Noobie Box Review

Time for another baby box review! The next baby box I tried after the Babylist baby box was the Noobie Box. These can be found at https://www.noobiebox.com. They do have other box options including subscription boxes – I chose to only get the free pregnancy edition Noobie Box, which cost $6.95 shipping. I truly enjoyed this box and feel that the shipping cost was worth it for new moms (or dads!). I’ll include some pictures of everything I received!

I love the samples that came in this box! The MAM bottle and paci is my absolute favorite. The Aquaphor tube and the Purell spray will be GREAT for baby’s diaper bag, and the little Cuties box of five diapers will absolutely be used! Overall, I’d say the Noobie Box is well worth the shipping cost. If you get one, let me know how your items compare!

Hello Baby Box by Babylist Review

Now that I’ve finally shared the news (we are expecting another baby boy!) I can start sharing reviews of the cool free and inexpensive baby stuff I’ve come across. Since this will be my husband’s and my second child together but third child in our family (full time stepdaughter, wild child two-year-old), everything I can get for free or cheap is very, very welcome. A family of five + a husky starts to get expensive!

Today’s review is going to be about the Babylist Hello Baby Box. I earned this by starting my baby registry through Babylist, and only had to pay $4.95 shipping for the box. Babylist is a very cool registry service, and if you haven’t checked it out, you definitely should! You’re able to add registry items from Babylist itself, Amazon, Target, Etsy, Buy Buy Baby, and more. All from one site! The consolidation makes creating a registry SO simple, which is what a busy mom like me needs.

The box came within a few days, and although it’s not the cheapest baby box I’ve found, I’d say it’s definitely worth the shipping cost! I’ll include some pictures of what I received in my Hello Baby Box in January 2019.

Parenthood is a trip! (Not a trap 😂)
The box comes with a nice little guide you can peruse as you build your registry!
The first gift inside was a paci and a couple of breast milk bags! I haven’t decided yet whether baby will be breast or formula fed, but I love being prepared for both options.

Better picture of the cute little pacifier!

Two Huggies diapers with a coupon for design-it-yourself diapers was next.

Sample newborn baby wash and lotion by Noodle & Boo. I’ve never tried the brand before but love samples!

A Velcro-adjustable bib by Green Sprouts. This came with a coupon as well!

Lanisoh nursing pad samples. It seems that these sample pads come in EVERY free bag and box anymore. Even my doctor’s office gave me some! These will come in handy if I decide to breastfeed baby.

20 free cards for us to put in our baby shower invitations.

My FAVORITE part of the Hello Baby Box was this adorable little Pampers bag! It’s high quality and will be great for the diaper bag. It came with a sample package of six wipes, a Pampers Swaddlers diaper, and coupons.

More breast milk storage bags!

This adorable “paci-pouch” was at the bottom of the box. I can definitely see us using this if baby ends up taking a paci. It helps keep pacis out of the bottom of a purse, diaper bag, pocket, etc.

Overall, I really enjoyed this baby box! I think it came with a lot that moms-to-be and new moms will actually use. If you want to check out the Hello Baby Box for yourself, just head over to http://www.babylist.com and start your registry!

Stay tuned for my next review…The Noobie Box!

Meat Eater

Trigger warning:  This article contains accounts of an eating disorder.

It all started in 2007. I was 19 years old, living in a dorm and experiencing all that college and living independently had to offer. After several semesters of eating everything available in the student food court, drinking to my heart’s content, and gaining well beyond the “freshman 15,” I found the dormitory gym. I started working out regularly and trying to watch what I ate. As the weight slowly started coming off, I got sucked in.

I needed to work out harder. I needed to lose more weight. I had to keep going. More, more, more. More water, more exercise, more restriction of my diet, more weight loss. Less me.

As I worked out harder and my body adjusted to my new lifestyle, my weight loss started plateauing. I needed a new plan, and in my search for a new weight loss strategy, I found myself at home with vegetarianism. Vegetarianism and veganism, while entirely ethical and healthy in the right hands, are an eating disorder’s best friend. It becomes you, and it defines you. You are not “anorexic,” you are a vegetarian. You love animals. You are doing it for the greater good.

You lie to yourself.

I became immersed in the vegetarian lifestyle. It became my identity, and I hardly went a meal without discussing it.

I am Emily, the vegetarian.

But this article isn’t meant for recollection of my eating disordered years. It isn’t meant to tell you why eating disorders are bad, or dangerous, or scary, or lonely. It isn’t meant to discuss the lack of help and support available to those with eating disorders. Because, like most mental illnesses (especially addiction), those who are not disordered do not understand. “Just eat more!” they say. “Just stop restricting. Stop purging. WHY WOULD YOU PURGE? That’s disgusting. Who does that to themselves? How do you go without eating? Aren’t you hungry?”

Maybe that’s meant for another article. But this article is about my recent journey back to eating meat, and what I learned in the process.

After a seven year journey with vegetarianism (which I maintained even through eating disorder recovery), with a year of veganism sprinkled in, I had an insatiable craving for shrimp about four years ago. It went on for days, until finally I caved in. I ate shrimp that night. And again the next night. And for a good five to seven nights after that. I quickly realized that the shrimp didn’t harm me. It didn’t change my life, and it didn’t make me heavier. Nothing really changed, but something inside me said I couldn’t just put all food back on the table. I couldn’t allow myself to open up my world that much, because that much freedom was scary and overwhelming, even years after reaching my lowest weight and the peak of my eating disorder. So I became a pescetarian. It felt safe.

I’m Emily, the pescetarian.

And it stuck, for several years. Until a few weeks ago.

“I’m craving steak,” I told my husband. He told me to eat some steak. “I can’t just eat steak, I don’t eat meat,” I told him. A few days later, I had the same craving. I was dying for steak. But why? I wondered whether my body was low in iron, or whether I had some sort of nutritional deficiency that I didn’t know about. I knew I wasn’t pregnant. So when the same craving snuck up again and I discussed it with my husband, he told me to buy steaks and propane…and I complied.

“We’re going to grill them tonight!” he said excitedly. It made me nervous. Would I be giving up my identity? Would I be letting down the animals? Would I be failing my body? Or showing our kids that giving up a former “passion” was that easy? Was I neglecting some greater purpose in life by agreeing to eat a thick piece of red meat of all things? Who would I be if I started eating meat again?

I chewed up the steak and felt it swirl around in my mouth. I noticed the flavor, the taste, the texture, all of it. I tried to make myself feel bad, or maybe just guilty. I searched for The Guilt, expected it even. The flavor was good but the texture was odd. It was a new experience and I savored each moment. I sat and thought about what would be different once I ate the steak. What would I lose?

It turned out, nothing changed (“duh!” you might think). That may mean nothing to many, but to me, it opened up a world of possibilities. The one string that still tied me to my eating disordered past was finally broken, after 12 years. It took me 12 years to finally realize that what I eat cannot and will not ever define me. It took me 12 years to let go of an identity that I only took on in an effort to restrict my eating, to control every bit of my diet and lose weight under the guise of martyrdom for animals and an illusion of activism. I finally realized that although my heart deeply understood the ethical benefits of avoiding meat, I personally hung on so long because it was the one aspect of my life I still had ultimate control over. The eating disorder still spoke. It still had a voice.

I absolutely still support vegetarianism, veganism, anything-ism, as long as it’s done for the right reasons and that you are able to remain healthy and happy doing so. I will never support factory farming and unethical farming practices, and I will always do my best to ensure any meat I eat is antibiotic-free and farm raised. I will always support local farmers. I can’t say I’ll stuff myself full of animal protein each and every meal, and the transition may be slow and steady but for now…I’m a happy, healthy, omnivore again. I’m Emily. And that’s just how I like it.

If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, call the NEDA hotline at (800) 931-2237.

Why Stepparent Love is a Different Kind of Love: A Letter to my Stepdaughter

When my husband and I found out we were expecting, he had one main fear – that I wouldn’t love his then six-year-old (my stepdaughter) as if she was my own. I wouldn’t love her “the same” as I loved my son.

And he was right, I wouldn’t.

To him, this meant that I would love her less. That there would be an enormous disconnect between siblings and that I would treat them differently. But what he didn’t understand, what one cannot possibly understand until they are raising another woman’s daughter alongside their own flesh and blood, is that stepparent love is not a lesser love. Stepparent love is a different love.

And so, my dear stepdaughter, I’ll try to explain it to you in a way that you may one day read and understand.

When we first became a family, you already had six years of life behind you. I didn’t witness your first steps, I didn’t feed you your first solids, or give you your first bath. I didn’t cry when you were born, and I didn’t get to hug your daddy and admire what a beautiful little baby you were in the hospital room after having you cut from my body during an emergency c-section.

But more importantly, you weren’t raised to tell me you love me. You weren’t raised to respect me as your parent, or to treat me as a mother, or to hug me goodnight, or to miss me when I wasn’t there, just as I didn’t get my first practice tucking you in until you were six-years-old. And while these may be reasons my love for you is different than the love I have for your brother, they are the very things that make our relationship even more special.

You CHOSE to love me. You picked me, and I picked you. When you tell me you love me, you mean it. Because you don’t have to love me. When I tell you I love you, it’s not because I saw you take your first breath or feel you kick and grow within me for nine months. My love for you was not instilled in me. It’s because I’ve gotten to know you, because we’ve shared nearly three years of life together growing as a family, and I truly love you and the person that you are.

Without you, your daddy wouldn’t be the man I love and married. You changed him, long before I ever came along. Long before your brother was even a sparkle in our eyes. Watching him raise you has been an honor and a blessing, and is undoubtedly part of the reason I fell in love with him.

Without you, your brother wouldn’t squeal with happiness every afternoon when it’s time for school to let out. I’d know nothing about Five Nights at Freddy’s, or Minecraft, or how to unconditionally love another woman’s child. My son wouldn’t have a funny, witty, creative and helpful big sister to learn from and admire.

Without you, our family wouldn’t be a family.

And so, my dear stepdaughter, my love for you may be different, but it’s no less of a love. I may never be your mother, but I will ALWAYS be your stepmother, and that’s a pretty important role to fill. I will continue to watch you grow and thrive, to support you in your every endeavor, to cheer you on in any sport or hobby you wish to pursue, and to be there for you any and every time you need me. I will tuck you in at night, I will bring you one more sip of water when you can’t sleep, I will brush the tangles out of your hair when you need help, and I will hold you when you need a little extra love. You are special, and you are mine…and I would choose you over and over again.

Copyright Rae of Light Photography Works

bruised.

Trigger warning: This article contains accounts of domestic violence.

The timeline is blurred, but the results are the same.

In 2013, I took in a stray. This stray came in the form of a house-hopping, shaggy haired guitarist who I worked with serving tables. I was in nursing school and admired his “didn’t-give-a-damn” attitude and lack of obligations to anyone but himself. The fact that he came to work with a fractured arm after a fight with his own father failed to raise any red flags as we grew closer.

The slew of reasons I shouldn’t have dated him go far beyond the actual crux of our downfall, and hardly make a difference in my story. The bruises he left, however, are the reason I’m telling you now, because in a society of “me toos” and women suffering domestic abuse silently, sometimes even one small voice can matter.

The first time I felt uncomfortable was shortly after he moved in. We were both drinking, as we did (and he did OFTEN), and he saw a text I sent to good friend telling her I needed to figure out a way to ask him to pay part of our rent if he planned to stay. In a fit of rage, he slammed his beer bottle down onto the coffee table, shattered the drink coaster, screamed at me about talking behind his back, picked up his cigarettes and stormed out. This was only the beginning of the many times he would pack his bag in an angry rage and leave after destroying something of mine, and I’d always chase him.

I shouldn’t have chased him. But it was my fault – right? It was my fault for talking about him.

One cool fall morning as I got ready to head to class in a cute slouchy sweater, he stopped me in the hallway. “Why are you wearing that to school? Who are you trying to impress? You’re obviously trying to impress someone. Why would you wear that? What are you hiding?” My mind flashed to my nursing school class and the 60+ women I was surrounded by at any given time, and then I looked down at my sweater. I realized it slouched enough to show a shoulder. One innocent shoulder.

I nervously laughed him off and headed out the door. But the comment stuck. In class, I mentioned it to a friend, and she quickly ascertained that his level of jealousy was abnormal.

He’s just worried about me hurting him. He didn’t mean any harm.

The longer we stayed together, the more we argued. I’d always blame it on alcohol. I’d always blame it on stress. I’d always blame it on we are both just stubborn, this happens in relationships like ours. I first saw his rage after an argument about something I can only imagine at this point.  The hole he put in my wall was eventually patched, and not by him.

This isn’t normal, I thought. But at least it was just the wall. He didn’t hurt me.

When we took a trip to Georgia to visit a good friend, we decided to make a late night trip to a local bar. It’s only a mile up the road. It will be fine. As we had a few drinks and relaxed, he began having a few more. The drunker he got, the angrier he got, until all rationale was depleted. He stormed out of the bar and left me. In a different city. A different state. In a bar mere minutes from closing.

He took off down the road, and I got nervous. Two large men approached me, and I quickly realized they were genuinely concerned about the girl on the front step in tears, sitting all alone. “What the hell happened?” they asked me. As the story poured out of my mouth, we saw him coming back up the road a few minutes later. GET IN THE CAR, he yelled.

Not knowing what else to do, I got in the car (but not before he attempted to fight the two men standing beside me as I begged him to please just walk away). He immediately accused me of trying to cheat on him. Yelled at me for supposedly flirting with the two men out front trying to protect me, and for trying to do something behind his back. I cried the whole way back to my friend’s house, and refused to get out of the car when we got there. He yelled at me from outside of the car until I complied.

I just want to go home. This isn’t safe.

The first time he bruised me, we were watching a movie and having drinks. Our conversation escapes me, but his anger does not. As our voices escalated through our fight of the day and he got drunker and angrier, he grabbed my arms and squeezed. He shook me back and forth and I went still, panicked. I stopped arguing, stopped talking, and quickly escaped to the bedroom as soon as he let go. He didn’t follow.

This isn’t normal. I cried myself to sleep.

The next morning, I noticed the vivid outline of a man’s hand in the bruises on my arms. I can cover these, I thought. He apologized profusely and said he would NEVER do something like that again.

I shouldn’t have done that. Please forgive me, he begged.

I remember sitting on the floor of the apartment gym in front of the full length mirror. I pulled my sleeves up and examined the bruises. I cringed, and quickly pulled them down again.

It was just one time. He promised he wouldn’t do it again. I don’t have to break up with him because of one mistake…right? He apologized. This will just make us stronger. He will never hurt me again. And I love him. Love is what matters, right? I can’t leave him. How will I pay my rent? He will be devastated if I break up with him. We work together, I definitely can’t break up with him.

The second time it happened was worse. Mid-fight, he grabbed me. He shook me. He bruised me. I ran to the room. This time, I locked it. He didn’t care. The footsteps followed and the door opened as his body weight broke past the lock. The doorknob rammed another hole in the wall, and he ran to me as I sat on the bed.

GET UP, he shouted. The fight continued. He grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. He pulled me out to the living room and I eventually ended up with my knees in the carpet and his arm around my neck in a choke-hold. We were both crying.

You know this means we have to break up, right? I heard in my ear. I tried to nod.

I just want it to stop. Make it stop.

I wish this is where I could say that it ended.

He moved out, but I continued to see him. One afternoon he came over so we could talk. Talking lead to arguing, and the last memory I have with him is his phone buzzing past my head as it crashed into a wall. The glass shattered and the phone went black. He quickly left. I contacted him several times after that – I wish I could say why. But he never spoke to me again. I later saw his and his girlfriend’s mugshots grace the arrest records one morning after they had a drunken domestic dispute. I was a lucky one.

Many women are not so lucky. It’s not that bad, you may think. It’s just one hole in the wall. It’s just one bruise. It’s just one lie, one night out all night, one drunken fight. He’s just a little jealous, you might think. He doesn’t mean anything when he gets worried about me cheating. He just loves me. He just wants to know what I’m doing all the time, that’s fair. He just, just, just just…

Don’t make excuses for him. Notice the patterns. Pay attention to the signs. Listen to your gut. Many women are not so lucky. Many women struggle with leaving. You are not alone. There is help. You deserve help. And you are WORTHY of being saved. 

 

5 Things to Expect as the Parent of a Preemie

When my son was born at 28 weeks gestation, my husband and I were completely unprepared. Being a first time mother and having a perfectly healthy pregnancy up until the day my water broke (in the middle of the psychiatric hospital where I worked), we had not planned for a situation in which my son would spend his first seven weeks post-birth in the NICU, away from his family and unable to be held at all for the first four days out of the womb. Staring at my 2 pound, 14 ounce son through a glass Isolette was terrifying, and resources for the emotional and mental support of parents who were in our position seemed limited.

Now, 19 months into our experience, we are still reminded every day that our son came into this world three months early, mentally unready and physically unprepared. We have been very fortunate with our son’s health, and we can do nothing but give thanks that our miracle child survived. But as we approach his second birthday, I look back on some of the things we have experienced throughout this adventure.

1. Fear. The NICU is a scary place. There are continuously beeping monitors, humming computers, staff racing against the clock to save tiny, medically fragile newborns, parents crying, families sleeping, and a bond with other parents and the staff keeping your child alive that is unparalleled to any you will find outside of those NICU walls. But as much as you yearn to take your child home with you, as much as you prepare to take on the responsibility of caring for your premature child just as well as those trained professionals did, nothing compares to the fear you feel those first few nights (or weeks) at home with your preemie. With no computer screens to reassure you that your child’s heart rate is within normal limits and that his oxygen rates are stable once you leave the security of the NICU, you begin obsessively checking on your preemie every time he closes his eyes. You become hypervigilant in your respiration counting and you listen for the smallest sound of a steady breathing as your preemie sleeps in his bassinet next to your bed at night, just so you can keep him within eyesight at all times. Eventually the fear lessens, and you find yourself (and your preemie!) sleeping for longer stretches of time, but as much relief as I felt the day we “graduated” from the NICU, the fear multiplied tenfold as soon as we arrived home.

2. Therapy. Not the kind that involves a well-intentioned third party listener who has mastered the reassuring head nod and offers a slightly uncomfortable couch to sit on (although you may need that too!). Life with a preemie is full of everything from weekly physical therapy to monthly home visits with an early intervention case manager.  Nearly two years into our Preemie Experience, our son’s therapies have only increased as he has aged and as his prematurity has become more evident the further and further he falls behind his peers. Our normal week consists of feeding therapy on Mondays, physical therapy on Tuesdays, monthly meetings with an early intervention case manager, and for a while, we also had occupational therapy on Thursdays. Our son has special shoe inserts to help support his ankles, and at 19 months old he is still unable to walk. So we continue therapy. Therapy eventually becomes a way of life, and as tiring as it can be, you begin to find a community within the walls of the Children’s Rehabilitation Center waiting room. Each week, you see the same children with their supportive and loving families. You see kids of all ages, with all disabilities, delays, special needs and reasons for being at the center, and you start to feel at home there. Within those walls there is no judgment, no questions about why your toddler is unable to walk, or why he is wearing special shoes. It becomes a home and a safe haven, much like the NICU once was. And for that, you are grateful.

3. Comments from strangers, friends, and well-meaning family. “Wow,  he’s small for his age!” the woman at Kroger will tell you. “Is he running yet?” the cashier will ponder. “I bet it’s tiring chasing after him! Is he walking? Talking?” For the first few months home, you will be eager to share your story with anyone and everyone who will listen. You will excitedly tell the man on the sidewalk about all that your son has been through. LOOK AT MY MIRACLE CHILD! you will want to shout. Eventually, as you fall into your normal routine and your child’s prematurity simply becomes your new way of life, the well-meaning comments from others become tiring. Even the most thoughtful and supportive friends will say things like, “You’ll regret wishing he’d start walking when you’re chasing him everywhere!” All you can think of when you hear comments like that is the hours of physical therapy your son has endured, the tears streaming down his face as his feet were fitted for special shoes, the frustration you witness in his eyes every time he tries and fails to take a step. You think of the times you cried on your husband’s shoulder as your baby missed yet another milestone, and as you watch your friends’ kids meet and exceed each and every milestone they face. But then you look down at your smiling preemie’s face, full of hope and love and simply needing your support, and you realize that it doesn’t matter WHEN he reaches any milestones. All that matters is that your child is happy, healthy, and hopeful…and suddenly no one else’s comments matter.

4. Doubt about your ability to endure another pregnancy. As a woman who’s body gave up on her first pregnancy after only 28 weeks for reasons unknown to any OB specialists, there is an intense fear of going through another pregnancy that will result in another premature child, or worse. I think about how much we would love another child, how strong our family bond has become since going through my son’s prematurity experience, and the depth of the love I have for my son. I see others with their newborns and long for another baby. But as strongly as I feel about wanting another child, I feel equally selfish and guilty for wanting to potentially put myself, my family, and another child through that Preemie Experience once more. I feel like I don’t deserve to try again, because my body was not capable of carrying my first child to term. I feel scared and afraid to tell people that I would love to have another child, another sibling for my son and stepdaughter, because I put myself at risk for their judgment and their curiosity as to why I would wish that upon myself and my family. “Do you really think that’s a good idea? After all you’ve been through?” I’ve been asked (those well-meaning friends…). And I begin to doubt my desires and ability to carry another child to term. At the end of the day, however, it will be a decision between my husband, myself, and my doctor, and regardless of what we decide, our family will continue to be full of nothing but love and support for one another and our children.

5. Love and gratitude. The love you feel for your own child is unlike any other love in the world, but when you have a child who was born too soon, a child who doctors told you may have breathing problems, severe handicaps, or may not even survive, it’s hard to feel anything but gratitude. The nights can be long and tiring (we are currently battling 18-month sleep regression), but looking down at my son’s smiling face each morning while he stands in his crib reaching for mommy is nothing but a blessing. Our son has taught us the meaning of strength and perseverance, and we watch him grow and achieve new milestones (no matter how small!) while cheering him on each and every day.

Having a premature child is something you can never fully prepare for mentally, physically, or emotionally. Preemie parenting is full of setbacks, obstacles, celebrations, frustrations, support and resources you never knew existed…and so, so much love.

19 months ago, our son was born too soon and abruptly taken away from us at only 2 pounds, 14 ounces. He was intubated and taken to his first home, a glass box safe within the NICU walls.

Today, that child is my hero.