Then Comes a Baby in a Baby Carriage: Killian’s Birth Story

Hi there. Remember me? I’m the girl that relauched this blog about a year ago before suddenly disappearing for 10-ish months. I was doing so good, too! Posting almost regularly, doing fun things with images. I even had affiliate links. Affiliate links, y’all! 

I have a good reason for my hiatus: 

Photo: After the Knot

Photo: After the Knot

We welcomed our son Killian into the world on June 29. 

Pregnancy probably would have been an awesome thing to write about given the topic of this particular blog, but I felt very conflicted. Mommy blogs tend to be ground zero for the mommy wars and I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to deal with having my choices judged by strangers. I also wasn’t sure how much of my son’s life I wanted to broadcast to the public before he was even out of the womb. 

I’d like to continue blogging as I have always enjoyed it and it offered me an outlet for my creativity while also providing me a way to learn some new things. If I do, I’m not sure in what capacity I will share my life as a mother. 

Photo: After the Knot

Photo: After the Knot

While I figure it out and attempt to function on two to three hours of sleep a day, I did want to share my son’s birth story.  It’s raw and personal, but thanks to some supportive words from some really wonderful women, I’ve decided to post it on a more public forum. 

Make a Birth Plan. Then Light it on Fire.

When I talk to other women about birth plans, I always tell them to write down what they want or expect from their labor and delivery then take that piece of paper and light it on fire. I admit it’s an extreme statement and some may take it as though I don’t believe in birth plans or birth goals. That’s not true at all. I had two sets of birth plans. One for a natural labor and one for an induced labor. But I’m realistic and I understand that when it comes to babies, you must be flexible.

I knew my birth plans would change when gestational diabetes caused me to have a scheduled induction at 39 weeks. Even though constant monitoring would make things a little harder, my midwives assured me that I could still have a lot of control over my son’s birth. I could still get in the tub, walk around, attempt delivery without drugs, have immediate skin-to-skin, and begin breastfeeding right away. I felt as good as I could about it all.

Induction Day

I became scared and nervous and had a strong urge to say, “Fuck it,” and go home as if that would stop my son from eventually being born.

I was scheduled to head to the hospital at 7:30 Tuesday night. Because I wasn’t dilated and only a bit effaced, a foley bulb would be used to get my cervix to 3 or 4 centimeters before starting Pitocin early Wednesday morning. Tuesday happened to be a big night for babies as the hospital’s labor and delivery wing was absolutely full. We were told to come in Wednesday at 7:30am to start with the foley bulb.

I was mentally ready to head to the hospital Tuesday night so a delay threw me for a bit of a loop. I focused on the upside that I was able to spend the night in my own bed instead of at the hospital. I got a lot more sleep at home than I ever would have otherwise.

The morning drive to the hospital was surreal. I became scared and nervous and had a strong urge to say, “Fuck it,” and go home as if that would stop my son from eventually being born.

I felt a little more relaxed once we were checked in. My nurse had a sunny personality and that helped put me at ease. One of my practice’s seven midwives came to check on me and my cervix and it turned out I was 80-90 percent effaced and dilated just enough that she was able to manually open me to 3 centimeters. We could skip the foley bulb and go right to Pitocin. The induction process was moving a little more quickly than I had mentally prepared for, but I felt OK and ready.

The Pitocin was increased slowly over the course of a few hours. I could feel contractions but they were tolerable. After five months of Braxton Hicks, I was used to the discomfort. I planned on attempting labor and delivery without the use of pain medication, but was open to using it should I feel like it was more than I could handle. My tolerance for the first stage of labor helped build my confidence and I felt like I could really attempt my goal.

Then my water broke.

The Pain Sets In

I knew the real pain would start once my water broke, but  I wasn’t expecting for it to break spontaneously. Chuck and I were watching Orange is the New Black on my iPad when the nurse told me that another midwife would be swinging by soon to check on my progress. If things were going well, she’d break my water to move everything along.

Not five minutes later — around 5:15pm —  I felt a violent explosion in my uterus. I let out a cry, completely surprised by this sudden burst. The pain began to steadily increase and I called the nurse. She confirmed that my water broke and told me this was something to celebrate. It meant my body was getting ready for delivery and things would really get moving now.

My plans for a painkiller-free birth went out the window once my contractions increased in strength and frequency. The pain radiated throughout my lower back, something I wasn’t expecting. The midwife on call confirmed that Killian was facing up, which is why I was having so much back pain. I was still only 3 centimeters dilated with Killian sitting at -3, but she said she was comfortable ordering an epidural should I need one since my water broke on its own. I gave her the go-ahead to put in the order and get the hour-long process started immediately.

Labor Takes a Turn

I don’t remember when I heard that Killian’s heart rate was crashing every time I had a contraction.

Laying on my side, I attempted to breathe through the pain, sometimes moaning and sometimes crying. At some point, I moved to a birthing ball, which helped take some of the pressure off my back, easing the pain a bit. Not long after, however, the nurse came in and told me that the midwife wanted to use internal monitors because they didn’t like the readings they were getting on the external probes.

This is when I started to feel like things weren’t right, but I was in so much pain, I didn’t have the energy or desire to really question any of it. The probes were inserted, along with a catheter that would be used to add back artificial amniotic fluid should I need it.

I don’t remember when I heard that Killian’s heart rate was crashing every time I had a contraction. I don’t remember who said it or when it was said. I don’t remember when they told me that maybe he was pushing up against his umbilical cord and changing my position and adding more fluid would help move him away from it.

I was asked to change my position several times: left side, right side, on my elbows and knees. They tried to explain to me that doing so may ease the stress on the baby. The artificial amniotic fluid was added back to my uterus to provide Killian with some cushion in hopes of relieving his stress.

All this time, the contractions are coming every two minutes and my pain relief is nowhere in sight. I was only 30 minutes into the epidural process, which starts with being given extra fluid.

While I labored on my arms and knees, I was given an air mask and told to breathe deeply. With each intervention, I became slightly more aware of how serious my situation had become, but I couldn’t focus on it because the pain was so great.

I heard the voice of the OB who had come in at some point during the process. I  heard him tell Chuck they are one more try away from a C-section. I started to cry but quickly became distracted by the oncoming pain.

I was again moved onto my side. The nurse calmly told me they would have to remove my jewelry. Earlier in the day as she took my temperature she asked if my tongue ring could be removed. Knowing she was asking in case I’d have to go into surgery, I told her yes. About 10 hours later I was doing just that.

The Rush to Surgery

I heard a medical term — now forgotten — that caused me to believe my son’s heart had stopped beating.

Afterward, I was moved back onto all fours as it seemed to help alleviate some of the stress on Killian. I learned later the Pitocin was also turned off to ease my contractions. Again I heard the OB’s voice telling Chuck  that the only option was a c-section. Suddenly the room felt busy. I don’t know how many there were  but it felt like the room was full of people. I was being jostled, the bed moved into different positions and pulled away from the wall. I looked up and saw Chuck. I was scared and suddenly very aware I was being rushed into surgery. He yelled, “I love you,” and I yelled it back before watching the room disappear.

Because I was still facing the back of the bed, I saw everything moving away from me. I heard more voices and felt more rushed bodies as I whisked around corners.

Suddenly I was in another room. In my peripheral vision, I saw nurses and doctors putting on scrubs and getting ready for surgery. I heard a medical term — now forgotten — that caused me to believe my son’s heart had stopped beating. Another mask was placed over my face and I was told to breathe deeply. It was held so tightly that though I could breathe in, I felt like I couldn’t breathe out. I heard a heartbeat on the monitor. Something about it recovering. I’m being asked about allergies and medical history. I’m told they’re inserting a bladder catheter. I feel my stomach being shaved. Tubes are taped to my legs. Monitors are placed around my chest.

All this time, I’m still laboring. Contractions are still coming every few minutes. I want to cry. I want to be put to sleep. I just want the pain to stop.

Missed Moments

At 7:05 my son is born, but I don’t know it. I don’t get to see him. He was never placed on my chest. We never got a few moments of skin-to-skin. He was wiped cleaned, weighed, measured and wrapped before being wheeled to Chuck who had been watching through a window. Together they walked back to our room, where a nurse placed Killian in his arms. Together they spent the first hour of our son’s life.

Photo: After the Knot

Photo: After the Knot

As quickly as I was put to sleep, I was waking up. It felt like a drugged up shock. I was in a haze and I didn’t know where I was. I remember a nurse pressing down on my stomach. The pain caused me to yell as I started to cry.

The back of the bed is lifted, and I’m being wheeled into our room, an oxygen mask still on my face. In the haze I see Chuck holding a bundle. I’m asked if I’m ready to meet my son. I’m told he’s 20 inches long and 6 pounds 12 ounces — far smaller than I expected given my diabetes. The next moments are blurry. Killian is placed on my chest and I have a hard time processing that he’s there. Nothing feels real, but the cloud slowly starts to lift.

I tell Chuck to take some pictures and I ask the nurse if I could breastfeed him. We try. It’s awkward as we’re both woozy from being under general anesthesia.

It takes some time for me to really feel an overwhelming sense of love for him. I’m physically exhausted, in pain, and still feeling cloudy. I had a hard time processing what just happened to my body and how this little person came into the world.

I would learn from Chuck and — a few days later — my midwife, the reasons for my emergency c-section. Killian’s umbilical cord had wrapped around his neck causing his heart rate to crash every time I had a contraction.

The added stress came from his station. My body was ready for labor, as seen from my water breaking on its own. While it’s uncommon for waters to spontaneously break during an induction, my midwife said that normally that would be seen as a great sign. It says my body is ready to have a baby.  My baby, however, had other plans. Had he been lower than -3, Heather believed that he would have undergone much less stress. After working so well together for nine long months, my body and my baby weren’t cooperating.

In spite of my gestational diabetes, I had a textbook pregnancy. No major problems, no complications. Until my water broke, everything about his life inside me was perfect.

Mourning the Birth I Wanted

My son is perfect. He’s alive and he’s healthy. This is not how I would have chosen to bring him into this world, but I would do every moment again if I had to.

When I was very young, my mother explained that babies lived in their mommy’s belly. I remember looking at her stomach and wondering why she didn’t have a scar. Obviously, that’s how babies must be born if they live in their mommy’s belly. Decades later, I couldn’t look at my taped incision until I got home from the hospital. A week later I still look at it with a sense of disbelief. I have so much love for c-section moms. I always knew theirs was rough recovery, both mentally and physically. I never thought I’d become a member of their tribe.

Photo: After the Knot

Photo: After the Knot

The important thing is that my son and I are safe. I am in pain and my body altered, but I am safe. We are both here and we are both healthy. I do, however, struggle with my son’s birth story.

I was flexible and prepared to change my plans if I had to, but I still mourn the birth that I had hoped for. I’m sad for missing the moments I wanted most. I’m sad I didn’t get to see him emerge from my body. I’m sad I couldn’t look into his eyes those first few moments of his life while he lay on my chest. I’m sad Chuck didn’t cut his cord. I’m sad Chuck had to watch me from a window rather than be by my side. I’m sad I couldn’t really comprehend the weight of his presence when he was finally brought to me. I’m sad it took me some time to fall in love with him.

Once the pain finally goes away, my hormones regulate and I’m back to my old self, I know I will be able to focus on the wonderful outcome of Killian’s birth story: I write this as he lays peacefully on my chest, close enough for me to feel his soft head on my lips. He whimpers every few moments, letting me know he’ll be up soon and looking for nourishment from my body that I’m thankfully able to provide with only mild challenges.

Despite the fear, the sadness, the pain, and the scars, this moment is all that really matters.

Many thanks to the midwives and obstetricians at Triangle Physicians for Women (Cary, NC) and the amazing medical team at WakeMed Cary for helping my son safely enter this world and taking care of us during his first few days. 

 

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Puppy Safety: Sleepypod ClickIt Sport Harness

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This post contains affiliate links. To learn more about how I benefit from affiliate links, visit the Fine Print page

Ya know what happens when you spend two hours watching crash test videos involving dogs? You spend $80 on the one harness that didn’t send a test dummy flying through the air.

That’s how Bailey ended up with a Sleepypod ClickIt Sport harness.

The Center for Pet Safety (CPS) and Subaru of America last month released the results of its crate and carrier safety tests. Sponsoring these tests is one of the million reasons why I love owning a Subaru and probably wouldn’t purchase any other car. It’s also what made this report so damn disappointing.

Anyway…in a nutshell, CPS crash tested some of the most popular carriers and crates used by pet owners. Just about all of them failed miserably. Crates and carriers are good to keep your pet from being a driving distraction, but very few of them will keep your pet safe should you get into an accident. Not only can your dog get hurt, but your dog can hurt you as she flies through the car.

Harnesses aren’t any better. We’ve seen this for ourselves the few times I needed to stop short while traveling with Bailey. She often slipped forward, landing in the space between the front and back seats. I hated it, but I had read in numerous places that no harnesses fully kept your dog secure during a crash. Knowing that they all sucked, we went with what worked best in terms of comfort.

That’s until I saw the crash tests.

Due to the video settings, I can’t embed them here. You can check them out for yourself using this link.

Of all the harnesses tested, the Sleepypod ClickIt Utility was the only one that kept the test dog safe in a mock accident. The ClickIt Sport was later tested and performed just as well.

Chuck usually balks when I buy something for Bailey, but he didn’t bat an eye when I told him I was adding $80 to our existing credit card debt to purchase one of these harnesses for Bailey. Thinking about the expense logically, using our existing system should we get into a car accident and Bailey survive, treating her injuries would likely cost more than $80.

Our Personal Test Run

The ClickIt Sport comes in multiple colors, but I decided to go with bright orange because this harness since it will also be used as Bailey’s hiking harness. The orange will hopefully keep her from being mistaken for a deer while we’re in the woods. Considering where we go hiking, I don’t see this as a realistic threat, but it’s good to play it safe.

The harness has two reflective strips so I decided to start using it while we jog. As you may have read in last week’s post, we try our best to be visible when we go jogging in the early morning hours. Between the reflective strips and the bright color, it should help Bailey be seen when we go running.

Photo: After the Knot

Photo: After the Knot

My only concern was the placement of the leash rings. They’re in the back up by the shoulders. I’m a big fan of the Easy Walk, which attaches in the front. This gives me a lot more control of Bailey’s movements and generally keeps her from choking herself should she get too excited and start lunging forward. Generally, back attachments encourage pulling so they’re discouraged by science-based trainers.

In practice, though, I found that Bailey’s leash manners are good enough that I haven’t had any problems with pulling and the harness gives me more control than I had expected.

We finally got to take it for a test drive Labor Day weekend with a trip to Goodberry’s for ice cream (we went at like 8:30 hence the dark photos). Bailey doesn’t love car rides likely because she still gets somewhat car sick. She’s used to a huge range of motion that allows her to sit, stand, lay down in funny positions, and ball the seat cover into a little pillow.

Photo: After the Knot

Photo: After the Knot

The ClickIt Sport cuts down on this range of motion, which sucks for Bailey, but it’s what will keep her safe. She can sit and lay down just fine, but she won’t be able to stand and walk around. This is fine on short trips, but we’ll have to make sure to give her more stretch breaks when we stop.

Photo: After the Knot

Photo: After the Knot

She did get herself a bit tangled when I opened the door at our destination. She learned pretty fast and when we got home she waited patiently for me to unbuckle her.

Downsides

Like everything, it comes with a few downsides.

Price: It’s freaking expensive. Worth the price? Sure. But expensive is expensive.

Sizing: Be sure to measure your dog to ensure you get the right size. Bailey is a bit oddly shaped. She’s small for a Lab and is always too big for a medium but too small for a large. The harness can be adjusted, but I feel like you need to be an engineer to tighten and loosen the straps. There’s a video on the website, which you may have to watch like 10 times.

Leash Ring Placement: Bailey has good leash manners so this is turning out to be a minor problem for us, but dogs that are still in training with a front-clasp harness may not benefit from having the rings in the back. Changing harnesses once you reach your destination would be a raging pain in the ass. You could, in theory, put another harness over it, but I’m not sure how I’d feel about that if I were a dog.

I don’t see any of these issues existing if your dog uses just a collar or a Gentle Leader.

Final Verdict

Overall, I really like this harness. I wouldn’t use it for casual walks around my neighborhood, but it works well for jogging in the early morning. Bailey gives it a thumbs down for range of movement in the car, but I give it a thumbs up for keeping her safe. Once you get the sizing right, it’s easy to put on and easy to secure in the car. While not in our budget, it was worth the extra debt as it should hopefully prevent even higher vet bills should we get into an accident.

Photo: After the Knot

Photo: After the Knot

If you’re going to swing by Amazon to purchase one for your pup, do me a solid and use my affiliate link. The price is the same for you, but I get a little pocket change which I can use to spoil my dog pay my bills. Thanks!

#FitnessFriday: Running Gear Rundown

fitness-friday-running-gear-rundown

This post contains affiliate links. Click here to learn more about how I use affiliate links

I look ridiculous when I run.

I look ridiculous in the same way most people don’t look their best when they’re exercising. On top of that, I use an obscene amount of running gear just for a three-mile run. I’m not marathon training, so why all the gear? There’s a method to my madness, I swear.

Let’s break it down:

Photo: After the Knot

Photo: After the Knot

The majority of my running gear is related to running with a dog. When I run 5k races without her, I use a fraction of this stuff. I’m trying to keep us safe and I’m a responsible dog owner so all of this junk serves a purpose.

Leash

Photo: After the Knot

Photo: After the Knot

I hate holding things when I run. I hate when my hands get hot and sweaty. Enter the Stunt Puppy Hands-Free Dog Leash. After my brother-in-law died last year, my in-laws gave us a few of his dog things. They still have his awesome pup, Munchy, but Sean used this leash when he took her running. My in-laws take Munch on daily walks, but running they are not. Thinking I could use it, they passed it on to me. I love that it leaves my hands completely free, and I don’t have to worry about her running off while I’m picking up some poop or I’m otherwise distracted.

Some downsides: Bailey is a pretty good runner in that she doesn’t really get distracted when we’re moving at a good pace. But sometimes, she gets a whiff of something and she stops short. Dog owners know what I’m talking about. Because the leash is around your waist,  the sudden jerk to a stop can be downright painful. It’s also harder to remove the leash should you be in a situation where you need to be separated from your dog. I don’t want to be attached to my dog if she’s in a fight with another dog. Overall, though, I’m happy with it.

Poop Bags

Photo: After the Knot

Photo: After the Knot

I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve left poop on the side of the road. It was always because I was out of bags. I really try to never find myself without a poop bag (Click here to read why dog poop isn’t fertilizer). These holders are a dime a dozen. I got the blue one as part of a gift bag doing a 5k and I purchased the green one after Bailey first came home. I like the green one from Earth Rated because it has a little clip that makes it easier to hold a full bag, but it’s plastic and I hate how it swings around when I run. It’s been since moved to Bailey’s walking leash.

I’m a fan of Earth Rated bags because they use less plastic than the other kind. Realistically, these bags won’t biodegrade any faster than a plastic shopping bag, but they’re made with less raw material, which makes my hippy heart somewhat happy.

Running Belt

Photo: After the Knot

Photo: After the Knot

I initially wanted a running belt that could hold pepper spray, treats and my cell phone, but it’s really just turned into a glorified treat bag. I like buying some things online, but others I need to touch and feel. Running belts were one of them. I purchased this one from Nathan at Dick’s because I had yet to discover the awesomeness of REI and I’m sure there I could have found a better selection. It’s small and light, but large enough to hold a bunch of dog treats and my little can of pepper spray.

Treats were more of a necessity when I was teaching Bailey leash manners, but now they’re just for sporadic reinforcement of those leash manners. Now, we’re working more on staying focused when we come across people or another dog, which doesn’t happen often at 6am. I also bring a couple of large biscuit treats in case she needs something a little more high value on which to focus. If we don’t need it, I give it to her at the end of our run.

Phone Case

When I bought my running belt I was also still going to the gym at NC State. Even though I had bought it with the intention of putting my phone in it, I realized that I wasn’t going to use it if I was working out at the gym. I ended up purchasing an arm band from Sporteer. The one I have currently is made for a Samsung Galaxy4, but my new iPhone 5S fits in it just fine. I like that it zips closed to protect it from the rain, but don’t expect to get too much done pressing those buttons. The plastic is pretty thick. It’s comfortable to wear and stays in place.

Pepper Spray

Photo: After the Knot

Photo: After the Knot

Aside from the occasional break-in, my neighborhood is pretty safe from scary men in white vans. It does, however, have far too many loose dogs running around. My feelings about that could take up 3,000 words so I won’t get into it, but I carry pepper spray with me in case Bailey and I are attacked by a dog. Thankfully, I’ve never had to use it and I hope I never will.

Headlamp

energizer-head-lamp

As I’ve said a bazillion times before, I live in a neighborhood without sidewalks, which means I have to run in the street. For a large portion of the year, it’s dark at 6am. I enjoy running that early because there are so few cars on the road. Naturally, I want to make sure those few cars see me. I used to use these little blinky lights I got at the pet store, but they use one of those obscure flat batteries and I always forget to order them.

My farther-in-law happened to give me this Energizer headlamp a few months back and it does the trick. For right now I use the red-light mode as it’s not completely dark when I go running, but in a week or two, I’ll likely switch over to the flashlight mode. I attach it to the belt of my hands-free leash. It uses three AAA batteries, which don’t require any special Amazon orders. It’s a little on the heavy side compared to the other lights, but it offers way more visibility.

Harness

The one piece of running gear I didn’t talk about is Bailey’s harness. We just invested in a Sleepypod ClickIt Sport and I’ll be dedicating an entire post to it. I really like it has a running harness but have yet to take her in the car with it, which is the main reason why we bought it. Once I do that, I’ll share with you my thoughts.

 

Got a piece of running gear that you recommend? Share it in the comments. 

 

Finding the Perfect Water Bottle: The Hunt is Over

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This post contains affiliate links. More information about affiliate links can be found here

Aside from coffee, wine and the occasional can of Dr. Pepper, water is the only thing I drink.

It’s probably the only healthy thing I don’t struggle with. I never had to “cut out soda” because I’ve never been one to drink it regularly. I don’t even get down on myself when I do have have that giant Dr. Pepper because I know the next one I drink will be in like six months.

I only drink juice when I’m sick or mixing it with rum. I haven’t had a glass of milk since I was two when I stopped drinking it in protest of my mother taking away my bottle. I found out that fun fact like five years ago.

So water is my jam. I don’t even need to add flavors to it. I actually drink less water when I add stuff like lemon or mint.

Finding the perfect water bottle has been tricky. The perfect water bottle had to meet a few, but very important, qualifications.

  1. It couldn’t be plastic. I’m really trying to move away from using too much of the stuff. It’s great and it has some amazing uses, but I’m trying to limit my use of it.
  2. It had to keep water ice cold. I love an ice cold glass of water. Maybe it’s because my fridge didn’t have an ice maker so growing up ice was scarce. As soon as it gets to be room temperature, I stop drinking it as often.
  3. It had to be spill proof. I have this horrible personal flaw where I don’t close things very well. I’m notorious for leaving cans, jars and bottles open, which always ends up in me spilling the contents all over the floor or myself (I actually did it while writing this post. Not even lying) Water bottles are no different. I essentially need a sippy cup.

Not too hard right?

Yes. Apparently it was too hard. After years of searching, I finally found the perfect water bottle that meets all my criteria.

Behold HydroFlask.

This stainless steel water bottle is vacuumed insulated so it keeps ice water cold forever. I have literally found ice in it 13 hours later. The locking top makes it spill proof. I’m in love.

I was introduced to HydroFlask during a shopping trip to REI, a store that I’ve become in love with despite often feeling like the most out of shape person there. One of the employees recommended it to me and when I was checking out, the cashiers followed up with equally great reviews.

Initially, I purchased the purple one shown in the photo below.  Its slim design was great when we went hiking a couple of weeks later, and the top can be easily attached to a carabiner. I quickly fell in love with this water bottle. It kept water colder than any other water bottle I had ever experienced.

Photo: After the Knot

Photo: After the Knot

The only downside: the top. It wasn’t spill proof and it was a pain in the ass to open when I was driving. Despite that, it’s a great water bottle. So great that C asked me to pick up one for him.

I made my way back to REI and there I found the latest models. I think they’re made to be used for coffee as they also keep liquids warm, but I was just so, so excited. The size was a bit smaller and it’s a little bit heavier, but it had the spill proof top I was searching for. I bought one for C and another one for me.

Getting them in NY Islanders colors was a total coincidence. // Photo: After the Knot

Getting them in NY Islanders colors was a total coincidence. // Photo: After the Knot

If you want to purchase one for yourself, please use the affiliate links listed below. The price is the same, but I get a little commission for recommending the product.

21oz water bottle with the narrow mouth (in case you’re not as klutzy as me)

18oz water bottle wide mouth with Hydro Flip lid 

Runners Up

Before getting to Hydro Flask, I went through two other water bottles that weren’t bad and may meet your needs.

I was introduced to CamelBak by a friend of a friend and despite it being plastic, I really liked it. I loved that it was light — because it was plastic — and I LOVED that it was spill-proof.

Downsides: It sweats. Even the insulated one pictured below sweats. It doesn’t really keep water cold for very long and the mouth piece is hard to clean. You can buy replacements, but that’s kind of a hassle. I still use it when we go hiking because it’s light and water is water when you’re hiking.

I was really impressed with Contigo for a long time. It’s also vacuum insulated and it kept my water cold for a long time even when it was sitting in a hot car.

Downsides: You can’t put the colored ones in the dishwasher. I do anyway, but it eventually ends up looking like the one in the picture below. I also think putting it in the dishwasher regularly did something to the vacuum seal because it definitely doesn’t keep water cold for very long anymore. It’s also heavy and bulky. I still use it for coffee on my way into work, but I’ve stopped using it as a regular water bottle.

Photo: After the Knot

Photo: After the Knot

You might have other requirements for your water bottles so these could be good options for you. If you end up using any of these water bottles, come back and tell me what you think.

Paid leave and the nearly impossible juggling act of planning your pregnancy

Wow….I totally get this. Obviously not the part about the premature baby, but the whole planning parenthood part has been my life for more than a year.

Fusion

For Leigh Benrahou, like so many other working mothers, preparing for her second pregnancy took planning. And not just washing and folding tiny onesies, figuring out where to put the crib, or mentally bracing herself to parent two young kids.

The 32-year-old mother had recently started a new position as a registrar at a nearby college. Her planning began by figuring out when she would be at her job long enough to qualify for the Family and Medical Leave Act and the 12 weeks of unpaid leave workers caring for newborns or sick relatives are entitled to.

She also started counting months, planning to time the birth so that when her leave ran out she could rely on her mother, who had summers off, for childcare. Then Benrahou took out disability insurance, paying $40 a month so that she could collect 60% of her paycheck for up to six weeks into her leave…

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Drowning in Tomatoes – Or So We Thought

For the longest time, I’ve been saying that I couldn’t wait until I had enough tomatoes to make my own sauce. I got my wish this year.

Our tomatoes did awesome. We had so many that we couldn’t harvest them fast enough. We had a few plants that never got staked up and just grew along the ground. Even with all that we lost, we still had more than we could imagine. The bucket below isn’t even all of them.

About 3 gallons waiting to be turned into sauce. / Photo: After the Knot

About 3 gallons waiting to be turned into sauce. / Photo: After the Knot

We decided to dedicate a Saturday to straining and canning what we thought would be jars and jars of pureed tomatoes.

A while back, C’s grandfather gave us his Squeezo Strainer. The postmark on it said 1987 so you know it’s awesome already. Even though it was used countless times, it still looked brand new. The Squeezo helped us by peeling and pureeing the tomatoes so when we were done, we just had to boil off the excess water.

The Squeezo in action. Photo: After the Knot

The Squeezo in action. Photo: After the Knot

“We’re going to be eating tomatoes in January!” C exclaimed.

Well, not really. We didn’t realize how many tomatoes you needed to have enough to last until January. Once the excess water is boiled off, you end up with about a half of what you started with. In this case, we ended up with 2.5 quarts of pureed tomatoes that can be used to make sauce at some point in the future. Despite all that hard work for just 2.5 jars, I’m happy for the learning experience. We finally got to use our pressure canner, which I’ve avoided touching out of fear that I’d blow up my house.

That's a lot less than we thought. / After the Knot

That’s a lot less than we thought. / After the Knot

We’ve since tilled our garden, putting all of the plants back into the earth to help feed the soil. It had become so overgrown it wasn’t even manageable. The plants had started to slow production and the risk of getting bit by a snake wasn’t worth climbing through the brush. We still have our aquaponics garden with some really great looking Romas continuing to thrive, so we aren’t at a total loss. Before the summer is over, I’d like to take another crack at canning some more tomatoes for use during the winter, but if it doesn’t happen at least I can say I finally did it.

Meet our New (Feathery) Additions

Oh, I’m sorry. Were you expecting a human addition to our little family? Nope. Not yet. In the meantime, the only babies running around our house are the fluffy feathered type.

We’re now the proud owners of six backyard chickens.

One of the reasons why we moved into this house is because the neighborhood is chicken friendly. There are quite a few people in our community with chickens (as well as a couple of ponies and, I’m told, a cow) so we knew having a few wasn’t going to be a problem. In fact, our hen house came from our neighbors across the street. They gave us one of their hen houses when they decided to scale down their flock.

We were having some trouble physically obtaining chickens for a while so our neighbor let us borrow two of his mature birds so we could start getting fresh eggs. We have about half a dozen in the fridge so far.

When it came to getting chickens, we had a couple of options. In the end, we decided to purchase them from a hatchery in Fayetteville.

All six of our chicks are different breeds, because C really, really wanted eggs in different colors. I’m not sure why this was so important to him, but whatever. I’m just happy they’re all friendly, docile breeds.

After the Knot

After the Knot

We got  an Olive Easter Egger (Ameraucana) who is about two months old, a Brown Ameraucana who is about three months old, and four two-week-old chicks, a Golden Laced Wyandotte, a French Black Copper Maran, a Delaware Hen, and a Brown Leghorn.

Chickens are a fairly low-maintenance animal. Of course, we figured out a way to make it much more complicated.

Missy and Olive / Photo: After the Knot

Missy and Olive / Photo: After the Knot

Two days after bringing our chickens home, one of our borrowed hens became pretty aggressive. We had expected that she would try to bully the two older hens a bit, but we didn’t expect her to attack one of the chicks.

The French Black Copper Maran, Frenchie as we call her, had her tail feathers ripped out so violently that she was bleeding. C put her in a box and put her in our spare bathroom where she sat in one spot for most of the night. C then spent the rest of the day attempting to regulate the heat in the bathroom so that it wouldn’t be too hot nor too cold. Miss Meany Pants went back to our neighbor’s house and we haven’t had a problem since.

Frenchie / Photo: After the Knot

Frenchie / Photo: After the Knot

Frenchie continues to be separated from the rest of the flock, but she’s healing really well. We moved her from a box to a plastic toy bin we found at the ReStore for $5. We needed something a little bit taller as she’s testing out her wings. She’s pretty good with being handled and chirps when we leave the room. Hopefully, all of this will help her become very friendly.

The rest of the chicks are more skittish around us and aren’t as comfortable being held. We don’t need them to be cuddly, but we do want them to be friendly.

Our oldest, Missy the Ameracuana, isn’t expected to start laying eggs for another few months. In the meantime, she’s been a pretty good momma to the rest of the flock, including Olive – the Olive Easter Egger – who is only a month younger.

It’s been a little chaotic so far as we try to figure everything out. I just returned from an almost-crisis where we thought we lost the Brown Leghorn (name TBD). Turned out she was just roosting under Missy and everything was fine. I’ll feel a little better when they’re too big to fit through any forgotten cracks.

The remaining borrowed hen gives us an egg every other day, which doesn’t really make up for the money we’re currently spending in electricity for two heat lamps, but it’ll pay off eventually. Then I might have more eggs than we know what to do with.

Do you have backyard chickens? What has been your experience?