August 28, 2014

Pregnancy Book Must Haves

Pregnancy Book Must Haves
// 1. The Birth Partner by Patty Simkin // 2. Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin // 3. Active Birth by Janet Balaskas // 4. Birthing from Within by Pam England & Rob Horowitz // 5. Supernatural Childbirth by Jackie Mize // 6. Hypnobirthing: The Mongan Method by Marie Mongan // 7. The Baby Name Wizard by Laura Wattenberg // 8. Babywise by Gary Ezzo & Robert Bucknam // 9. Raising Baby Green by Alan Greene // 10. The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp // 11. Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman // 12. The Honest Life by Jessica Alba //

Pregnancy Book Must Haves.
I might have over-read in preparation for labor/delivery. But I was so curious to know everything I possibly could about all the different methods, techniques, schools of thought, and others' experiences in having babies. What can I say. My nightstand was littered with these reads for months, and I am still reading a few of these now. The pregnancy is over, the baby is here, and oh my, there is much more to be learned!

These are some of the standout books I read while I grew a baby in my belly. Most were compelling, some were monotonous, a few were funny, a few were too serious, but all of them helped me prepare for my intro to labor, delivery and motherhood. I should note that most of these books have a natural approach, meaning they were based around the conviction and case for an un-medicated birth experience. I've included notes for a few of them, now that I've actually HAD my baby and can speak to what was helpful in properly preparing me for the unknown. If you are expecting, I hope this reading guide will help you as you prep for your little one!

1. The Birth Partner by Patty Simkin
This wonderful read was recommended to Stevie by our doula, Liz. She is so rad. I didn't read this book, because it was for him, but he actually read it. And sometimes read it out loud to me. Which says a lot.

2. Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
This lady. Is the original hippie midwife. This guide to childbirth tells story after story of pain-free, fearless natural childbirth experiences from real women. It kinda gets you all jazzed up, if you're interested in pursuing a more natural route for labor and delivery. I'll admit, some of it is a bit too crunchy-granola for me, but I still appreciate the heart of this woman. She's pretty fierce. *Note: This book ended up being my favorite pregnancy read and I would recommend this to anyone seeking an un-medicated birth. It was encouraging, yet realistic, and offered so much helpful information about how to have a natural childbirth.
3. Active Birth by Janet Balaskas
Hahhaha this is a classic, natural childbirth book, naked pictures and all. My big sis lent me this one. This book focuses on a few different breathing techniques that are useful during labor, and provides a full pregnancy stretching guide, as well. It's a bit 80's, but another great supplemental guide and case for natural labor/delivery.

4. Birthing from Within by Pam England & Rob Horowitz
This is by FAR the crunchiest of all childbirth books. But I loved it! Yes, there might be a few too many encouraging assignments to create "birth art" with your partner (you know, coloring pictures together of your birth-related hopes and dreams.) But there are also a ton of emotional/mental healing exercises for women who have had previous traumatic pregnancy or birth experiences. I really got a lot out of it, even though this is my first baby. If you're interested in going natural but you have some fear about pursuing it due to your past experiences, this is an excellent, positive, helpful read. *Note: There is a lot of interactive emphasis encouraged in this book. If you are a hands-on learner, this is a great choice for you. Be prepared to engage in art exercises, journaling and out-loud processing with your birth partner.

5. Supernatural Childbirth by Jackie Mize
This woman has had a bunch of kids. She hasn't had pain in any of her childbirths. She outlines the reasons she believes that every woman can have the experiences she's had - she provides her stories, biblical scripture to back up why she believes what she believes, and some prayers at the end of the book that you can utilize during pregnancy/labor/delivery. Again, it might seem far-fetched, but this woman has LIVED these experiences. Can't argue with someone's experience. *Note: This book could set unrealistic expectations, as I came to learn.  
6. Hypnobirthing: The Mongan Method by Marie Mongan
Oh hypnobirthing. This is the method that I used to prepare for my labor/delivery process. Basically, Hypnobirthing teaches women how to expel all pre-conceived fears they might have about giving birth. It particularly focuses on retraining the way you think about childbirth (hence, the "hypno"), utilizing specific breathing techniques and empowering a "birth partner" as your support person in the labor/delivery room. The "hypno" part seems to freak a lot of people out, but it shouldn't. It's very focused on training oneself to deeply relax. Note: We also took a hypnobirthing course, which really helped us activate the tools outlined in the book. I also feel compelled to mention that I didn't really find myself using these tools once I was actually in labor, but I believe all the prep work we did with this method made a big difference in my experience, so I definitely recommend it.

7. The Baby Name Wizard by Laura Wattenberg
This is an awesome, up-to-date baby name book. It doesn't just give names and their meanings, it also gives rank of popularity, where the name has been trending in pop culture, and similar/related names. We already had Everett's name picked out, but there were some great contenders listed that we considered.

8. Babywise by Gary Ezzo & Robert Bucknam
I started it. I haven't finished it. But apparently this book is like, a really big deal.

9. Raising Baby Green by Alan Greene
This isn't a pregnancy book, but a lifestyle guide on how to raise, well, a green baby. This book is THOROUGH. It covers everything you need to know about raising a baby in a toxic-free, organic environment. Cleaning products, types of paint to use in your home decor, cribs and gliders and lunch boxes and baby food blenders and recipes and clothing... I could go on and on. It's all in this book. *Note: This book can be kind of annoying. But it is a super thorough guide so I had to include it.

10. The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp
LOOOOOOOVE. This book is so great. Got a crying, colic-y child? Have no fear. This book is here. And it's not just a guide on how to shut your child up. Excuse me, I meant, quiet the precious gift from God. But it also references tons of research on why this method works. And for someone like my husband, who trusts the words/advice/research of a Doctor above all, he really appreciated Dr. Karp's reasoning behind his method. *Note: This method WORKS. At least with our baby.
11. Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman
This is just a funsie. This New York Times author moved to France and had a baby, then realized that French children are infinitely more polite and better behaved than American children. So she sought to discover why. It's a fun and interesting read. And a nice break from some of the more serious child-rearing books out there.

12. The Honest Life by Jessica Alba 
Seriously, Jessica Alba has GOT to stop stealing all of my money. Her company, The Honest Co., is a line item in our budget these days. We are such suckers. BUT. It all started with this read. This book outlines her journey in pursuing eco-friendly, healthy, non-toxic choices for her personal life and her family. Yes, she's an actress with a business (insert critical emoji of your choice.) But her story is one that I connected with - don't we all want the best for our children? This book is a great guide on how to make healthy, clean, organic choices for your family - included are kid-approved recipes, seasonal food guides, eco-friendly cleaning tips & recommendations, organic hair/makeup/skincare routines - and it's all easy, NOT super time-consuming and affordable.

Any books that you would recommend to someone who is expecting a baby? Include in the comments section below!

August 26, 2014

A Month of Motherhood.

A Month of Motherhood.
Aaaaaaaaaaand we're back! I've taken the past month off from the blog to, you know, adjust. To life with a baby. But I am finally starting to get some sleep (keyword: some) and I've missed writing and this wonderful community of wonderful readers (that's you!)

The past month has been the biggest shift in my life. A bigger shift than getting married and moving in with a boy. A bigger shift than moving to a different city (more than once) and "starting over". This has been the big one. Laboring and delivering this child was no joke, but the responsibility for another human's life? That's hefty. That's not the kind of thing you want to screw up. But when you're new at it, you have NO IDEA how to keep another human alive. Especially when they're tiny (well, mine is sort of tiny), and rightfully needy. Feed them? Change them? Um, get them to go to sleep?! How does one do that?! Perhaps for some ladies, knowing how to care for a child is innate. But I was never the babysitting type. I was never an ooey-gooey baby-loving person. I never wanted to hold other peoples' babies, I was just fine looking at them from here, thanks very much. I'm the kind of aunt that never changes diapers, I just like to give presents and play with them until the tears set in (too intense!) This isn't a secret. And I don't feel all that bad about it (although my sisters might wish that I wanted to change their kiddos diapers a bit more.) However, I see that there are some benefits to being aware of baby-ish things before you actually have one of your own. Because PEOPLE. I'm pretty clueless.

Well, I should say I was clueless. The past month has felt like a college crash-course. Stevie and I have been soaking up every experience, attempting to trouble-shoot our child's needs and identify the "what" and "why" for every noise he makes - it is a stupendously serious learning curve. It has been awesome and sometimes a little bit awful. But we have laughed and marveled at our sweet son way more than we have cried. So that's positive. But there are a few things that I have learned this month... mostly to just BE OKAY with this hilarious, humbling process of becoming a parent. Hopefully, a good one :)

What I've learned in the Past Month of Being a Mom:

- It's okay to wear your maternity clothes post-birth. In fact, you probably have no other choice. Yes, you might have lost twenty pounds in the hospital, but there still isn't one thing in your closet that will fit your bod. AND THAT'S OKAY. Rock those maternity sweatpants. Yes, rock them for weeks.

- It's okay if your baby projectile poops all over you. It's organic.

- It's okay if your baby pees all over you. More than once in a day. He's just spirited.

- It's okay if the most glorious part of your day is when you get to take twenty minutes to yourself to take a shower. Note: I remember hearing this from a lot of moms when I was pregnant, and I honestly thought it was the saddest, most pathetic thing. Taking a shower? Like, that's a luxury?? Sad, sad women. Well, I stand corrected. TAKING A SHOWER IS AWESOME FUN. I think I will go take one now.

- It's okay to commandeer your baby's burp cloth as a tissue for your tears because HE WON'T STOP CRYING. Your tears are bigger than his tears, so you need that burp cloth more than he does.

- It's okay to feel mad at your husband for going back to work after paternity leave. Yes, I know he has to work to support us. Yes, I know he has to actually sleep at night in order to actually work the next day. I know all of this. I'm just still mad.

- It's okay if you feel quarantined from the real world during those first few weeks. That's because you are. But you're healing and you're getting to know your little smoochy-poo. All is right in the world. Just be okay with it.

- It's okay to online shop at Baby Gap on your phone during those late-night baby feedings. Oh wait, maybe that one is not okay...

- It's okay if you feel like you are using too many wipes and diapers. How many wipes does it take to change a diaper? Sheesh I don't know. Like 15??

- It's okay if your husband thinks you're using too many wipes each time you change a diaper.

- It's okay to send your husband to the store multiple times in a week to buy more wipes.

- It's MORE than okay to eat your heart out. Literally. Nursing a baby depletes all your energy and you need the calories. So eat up! But I mean, make it good stuff. Because your baby is suuuuuper impacted by everything you consume.

- It's okay to cry a lot. Like, a whole lot. YOU ARE NORMAL AND THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU.

- It's okay to take a lot of time to process your labor/delivery experience. I still am. Things never go as you planned. Talking to people about it really helps.

- It's okay to drink wine now. HURRAY!

There is more to be said, but as the post has gotten lengthy I will just sum up. It's all okay. It's just going to be okay. Okay? K.

August 3, 2014

Happy Due Date, Everett.

Happy Due Date.
He's here.

Everett Lee Hale was born on July 25 at 1:39pm, 8 lbs, 6.5 oz., 20 inches long.

Today is his due date, but I am so happy that he decided to come 9 days early. The happiest of all surprises.

// My smiley baby! //
// Home from the hospital! One proud papa :) //

Have I mentioned that we are completely undone?

July 23, 2014

Maternity Photos with Sarah Massie!

Maternity Photos with Sarah Massie.
I debated on whether or not to invest in professional maternity photos. Along with all the other crazy expenses associated with having a baby (and moving!), I knew it wasn't really a priority, especially since Stevie and I have done a pretty elaborate job photographing this growing belly bump! However, when I got a call from sweet Sarah Massie, an old friend and an awesome photographer, asking if she could photograph me and Stevie, I was thrilled. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!

This gal is a genius. She came over and shot me and Stevie so quickly (it was seriously under an hour) and we got some amazing photos out of it! I am so pleased with the shoot because these photos are just so "us", taken amongst all the charming summer greenery at my parents' house. It will be so fun to put them in a book and remember this awesome time in our lives.

// His: Banana Republic Shirt, Lucky Jeans, Allen Edmonds Boots; Hers: Free People Dress, Frye Boots; Baby Shoes: Carters and Freshly Picked Mocs (Courtesy of the Spicknalls and Hunts - thanks for making our baby so stylin'!) //
Keeping the Memory.
I was 32 weeks when these photos were taken, and my oh my, it's wild to realize just how much I've grown since then! A lot happens in the 3rd trimester! So grateful to Sarah for capturing this sweet transitional moment in time for me and Stevie. We have enjoyed our past 7 years together so immensely, where we've had the privilege to go to school, travel, live in different cities, discover our career interests and honestly, just live selfishly. Now, as we're entering the season of parenthood, I really do want to remember this 9-month period of preparation that is bridging the gap from our old life into our new one! I'm sure there will be moments when the transition is a bit painful, but we are baby stepping (yes, terrible pun intended) our way into this new season. For more photos and fun, you can follow along on my instagram

Unfortunately for all you Atlanta folks, Sarah is currently located in Colorado Springs. However, she comes back to GA often (!), so if you're interested in booking a session with her, feel free to reach out at for her portfolio, travel schedule & booking rates.

July 21, 2014

23/50 NYC Adventures: Hillsong NYC

Hillsong NYC
I would be completely remiss if I didn't highlight this very special part of my and Stevie's time living in NYC: our community at Hillsong NYC. Hillsong is a church in Australia that has plants all around the world, and we were thrilled when we moved to NYC and realized there was a branch right in Midtown. After the first Sunday morning visit, we knew this place was "home". The atmosphere, the message that was spoken, the incredible worship and the warmth of the people completely drew us in. Not to mention the fact that we "felt" the presence of God so strongly. It just felt right. It felt like an atmosphere of love. And who doesn't want to be immersed in that? But I'll be honest with you. What caused us to stay at Hillsong NYC? It was our incredible small group.

We had the BEST community group that met weekly, right on our block on the Upper West Side, in the coziness of our friends' apartment. Each week this wonderfully vibrant assortment of souls gathered together, sprawled across the bare hardwoods, sharing a meal and talking REAL talk. We delighted in each other's poignant joys and cried in moments of sadness and disappointment. We prayed. It was the most intriguing experience, to knit my heart together with people so unlike myself. Different accents, different heritages, from different countries all around the world, all working in different industries under this city's torrential stretch of skyscrapers. And yet. Here we were. Not so different from each other at all. People with the same rhythm in our heart, chasing truth and love. Fumbling around. But making our way in this gritty, gorgeous city.

// Top: Party People, Middle: We sold Hillsong swag, Bottom: More Party People. //

Love You City Folk.
I feel super proud to have been a part of this powerful group of people. Thank you, Upper West Side Connect Group, you made our life in NYC a technicolor dream. We can't wait to return to the city and visit you! And of course, bring a special visitor along with us :)

If you live in NYC, you should totally check out Hillsong NYC, which meets in the Manhattan Center in Midtown. They're fun to follow on Instagram. Also, check out the newest Hillsong United album, No Other Name, which I'm loving lately :)

July 18, 2014

37-Week Bumpdate

37-Week Bumpdate
It's all happening, people. These last few weeks of pregnancy are really something. It feels like all my emotions and physical feelings are heightened. Even though I feel heavier than ever (um, because I am), and more uncomfortable and tired, I also feel strangely exhilarated, anticipating my impending labor experience. It's about to get really REAL. I just hope I'm ready.

The Progress.

How Far Along: 37 weeks, woohoo!

Gender: MALE.

Name: Everett Lee Hale

Sleeping? Finally, I am taking nap after nap this week without shame. I've had a hard time napping in the past because I just feel like I'm wasting time. But this week, the tiredness has hit a new high (or low?), and I have just given in. It's amazing how a 1-hour afternoon nap can really power me through the rest of the day.

Eats: Let's talk about coconut milk. Man, it's so delicious! My grocery store was out of almond milk, so I thought I would give the coconut a try. Success! It's like an Aloha in every bowl. Been having it with cereal, granola and fruit. It's also been a good midnight snack accessory :)

Wearing: Officially, about half of my maternity shirts are too short. For instance, yesterday I fumbled my way out of a darling tea shop in Atlanta (where my mom and sis & I enjoyed an impromptu tea party!) As I walked to the car, a man smoking a cigarette on the side of the street hollered at me, half-laughing, "Any day now, huh?" And I chuckled and replied, "Oh yeah, any day!" He looked at me sort of strangely and I just kept walking. People are SO INTERESTED in pregnant women, so I've gotten used to comments about my roundness. But as I kept walking, I felt a slight breeze cooling my belly and I looked down. Half my stomach was hanging out of the bottom of my tank top. HALF MY STOMACH WAS SHOWING. Oh dear God, I am that sloppy pregnant woman. Walking down the streets of Atlanta. Baring myself. I hollered at my mom and sister, "Dear Lord, you have GOT to help a sister out! Tell me when I'm flashing the world my linea nigra!!!!!!" They just died laughing and practically peed their pants in the street, claiming they didn't notice because they were walking ahead of me. Which they were, because I don't walk anymore, I waddle. I almost died of pregnant embarrassment.

Most Ignorant Comments of the Week (all from strangers): 
- Woman sashaying by me in Walmart, "Mmm, don't sneeze too hard, honey." And she just kept walking. No conversation needed.
- Woman at the Belk makeup counter, "You having a boy? He's hanging LOW. Boys like it down there, no matter what age they are, huh??" I almost vomited.
- Girl in an SUV, driving past me in a parking lot (about 6 feet away), windows down, points to me and yells to everyone in the car, "Look, that girl's about to pop!" Um, your window is down. I CAN HEAR YOU.
- Lesson learned? Avoid going out in public. Because apparently Everett and I are some kind of circus act.

Exercise: It's been a bit cooler in Atlanta this week (thank goodness!), so the swimming has been a chilly thought. I've started doing my squats again. And kegels. And now that I think about it, not much else. Now I'm inspired to take a walk... anyone wanna go with me? Stevie's given up on my "exercise", I think it bores him to tears.

Emotional Check: I feel really good this week. My midwife complemented my abdomen's "muscle tone" (say whaaat? Where?!), and said the babe is in the perfect position for delivery. I'm feeling a bit more "ready", since I've completed my water birth and hypnobirthing classes (check and check!) And all sorts of packages have started to arrive! Our last minute purchases - the baby's mattress, the stroller, crib sheets, playard sheets, etc. All of these things are making me feel like we are almost prepared for him to arrive. I know we don't NEED to have his bedroom all perfect and ready, but it will definitely help my state-of-mind.

Movement: Oh Everett. I have just started talking to him when he moves like Jagger. "Okay, little one, stay in there today, we aren't finished with your room yet, and mommy wants to buy you a few more clothes... STAY IN THERE." Things of that nature.

Best Advice of the Week: Comes from my dearie sis-in-law Katie. I mentioned to her that I've been having more contractions (like, in the middle of lunchtime at Zoe's Kitchen) and I reeeeeeeallly don't want this baby to come early. It's had me a bit on edge. She suggested that I start drinking 100 ounces of water every day. Supposed to help cut down the false labor because it hydrates that wonderful muscle, the uterus. And it has helped! That girl. She knows about hydration.

Looking Forward to: Saturday! It's our "finish everything for the baby"-day. Putting together the pack'n'play, unpacking our strollers, rearranging the furniture in the baby room, hanging pictures - everything! I will have more to share next week when his room is aaaaaalll ready!

Feeling Accomplished: Because, 1. I completed my waterbirth class, 2. I completed my Hypnobirthing Class, 3. I'm making progress on my pediatrician hunt, 4. I'm preregistered at the hospital, 5. My breast pump arrived in the mail! Um, learning how to use that strange contraption will be another to-do entirely... 6. Meeting with our fabulous doula this week all about the birthing expectations!

Praise Report! OUR CAMERA HAS BEEN HEALED. Resurrected! Back to life! Bless the Lord. Thank you to all of you who prayed last week! I took my Canon to Best Buy and begged the guy to tell me that the real reason behind the deadness was the battery. Please sir, please... tell me it's just the battery! I had checked the battery and it didn't seem to be the problem, but I had my fingers crossed... Alas, Best Buy had no battery tester, but they sent me to another store (did you know there is such a thing as a Batteries Plus? A store just for batteries!) and they tested it... AND IT WAS DEAD. He put in a new battery and my sweet Canon returned to "ON"... I almost cried. I jumped up and down. The guy was like, "Whooooaaa lady, keep that baby in there." The best news. Now I can photograph my baby. And now the blog photos can return to quality. I'M SO HAPPY.

Thanks for following along our pregnancy journey! Feel free to check check out the 6-month, 7-month, 8-month and 36-Week Bumpdates :)

July 16, 2014

A "Ta-Da!" Baby Shower

A Ladies Shower.
My mother. My sisters. These incredible women threw me the most decadent baby shower two weekends ago, full of fou-fou loveliness and baby-indulgent grandeur. It was SO MUCH FUN. These sweethearts know how to put on a seriously special party. The food? To die for. Adorable quiche, fancy fruit tarts, scrumptious eclairs, perfect petit fors (my favorite dessert!), Chickfila Chicken Salad Sandwiches and Nuggets (all thanks to my darling dear girl Natalie!), and chilled white wine topped off with gummy bears. I obviously couldn't indulge in that fun beverage, but I indulged like CRAZY in everything else! The decor was themed to match Everett's baby room, in shades of gray, flax, orange and yellow, with lots of giraffes peeking out here and there (more to come on his room!)

The guests? ALL PARTY GIRLS. I got the opportunity to catch up with so many women who have sowed into different seasons of my life, from old cheerleading buddies and high school friends to my feisty, gorgeous cousins and wise mentors that I admire. Such a treasured group of women assembled to celebrate the upcoming arrival of my little son, and I couldn't have felt more blessed or loved. Not only was the food and the decor to die for, but the words of encouragement and prayers were sweet, poignant, and will always be especially cherished in my heart.

// Me and my mama bear. Isn't she the loveliest? //
// You can't really tell, but the onesie on the right says "Party Naked" - thanks Kelley!! //
// My sweetheart nephew helped me unwrap the gifts. He didn't understand why I cried opening practically every other one. //
// Table of decadence, yummmm //

The Countdown Is On!
Thank you to all of you who have celebrated our growing family and affirmed us during this transition. I am overwhelmed by the loving support Stevie and I have received, all for making a baby!

We are getting really close to time for this little guy to arrive. Keep us in your prayers!