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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Top 10 NICU Mama Must-Haves

ICYMI: I gave birth to our son on September 17th! Because I was only 30.5 weeks pregnant, he's been in the NICU ever since. While it's certainly been a rollercoaster and the hardest time of my life, we know he's getting the best care and getting stronger so he can come home soon. Between pumping every 3 hours and going back and forth to the hospital constantly, I've come to have a few favorite products that get me through the long days. Some of these I didn't know about beforehand and I wish I would've! So, I thought this post might be helpful for any mamas who are expecting their babes to spend some time in the NICU. If you have any questions or any suggestions on products I need to incorporate into my routine, leave a comment or send me an email [pgchaulk@gmail.com].



1) Lanolin - A little TMI, but you will swear by this product if you're pumping. Everything can get really sore/raw, and this is a lifesaver. I also use it on my lips! The hospital gives you a little tube, but I recommend stocking up or getting the bigger tube. It really does make a great difference.
2) A roomy tote - I ordered this tote during the Nsale to use as my diaper bag, and I'm so glad I did. It's become the perfect bag to take to and from the hospital. It fits all my pumping equipment, bottles of milk, a book, snacks, and any other things I want to take to and from with me. You'll want a big bag for your commute, trust me.
3) Body butter - Any time you scrub in to go into the NICU, it entails a lot of handwashing with not the most forgiving of soap. Because it has to kill literally every germ, it's not moisturizing in the least. Having a body butter at home has helped to bring my skin back to life after all the handwashing. I apply a generous layer to my skin once I'm doing being at the hospital for the day and it helps to undo some of the damage done during my multiple visits to the NICU during the day. This one from Carol's Daughter smells INCREDIBLE and is so, so moisturizing. Highly recommend.
4) Prenatals  - Because I'm religiously pumping, my lactation consultant told me to still take my prenatals to help with my supply. Not to mention all the other good vitamins it has inside! I love these that I ordered off Amazon.
5) Leggings - I have been LIVING in leggings ever since my c-section. I'm still wearing these maternity ones because it helps to keep everything feeling binded together after my surgery. They're so easy to throw on and go and are comfy for hours of sitting in a chair for kangaroo care.
6) Pumping bra  - This may be the most important essential. In fact, I went over a week without having one and I don't know how I lived before it! This product is actually what inspired this post. I pump every 3 hours for 30 minutes, so 4 total hours of my day are spent sitting in a chair with a falange stuck on me. This helps the process be hands-free. It's perfect so I can get some stuff done instead of just wasting this time. In fact, I'm currently writing this post while pumping ;) I can check email, make phone calls, work on the blog, or look at pictures of Dillon all while getting this necessary task done. LIFE. SAVER.
7) A journal - I definitely recommend having something to keep track of all the ups and downs of the NICU. The Littlest Peanut is a great diary for all parents of preemies. The author herself has two preemies so no detail is left out. There's places to write info about milestones, notes from the doctors, and hurdles yet to cross. It's such a cute book and has helped me so much to keep track of Dillon's accomplishments and what we have yet to come up.
8) Nursing dresses - These are great for wearing around the house when you have pumping on your mind. It's easy to pump in these, but obviously it'd be easier to nurse since if you pump in this it isn't hands free. But I love this brand for all nursing clothes. They're so soft and made so well. I usually sleep in one which helps with the overnight pump sessions. Once Dillon is home and I'm breastfeeding, I'm sure I will wear these even more.
9) Dry shampoo - Let's be real. My beauty routine is the last thing on my mind right now. I shower every morning before going to the hospital but after I put on some face moisturizer, I want to be out the door. If I'm motivated, I may throw on some mascara but that's it. And don't even get me started on my hair. I'm lucky if it gets brushed. And if it does, I throw in some dry shampoo to soak up oil and add texture and call it a day. This will be a life (and time) saver for you as you are gearing up for day after day of commuting to the hospital.
10) Snacks + water - You'll definitely want to fill your tote with snacks and water. Water is necessary to help build your breast milk supply and I noticed if I go a long time without some, my pumping sessions are less lucrative. As for snacks, I am WAY more hungry now that I'm pumping than I ever was pregnant! Which is saying something, because towards the end of my pregnancy I was always starving. I keep a stash of nutri-grain bars, almonds, and other on-the-go snacks to have after I'm done pumping or in the car on the way to or from the hospital. Trust me, you'll thank me.

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Monday, September 26, 2016

Dillon Ravi Chaulk: A Birth Story


Where do I even begin with this post? If you aren't following me on Instagram or Facebook, you probably haven't kept up with my pregnancy/pre-term labor journey [read about it here + here]. It's crazy to think that I should just be turning 32 weeks pregnant this week, but our son has been here for 9 days already! On September 17th, at 6:26AM, our lives were forever changed when our son, Dillon Ravi, was born. He weighed a small but mighty 3 lbs 2 oz and was 15 inches and was the most incredible thing I'd ever seen. But let me back up.

On Friday, September 16th, I started feeling a little off. When Mike showed up to see me after work, as he always did, I told him I wasn't feeling great. I had a headache and my stomach had been turning. The night before, I had noticed some blood when I went to the bathroom, which I hadn't really seen thus far. It freaked me out so I didn't sleep well that previous night, so I was thinking maybe I was just exhausted after that. I asked my nurse for some headache relief after we had done my nightly tracing [where they monitor the baby's heartbeat for 20 minutes] and prayed that I could just sleep this funny feeling away. Mike went home to let our dog out after the tracing and planned to come back in the morning with breakfast. But, our son had other plans. I slept pretty well until about midnight, when I woke up to go to the bathroom and noticed my stomach still hurt. Well, those were contractions. I had been so afraid while on bed rest that I wouldn't know the difference between Braxton-Hicks and real contractions, but boy did I feel the difference. I told the nurse and she told me that if I felt more than 5 in an hour to call her back in. I tried to go back to sleep and at around 4AM I woke up to use the bathroom again. This time the contractions were more noticeable and definitely more frequent. By 4:45AM, I had had 6. I knew something was wrong. I called the nurse in and she hooked me up to the monitor where we watched for 20 minutes to see what was going on. In those 20 minutes, I had 3 more contractions. And these ones HURT. She called in the resident who checked to see if I was dilated. That hurt even worse! I'll never forget her words. "You're about 4cm dilated, and there's a foot trying to come out, so it's time". My heart started racing. Mike wasn't even there and he wasn't answering his phone! All of a sudden 3 nurses flooded in with a ton of needles as they tried to get my IV going to wheel me into surgery. They couldn't find a good vein and I couldn't get Mike on the phone! True chaos. I finally called one of our neighbors to go knock on the door to wake Mike up. He's a heavy sleeper and I knew he wasn't going to answer the phone if he hadn't already. By that time, they were wheeling me down to surgery.

Getting into the operating room is a bit of a blur. I was so panicked after they told me there was a foot in the birthing canal and my husband wasn't even there yet! They started to prep me for surgery and the anesthesia team had to try and find my veins since the nurses couldn't. Once that happened, they started my epidural. I was terrified that I'd be able to feel the c-section once they started since I wasn't going to be fully under. There were some other things that transpired that are fuzzy to me, but all I know is Mike entered the room just in the nick of time. I couldn't feel anything below my rib cage and knew in a few short moments our son would be here. In those final moments, I remember feeling terrified that he'd come out and something would be terribly wrong with him. I was only 30.5 weeks pregnant! I was still supposed to be on bed rest for 3.5 weeks. But here we were, ready for our son's arrival. Mike sat next to me behind the curtain but he rose up a few times to watch what was happening. He says his legs came out first, but they were having a hard time getting his head out, so they had to cut me further. Thank God I didn't really realize what was going on! And soon enough, we heard a little cry, and Dillon was here. They rushed him to the NICU but told us that he was fine and breathing. I looked at Mike with tears in my eyes, and oh gosh, I'm crying now just typing this. As scary as it was, it is something I'll never, ever forget. We were parents and our baby was here.

Because he was so small, they rushed him off to the NICU right away, but Mike got to hold him for a brief moment first. They then wheeled me out where Mike and I sat for about an hour as they got me situated and Dillon his space in the NICU. A few hours later, they wheeled me to the NICU where I got to really see our son for the first time. I even got to hold him! We felt so lucky because we know all preemie parents are not as fortunate and are unable to hold their babies right away. They told us that he was going to be on CPAP to help his little lungs out, but it was on the lowest setting and he was doing great. His foot was a little turned out due to his positioning on his way out, but physical therapy would work on that with him. We just felt so grateful that he was breathing and crying and seemed ok. He was also over 3 lbs, which with me being ruptured for 7.5 weeks was amazing at only 30 weeks. The NICU requirement to go home is 4 lbs, so we were so happy he was less than a lb away from that "goal" weight. After we got to see him in the NICU for a bit, they wheeled me back up to mom/baby where we would settle in for the next 48 hours.

The initial pain from the c-section was severe. It was so hard, though, because I just wanted to be downstairs in the NICU with Dillon. We spent the next 2 days going back and forth to the NICU and me spending time with the lactation consultations trying to figure out how to pump enough breast milk to give him while he's in the NICU. Honestly, it was kind of a blur. But, by Monday, I was walking and felt well enough to go home. After spending 7.5 weeks on bed rest, I was ready to go home. But my heart hurt so bad leaving Dillon. I knew he was in great care and with him only being on CPAP, we weren't under any immediate emergency. So, we packed up the room, said goodbye to Dillon (where I SOBBED), and I got in a car for the first time in almost 8 weeks. We ended up coming back in a few hours to see him, but that car ride was the most bittersweet feeling. After 15 weeks of hyperemesis, 7.5 weeks of hospital bed rest, and an emergency c-section, my pregnancy journey was over and our son was here.

Next up was the NICU journey, which now that we're 9 days in, I can truly say is a rollercoaster. Dillon has been doing awesome (his nurses all call him a rockstar) but every little thing can seem so scary. We're hoping he only has 5-7 weeks in the NICU, but we're taking it day by day. We're thankful for every good moment, and try to take every bad one in stride. I'm so proud of him and how strong he is. He's such a little fighter and I know he's going to continue to thrive in there so he can come home soon. Every day without him here is heartbreaking, but I know he's doing what he needs to get big and strong so he can be with us every day forever. It took a year to get pregnant and 7.5 months to carry him. After all that, I am so grateful that I get to spend my life as his mom.

Thanks for following along and feel free to email me [pgchaulk@gmail.com] or leave a comment if you have any questions! Thank you also for all the sweet messages and prayers for baby Dillon. They were surely heard.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

30 week Bumpdate


I know I just did a bumpdate 2 weeks ago, but with only FOUR weeks [max] left of my pregnancy, I figured I'd fill you guys in on what's going on with me while I still can! I cannot believe I've been in this hospital bed for 7 weeks. When we first got here, we weren't sure if we'd last 24 hours, let alone a week, let alone 7! They told me I could be here for potentially 11 weeks and I just couldn't believe it. I didn't think there was a chance in hell I could make it that long in this one room with no access to the outside world. But here we are. 7 weeks down, 4 to go! In fact, my c-section has been scheduled for October 12th, so there really is a light at the end of the tunnel! The doctors are confident I can make it that long, so here's hoping. As always, anything could happen between now and then, but it's amazing to think how far we've come. Mike and I took a NICU tour last weekend and it was nice to see where the next part of our journey will be taking place.

How far along: 30 weeks! I can't believe it. When we first got here, I never thought I'd see the third trimester, let alone a week with a 3 at the beginning of it! While we're really hoping we can get in a few more weeks of this babe staying in my belly, we've come a significantly long way from 23 weeks in terms of his development and his survival chances.

How I’m Feeling: Definitely pregnant. Being in this bed, constantly laying on my side, has brought on some gnarly hip pain. Heartburn has also made its vengeful arrival. I thought I was going to get away without having it, but nope! It's here and it's bad. I get nauseous every now and then, too. I'm also incredibly tired ALL.THE.TIME. I don't get good sleep in here because A) I get up to pee every 1.5-2 hours and can't fall right back asleep after and B) the hospital always has some commotion going on overnight so I am usually awoken by that. Just normal third trimester things, I suppose!

Cravings: Oh lord, ALL THE JUNK. Seriously, sweets are going to be the death of me. I've finally started gaining (a lot) of weight back and I'm sure it's my sweet tooth that's contributing. I've been mindful about eating good for most of the day, making sure I get lots of protein so little guy can grow, grow, grow! But once dinnertime comes around, bring on the drive-thru and desserts! Everything in moderation, right? ;)

Aversions: Still strong non-food smells are a no-go. Heavy perfumes, hand sanitizers, lotions, etc.

Weight Gain: I'm officially 8 lbs under my pre-pregnancy weight, which means I've gained ~17 lbs of the weight I lost back! My doctors are happy about it because it means I'm eating and he's growing! I'm guessing I'll probably end up somewhere near my pre-pregnancy weight, given I have 4 weeks [max] left and 8 lbs to go. That's kind of a lot, but whatever. I'm fine with it!

Physical Changes: My bump is finally looking like a real, pregnant belly! My belly button is still an innie but I've started seeing the linea negra under the belly button. The oil is slowly returning back to my face and hair, which is a surprise #bringonthedryshampoo. My freckles also appear to be getting darker.

Nursery: The nursery is nearly done! Well, when I say done, I mean all the big furniture is assembled and in place. All that's really left is tweaking some decor elements, but we've got a really good start. I have to give credit to Mike who put everything together and FaceTimed me so we could do some of the arranging/organizing together. While it's not exactly what I had initially thought, it's super cute given the circumstances.

What's Next: As I mentioned, my c-section (due to him still being breech) is scheduled for October 12th, so we're really hoping we can make it that far! The doctors are optimistic I will, so I'm having to trust them and just take each day as it comes. While I'm still scared about what problems we could face post-delivery, I just have to celebrate we've come this far and his chances are so much better now than when we came in at 23 weeks! Having our NICU tour also helped to give us an idea of what that life will be life. We saw babies as small as 1.5 lbs and big as 6 lbs, so it gave us a good idea of what our little guy may look like and what we may expect going in. I'm terrified of getting a c-section to be honest, but we're grateful to have made it this far and hope for a few more weeks!

As always, thanks for following along on this journey with us. If you have any questions, leave a comment or send me an email [pgchaulk@gmail.com] and I'd be happy to chat! Everyone cross your fingers we make it to October! 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Doppelgangers

Since I've been on bedrest, I mentioned that I wanted to challenge myself to still create content despite not being able to shoot any new looks. One fun idea I had was to try and find dupes for items I've shared that have since sold out or are no longer available. I'm the kind of person who loves to hold onto items for years and years if I love them. So, while that stinks to not be able to link them for you guys, it doesn't make me want to wear them less. I've scoured the internet to find look-a-likes for some of these closet faves of mine so I hope you are able to snag them for yourself! I've also designated if they're under $50. Let me know if this kind of post is helpful! It was really fun to go back and look at some of my old looks, too. Our photography sure has evolved!

Shein Military Jacket -- DUPE HERE [$22]



Topshop snakeskin flats -- DUPE HERE


Topshop mustard skirt -- SIMILAR STYLE HERE


Oatmeal and gray blanket scarf -- DUPE HERE [$26]


Schutz rose gold pumps -- DUPE HERE [$41]


Banana Republic top -- SIMILAR IDEA HERE


Gray suede Schutz heels -- DUPE HERE [$25]


Piperlime green/leather jacket -- DUPE HERE [$40]

Forever 21 Blush Moto Jacket -- DUPE HERE


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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Fall Shoe Guide


I wanted to share some of my favorite shoe finds for fall today. I'm actually so excited because once I get out of the hospital (God-willing that's a few weeks from now), it'll be cool enough to bust out some of my favorite fall footwear! I especially LOVE boots and booties and love the fall hues that get incorporated into these styles.


FLATS - For fall, I love having a simple pair of sneakers, a printed flat, an everyday flat that's easy to walk in, a lace-up flat, and a work-appropriate flat. That way, you're able to take any look, whether dressed up or down, and make it comfortable enough for everyday.



BOOTS/BOOTIES - In my opinion, you should have 5 pairs of boots for fall. A riding boot, an over-the-knee boot, a bootie in a deep hue, a rainboot, and a boot with a chunky heel. Between those options, you'd be ready for any type of occasion and weather.



HEELS - Fall heels to me should be in jewel tonesfun prints, and have sassy details, like fringe or cut-outs. I also love wearing more work-appropriate trends when the temps start to dip, like Mary Janes and classic pumps.



What are your favorite types of shoes for fall?

Monday, September 5, 2016

Favorite Summer/Bump Looks

Happy Labor Day! I can't believe we're into September already. When I got into the hospital on July 27th, I remember thinking it'd be a miracle if I stayed pregnant throughout August. And here we are! One of the saddest things about summer departing is the phasing out of warm weather outfits. The beginning of this summer was extra special because I got to start wearing bump outfits! We announced our pregnancy in May and my water broke in July, so that didn't leave me with too long to wear maternity outfits (especially because my bump wasn't that big), but I did want to share some of my favorite looks. I'm so sad I can't share more outfits now because my bump is finally big and cute! I feel really robbed that I don't get to do bump style posts when I actually have a bump to show off, but at least I'm still pregnant! Which of these is your favorite?!

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Original post here from our gender reveal/babyq

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