropomorphize objects too much, you run the risk of feeling guilty for throwing them away. For example, she talks about gifts. If the gift itself is not something you see yourself using, then the purpose of the gift is in the giving, in the care that someone took whilst choosing it and wrapping it for you, yes? Sure. That was its original purpose. But then I would think about how the person who gave it to me might feel, depending on the item’s significance. And that made it harder to give things away. Thoughts like “just because this [item] has a hole in it / is missing is pair, or because I don’t use it, doesn’t mean I should just throw it away, it served me well!” began to permeate. But – yes it does. It does mean that. So the respect/love-for-items philosophy can be a double-edged sword.

Ultimately I felt like the winning strategy for me was to just think of the end result. Will I ever think of this item again? Will there come a time when I think “gosh, I know tossing that shirt out made my place tidier but AT WHAT COST? IF ONLY I KNEW THEN WHAT I KNOW NOW ABOUT MY IMMEDIATE REQUIREMENT FOR THAT SHIRT AND NO OTHER SHIRT”? Almost certainly not was the answer in most cases.

The other great thing that I took from this book is how to fold things to be as neat and tidy, and, not gonna lie, aesthetically pleasing as possible. God, it’s so beautiful. She advocates the vertical storage method which is absolutely genius tbh. I had kind of done that with my t-shirts, because our set of drawers is not great and the drawers don’t really come out the whole way… that’s another story. But she said to store EVERYTHING this way, and I really see what she’s saying about this. It works great and looks really attractive and aesthetically pleasing on an organizational level. Let’s take a look at some highlights. I wish I had before pictures! But I don’t. So here we are.

IMG_0054Socks, tanks

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T-shirts

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Jeans, pants

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Pants, thermals, jarmie pants & sweats

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Hanging stuff – I tossed about half of this!

It was astonishing to me how much room I had left after I folded everything this way. I think that’s also because I got rid of a lot of things that I didn’t see myself wearing, and donated some warm stuff that I found I wasn’t wearing even though the weather was right for it. I took a large box of stuff to the local homeless shelter and threw out some stuff that wasn’t in great condition.

The rest of it didn’t hugely apply to me, honestly. We didn’t have a scrap of kitchenware (apart from a couple of very special pieces we got for our wedding which have not even been unpacked) so we bought or borrowed only EXACTLY what we needed and nothing more. We have two pasta bowls, four plates, four forks, four knives, three white wine glasses, etc etc. So not much work needed to be done there.

The other quite challenging part was my makeup. Now, you wouldn’t think having moved here in April would mean I had accumulated a tonne more makeup but you would be so wrong. Where have you been?! Anyway, there was a fair bit. There were a lot of items I’d purchased from the drugstore to “do dupe reviews” but that kinda never happened and I didn’t love them so they all went into the giveaway box. Same with things that were expired, and there was a decent amount of that too (sob, bye Chanel foundation). I had a kitchen-sized trash can full of stuff to throw out, and an overflowing shoebox to give away.

If I’m really real, I probably still have too much. But I’m only human.

I feel like this post ended up quite a bit longer than I planned (of course), so I will end it here. I also picked up Kondo’s new book, the “sequel” if you will, Spark Joy – An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up. I haven’t read a lot of it yet, but it appears to be a little bit of repetition of the first book, honestly. It DOES however have some illustrations for some of the more complex folding techniques she recommends which I have found VERY helpful!

So all in all, this was an extremely positive experience and I feel that I will really continue to utilize these techniques and hone them as I build a home for my family.

Would anyone be interested in a blog post that goes into any more detail than this one, on any particular subject? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

Love++
F&V

Rant: Pushing ~Natural~ Skincare – Can You Please Just Not.

It’s time we had a talk, guys. It’s about “natural skincare”. Wayne Goss, whom I usually LOVE SO MUCH, recently posted this on his blog and I was devastated. He also recommended putting Milk of Magnesia, straight, on your face on the reg (it is ok in very small doses, very irregularly – thanks Chanelle). Sure, it makes your skin look a little better (debatable) in the short term, but with long term, frequent use it can cause major bacterial proliferation. Jaclyn Hill recommends using sugar to scrub your face. Come ON guys! I don’t want to go on and on about this, so I’ll try to keep this short (spoiler alert: I failed). I also don’t want to tell people to stop doing what works for them. But this is a dangerous trend that I want to put in my US$0.02 about.

Look, everyone wants to be closer to nature, right? Everyone wants to save some money, everyone wants to seek out multi-use items. I get it. I really do. But some things can be as natural as hell, but still not great for your skin. In fact, some people can react really badly to natural ingredients. Sure, they can also react badly to synthetic ingredients, but those are often formulated to be less likely to make people’s skin fall off.

The bottom line is, not everything that is natural is good for your skin. Take oft-touted lemon juice for example. Your skin’s natural pH is somewhere between 4 and 5. It already HAS a natural acid mantle and this acid mantle is INCREDIBLY important. Lemon juice is extremely acidic – it has a pH of 2 (approx. 6% citric acid) – and can burn your skin. Some people manage to use it JUST fine. But I would suggest that those people are in the minority, and most people’s delicate facial skin will be irritated by this. Irritation can show up in a myriad of ways – it can be redness, small whitehead bumps, cystic pimples, dryness and even sores/blisters or burns. Same goes for baking soda. Baking soda + vinegar (also acidic, pH 2.4ish) is the kind of thing you clean stubborn stains from pans, sinks, drains and cooktops with. Do you really think you should put that on your face!? No. Stop it.

Sugar is jagged crystals. Same goes for anything like those awful apricot scrubs that are literally crushed apricot seeds.What! They’re sharp as hell. Sure, they’ll exfoliate the SHIT out of your face, but they’ll also create microtears around your pores and aggravate any problem areas you already have. Don’t do it. I’m a huge proponent for NEVER scrubbing your face with anything more abrasive than a muslin cloth. If you want to exfoliate, use something gentle that won’t mess around with your skin’s pH level. I personally use the Paula’s Choice AHA gel, because I find it works well for me, but if you are oily you might prefer the BHA. Dr Dennis Gross also does a wonderful exfoliant line. Don’t scrub your face! Microbeads, though smooth, are still not great for your skin, or necessary, and they’re REALLY bad for the environment (some States in the US are about to ban them). Body skin is different – it’s much tougher and thicker. Scrubs on the body are fine but I would still recommend doing this only once a week at MOST.

Things like bee pollen can also cause a huge allergic reaction. That’s a LOT of concentrated bee product to be putting on your face. Honey is much less concentrated in allergens but there isn’t very much health benefit in it – so eat it instead of wasting it by putting it on your face. It’s delicious.

Another common one is tea tree oil.  TTO does contain antiseptic, antibacterial properties, for sure. But please dilute it in another carrier oil like almond oil or another neutral oil before you dot it on your spots (DOT, people, don’t slather!). It’s REALLY strong!

Which brings me to the current wonder-product: coconut oil. I CONSTANTLY hear people say that this is all they use to remove makeup, wash their face or moisturize or whatever, any number of things. And it works brilliantly for them! Which is wonderful. Those people are probably not prone to acne though, because let me tell you something that is a scientific fact and not at all an opinion: coconut oil is EXTREMELY comedogenic (meaning that it blocks pores like a mofo). On a scale of 1 to 5, it is a 4. That’s basically just below … what is the most? Beef tallow? Engine oil? So please don’t put it on your face unless you have never had a pimple in your life. Or, by all means give it a red-hot go, but if you break out, don’t say I didn’t warn you! Put it in your food, use it for lube (seriously it’s great for that in my experience *eyebrow waggle*), but please be really careful using it on your face.

If you are still dead-set on using natural products, remember that science often loses to marketing. I dug up this great article on WebMD about things that actually probably/maybe do work, but note that even the “active soy” in one of the products mentioned has been altered in a lab to be more effective. Please also note “industry sponsored study” as a phrase to indicate taking results with a grain of salt.

Natural skincare doesn’t even necessarily save you money. Be very careful of expensive products containing cheap ingredients. It might be important to you that the ingredients in your skincare are sourced ethically, locally or organically, which is of course going to bump the price up. There is incredible, simple, cheap skincare available at the drugstore/pharmacy (Cetaphil, CeraVe etc) that works great for a lot of people. No need to spend an arm and a leg.

Finally: please remember that everything is a chemical. Water is a chemical. Lemon juice is a chemical. Salt is a chemical. Stop talking about things being chemical-free. You are made up of chemicals. If you don’t want to put chemicals on your skin then enjoy never bathing, touching food, dressing or leaving the house ever again. Hooray!

To me, this is a bit like the great Tim Minchin line from his excellent anti-alternative medicine animation, Storm, “You know what they call alternative medicine that’s been proven to work? Medicine.” I feel the same way about skincare. Technology is so incredible these days, and skincare / beauty etc is at the forefront (because $). Why shouldn’t we take advantage of the benefits? It can even help the environment. Synthesized ingredients stop the destruction of habitats by mass farming, for example.

Really, I don’t care what people do in their own homes that works for them. The thing that upsets me is when people, particularly people in positions of authority like WG and JH, make dangerous, bad recommendations to their friends or followers that could be disastrous.

Be safe, be careful, do your unbiased research, but mostly – do you boo.

Love,
F&V