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.

1 month old!

Our little Nico turned one month old a few days ago. It feels like it was just yesterday and also a lifetime ago that he was born. Sometimes we just look at him and feel like we should pinch ourselves, because he doesn't feel real yet.

Month one brought a ton of growth: Nico was born at just 6 lbs 7 oz and was drowning in his teeniest newborn outfit when we brought him home from the hospital, and at his one month appointment he was a whopping 9 lbs 2 oz and that very outfit is too small for him (my mama heart can't even handle it). We're lucky because he's been an amazing eater and sleeper from day one. He latched on immediately and gained weight so rapidly that our pediatrician told us to let him sleep vs. waking him up at night. He only wakes up one time per night to feed, and while I'm sure he'll regress at some point, we're fully embracing his amazing sleeping habits while they last (he gets his love of sleeping from me). He's calm and sweet natured (he gets that one from his papa), and completely melts us inside whenever he smiles or makes eye contact with us. We're fully obsessed with his little wrinkled old man forehead, soft teeny feet, dimpled chin, and fuzzy head of hair.

It feels like such a huge milestone to reach a month (we kept him alive!). And I'm so insanely proud of him for growing, but I'm already nostalgic for this teeniest phase, when he snuggles up on our chests for hours and needs us for everything. I guess I can finally understand how parents can spend the entire day just staring at their babies and kids. xoxo

Nico's Nursery

We moved into our house in October 2016, and the back room quickly became the dumping ground for all of the furniture that didn't quite fit into any other room. Designing the nursery finally gave us the motivation we needed to clean out the old furniture (side note: Lucas is a pro at selling things on Craigslist) and turn that space into a cozy room for our new baby.
Even though I always lean towards using neutrals throughout our house, designing a gender neutral space was tougher than I thought it would be. I wanted the room to feel appropriate for a baby while still feeling cohesive with the rest of our house. I tried to achieve the look by sticking to more neutral tones: greys, tans, and whites, and then layering in some pops of color with kid-centric items like stuffed animals and books.
I've always loved Sharon Montrose's baby animal print series, but when it came time to actually choose one, I had a really tough time narrowing it down (they're all so damn cute). Luckily Lucas took an immediate liking to the baby wolf print, so that made it easy. I also loved the look of this handmade brass mobile to tie into the other brass accents we use throughout our house.
We decided to save on certain furniture items, like our side table from Homegoods and our crib from Babyletto (I really wanted the Oeuf crib but couldn't justify spending the money on it). We splurged on items that we will use for years to come, like this custom glider and dresser.
Nico, we love you so much. We hope you love your little space. xoxo

Wallpaper: Serena & Lily, Crib: Babyletto Hudson Crib, Dresser: Land of Nod, Glider: Pottery Barn Kids, Book shelves: Ikea, Side table: Homegoods (similar here), Mobile: Etsy,  Crib sheet: Burt's Bees, Baby gym: Land of Nod, Sheep skin throw: Ikea, Curtains: Ikea, Curtain rods: CB2, Curtain rings: Amazon, Basket: Homegoods (similar here), Changing basket: Olli Ella, Pouf: old from Anthropologie (similar here), Wolf print: Animal Print Shop, Hello Sunshine print: Rifle Paper Co, Rainbow stacker: Amazon, Moccasins: Freshly Picked, Planters: Target

All photos by Jessica Kay.

Introducing: Nicolas "Nico" James Puente

Our first family picture, which still makes me weepy whenever I see it.

This is the longest I've gone without writing a blogpost since I started this personal blog 10 (!) years ago in my college bedroom. I started writing in it to document my experiences and it still comes in handy when I want to remember a recipe or places I went while traveling. But I failed to document some of the most amazing experiences with my friends and trips of my life over the last few years: Mexico, Thailand, Italy, Tanzania, Hawaii, South Africa, and more. I've already forgotten some of the life changing things I did on those trips and I regret it. The truth is that work and life got in the way, and when I did remember, it always felt like an arbitrary time to pick it back up. And blogging is such an eyeroll inducing hobby now that it felt ridiculous to add one more amateur blog to the mix.

Nico melting my heart from Day 1.

But having a babe was the kick in the butt that I needed to return to this online journal of sorts. Not because I want to be the next mommy blogger (did I miss the boat on turning blogging into a career because that would be cool too, TBH...), but because I never want to forget these days and I want to share my experiences and learnings in motherhood with my family and friends, many of whom are far away. So I've learned my lesson, and I'll be back! xoxo