The Longest Night - Felicity's Birth Story

Tuesday, October 17, 2017



This little lady kept us waiting on her birth!

I had a good amount of prodromal labor starting at about 37 weeks. I had the same thing with John so I could at least tell this was not the real deal, but contractions with no baby as an end result is frustrating when you are term and good to go.

Due date came and went.

As the 42 week mark edged nearer, I started (trying) to make my mental peace with the looming likelihood of induction and a hospital birth. I am not against hospitals, or inductions, but the whole situation smelled eerily similar to the progression of events in our first birth that led to such a drastic difference in birth choices. That was not a road I wanted to walk down again.

At 41 weeks I started having more frequent, and longer, midwife appointments to check on me and baby. Halfway through the week we did a biophysical profile.

Each test and check in always came back with solid results. Both baby and I were doing well, but it was mentally getting to me to see that 42 week mark inching closer.

The evening after the biophysical scan I could tell something was different.

Baby had not been in a great position for most of the end of my pregnancy. (She seemed under the impression that my right hip was her own personal teddy bear.) The downside of being so incredibly flexible when not pregnant is the extra hormones at the end of pregnancy make my body too flexible. It's very easy to move baby around, but also incredibly easy for her to slide out of position.

I figured this might be another set of prodromal contractions as my body tried to correct her position (again).

But they didn't stop. I still ate dinner with the family and we made a plan for the evening.

By 5:30 I was feeling confident enough that this was the real deal to give the midwife and doula a heads up. Contractions were still about 8 minutes apart so there was no big rush.

I had made a checklist of things that needed to happen once in labor, and Matt started getting the big things done. I moved the labor and postpartum kits upstairs and got some of the comfort measures and tools set up.

Matt gave the kids a bath and put them to bed about 7:30 as usual. We had made prior arrangements for a sibling doula to be with them during the labor, but it didn't feel necessary to have her there if the kids were just sleeping. We let her know, and planned to update if we needed support later.

After the kids were down, there was time to go through the labor just the two of us. I feel like the labor was in a bit of a holding pattern while the kids were awake. Once they were safely tucked into bed, it felt like labor had permission to really get going!

By 8:00 contractions had ramped up in intensity and were coming every 3-4 minutes. I let the midwife and doula know the change and they both got ready to head over to our house.

Our doula arrived at 8:30 and I hopped into the shower while she and Matt finished getting the beds double made and birth tub ready.
In early labor my best friends are the yoga ball and finding some solitude. Once I hit active labor I want bigger movement, heat, and water. Water y'all, it's amazing.

The midwife arrived a little before 9:00 and I labored on the yoga ball while we checked vitals and listened to baby.
I had tested positive for GBS earlier in the pregnancy so we had to run a course of antibiotics in an IV. It is not a particularly fun experience to be hooked up to an IV bag in active labor, but this was the best course of action to keep baby healthy. I kept reminding myself that once that IV bag was empty I could get the needle out of my arm and get into the lovely, warm, tub!

We had a birth tub from the midwife that can maintain heat, but the water needs to be at the desired temperature when the tub is filled. Matt had started filling the tub while the midwife was doing vital checks, but the water started to run cold sooner than we hoped. So he boiled pots of water on the stove in the kitchen, hauled them up the stairs, and started filling the tub pot by pot.
That's love y'all.

The doula hung with me while Matt worked on the tub. She had put together a Spotify playlist for the labor, and was doing awesome making sure I kept hydrated, rubbing my back through contractions, and heating the rice sock.

I was finally good to get in the birth tub at 11:00 and it was sweet sweet relief!

The baby's less than ideal position meant that I was dealing with a lot more back pressure, but the extra buoyancy in the tub helped take the pressure off my legs and let me try to move more to help baby turn.

By 1:00 contractions had intensified to what I would call transition level contractions. These are long, hard, big contractions.

I'm just going to note again here that this baby was not actually born until 6:30. That would be 5.5 hours to go with transition level contractions. I'm glad I did not know that then.

The backup midwife arrived at about the same time as the big contractions. She's generally there for baby once they're born. Her arrival is comforting to see when you can only hope the finish line is getting close!

After an hour of those contractions I was getting very tired. We decided to have me get out of the tub and check on baby's position. While I was dilating well, baby was not descending yet. ("Are you kidding me kid?!")

It took both midwifes, the doula, and Matt all working hard to support trying to get baby to turn. I honestly lost track of all the different things we tried, but I am impressed with the working knowledge we had on that team. They never seemed to run out of ideas, even though no one had gotten any sleep yet that night.

It had already been a long labor. The midwife gave me another antibiotic dose  and we planned to try and have me eat, hydrate, and rest a bit if possible. I was not tolerating oral fluids well anymore due to the intensity of the contractions so a new IV bag was started. I was so tired I was not planning on moving far anytime soon anyway.

Baby had other plans! I'm not sure how long I was able to rest in bed, but I suddenly woke up very certain that SOMETHING was different. That something resulted in my water breaking.

Normally, the way my births have gone, once my water breaks I'm extremely close to delivery.
Not so this time.
There was a nagging little bit of dilation to go. I think it was at this point I started saying, "How is that possible?!"

Cue more work trying to help baby descend. Her little head still seemed just off centered enough to not fully enter the pelvis.

At 5:30 I got back in the tub. I was clearly going to need the help of the water to hold the positions necessary to get the baby in the right position for birth. I was so tired and ready to be at the end.

Labor had been going for 13.5 hours now. The midwife let me know my options at this point. While me and baby were still doing well on vital signs I was very tired, and I had the option to transfer in order to get an epidural and rest in the hospital. It was not an emergency situation, and she still had ideas of things to try, so the decision was up to me.

I thought about the possibility of transfer through the next many contractions. I had never transferred in labor before and was not thrilled with the idea of a car ride while in transition. As I started adding up the time for each step of a transfer process the more I felt that, at least at this point, transferring would delay the finish line.

It was about this time when I started to hear the kids waking up.
That's right. They had actually slept through the night, despite my decidedly NOT quiet labor happening right outside their bedroom door, and were still just hanging out in their room.
Sound machines, people. They work wonders.

Matt texted for the sibling doula to come for the kids, and I kept working on hanging in there through contractions.
I never actually said out loud that I had decided to stay and keep laboring at home. I just kept going. Expecting everyone else to be telepathic. As one can do in labor.

Shortly after I mentally arrived at the decision to stay, baby (finally!) decided to figure out how this exit strategy worked. It only took a few contractions, and Felicity Anne was born in the water a little before 6:30 after 14 hours of labor.

She arrived at about the same time as the sibling doula. The kids got to come see their little sister in her first few minutes out of the womb.

Matt carried Felicity over to our bedroom, while the midwife and doula helped me out of the tub, and the sibling doula got breakfast for the big kids.

The midwives were busy checking vitals on me and baby, cleaning up, draining the birth tub, and starting laundry. Our doula made me a BLT which tasted like the best thing I had ever eaten.

When we measured Felicity I was shocked to hear she was a chunky 9lb 10oz! She had a dent on the top of her head where she had kept hitting the top of my pelvis during contractions (the dent disappeared after a day or two.) Suddenly the length, and difficulty, of the labor made a lot more sense!

All of the post-birth things take at least two hours. I was very glad we had the sibling doula for the big kids. After an all night labor it is a relief not to have to worry about keeping an eye on the well rested, and excited, big siblings.

We spent a few days just getting reset on sleep after that all-nighter of a birth. The kids have done fabulously with their new sister, and we've all enjoyed getting to spend this postpartum time together as a new family of five.

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Thanks for reading if you made it down this far! Here's the birth stories of our two older kids, if you are so inclined. (I can't be the only one who loves reading these things, right?)







Meet the Latest Model!

Friday, October 13, 2017

7 Quick Takes with This Ain't the Lyceum

It's been a busy few weeks around here!

1

This little lady was born!

Meet Felicity Anne


2

I'm hoping to get her birth story written up this weekend, but here's some short stats for the meantime:

Born on October 5
9lb 10oz and 21in
14 hour labor
1st water birth 
2nd home birth

EDIT: Finished her birth story! 

3

She's been a hit with her big siblings.



4

Matt has done a great job stepping in as homeschool teacher.
The kids think it's really cool because "Dad's never taught anyone before!"


Not true, he taught college students when he was in grad school, but John and Therese are likely his youngest pupils.

I am grateful we decided to enroll in Mother of Divine Grace this year. Getting to quickly print out a checklist of what needs to be done has made it fantastically easier to hand over the homeschool reins.

5


I have been making great use out of my postpartum kit!

The surprise rock star of the postpartum recovery time did not even make the original list.


One Christmas my mom gave all her daughters (and son-in-law) YETI ramblers with personalized decals. They are fabulous for hanging out by the lake, but I did get a ton of use out of mine until now.

It has a lid that does not involve messing with straws, and insulated enough to keep things at the temperature I want = perfect for postpartum.

6

It's getting chilly at night here so we've been having some snuggly evenings here in Minnesota!

The other day we had a fire in the fireplace and made some s'mores. The next morning John informed me that we got to have s'mores because "it was the feast day... of the STAR WARS!....So kids can have s'mores for the star wars." 

Bigger Sci-Fi nerds than I, who would be the patron of Star Wars if you could pick? 
I feel like it should be a Capuchin saint. They already have the Jedi robe thing going on.

7

I am looking forward to finding our new groove with three littles in the house, but I am also looking forward to getting to enjoy our first true Fall!

My mom will be visiting in time for Halloween and this will be our kids first year trick or treating. I don't want to miss it, but that also means I should figure out a warm enough baby wearing costume.

It's going to be a dark hole of Pinteresting and it'll be awesome!

I might do a Tolkien inspired costume just to get to use one of these amazing Middle Earth themed baby wraps.

Thworted in My Reasonable Expectations

Tuesday, September 26, 2017




In case you haven't figured it out from the lack of baby arrival announcement on social media, baby has not been born yet. It's only a few days past due date, but it very quickly felt like time was moving at me.

We all know the feeling of a hope, a prayer, that gets the answer "not yet". I've found the hardest to accept of those "not yet" responses are the ones that come for those hopes that were reasonable expectations.
These are not things that were a stretch or outside of normal.
These were things that seemed almost like certainties.

Not getting the promotion at work even after great reviews from your boss and a steady track record.

Not being welcomed into your neighborhood mom group even though these ladies have seemed perfectly friendly before.

Not finding "Mr. Right" by 35 even with a clearly discerned vocation to marriage.

These are the things that can rile us. The things that make you want to shake your fists at the heavens and demand an answer.

"'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,' declares the LORD." (Isaiah 55:8)

There's my answer. This is not up to me. This is not even up for my understanding.
Everything in me wants to say "I know, but....". That's normal and that's ok, but I'm not going to find peace that way. Peace will come when I stop riling against the injustice of the situation and start noticing the graces present in the situation.

Here are some of the graces of having a baby taking her sweet time finding her birthday:

Giving those little lungs lots of time to be ready for the hard work of breathing.

Giving me more time to shower my 5 and 3 year old with mommy attention.

Giving my husband and I extra evenings of at home date nights that are so much easier when all kids are capable of going to bed and staying in bed.

Giving me the opportunity to be physically uncomfortable and have something to offer up for others.

That there is still nothing wrong with me or baby, just her needing a little more time in utero, is something to be grateful for - even with the aches of late pregnancy. This is nothing I can't handle. God knows it, I know it, I just have to accept it.

The Last Weekend - An Approach to the Final Weeks of Pregnancy

Tuesday, September 5, 2017


Here we are - the final weeks of pregnancy.
The postpartum kit is made, labor stuff gathered, prayer intentions getting compiled. The preparations for a birth are a good distraction from the waiting game for a good while, but they end eventually.

So what is there left to do? We make these last weeks, when we could be sitting around twiddling our thumbs waiting for contractions to hit, into an adventure. I call it "The Last Weekend".

Getting to see the T. Rex. in the Life Sciences building at UC Berkeley the day before Therese was born.

The basic premise is approaching each weekend we have before baby is born as potentially the last weekend. The physical fact is I'm not getting any more comfortable just sitting around at home. Last Weekend means I have to get up and get moving.


At Fort Snelling labeling herself a malingerer in the guard house.
Her other options were thief or deserter. I'd go with malingerer too. 
Last Weekend gives us opportunity as a family to have those bigger adventures we might not be able to do for a few months with a newborn. John now associates the last weeks before a baby sibling is born as "adventure time with Mom and Dad". 

I want them to think of having a new sibling as a positive thing. My attention is very divided in the early weeks with a new baby, so this opportunity to embrace my kids as they are right now is a gift that is not going to come around again.

Minnesota State Fair. Corn dogs and fried oreos were had, and both had their first time on a ferris wheel.
The Last Weekend adventures do not need to be expensive. You might have noticed by now that I call anything out of our usual routine an "adventure". 
That means walking down the street to the pond is an adventure.
Trying out a new park is an adventure.
Having a picnic and camp out in the backyard is an adventure.

It's all about perspective.

Do you do anything special with older siblings before a new baby is born?

Spiritual Preparation for Labor and Childbirth

Monday, August 28, 2017




Somewhere in the last six weeks of pregnancy I hit a wall.

 An "I'm-so-done-with-feeling-huge-and-I-just-want-someone-else-to-hold-the-baby-for-a-minute" wall.

When that wall comes up, I need to shift my focus from my physical discomforts and pay attention to my spiritual preparation for labor and birth. These are just some of the things I have tried in the past, I would love to hear about other practices you use to spiritually prepare for labor!

Mother Blessing


It is very popular to have parties/gatherings to celebrate a new baby, even outside of the traditional baby shower. Past my first kid there really was not much I needed in terms of baby supplies. But I did need prayers and emotional support!

We had a mother blessing with our second child. The Book of Blessings has various forms of this depending on if it is led by a priest, deacon, or lay person - for a group, single couple, or just one mother. One of my good friends led the blessing, we made prayer cards for the baby, pregnancy, and birth, and lit prayer intention candles for each card. (I planned to use the candles during the birth, as a sort of relighting of the prayer, but labor had other ideas.)

I am hoping to make the group mother blessing our parish's Pro-life Committee sponsors, but that might depend on when baby decides to be born!


Prayer Cards from near and far


I found the prayer cards to be a wonderful way to connect with female friends and family who live far away! We decorated our cards at the blessing, and my mom, sisters, and far away friends mailed me their cards. I hung them up where I was likely to spend a good amount of my labor, and I kept them up through baby's first year.

She still has a stack of beautiful prayers in her baby box she will be able to look back on when she's older. I love the idea of a physical reminder for that baby to be able to see how many people were welcoming her, even if they lived far way.

Offering up Labor 


I have had very predictable twelve hour labors so far. That leaves a lot of time for prayer!
Bringing prayer intentions into labor helps me keep my mind off the pain. It is my greatest chunk of time to use as non-stop prayer, and, let's me honest, there's a lot of "offer it up" material!

In my last weeks of pregnancy I collect prayer intentions into one condensed list. I'm hoping to make this baby's list a little nicer looking than my previous loose-leaf binder paper lists.
(Bullet journal people - y'all seem good at making lists pretty. Ideas?)

36 Weeks! #MySundayBest with A Blog For My Mom
If you have a prayer intention for me, leave a comment or send me a message or email! (underthyroof at gmail dot com) I'm due September 23rd, but baby could come anytime starting Saturday so send them as soon as you can so I don't run out of time!

Do you do any spiritual preparation for labor and birth?

Spiritual Hacks for Life with Kids

Friday, August 25, 2017

Linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum for 7 Quick Takes.



We're on the edge of Fall! Some people do New Year's Resolutions, but for me Fall has always been the time for new beginnings. This is when I look back and see what has been working, what needs to be readjusted, and maybe where some priorities are getting forgotten.

Priorities like....having a prayer life?

With tiny people underfoot most of the day, it can be reeeeaaaallllyyy hard to give prayer the pride of place it deserves in my day. But it's a new season and a new chance to try something new and see if it sticks. Here are some of the ways I'm getting in spiritual time while having kids around 24/7.


1

Take advantage of the kid friendly prayer options

Our parish has a children's holy hour every Wednesday morning in the adoration chapel. Getting a chance to go to adoration and not worry too much about disturbing others is such a blessing!

Growing up, my mom would take all of us kids to her weekly rosary group. It was a group of moms and kids who gathered in one side of the church every Friday to say the rosary together. Not a lot of planning needed, and nobody minded if a baby needed to be soothed or a toddler never stopped organizing the hymnals.

If there is not an offering at your parish, or one nearby, start your own! It doesn't take a lot to invite a family or two over for rosary time. Don't worry about making it perfect or having a spic and span house. Your effort counts!

2

Make it a routine

When I look at what consistently happens in my prayer life, even in the busy times, it's the things that I do as a matter of routine. We always make it to mass on Sunday's because that's just what we do on Sunday mornings. Blessings before meals are part of the ritual of mealtimes in our house.

One thing we have started with the new school year is having rosary time. About 3pm has worked well. It's post-nap and afternoon snack and the kids have had a little free time. I light a candle on the mantle, hand out rosaries, and roll with it. It's not always easy, but getting started is most of the battle for me.

3

 Embrace the wiggles

A rosary takes about 20 minutes and you can bet there are wiggles! Lots and lots of wiggles. 
So we have embraced the wiggles.

One technique that works well with my kids is having "walking mysteries". Every other mystery we pace the length of the room with each Hail Mary. Now we have lots of ground rules to keep this from devolving into racing and running into things:

1. If you get to the end of the room early, you still have to wait for the next Hail Mary to start for the other side.
2. No touching anyone
3. Rosaries need to be held nicely (not hitting objects or people.)

Breaking the rules gets a quick warning. If the rules are broken 3 times, we sit down for the rest of that mystery. It did not take the kids long to figure out life is a lot more fun if you follow the ground rules.

4

Invest in some good children's religious books

I'm talking books with good art, lots of pictures, and are well written. Check out Mater Amabilis or Mother of Divine Grace to see some recommendations for liturgical year or saint books that are age appropriate for your kids.

They are fantastic to bring to mass, adoration, to have on hand for feast days, or just to read aloud and get your kids more familiar with bible stories, saints, and the meaning behind Catholic traditions.

5

Lower your expectations

I say lower because I seem to fall into the trap of expecting higher level behavior than what is reasonable when it comes to prayer time. 
Define what counts as "good behavior". Is it sitting in one spot? Staying in the pew? Making an effort at whispering in church? Kids cannot meet expectations if they are not clearly defined and communicated.
For rosary time I ask that everyone pick their spot at the beginning of each mystery, and no rosaries in months or on feet.
For mass I ask that everyone stay in the pew, my 3ish and ups follow along with the stand, sit, kneel times, and all questions be whispered. 
In Therese's case, keeping her non-stop commentary and free association whispered is her doing well. For John I have a rule about not putting himself to sleep during mass on purpose. 
Different kids have different struggles.

6

Explain as you go

It's very hard for kids to behave well if they do not understand what is happening. I do a quick little explanation of each mystery as we say the rosary, point out what part of the mass we are doing right now, and teach them the words for liturgical objects.

7

Do it anyway

We have had masses in which I completely missed the homily because I was taking the toddler to the potty for what felt like the billionth time. Rosaries that got interrupted so many times I wanted to quit. 
But I make myself do prayer anyway.
Sometimes showing up is the prayer. Even if I'm just showing up to the rosary in my living room. I don't let a bad experience the day before prevent me from trying again today. The kids will not get better at prayer without practice, and everyone needs another chance to get it together. - including me.

What are some of your tips and tricks for praying with kids around?

Postpartum Lessons + What's in My Postpartum Kit

Friday, August 18, 2017




The greatest lesson I learned from giving birth to my first baby was that birth is not the hard part. Birth is a finite thing - that baby is coming out one way or another. What really got me long term, physically and mentally, was postpartum.

Postpartum was a drop kick into deep water that first time around. I went from having regular appointments with my midwife, to the office not even having my file available when I called them about potential PPD within the first six weeks. "Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative" meant that I came home from the hospital incredibly sleep deprived. I had no idea what I needed much less how to get my needs met.

The prep classes from the hospital were about the process and tools for getting through labor, with a nod to postpartum at the end. In fact almost all of the pregnancy books given to me/that I found at the library focused on getting through labor as smoothly as possible, but completely missed the gravity of postpartum care needs.

Once I was postpartum, and in desperate need of help and care, it seemed like the general response of both the medical system and my community was to stop their ears and shut their eyes. The recent study regarding maternal mortality rates was oddly comforting. It's not just in my head, postpartum nurses are ill informed about postpartum dangers and consequently do not respond adequately. The difficulties I went through with my first postpartum experience are not normal and should not have been ignored, but they were.

Hopefully I am now a better advocate for myself in the postpartum period, but frankly that is not something we should be demanding of postpartum mothers! It should not be the job of the suffering, bleeding, sleep deprived, and overwhelmed to get those in authority to do their jobs properly. Period.

I do things drastically differently now.

I am very upfront with my providers regarding my concerns about postpartum, and I don't let non-committal answers slide.

My husband takes at least two weeks off from work if at all possible.

We plan out meals and resources. The time to search for a babysitter, mental health provider, lactation consultant, etc. is NOT during your postpartum. Trust me, get those names and numbers written down and available now.

I educated myself about what true normal is and what it is not.

I learned about myself. The truth is there is a wide gulf of grey between "immediate medical emergency" and "still not ok". It's in that grey space that far too many women spend their postpartum. But it does not have to be so! With my last two babies I have learned the things that get me out of the grey into the light zone of "doing ok".

Nothing here is a magic bullet, but everything in here has been a help to me. Maybe it will help someone else!

Here are the top seven things I keep in my postpartum basket.


Aromatherapy


The scents that I associate with being calm and supported can make me relax and slow down so quickly! These are the same scents I use in labor, and frequently when having a recovery day during intense dance or theater times.
I have this pod diffuser, but generally prefer to do a drop or two on a cotton ball for the smell. That way if it's not working for me that day, I can just put the cotton ball back in the baggie and it's gone.


Spiritual Support


I completely forgot about the importance of spiritual support in my first postpartum. Prayer and connection to the wider Church is a great way for me to combat the feelings of isolation in those first few weeks. This small crucifix and bottle of holy water live on the dresser next to my bed during postpartum. There will also be a rosary, but it's currently living in the labor kit.


Tea


I have a taste in tea that will make real tea lovers cringe. My other favorite is Orange Spice...cringing yet?
But this is what my coffee-lover heart likes when I want something hot to drink but should really be cutting down on the caffeine for a bit. Whatever says homey comfort to you, put it in the postpartum kit!

Cloth Breast Pads


Breastfeeding will likely not be long lived again, but I like to have these cloth breast pads in the postpartum kit just in case. I find the cloth pads much more comfortable than the disposable version. When everything else in your body is a little achy, I believe in upping the comfort level where ever possible!

Belly Wraps


It was a shock to me to try and sit up in bed after my first was born. I couldn't do it! Those poor abdominal muscles have just been through a multi-month stretch and they are plum tuckered out.
Starting about day two or so I like to start gently wrapping my belly. I use a super long wide cotton muslin for wrapping at home, and a Velcro one from Target when out and about.
It makes a big difference for retraining all of my muscles what straight feels like when I've gotten sway backed and off during the final weeks of pregnancy.

Cloth Pads


I'll be honest, I thought it would be a lot grosser to use cloth pads than it is in reality. They are fantastically more comfortable than wearing the giant disposable ones for weeks. The less I can feel like a small child in a diaper the better.

Tinctures


Both of these herbal tinctures are now requirements for my postpartum kit!
After pains were not explained well at all before I had my first, and holy cow they don't get any better with later babies! Taking the AfterEase with ibuprofen did wonders for being able to take the edge off the pain in those early days. I find the ibuprofen works longer, but the AfterEase works faster. Faster is important!
I have learned that the most dangerous time of day for postpartum me is evening and night. ReBalance taken with my placenta pills before bed helps calm the hormonal swings of night wakings and sporadic sleep. (Sleep is still extremely important though people! Do not skimp on the sleep!)


Not in the kit but prepared and ready in the house:

Freezer meals that can mostly be thawed and dumped in the crockpot.

Cookie dough is an accidental addition to our postpartum traditions, but having some fresh baked cookies in those early days has turned into a sweet way to welcome a new member of the family.

Maternity Tea is something I drink all through pregnancy and through my postpartum. I mix up my own infusion herbs from bulk. My recipe is very similar to this one.

Sitz Herbs for healing. I've never torn (knock on all the wood) but sitz bath herbs are still soothing during the recovery period.

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For a little background about why I care so much about postpartum care:


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What are some of your postpartum must haves? What have you found to be a helpful addition to your postpartum?

Linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum for 7 Quick Takes!


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