Mommy Must-Have: The Ember Mug

As a new mom, there are many trade-offs experienced on a daily basis. I often sacrifice getting chores done so that I can hold Asher as he sleeps. I postpone showers so that I can spend time catching up with my husband in the evenings. I eat less-than-elaborate meals so that I can use one arm to hold my 7-week-old little buddy. 

One of the more minor -- albeit very real -- sacrifices since Ash arrived? Drinking coffee while it's still hot. As though on command, the very moment that my delicious Decaf La Silva is done brewing, a fit of fusiness ensues or I get distracted. After warming up a single, sad mug of coffee four times, I basically give up.

That is, until now...

Meet Ember
My sweet husband jumped on an awesome new product that he saw on IndieGoGo, and it is currently my favorite Mommy Must-Have. 

It's called Ember. It may just look like a sleek travel mug, but it's much more. It's a fully interactive coffee mug that you can pair with your smartphone to set temp preferences by beverage, get notifications, and even give it a name.

The feature that won my heart? It maintains the temperature of your drink for up to two hours on-the-go (longer when kept on the charging base, as shown in the photo). And it actually does that, for real. Find the temp you prefer, set the dial on the bottom, and your coffee will be as warm after an impromptu feeding or meltdown as it was when you brewed it.

It was an exciting day when Ember finally arrived, as M placed the order a while back. But, not surprisingly, the campaign did really well. Even Starbucks got in on the action, which I can imagine was a game-changer for the innovative folks behind the mug.

It's not cheap, and Ember is currently backordered given its incredible popularity, but if you're looking for something special for a lovely mommy in your life (including yourself!), I'd order Ember in a hot second and get on that waiting list!

This is NOT a sponsored post. I'm just super excited when we discover great products and had to share with y'all!


My Top Newborn Essentials

In the early days of bringing Asher home, we learned quickly that while there isn't much to do aside from changing, feeding, comforting, and coaxing to sleep, those activities take a lot of time and finesse. We loaded up our registry with great must-haves and nice-to-haves based on feedback from friends, family, and lots of research (including many blog posts just like this one), but those first weeks relied heavily on a few clutch items that I wanted to highlight for y'all. No two babies are the same, but these items were really helpful for taking care of Ash (and Mommy).

Newborn Essentials

  • Wipe Warmer - This is one of those items that many lists I found online considered unnecessary. And admittedly, yes, you don't have to have this for your little one. However, across the board when I polled my family for their recommendations, a wipe warmer was mentioned. And it makes sense. I wouldn't want a cold, wet wipe on my tushy in the middle of the night. It made changings far less dramatic, and for the price point, it's a no-brainer in my opinion. 
  • Burp Cloths - Babies spit up. A lot. We have yet to have projectile spit-up thankfully, but even just your run of the mill post-feeding mess requires the constant presence of a within-reach burp cloth. We only bought one set and were gifted a few others, but I found myself willing to do a quick load of laundry to ensure some of my faves were always available. (I've since ordered another set.) Look for soft, absorbent (duh), and sized to provide solid coverage.
  • Changing Pad Liner - For whatever reason, Ash is one happy camper when he's on his changing pad. He kicks, coos, and generally has the best demeanor while he's stretched out on it. (We've loved the L.A. Baby 4-Sided Changing Pad with the Burt's Bees Pad Covers.) That being said, with a baby boy I could be changing the cover every other day between mid-change spit ups and that wayward willie. Having washable changing pad liners allows me to quickly and easily switch out just the top layer and move on, one-handed at that, which is how you simply must roll in the early baby days.
  • Infant Car Seat - I had actually second guessed whether I even should have purchased an infant carrier/car seat because I had big plans to wear baby as much as possible out-and-about (in which case, I could have just jumped straight to a convertible car seat). However, turns out Little Man would take some getting used to being carried/wrapped, and he loves his car seat! We had a few nights that first week when only being tucked into the infant carrier would soothe him. (And don't worry, he wasn't left unsupervised nor did he spend a whole night there.) Not to mention, the system is so easy to install, with or without LATCH, so I've been able to confidently use it without adult supervision.
  • Nipple Shield - This can be a very controversial item, but I have to be honest: if it weren't for this little gem, I might have given up on breastfeeding in that first week. This was given to me by the Lactation Consultants at the hospital because Ash and I were having a hard time feeding, but it allowed us to find a rhythm while still helping him put on weight. It works like training wheels, and while I probably used it longer than I should have (close to 4 weeks), we are now feeding without it and no one had to go into Time-Out. Breastfeeding is not an easy task, despite how it's represented to the unsuspecting new mom, so if tools like the shield help you make it work so you and baby both get to enjoy the incredible benefits, then party on!
  • Gripe Water - This can also be a controversial one, but we got the OK from our pediatrician, so I wanted to include it. As sweet and generally happy as Asher is, most evenings he has bouts of fussiness. They range from absolutely awful with Mommy and Baby both in tears, to simply tiring and sad to watch. While we naturally saw some improvement in his overall tummy situation and demeanor around week three, as he got a little older and feeding came more naturally to us both, we found that giving him some gripe water (two doses a day, max) seemed to help alleviate some of his discomfort. We introduced probiotics at week three, and that coupled with regular chiropractic adjustments and the gripe water seemed to help. We now (at week five) just use gripe water occasionally, but make sure we get those probiotics in him every day (and Mommy, too!).

Honorable Mention Items

  • Seventh Generation Free & Clear diapers
    • Absorbant, no harsh chemicals, doesn't irritate baby's skin; we opted for these before we dive into cloth diapering once he's big enough for the bumGenius all-in-ones
  • Seventh Generation Free & Clear wipes
    • Soft, non-irritating, gets the job done well
  • Fisher-Price Rock 'n Play
    • This became our go-to solution for naps and to allow Mommy to use both arms, as he'll hang out in this (for a short bit, at least) even while awake; great for post-feedings to reduce gas and reflux
    • TIP: Check resale shops for these! Many parents swear by these but they have a brief shelf life (3 months).
    • TIP: If you're concerned about flat head, we love the Boppy Noggin Nest Head Support for the RNP and swing.
  • Gerber Onesies
    • They really are the best, and Asher lives in these and his sleep-n-plays (someday I'll dress him cute, but Mama ain't got time for that yet)
    • TIP: Those little shoulder folds come in really handy to remove the onesie from the top-down when blowouts occur.
  • Baby mittens
    • Baby nails are razor sharp, so if you plan to breastfeed, you need some protection from their adorable little talons
    • TIP: When you're ready to start clipping baby's nails (we waited three weeks to feel comfortable), I highly recommend the Simba Baby Safety Scissors.
  • Clif Bars
    • When you gather your supplies to have nearby for your Nursing Nest, I highly recommend including some easy, heathy snacks for those middle of the night feedings when you'll feel ravenous and need some nutrition; also, oats are apparently magic when it comes to breastfeeding, so get you some!

I'm by no means an authority on this whole baby thing, but hopefully these recommendations are helpful in steering you toward some gear that had been super helpful in our home.



My Birth Story: How Our Birth Plan Went Out The Window

It's been a month to the day since we had our baby. Between my notes and those of our doula, we've hopefully still captured the details to faithfully share how it all went down, even weeks later. I will post more as time allows because there's so much to convey every step of the way, but let's start with his arrival...

At 2:30 AM on October 6th -- my official due date -- I woke to a slight cramping feeling in my abdomen. They weren't terribly painful, but for some reason, I knew I should pay attention to them. They didn't last long, but as I laid in bed, I noticed that they seemed to come and go every 10 minutes or so. Circa 4:00 AM, the cramping became more intense and I started shivering. At this point, Michael woke and asked if I was OK. I tried to play it off, but as soon as he asked, "Do you think these are contractions?" I was fairly certain that labor had begun. (I didn't have a ton of Braxton-Hicks, but I was surprised that my actual contractions actually felt quite different from those "practice" ones. The real deal reminded me more of your run-of-the-mill PMS cramps, actually.) I started keeping track of things on my phone, just in case, as the hours and minutes quickly started to blur...which would be true of the entire labor.

Laboring at Home

Around 4:30 AM, we reached out to our amazing doula, Sarah, who advised us to get some rest and try taking a bath. I got in the tub and tried to relax a bit, but it was admittedly hard with the nervous excitement I was experiencing. By 8:00 AM, I was still having sporadic contractions, but I started feeling some back pain as well. Sarah was concerned about baby's position potentially contributing to the back pain, and advised that we call our chiropractor. We reached out to our wonderful chiro team at New Beginnings Family Chiropractic, who were totally ready for our call (I went twice a week the few months leading up to my due date), and by 9:00 AM we had Dr. Crisp at the house attempting to help baby turn, as she also suspected he was posterior. (Everyone made it seem like breech was the only less-than-optimal position, so I had no idea what I was in for. But back labor...yeah, they should put a warning on that shiz.) Shortly before her arrival, the pain was getting pretty intense, and I even vomited. (Throwing up while contracting should be illegal. Not fun at all, and I braced myself for the long road ahead given that things were already a little less magical than anticipated.)

When I had my bloody show around 10:00 AM, M reached out again to Sarah. (Side note: for those of you who are preggers and concerned you won't know when you pass your mucus plug...trust, you'll know.) Just before noon, she arrived to find me laboring in the dark den and sipping Gatorade. I took a shower to try to get some relief to my back, but that didn't help much. Things were starting to get more intense, and while I was focusing on my breathing, the pain was mounting already. 

Heading to the Birth Center

We arrived at the Fort Worth Birth Center at 2:30 PM, and while I was relieved to learn that I was 100% effaced, baby was in fact posterior (ROP, in fact) and I was only 2 cm at this point...12 hours in, if you're counting. To help with positioning, I was sent to the chiro office for more adjustments. After 4 hours of adjustments, I was finally contracting normally, back labor let up, and baby had flipped to anterior. I went ahead and agreed to therapeutic rest at the birth center at this point (around 7:30 PM), and because I was still only 2 cm, we were sent home for the night. 

Without spoiling the rest, I will at least say that therapeutic rest was the first intervention to which I agreed outside of our anticipated birth plan, but it would certainly not be the last. We wanted a drug-free delivery at the birth center, and anticipated a relatively-quick, straightforward L&D in our cozy little bubble. Everyone kept saying to stay flexible and just be prepared for the unexpected, and they're so right...

By 11:00 PM on the 6th, we reached back out to our doula, as we were all now in our respective homes under orders from the midwives to rest. But I couldn't rest. Contractions were still sporadic, but more intense. Baby had flipped back to posterior, and I was miserable. Sarah came back over at 12:30 AM that morning (Friday the 7th), bless her heart, and helped us track the contractions to approximately every 3 minutes. She had me doing the Miles circuit and walking around at 3:00 AM, and by 4:00 I was back in bed. But I still couldn't sleep. With every contraction, I had to wake up M and ask him to press firmly on my lower back. (Yes, the extreme pain in my tailbone was back in full force at this point.)

The midwives had asked us to come back for a check-up on Friday morning, so I was relieved to be back there by 10:00 AM that day. Unfortunately, I was only 3-4 cm after over 30 hours of labor thus far. They went ahead and admitted me to the birth center given how long I had been going at that point, and I agreed to some nitrous to help me (hopefully) get some progress despite the pain. I was laying in the bed with the peanut ball, rolling from side to side, hoping he'd move. No dice. By noon I was bouncing on the birth ball, hooked up to a pump for stimulation, and taking herbs every 15 minutes in an attempt to move things forward. I squatted, I walked around, I attempted to keep down Saltines and Gatorade (since I hadn't eaten anything in over 24 hours at this point...because I wanted to die, let's be honest). We tried it all, but I was still scarcely at 4 cm. 

M's family came to the birth center to pray over me during this time, and I honestly barely remember them coming by. I was so exhausted and trying to get past the seemingly endless pain in my tailbone. There is no pain like that, and it's unrelenting nature was wearing me down.

Heart-to-Heart Time

The midwives and my birth team powwowed around 4:00 PM on Friday -- 38 hours in -- to determine next steps. I still wasn't progressing, and I was losing steam fast. We discussed all the options, and as hard as it was to admit, I knew that transferring to the hospital at this point was probably the smartest move. I was so tired and miserable, so M being the awesome husband and coach that he is made the call: we would transfer to the hospital for help. It broke my heart that our labor was going so completely against plan, and here we were heading to the hospital, but M and Sarah both got right in my face and reminded me that this was still our choice, and that dealing with prodromal labor was a perfectly good reason to accept help when it's available. 

This was the first of many moments in this journey that was so incredibly humbling. I admittedly thought I had this whole baby thing figured out given all the classes we took, books we read, and general knowledge I thought I had acquired. I had strong opinions, and I couldn't wait to tell our birth story, replete with rainbows and unicorns and the light of a million fairies. God knew better, and I can repeat the words I said before our experience -- "All that matters is that the baby gets here...doesn't matter how" -- but I actually mean them now. 


By 5:00 PM on the 7th, we were admitted at the hospital. They gave me fluids via IV since I was so dehydrated and weak. At 7:30 PM, the anesthesiologist arrived, almost got punched in the face by my beloved (bedside manner fail), but he delivered the epidural.

Yes, that's right, this mama, who fiercely desired an all-natural birth, opted for drugs. I would have given anything to have avoided that route, but I don't regret my decision. As soon as it kicked in, I could breathe. I could eat. I could smile. I could rest. I desperately needed that to be able to finish out the whole giving birth thing, and I'm so thankful for the access to that help.

I finally slept for a bit, but still wasn't progressing much. Just before 10:00 PM, my midwife recommended breaking my water to hopefully move things along (since I had been in labor for almost 45 hours now), and I reluctantly agreed. I knew something had to give, and at this point, the interventions just started stacking up. I instantly jumped to 6 cm when she broke my water, but we didn't take long to celebrate as the news of meconium instantly had us concerned (though not surprised). The baby's heart rate took a dip at that point, but we were able to get me repositioned and it came back up. 

For the next few hours, I rested. Finally. I only woke up when the nurse gently helped me reposition on the peanut ball, and I couldn't believe that I didn't feel a single thing as contractions progressed. (That epidural was legit, y'all. I felt nothing. Zero.)

At 12:30 AM on Saturday the 8th, our sweet nurse Ali woke me to tell me it was time to start pushing. I was 10 cm and +1 station. I couldn't believe it! The last bit progressed so quickly, and because I was sleeping, it felt like they had just broken my water. But, again, we were on L&D time, so everything felt like a half hour. So bizarre.

Time to Push

My awesome midwife Meagan (who was thankfully able to catch the baby even at the hospital) advised that it was time to practice pushing, which I realized later was an incredibly honest way to put it. She needed to see me push to determine if I would be able to do it well with the epidural. As expected, I was too drugged to effectively push, so they turned off the epidural. This, friends, is when I lost my s*#@. The pain returned with a vengeance, all to my back, reminding me that even though I hadn't felt it, my body had still been doing all that hard work. I thrashed about, sobbing, crying out to God, and insisted they do something to help me. It felt like my back was breaking, over and over. They brought in some nitrous and restarted the epidural drip on a lower setting. Baby's bp fluctuated a bit at this point, and we narrowly escaped having to use an internal monitor, but I got oxygen with the nitrous to help stabilize things. The gas helped take the edge off, but made me so sleepy. 

Nevertheless, I eventually figured out how to effectively push, and reaching down at one point at my midwife's encouragement to feel baby's head progressing was really helpful. We were finally on a roll and getting this baby out! I played tug of war with a sheet with several folks to help me push better, and finally, at 5:21am on October 8th, he was here...

Our precious son, Asher James, took 51 hours (+40 weeks) to get here, but he was worth every single moment. I never could have imagined the sheer volume of interventions and compromises that we would have to make to get him here, but it has been such a powerful reminder that I am not in control, and that things don't always go as planned.  But there's joy to be had regardless.

I am so thankful for our amazing birth team who helped us navigate the journey leading up to Asher's arrival, and I can't say enough about how incredible my husband was throughout. I can't imagine that was easy to endure, and he was right there with me every second, so I know it was arduous for him too. But it takes such things to forge a family, and I'm so blessed by mine. 


Ladies, We Can't Have It All...And That's OK

This post has been percolating in my heart and mind for a while now. Even though we're still a few weeks away from Little Nugget's arrival, I'm already undergoing some pretty drastic changes as I enter into motherhood. It's mostly wonderful and life-changing in absolutely amazing ways. But sometimes it's also tough, it's a struggle, and it's unexpectedly sad.

I've Arrived

I grew up with a very blue collar upbringing, which is not to say that I was lacking for anything. I say that with pride, in fact. Both of my parents worked very hard, they worked with their hands, and they wore jeans. I know that sounds weird, but you get my point. I didn't come from a family of suit-wearers. I was the first in my family to graduate from college. We had two family businesses that my folks ran like champs, and my brother and I got to witness hard work front and center, every day. It wasn't always dignified and it certainly wasn't often fun, but it was invaluable and deeply ingrained in me a work ethic that I appreciate more and more with every new job and life lesson I see play out.

That being said, it was recently that I had one of those self-reflecting moments where I felt like I had finally arrived, career-wise. It couldn't have been more than a year ago, and I don't even remember the exact moment it dawned on me, but I came to the realization that I had made it. 

I was in Colorado for one of my monthly visits to the headquarters of the start-up for which I worked. I looked up for a second and took in the sight of this little girl, looking very grown up and very polished. My nails were manicured, my venti Starbucks was in hand, my handbag was chic, my outfit was a tasteful mix of tailored blazer and hemmed denim, and I walked with the confidence of a young woman who fully owned her VP title. In some ways, I felt like I was playing dress up, but when I attended subsequent meetings and unabashedly shared my two cents on the matter and helped mold our collective company, it was clear that I was actually contributing something. My voice mattered, and I was someone who people many years my senior were trusting to own my job fully.

A Shift in Perspective with my Morning Cup

Fast forward to just a few weeks ago when I got a fresh dose of perspective. I walked across the street to the Starbucks from the hourly writing gig that I took mid-summer to earn some form of income in the wake of the official news that our start-up had stalled out. As much as I enjoyed tackling a new post as web copywriter, it was a total lifestyle shift for me. I went from working out of my home (when not in Colorado) to working in an office again; I went from an impressive salary to a wage that I made circa post-college graduation; I went from dressing like an executive to dressing like a college student (which, to be fair, wasn't all bad on the mornings that I felt too pregnant to muster more than jeans and a t-shirt). I'm less complaining and more so trying to convey that it has been a far bigger shift than I think I've really processed. But life happens, and bills need to be paid, so there you go.

Back to the coffee shop...

I'm waiting for my venti coconut milk latte at the counter at Starbucks -- and I'll mention that it was a venti only because it was the one morning out of the month on which a local bank covers coffee orders for all the local folks who work in the area, which is decidedly awesome and one of my favorite days of the month -- when I looked over and saw a young woman, looking ever so chic and professional, about my same age. She was wearing a beautiful sheath dress under a stylish blazer, simple jewelry, a tasteful ponytail, and her hands were beautifully manicured in a soft pink. We briefly made eye contact, and for a moment, I wanted to cry.

The very next moment, however, I smiled and let it soak in. I fully immersed myself in the reality of where I was, where I had been, and where I was going. There I was, 8+ months pregnant, waiting for my free coffee with far too much excitement, and realizing that a new season was upon me. 

A Season for Everything...

My arrival as a career woman -- or at least my perception of such -- had come and gone, and here I am on the cusp of...gosh, I hardly know. I imagine it'll consist of sleepless nights, sweatpants, sippy cups, and a ridiculous amount of time spent staring at a tiny human. 

I'd love to tell you that I've only looked forward with excitement and joy, but that wouldn't be the whole truth. I mean, it's absolutely true that I feel like the luckiest woman in the world to get to be Mommy to this Baby Boy, to M's son. But I've also looked back at the past -- near as it may be, relatively speaking -- and I'm mourning a bit. There's nothing to say that I'll never again dress nice, travel, or have a career-type role, but I have to imagine it will come with race cars stuffed into my Louis Vuitton, shorter nails so I don't scratch at bath time, and holding back tears as I try to enjoy being wined-and-dined because I'm away from my child(ren).

Because here's the thing: we can't have it all. We can't do all the things because we're split as women. Split between being a good wife, a good mom, a good colleague...and any one of those roles is a full-time gig. I'm not saying in the slightest that men don't also have these seasons of change and identity-crises, but I do know what it is to be a woman who just wants to do it all. And I can't. 

And you know what? That's just going to have to be OK.


Second & Third Trimester Favorites

Circa 2nd Trimester Bump
Way back when, I shared my First Trimester Favorites. It's been almost five months to the day since that post, and I figured it's high time I share my second and third trimester favorites before Baby Boy makes his arrival. I'm combining second trimester and third trimester because let's be honest, I can't remember one week from the next, much less when these officially became clutch in my book.

Also, you get no cute Pinterest worthy graphic this time because 36 WEEKS PREGNANT.

This Little Girl's Late Pregnancy Must-Haves

Maternity Jeans

Even though I did splurge on a Maternity Stitch Fix earlier in the pregnancy, I otherwise decided that I would spend very little on clothes during this whole ordeal. I have a hard enough time shopping for clothes for myself when I'm in shape, so it was a no brainer to just stretch my wardrobe (literally) as much as possible. One thing I did buy and have zero regrets about is a pair of maternity denim with a full panel waist. I tried on several styles, and some just downright confused me. The ones with the little stretchy notch and button waist? Who are those fitting? Because, no. I did, amazingly enough, find a total winner at Old Navy. Their Full-Panel Skinny Jeans were perfect and have held up beautifully for my whole pregnancy. I wear them all the time, which you can't beat for under $40!

Sippy Cup (Ahem...Water Bottle with Straw)

We are no stranger to Hydro Flasks around our house, and I blame M. They're really awesome products and my 16-ouncer gets a ridiculous amount of play keeping my coffee hot on a daily basis (albeit still decaf these days...Hey, remember caffeine?). M surprised me with a 40-ounce Hydro Flask water bottle when we got our walking orders from the birth coach to drink 120+ ounces of water per day. It sounds like a lot, but once I added the straw top, I found that it wasn't difficult at all, especially given how cool water stays in these bad boys. This is a Mama Must-Have in my book.

Epsom Salt Baths

I am no stranger to epsom salt baths, especially when coupled with my beloved Young Living Essential Oils. However, they have taken on a new level of divine goodness the more preggers I get. Every time I sink into a warm tub, it's like a long-awaited hug and it's beyond wonderful. It was this very feeling that convinced me to labor and deliver in the water, assuming all continues to go well to allow that to happen.* Not only are these baths incredibly therapeutic, but the relaxation and temporary break from feeling so very heavy is heaven. Mamas, get you some QBT (Quality Bath Time). But bear in mind, you may need a spotter.

Husband-Coached Child Birth

I read a lot of books during my pregnancy, and most were really helpful, but one that stood out was Husband-Coached Child Birth by Dr. Robert Bradley. We read this one during the course of taking Bradley Method classes, which I honestly cannot rave about enough. The book can get borderline preachy, but the dude developed the method and wrote about it, so he's got a pass. If you're considering natural childbirth, I highly recommend taking a class locally (you can find them on the Bradley site). I wouldn't consider the book a replacement because I love the live interaction of a class and getting to hear the perspective of an instructor who has actually been through natural L&D, but it's a great supplement and provides additional detail that I found beneficial and helped M and I both feel really prepared for what lies ahead.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Quest Bars

Since part of being a good Bradley student means following Dr. Brewer's pregnancy diet for optimal nutrition, I had to do some serious work to up my protein intake. I'm a vegetarian and notoriously roll my eyes at the "How do you get your protein?" question, but getting up to 80 grams per day was no joke. I started eating fish a few years ago (so yes, technically I'm a lacto-ovo pescatarian, but how annoying does that sound?), so we eat a lot of salmon up in here, which has been a great source of protein and omegas. But when I started working in an office again and crazy life got the best of me, Quest Bars became my new BFF. My brother turned me on to them and the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ones are my jam. 21 grams of protein per bar? Yes please, and thank you.

I've got more maternity/pre-natal posts up my sleeve as things crank down a bit in anticipation of Little Nugget's arrival, so be on the lookout for those. I can't believe we're just a little over 3 weeks away from his due date! So excited to share this next chapter with y'all...

*We were initially going to deliver in a hospital under midwife care, but decided a few months back that a birth center was more conducive to the L&D experience for which we were shooting. I'll probably elaborate on that more one of these days.