Postpartum Must-Haves

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Now that we're almost a month in (wha?!) I feel like I'm starting to get the hang of this whole 'we have a newborn' thing. It definitely has not been easy, but I'll save that for another post. In the meantime, I did want to share a few things that have helped me get through these first few weeks following Walker's arrival or in other words, my postpartum must-haves.

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Silverette Cups / These are my absolute, number one must-have. Molly swears by them so I decided to try them myself because I figure anything to help me avoid the painful side-effects of breastfeeding would be worth a try. Let me tell ya--these things are MAGIC. You simply wear them over your nipples in between feeds with a couple drops of your breastmilk inside and they have 100% prevented any sort of soreness/cracks/pain. I definitely recommend using these if you plan on breastfeeding!

Dry Shampoo / Everyday showers are few and far between in the beginning and so dry shampoo has been a total savior for the days we actually make it out of the house and I need to be somewhat presentable and not a greasy mop.

Water Bottle / Just like during pregnancy, staying hydrated is just as important postpartum, especially when it comes to keeping up your milk supply for breastfeeding. I opted for this one because it comes equipped with an infuser on the bottom so I can add fresh cucumber, lemon, etc. to add a little flavor.

Nursing Tanks / As someone who has yet to really master the art of public breastfeeding without flashing the entire world, I practically live in these nursing tanks. They're super long, soft and comfy which are basically my top three requirements for any sort of top. Win!

Tucks Witch Hazel Pads / These little guys come in super handy when even toilet paper feels like sandpaper after pushing a baby out. Coupled with the instant ice pads, peri bottle + Dermaplast my hospital sent me home with, I was able to feel as comfortable (as one can) when I got home.

White Noise / Molly struck gold again with this rec. I play the blow dryer sound and Walker is calm + asleep within minutes and then I set it on the edge of his DockAtot while he sleeps. Bonus points for it being a free app! I am thinking about investing in an actual white noise machine though so that I don't have to relinquish my phone for hours at a time.

Breastfeeding Pillow / Ergobaby sent us a care package with a few things to try and this pillow was included. I like how soft yet sturdy it is. It also doubles as an assist for holding baby when people who are afraid of babies come over to visit :)

Mom / Last but not least, I really don't think I could have done these first few weeks (especially the first one) without the help of my own mom. Between her and Joel I was able to get an extra hour of sleep here and there plus she would grocery shop and cook for us. I asked her to move in but she said no ;) I know not everyone has the luxury of having family close by so I am really grateful to have mine living near us. Thanks mom, you da real MVP!

And Then There Were Three

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It's been almost two weeks since we've been at this whole We Have A Baby thing. We had our newborn photos taken this week and I'm completely in love with how they turned out. Ashlee is not only a talented photographer but a dear friend as well; I'm so glad she was able to so perfectly capture these first few moments as a family of three.

I wanted simple, candid shots of us at home and not only did she manage to capture the cozy essence I wanted but she did it in record time between Joel having to get ready for work and my bribing Walker with boobie milk in order to cooperate for the whole shoot. I will treasure these shots forever!

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Walker: A Birth Story

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We have a baby! I can barely believe it. We made it. We made him. It's been a little over a week and we're getting used to this brand new life with our little one. We are exhausted (duh) but so, so, SO in love. I have his childhood journal on its way but I wanted to document his birth story here too, while the details are still fresh in my mind. 

I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions for weeks but shit started getting real on Friday. After experiencing some pretty strong ones all morning, I really wanted to know if I'd dilated past the half-centimeter I'd been stuck at for two weeks. We decided to go into Labor & Delivery to check. I was at a 2 but they really wanted me to be to at least a 3 before admitting me so they sent us home, told us to eat some lunch, take a walk and come back in 2 hours to see if I'd made any progress. So we did. We ate at Red Rabbit in midtown (I had a bomb taco salad that I need to go back and actually enjoy) and then decided to walk to our favorite Peet's Coffee shop about a mile and a half away. On the walk back, my contractions had really begun to ramp up. I had to stop about every block and brace myself against Joel or a wall to get through each one. There were some concerned onlookers as I'm sure it's a bit jarring to see a pregnant lady stopped in the middle of the sidewalk clutching a brick wall.

We made it back to the car and drove back to Kaiser. This time I was at 2.5. SO CLOSE. But still, not enough for an admission so we decided to go down the street to my mom's house so Joel could get a nap in and I could labor in my mom's jacuzzi soaking tub. The bath felt amazing and really did make dealing with the contractions (which were growing stronger and closer together) more bearable. My mom suggested we take a walk around the block and start timing the contractions. After just walking up and down the street my contractions were 3 minutes apart, lasting a minute and taking my breath away. I knew it was time.

The three of us piled into the packed car and headed to the hospital. We were almost to the entrance when I felt a strong one coming on. I gripped the car's "oh shit" bar and prepared to breathe through it when all of a sudden I heard and felt a POP! My water had broken! I remember thinking GREAT, my seat is ruined but when we parked and I got up my seat was dry. I don't exactly understand how but it's like my water broke and the seat acted like some sort of seal--I don't know. Joel rushed inside to grab a wheelchair while my mom gathered our bags. The nurses in Labor & Delivery exclaimed, "you're back!" and knew by the look on my face and the trail of amniotic fluid I was leaving on the floor (ew) that I was here to stay for the main event. Sure enough, they admitted me and we got settled into my room.

Y'all. No amount of reading, research, advice or stories told could prepare me for active labor contractions. They are unlike any pain I've ever experienced--I almost have to just respect it. I threw up twice and couldn't stop shaking which freaked me out but was told is normal during this stage. I knew breathing was the key to getting through them so I did my best to control my breath and find a focal point in the room to get through each one. The pain would build and build and build and just when I thought I was going to die, it'd subside. I found myself moaning through each one and Joel (later) told me I was making sounds he'd never heard before haha. I labored lying down. I labored on my side. I labored on the exercise ball. Finally, I labored in the shower with Joel passing the hand-held pressurized water showerhead over my lower back and stomach. My original birth plan was to labor in one of the tubs they had but the feeling of being buoyant coupled with the strong contractions didn't feel too great so I stuck to the shower which felt awesome...for a while at least. I wanted to labor as long as I could without meds but was not opposed to getting the epidural if I felt like it. I made it to 6cm before I felt like it. First, I tried  Fentanyl. My nurse said it would feel like the equivalent of taking 6 shots of alcohol. Let me tell you, it DID. It was glorious but only lasted a short while. It was only a matter of time before I asked for the epidural. The anesthesiologist was probably my favorite person (I wonder why) on our hospital team. Immediately after getting it I felt a trillion times better. I could still wiggle my toes and feel the pressure of the contractions but I was no longer in barf + tremor-inducing pain and could sit up in bed and chat with my family while things progressed.

My in-room support system consisted of Joel, my mom, mother in-law and sister Emma. I got checked a short while after getting the epidural and was at a 7. Success! We all tried to take a nap, myself included. I didn't actually fall ASLEEP-asleep but I did get some rest in which I knew would do me well since the hard part was yet to come. After a couple more hours I started feeling an immense pressure start to build that almost felt like I needed to use the bathroom. I was told this was a good thing and meant I was ready to push. Sure enough, I got checked and was at a 9.5! FINALLY! It was go time. Or so I thought...my trusty anesthesiologist popped his head into my room and asked if I wanted one last round of medicine--a bolus epidural--before pushing. I was like, hell yes I do. Well, that shit ended up numbing my lower half COMPLETELY, so I could no longer feel below the waist (at one point I asked Joel to adjust my pillow which was actually my ass HAHA). The monitor was still showing my contractions but I could no longer feel them or the pressure or urge to push anymore so unfortunately, I had to wait another three hours for the meds to scale back enough to feel that again.

I suppose it was meant to be because by the time I was ready to push for real, my midwife we'd been seeing the entire time clocked on to her shift and would be helping deliver my baby! I was stoked. They started bringing in all the delivery tools, turned on the warmer above the baby station and re-positioned me on the bed. With Joel holding one leg and my mom holding the other, I was instructed to take a big breath on the next contraction, curl over my abdomen and push my baby out. I was expecting this to be the worst part--to feel like I was being split in half but honestly, I felt no pain, just pressure. I pushed and pushed and pushed with all of my might and all of a sudden I saw my mom and Joel's face start to get weepy. Baby's head was crowning and there was so much hair! On the next set of pushes I gritted my teeth and bore down, but he wouldn't come out and his heart rate started to dip so they brought in another doctor and the vacuum to assist (I later learned the reason I couldn't push him out on my own was because the cord was wrappd around his neck so each time I pushed, the cord was pulling him back in). That sped things up and on the next set of pushes I was determined to meet my son. I'll never forget the immediate feeling of relief, both physical and emotional as they pulled him out and up and placed his warm, wet body on my chest. I cried and looked up at Joel who was also crying as he leaned down to kiss me and whispered, "you did it." I'd never felt more proud of anything in my entire life.

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Walker Hudson Kaul was born on his due date, September 16th, 2017 at 9:20 am. He weighed 7lbs 14oz and was 21 inches long. He was perfect and most importantly, he was ours.

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We spent the next day + night in the mother + baby unit (post-delivery private room) where we got to quietly enjoy each other for awhile just the three of us and our closest friends + family flitted in and out to visit us and meet our newest blessing. Walker passed all of his newborn tests with flying colors and we got discharged in the early afternoon. Since then, the days have been a blur of diaper changes, sleepless nights (and days), tons of photos/videos of otherwise simple things like my baby staring off into the distance and just getting used to caring for an adorable af human life.

It's true what they say, you quickly forget the pain of childbirth, which must be some elaborate ploy by nature to make you want to do something crazy like pro-create again. It works. We already know we want another one (in a couple of years) but for now we're going to soak up this crazy, beautiful, sometimes paranoid life of ours as first-time parents. I'm so excited for what our future holds and every day is another page in our story. If you made it this far, thank you for being a part of it!

Grow Your Brand / Tips + Tricks

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Since my return to blogging and designing earlier this year, I've really started paying attention to things like analytics, insights and ways to maximize my brand, in general. I am by no means an expert or consider myself one, but I've been thinking about this topic a lot lately and after polling some of you on my Instagram stories this week, I received a lot of interest in having me share some of what I consider best practices for growing a brand and what I've found has been working for me, personally.


I N S T A G R A M

We'll start with the most popular platform: Instagram. I recently made the switch from the default personal profile to a business profile, labeling myself as a blogger. The greatest benefit to doing this is being able to utilize the (free!) real-time metrics/analytics that comes with the territory. I have found these to be SO helpful, for a couple of reasons, the first being that it breaks down who your followers are, where they come from, what their gender + ages are and most importantly: what time of day they are most engaged and likely to see your content.

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The reason this is such a big deal is because as many of you know, once IG sold out to Facebook, there was a major change to the algorithm. Gone are the days of seeing your feed in chronological order--now you're served posts based on who and what you're engaging with the most. This has understandably pissed a lot of people off (me included) and has left brands scrambling to find ways new ways to work around the new algorithm to recapture their audience. Knowing what time of day down to the hour that your followers are online, allows you to better plan when to post for maximum exposure. For example, the image above shows that on Tuesdays the best times for me are in the afternoon between 1-2pm or between 6-7pm in the evening. I've tested this out and I have found that I do in fact, have a much better rate of engagement when I post within those timeframes.

To take it a step further I've begun utilizing an Instagram planning app to get a better handle on my feed in terms of visualizing my grid, scheduling posts and organizing hashtags. Thanks to Vanessa over at Noirvé I discovered Planoly and have absolutely loved it so far. Not only is the UI on both the app and desktop gorgeous (what can I say, I'm a sucker for good design) but it's really easy to use and since I'm a total visual person it's nice that I can see the whole big picture at a glance. Seriously, I highly recommend it!

I've also started using a Linktree URL instead of just my actual website domain, in my Instagram bio and here's why: as a blogger, I'm constantly sharing new blog posts via my IG Stories and until I hit 10K followers (someday! ha) and am able to use the coveted "swipe up" linked feature, my only live link recourse is what's in my bio. With Linktree, I can create and share a link to virtually any URL. So, even if someone is not interested in the specific blog post I'm trying to promote they still end up on my blog since the link redirects to a page on my site. Other ways I'm thinking I can utilize this feature is linking to items I'm wearing/are in my home or even affiliate links that are featured in my Instagram photo. The possibilities are endless! Speaking of affiliates...


A F F I L I A T E  S I T E S

By signing up with affiliate sites you can begin to make some extra cash and monetize your brand. The way this works is that you stand to make a percentage of the sale when someone clicks through to a specifically generated link and makes a purchase of an item. Popular sites include rewardStyle, ShopStyle Collective and Amazon's Affiliate program. rewardStyle is a little exclusive (it's application-based) but they do offer the biggest selection of available retailers to choose from. However, one of the biggest reasons I prefer ShopStyle Collective is because I still earn a percentage (albeit small) if someone merely clicks the link and doesn't necessarily make a purchase. It goes without saying Amazon is just plain awesome and also comes with a high click-rate because who doesn't love Amazon?!

You can also generate shoppable widgets with these sites and embed them into pages on your site (see mine here) or even blog posts as well. 


C O L L A B O R A T E

The last thing I wanted to talk about is the importance of collaborating with other like-minded people/brands in your community. Since graduating to being a "mommy blogger" I've discovered and met so many amazing fellow mama bloggers, designers and entrepreneurs out there. I absolutely love when we get to combine our talents and work together whether it be via a guest post, giveaway or review in exchange for neat new products to try. The main thing I want to stress here is don't be afraid to be the one to reach out. Sure, you might get pegged as an *influencer* the bigger the following you have but there's also no harm in trying your hand at asking to work with certain brands that spark your interest, especially if they're local. There have been many times I've DM'd or emailed a brand I want to work with and asked if they would be interested in a partnership and they've said yes. So, don't be shy! The worst they can say is no thanks but at least you put yourself out there. Sometimes taking a risk can pay off!


So, there you have it! My two cents on my personal experience with ways I've learned to really engage with my desired audience and promote myself, my blog, my business and make new friends along the way. It sure didn't happen overnight (I've been blogging--in some form--on the internet for half my life) but I figure maybe someone out there who is trying to grow their online presence will read this and walk away with a tip or two they can use.

I'd love to hear your feedback on if you found this helpful at all and if this is a topic you'd like to hear more about around here? Let me know! xx

Friday Favorites

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ONE / Phone charger hack
Not the best quality video but this DIY phone charging hack is pretty genius. It can potentially come in handy during stormy weather/when the power is out/if you randomly have a battery + pen lying around. 

TWO / Wayfair
I've totally been loving shopping Wayfair for home decor/furniture, lately. It's where I got our nightstands (sold out now but here's some similar ones), side table for the nursery and I just picked up this area rug for under our new dining table.

THREE / Vegan recipes
Joel started eating vegan which in turn has led to me eating a lot healthier too (don't worry, I for one, still love cheese + bacon) so we've been trying new recipes in the kitchen that fit his new diet. I can't wait to try this dessert! If you have any favorite vegan recipes please share!

FOUR / Rockabye Baby!
I've shared about this on my Instagram Stories but for those of you who don't follow me there, I had to share my latest Spotify discovery: Rockabye Baby! They're lullaby renditions of popular artists/albums and they're SO good, guys. I was like, "oh these will be great to play for Walker" but I find myself listening to it a lot by myself haha. My favorites so far include Bowie's "Life on Mars" and Justin Timberlake songs.

FIVE /  Millenials + plants
I found this Washington Post article about millennials and their house plants amusing and well-written. It also links to an Instagram account called "Boys with Plants" which Joel needs to be on ASAP since I always joke about him being my #botanicalboyfriend with his house plant obsession.