Weekend in Santa Cruz

One of the best parts about living in San Francisco is the close proximity to so many weekend destinations, like Tahoe, Napa, Sonoma, Carmel, and Santa Cruz. We spent the weekend at our friends' house in Santa Cruz, which is about 1.5 hours from SF. Their house is steps from Pleasure Point, which is Lucas's favorite surf spot, so we spent the weekend snuggling babies, drinking wine, and surfing (him, not me!).
Our friend, Derek, took his 4 year old out to ride the waves, and I could see how excited Lucas was about taking Nico out in a few years.
Some of our local favorite SC spots are:
  • Verve - local coffee chain - Verve has recently expanded across California to San Francisco and LA, but the coffee shop originates in Santa Cruz. We always walk to the location on 41st Ave for coffee, kouign amanns, and the world's best avocado toast.
  • Zameen - lunch and dinner spot - Zameen has great chicken and rice bowls and greek salads. 
  • Penny Ice Creamery - local ice cream shop - Penny's has inventive flavors like salted butter toffee and cardamom pistachio.
  • Patine - home boutique - an adorable home goods store with vintage French linens and antiques. You can also find their booth at the Alameda Flea Market every month.
  • Sawyer Land + Sea Supply - local surf shop - Santa Cruz has no shortage of surf shops, but Sawyer is my favorite. It's a hipster shop with curated selection of clothes, books, and surf gear for surfers and non-surfers alike.

What we packed in our hospital bag

Towards the end of my pregnancy, I started researching what to pack in our hospital bag. I think there was so much out of my control, especially when I was playing the waiting game towards the end, that it felt good to be able to prepare in a small way. Despite living a short 7 minute drive from the hospital, I did a ton of research about what to pack. Just like everyone warned me, most of the stuff I brought turned out to be completely useless, but I was really happy with certain things. Here's my $0.02:

1. An extra bag for all the swag: The hospital sends you home with a ton of stuff - diapers, wipes, vaseline, medicine, a sitz bath, witch hazel, pads, and more. My parents had to bring me a bag to carry it all home in, so next time I'll definitely pack an extra bag to stow away all of the free stuff.

2. Hairdryer: I'm sure everyone's experience is different, but I was really happy that I packed a hairdryer and curling iron. When I was in labor / hooked up to an IV, I couldn't shower, so I was itching to feel clean and human again after ~12 hours in the delivery room + being covered in all of the bodily fluids that labor and a newborn bring (ha). I delivered Nico in the late afternoon, and then we spent a few hours in the delivery room and finally landed in our postpartum room around 6 pm. I ate dinner, fed Nico, and then had the best night of sleep of my entire life. The next morning, my mom came to the hospital and helped me shower and fix my hair. I felt like a new person, and even though I was still bloated and sore, it was nice to feel a little more like myself.

3. Dark nightgown + robe: They put me in a hospital gown the moment I checked into the hospital and with the postpartum bleeding, I really didn't feel like wearing anything else for the first day. But by day 2, I was ready to wear something a little less bulky, and I was super happy to have a black nightgown and lightweight robe (I also packed navy PJs, but it was easier to breastfeed in a gown). I have an Eloise gown and robe Anthropologie (wearing it in the pictures here!), but I don't think that brand still exists? I also love the Eberjey gowns and robes. Target also sells nursing gowns, so you don't have to wear a nursing bra underneath.

4. Our pillows: This might be the best thing Lucas and I packed. I was SO happy to have my memory foam pillow to sleep on. I'm not kidding when I say that I had the best night of sleep after delivering Nico. Even with the nurses bringing him in every 2-3 hours to feed, I still slept like a rock in between those feedings and having my own pillow was a huge part of that. 

5. Water bottle: I was SO thirsty the entire time I was in the hospital. The hospital obviously provided cups (side note: I was surprised that the hospital used these deli containers as cups) but I was happy to have my own large water bottle with a straw to prop up in the bed while I was breastfeeding Nico.

6. Slippers or slipper socks: The nurses encouraged me to walk the halls as much as possible, so I was grateful to have my slipper socks. The hospital actually provided some too, but mine were warmer and had better grips for walking on the slippery floors.

7. Makeup + Toiletries: The hospital only provided a basic bar of soap, so I packed my own toiletries. I only packed the essentials: some light makeup, shampoo, conditioner, face wash, moisturizer, lip balm, and body lotion, but I was so happy to have them. Side note: having my lip balm was the best thing ever. Hospitals are so dry, so I was constantly reapplying. I also wish we'd packed a nail file, because Nico's nails were long and sharp when he was born. I had to send my dad out to Walgreens for a nail file, so next time I'll tuck one away in my toiletry kit.

8. Nursing bra: I bought a few nursing bras, but I brought along this soft one from Target to the hospital. It felt like I was nursing around the clock, but we had a lot of visitors, including my dad, so I liked having a little coverage and support.

9. Camera: We brought along our nicer DSLR to take pictures.

10. Speaker: Lucas made a few Spotify playlists for us to listen to on our UE Boom. Wifi and cell reception were spotty, at best, but thankfully he pre-downloaded some of the music.

11. Chargers: We brought along chargers for all of our devices. This was one of the things we almost forgot, because we couldn't pre-pack them. Luckily we grabbed them at the last minute, because we definitely did a lot of FaceTime sessions with our relatives from the hospital.

12. Laptop: We didn't have a ton of spare time (I was surprised by how busy our time at the hospital was) but while I was on my Pitocin IV and waiting to fully dilate, we did watch Jeopardy on Lucas's laptop (nerd alert) to keep my mind off of things.

13. Going home outfit for the baby: We brought 2-3 outfits in different sizes (premie, newborn, and 0-3 months) because we weren't sure how big he would be. We also packed a hat, because babies lose all of their body heat through the tops of their heads, and Nico was born in the heart of winter.

14. Boppy pillow: I was really glad to have our Boppy at the hospital. Nico was a little guy, weighing only 6 lbs, 7 oz, but those hospital feeds last for 30 minutes, and my arms became really sore, especially because I was still pretty weak from labor. I was happy to have the pillow to alleviate some of the pressure on my arms and back.

14. Carseat: We installed the base of the carseat before heading to the hospital. We found it really complicated (amateur hour!), so we made an appointment with the California Highway Patrol to show us the ropes. Right before checking out, we loaded him into the seat (it was tricky to figure it out) and the nurses dispatched us. It was a breeze to snap the seat into the car since we already had the base installed.

That's it - next time, one small overnight bag will do just fine. Our postpartum room was really small, so there wasn't a ton of room for bulky bags, and we sent a lot of stuff home with my parents at night. I read lots of what to bring lists, and in my opinion, these are things you DON'T need include: snacks, swaddles and blankets, a breast pump, pads, diapers, wipes, breast pads, towels, or any other clothes. Take advantage of all of the free stuff the hospital will provide.


2 months old!

Nico turned 2 months old a few days ago. Our little Bub measured in at 23 inches and 11 lbs 2.5 oz during his 2 month check up. We embarrassingly have super sore arms these days from carrying his chunky self around all the time. He's still a little guy but totally happy and healthy. 

Month 2 brought on a lot of new things for Nico. Lucas's parents were in town for 10 days, so Nico finally got to meet his paternal grandparents. Lucas went back to work, which has been a big adjustment for all of us, but the bright spot is that it's allowed Nico to get into more of a sleep routine. He's still an amazing sleeper (hoping he doesn't have a regression!), but now he has a bit more structure. He's now sleeping through the night most nights, clocking anywhere from 8-11 hours straight, and he's started taking some naps in his crib during the day. 

He's cooing and laughing and kicking (his favorite activity!). He's also developed a ton of FOMO and loves being around us when he's awake, which we secretly love. And he's still just super chill, sweet, and a total joy. 

Nico's Birth Story

In mid-December, we were on pins and needles waiting for Nico to arrive. I didn’t have any idea what to expect and I spent the last days of my pregnancy reading the final chapters of Expecting Better and every Internet forum I could find trying to anticipate what would happen. Would my labor be long or short? Would my water break on its own or would I be induced? Should I eat something special to kickstart labor?

Lucas was super prepared (he read parenting books, he scoured Amazon product reviews to find the best stuff, he looked into not-so-fun topics like wills and trusts), but for some reason I had a hard time prepping and wrapping my head around having a baby for most of my pregnancy. Maybe it was out of fear of actually going through labor, or maybe it was because we chose not to find out whether we were having a boy or girl, which made the entire concept of having a baby almost abstract for me until the end. The final month, though, brought nightly kicks, bouts of baby hiccups, and intense heartburn, which made the baby feel like such a little human and it all became super real.

I am lucky to have really great maternity leave and benefits, at least by American standards. I was on paid parental leave starting 1 month before my due date, so that gave me some time to finally prepare myself and our house for a baby. I definitely started to feel the nesting feelings that new moms describe (even if it took me a while to get there), so I spent that last month finishing up the nursery, washing all of the clothes, ordering tons of stuff from Amazon, lining up dinner dates with all of my friends, and taking spin and pilates classes to physically and mentally prepare myself for labor. 

My parents arrived a few days ahead of my due date and that really made labor feel imminent. My due date arrived, but I was still only having small contractions here and there. I went to SoulCycle every day to try to kickstart natural labor, since induction carries some small risks. I had an OB-GYN appointment the day after my due date. I was only 2 cm dilated, so my doctor suggested doing a membrane stretch to induce natural labor. 
My last pregnancy pic, snapped after a SoulCycle class the day I went into labor. My belly was huge and super firm at the end.
We set up an induction for the next morning, Wednesday, December 20th, just in case the membrane stretch and exercise didn’t kickstart my labor. My doctor was heading out on vacation a few days later, and the hospital doesn’t schedule inductions on weekends or on holidays, so my next opportunity would be more than a week later. Since my mom and dad were there to help us out and I really wanted my doctor to be the one to deliver the baby, I opted to go ahead and induce, despite the small risks. The baby was super low in my pelvis, and since I was already 2cm dilated, that lowered the chances of any complications.

It ended up being a moot issue because my water broke that night while I was hanging on the couch waiting to eat dinner. At first I thought I peed my pants a little (an unfortunate reality of being almost 10 months pregnant), but then realized what happened (duh). I called my doctor’s after-hours line because I wasn’t really having major contractions. The nurse on call advised me to head in to the hospital anyway, because my amniotic sac was no longer protecting the baby. 

My mom and dad finished making dinner right before my water broke, so after speaking to the nurse, I sat down for dinner before gathering my hospital bag. I’m so happy that I ate, because once they started me on Pitocin later that night, I wasn’t allowed to eat again. I packed my stuff (side note: I had no idea that once your water breaks, it keeps leaking, and I had absolutely no pads on hand, so I had to send Lucas out to the corner market…) and then my dad drove us to the hospital.

We checked in to an empty waiting room (I’d heard horror stories of this hospital filling up all of its delivery rooms and being sent home until one opened up), and they immediately took me back to an intake room. They hooked me up to monitors, put me in a hospital gown, and inserted my IV. My contractions were still only 8 minutes apart, but they sent me upstairs to a delivery room anyway. At this point it was around 11:00 PM and we were all pretty tired (especially my parents, who were still on east coast time).

My parents left for the night and Lucas and I settled in to sleep. The doctor on call advised that I start Pitocin around 1:00 AM, so my nurse added it to my IV and we went back to sleep. I woke up around 3:30 AM with some contractions, and my nurse offered to go ahead and start my epidural. I was debating whether or not to get the epidural or start with some minor pain meds (like Tylenol) when the person in the next room over went into labor. It honestly sounded like an exorcism - like her fingernails were getting torn off - so I decided to go ahead and get the epidural. :) 

The anesthesiologist inserted the epidural and I felt immediate relief. A few minutes later, though, I started feeling really short of breath. We called the nurse and anesthesiologist back in, and they did a few tests with an alcohol swab to see if I felt a cold sensation, and they determined the epidural anesthesia had expanded too high in my chest, so they spent the next few hours regulating it, until it was finally under control.

We got a few hours of sleep and then my parents arrived back to the hospital. I remember feeling so relieved to see them, and especially my mom. It was just really comforting having my mom there, who has been through birth 3 times and the only person there who could really sympathize with what I was going through.

From there, it was basically a waiting game. We watched Jeopardy, my nurse checked how dilated I was every few hours, and my doctor came by to see me. It took me a while to get from 2 cm to 4 cm dilated, but once I reached 4 cm dilated in the morning, it progressed pretty quickly. 

By around noon, I was 8 cm dilated, but I started feeling some pretty painful contractions and it almost felt like the baby was coming out and I wouldn’t be able to stop it. They tried to adjust my epidural levels, but the pain was getting stronger, so the anesthesiologist suggested that they may need to replace the epidural altogether. He was about to go into another patient's C-section and was unsure whether he’d have time to do it, but I was pretty adamant (Lucas later told me I was basically yelling at him to replace it…whoops). The new epidural a little too strong and I couldn’t feel my legs anymore, but that was better to me than the alternative of feeling all the pain. 

Before I knew it, it was time to start pushing. I was pretty naive going into the hospital, and had no idea how it worked. I started pushing with the on call nurses before my doctor arrived. The monitors I was hooked up to showed when I was having a contraction, which signaled that it was time to push. During each contraction, I pushed 3 times for 10 seconds each. 

Every time I pushed, the baby’s heart rate dropped. My doctor arrived and it became apparent that she was pretty concerned about the heart rate falling, and she switched into emergency mode. She quickly outlined a plan where I’d push a few times, and then if that didn’t work, she was going to deliver the baby through vacuum suction or emergency c-section. I kept pushing and the crown of his little head was poking through; my mom and the nurses kept commenting on how much hair he had. The heart rate was falling too quickly, though, so my doc ultimately performed an episiotomy because my perineum was too tight to deliver the baby and she needed to get him out quickly. It turns out the umbilical cord was wrapped around his little neck 3 times and his body 2 times, which was causing the complications. 
Hello, world!
My doctor told me to push as she performed the episiotomy, and he was born 5 seconds later. They laid him on my chest, and the next few minutes were a complete blur. I remember crying and just looking down at him and up at Lucas. It was so overwhelming that I didn’t even think to look or ask whether it was a boy or girl for a few minutes. He started latching on and feeding right away, and I kept asking “Is he okay? Is he okay?” because he was so teeny and quiet. I just pictured him screaming more, but he was so calm and thoughtful looking. I don’t even remember delivering the placenta or being stitched up, because I was in a complete daze. I later realized that thanks to our doctor’s expertise and quick decision-making, everything ended up totally fine with Nico. Thankfully, all of his measurables and tests (including his oxygen level) came back completely normal, but it was really scary for a few minutes. I guess that was my first time experiencing true worry as a parent.
My first pic with our little guy.
Our little guy, Nicolas “Nico” James Puente, was born on December 20, 2017, named after his paternal uncle and his maternal grandfather. He weighed in at 6 lbs 7 oz and was 20” long (long and lean, just like his Papa).

I’ll never forget the wave of emotions I felt that day - overwhelming love for my baby and my husband, such a strong appreciation for my own parents and how much they must love me, and just being in a total state euphoria from the entire experience. Nico, we all love you so much, buddy. 

Here are a few more snaps from our magical few days at the hospital:

DIY: creating a gallery wall in our living room

Gallery walls are really beautiful when they're executed well, but more often than not, they look like a hodgepodge of frames that don't quite work together. In the past, I've tried to pull from whatever frames I happen to have on hand, and it always misses the mark. This time around, I decided to be a little more thoughtful and plan out my entire gallery wall beforehand, so I could avoid nailing 1000 holes in my wall along the way. I'm pretty happy with the outcome for once, so here are my steps for creating a gallery wall in the least frustrating way possible:

Step 1: choose a color scheme that works for your art / your home:
Lucas inherited some really great black and white prints from his Cuban grandparents, so I decided to create a neutral gallery wall so we could put those on display. We also use a lot of neutrals in our living room, so the black and white color scheme tied in pretty well.

Step 2: create unity and consistency
The prints were framed and matted in a variety of ways when we received them, so I decided to start the framing from scratch in order to create a bit of unity and tie everything together. The prints we received are pretty traditional, so I scoured the internet for some more modern prints to mix it up a bit. I chose 2 framed prints from Minted and 4 framed prints from Artfully Walls. I also decided to reframe the Cuban prints through Framebridge, so I shipped them off to get a facelift.
I created this layout through PowerPoint to test and hone the design.
Step 3: map it out
The nice thing about Framebridge, Artfully Walls, and Minted is that these sites give previews of the final product. Before pressing the "submit order" button, I took screen shots of all of the frames and then layered them on top of a photo of our blank wall. You can do this through Photoshop, but you can also just do it through PowerPoint to make things super easy. I chose more frames than I ultimately needed and then used the layout to organize and refine the design until I was happy with it. 
I laid out all of my frames and tweaked it on the floor before mapping it out on the wall. 
Step 4: lay all frames out on the floor
Once all of my frames were delivered, I tested the design out on the floor. Some of the frames were slightly smaller / larger than I'd anticipated, so I tweaked the design a bit. You'll see that the final product isn't quite the same as the layout I created, but it was close. 
I used painters tape to make an outline of the frames and then checked it out from different angles before I started nailing.
Step 5: use painters tape to avoid insanity
I measured the dimensions of the frames on the floor and then found the center of my wall. From there, I put painters around the edges of each frame and then carefully picked it up and transferred it to the wall. I tweaked the placement on the wall until I was happy with it, and then I started to nail.
Nico posing with the final result!
Step 6: hang your frames
The nice thing about using painters tape is that it's pretty easy to get the design right on your first attempt. I am proud to say I didn't have to re-nail a single time and it looked pretty good the first time. 

Voila! That's it.