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Baby Led Weaning: The First Steps

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Beginning Baby Led Weaning seemed daunting to me at first, but once we got started it was easy as anything. While there are a few different steps and procedures we went through getting started, it really was simple and fun.

We bought our high chair after Ryan’s pediatrician cleared him to start solids at his 6 month appointment. We knew we needed something that would fit well in our small home, so we chose the Graco Slim Spaces high chair and are really pleased with the decision. The fabric is machine washable, it has a removable tray with two layers, (essentially two stacked trays for lack of a better description.) adjusts to grow with the baby, has an additional pad to support him when he’s smaller, and folds up to fit in small spaces. Essentially, we love it. And in terms of equipment, this the the number one thing you need, and really all you need.

I have found that the easiest way to prep foods for baby is using a steamer basket that is expandable and fits in a normal old pot. Chop up the food into sticks that are the length/width of somewhere between your pinky and your ring finger. Put into the steamer basket and cook up until soft. There are a bunch of different ways people test if the food is cooked and soft enough, such as if you can smush it easily between your pointer and thumb. I have found that if (at first – by now, Ryan can eat a lot of different textures) I can begin to smush or crush it when I push a chunk to the roof of my mouth with my tongue, it’s a perfect texture for little gums.

We started with carrots as our first food. Our pediatrician suggested starting with vegetables, because some babies have a hard time accepting vegetables after they have fruit. (Uhm, I can’t blame them.) As you can see, Ryan was a bit skeptical but he definitely ate and chewed them a bit his first go. At this point, he was shoving everything in his mouth regardless, so I knew the carrot would at least make it that far, but it was fun to see him start to nom it.

The first week or two, Ryan would take a bite or two and stop, and a few other times he wouldn’t bother picking up the food at all. On these days, I mixed a both of traditional solids introduction into the mix. I would smush up the carrot or sweet potato roughly with some breastmilk and put it on a spoon and let him taste it that way. Usually at that point, once he tasted the food he would have a renewed interest in the food and grab a stick and go to town, but other times he was more into the mush. When that happened, I took a different approach.

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We bought these baby spoons made by Gerber. They’re small and long enough for a baby to grab and the ends are great for scraping goo off baby face. I would pre-load three or four of them and hand one to Ryan and lay the others out. With that, he could essentially self-feed with a spoon. I found that I didn’t have to do this past the first few weeks, but it’s a helpful skill he has retained and we now use the same method for things like guacamole and oatmeal.

It’s important to note that most sources recommend spacing out the introduction of different foods by three days – that way, if your child has a negative reaction to something, you can easily figure out what it is. We followed this for the first month and a half or so but eventually we dropped the rule, mostly because I forgot.  Besides Ryan’s MSPI, there are no food allergies in our family so we were confident with our decision. If there are known allergies in your family, I would definitely consult with your pediatrician on how to handle food allergies moving forward.

I think the most important thing to remember is that there is no one plan for how to introduce solids. Do what is right for you, what is right for your lifestyle, what is right for your family. Everyone is different and that is so important to remember, especially as new parents who are confused and just trying to do right by their children. If you follow your gut, you’ll always come out on top.

-Morgan

**The links in this post are Amazon Affiliates links. By clicking on them, you will be taken to the Amazon page for that product. If you purchase, I will get a cut of your purchase, but this will not change your price or buying experience. All opinions of these products are my own and are not influenced by anyone other than myself or my family.

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Why We Chose Baby Led Weaning

In my family, food is the language of love. All of my best memories from my childhood are linked to taste. My mom making special meals for birthdays. The taste of seven fishy dishes on Christmas Eve. A glass of Ovaltine my parents stirred up to ease my nerves the night before I started middle school. Homemade chicken noodle soup when we were sick. My dad’s first attempts at making dinners as a single dad. A big, creamy bowl of ice cream and homemade toppings for dinner on Valentine’s day. All of these have very specific memories of love and adoration linked to them.

When it became time to introduce Ryan to his first foods, I knew that I wanted his relationship with food to reflect our family values in addition to our values on healthy, whole foods. I wanted our son to grow up strong as well as making him feel loved, and I kept this in mind as I started researching how one introduces solids to a breastfed baby.

Ryan's first solids - steamed carrots!

Ryan’s first solids – steamed carrots!

As I’ve mentioned here before, I’ve had no experience with babies, so I’ve been starting from scratch with Ryan. I read a few different things that intrigued me – namely, making my own purees and baby led weaning. With Ryan’s allergy I knew that anything processed would be difficult and/or very expensive. After much research, we chose to introduce solids to our son using the Baby Led Weaning method.

There is a lot of information on the interwebs regarding this method that you can use to make your own decisions about BLW. I’ll put some of the links I found useful below, and I’m going to be posting more about our journey, but we couldn’t be more happy with how this has worked for our family.

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1. The ease of it. The number one reason that we chose BLW is that it seemed SO much easier. Weighing the time and energy required for spoon feeding entire meals worth of purees versus chopping up some food and throwing it on a tray seemed like a no brainer for our family. We really enjoy being able to eat as a family, all at the same time, without having to spend the entire dinner fussing over Ryan. I usually prep a bunch of different things and then pick and choose what to give him for each meal. (My fridge is a battlefield of tupperware containers.) Sometimes we chop things up and put them aside from our dinner prep, which makes it even easier.

2. Some studies show a link to reduced overeating later in life. I was a chubby kid. I was overweight my whole life until I lost 40+ pounds my junior year of college. I still have a tendency to over eat and to eat when I’m not hungry. It’s something I will probably battle my whole life, and I want to do everything in my power to prevent Ryan from having to deal with this. In my research, I found that many children who are introduced to solids using the BLW method are more likely to stop eating when full. This is because they themselves are in control of what they eat. When you feel a baby purees, you can’t be sure if your baby is full or not. When a child is feeding himself, he is able to stop eating when he is full, a trait that will hopefully follow him through his life.

3 It’s so much fun! There are fewer things in this world I find cuter than a 7 month old nomming on a banana. It’s so much fun watching Ryan learn different textures and tastes when he’s eating. He quickly developed favorites and things he wasn’t too fond of, but as with everything else with a baby, those are constantly changing. It’s so fun watching him pick up a piece of sweet potato, inspect it, and happily start chomping on it. Also, he picked up and honed his pincer grip very quickly, and BLW is often credited for enhancing hand-eye coordination and grip.

4. Emphasis on whole foods. In our family, we put a big emphasis on whole foods and clean eating. Yes, Alex and I don’t live by this exclusively and eat outside these guidelines on occasion, but we both agreed we want to keep Ryan on this diet as much as we can. With his diet restrictions being in place until he is 12 months, BLW and being able to chose whole foods and clean eat for our little boy is a necessity.

5. He is in control! With BLW, there is no guessing whether or not Ryan likes something. There is no forcing him to eat something he doesn’t like. Ryan is completely in control of what he eats. Yes, sometimes I have to space things out (like giving him his fruit last – if I give it to him with his whole meal, he will eat nothing but apples!) and sometimes I worry that he won’t be eating enough vegetables/protein/healthy fats etc. but usually at the next meal he’ll even it out. His body craves what it needs and he has the ability to listen to it.

So this is why my family chose Baby Led Weaning. If this seems like something that fits your values or that your family would benefit from, do some more of your own research! Our family loves it and Ryan is thriving on it. Here are some links and blog posts that I found most helpful when first deciding and starting out! Hope this helps, and feel free to reach out to me to ask questions and find out more information!

babyledweaning.com – the original source of BLW and where you should start!
whattoexpect.com – every mom’s first source for all things baby has a great article on BLW
babycenter.com – I found the comments section of this page VERY helpful!
simplebites.com – a great blog post on a BLW experience
ahealthysliceoflife.com – Brittany at A Healthy Slice of Life is a BLW advocate and documents her experience with implementing BLW with her two daughters and she even wrote a book about it!

-Morgan

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MSPI Friendly Restaurants

When I was pregnant with Ryan, Alex and I were living at my MIL’s house to save money for a house of our own. Between wanting to get out just the two of us and my constant cravings we went out to dinner a lot. I would definitely consider ourselves foodies, who love to eat locally and avoid chains. Once Ryan was born, we still wanted to go out, but with Ryan’s allergy it’s a bit difficult. EVERYTHING has soy or milk, it seems, and going somewhere without an allergy menu is like playing Russian Roulette. Did you know that vegetable oil is usually 100% soy oil? I didn’t either, and turns out, a lot of the restaurants I used to frequent didn’t either.

So chains it is! Which is good for you, because that means a few of these are probably near you!

 

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1. Chipotle. My favorite. Like, we go there at least once a week. Like, the manager at our local Chipotle knows our names. Favorite thing about Chipotle? The only things on the no-no list are flour tortillas, cheese and sour cream. Get a bowl, a salad, or corn tortilla tacos and a bag of chips.

My typical order: Carnitas burrito bowl with white rice, black beans. fajita vegetables, mild salsa, corn salsa, and guac. A bag or their lime-y tortilla chips turn it into an awesome dip type meal.

 

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2. Fuddruckers. While buns and fried food are out of the question, (soy oil) their salads are surprisingly awesome. There are a ton of selections and super open to customization. Plus, the toppings bar makes me happy. Unlimited pickles and banana peppers while a I wait? Yes, please.

My typical order: I dig the Bacon and Avocado salad at my local Fudd’s, with added grilled chicken and a substitute of balsamic dressing.

 

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3. Panera Bread. Panera was actually my first job. Its hard to find places that have bread without soy or dairy, and Panera is one of them. Be careful with salad dressing and make sure that you leave cheese off everything.

My typical order: In the summer, I’m all about the strawberry poppy seed chicken salad, and the turkey avocado BLT is available all year long and doesn’t need any modifications to be MSPI safe. Chicken noodle soup in a sourdough bread bowl is a great choice when it’s cold. With each meal you get an option of baguette, kettle cooked chips or an apple all of which are MSPI friendly.

 

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4. Five Guys. Oh, Five Guys, let me count the ways I love thee. Okay, so you can’t have a bun here. (though, I have brought my own once or twice!!!!) You CAN have a bunless burger with whatever you want on it and a TON of fries sine they’re done in peanut oil. And really, isn’t it all about the fries?

My typical order: Bunless burger with grilled onions, lettuce, tomato and bacon and an order of fries. Tons of ketchup and malt vinegar to make it even better.

 

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5. Cheesecake Factory. This is almost a tease since you obviously can’t enjoy a delicious slice of creamy cheesecake, but it’s a good option. Cheesecake Factory has an AMAZING allergy menu that shows you each item and its allergens as well as how to alter a dish to exclude an allergen.

My typical order: Fish and chips without the coleslaw is great, and I love me a good ol’ burger.

 

I’ll keep editing this post as time goes on to include new favorites, but right now this is where we’ve been eating as a family! Do you know of any good allergen friendly spots I should be trying? Let me know in the comments below!

-Morgan

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Milk-Soy Protein Intolerance and Breastfeeding

When I was in middle school, my way of rebelling my parents divorce and my father’s new girlfriend was to become a vegetarian and make everyone’s lives difficult, because I’m a badass like that. For ten years I subsisted on mostly cheese, yogurt, ice cream and variations of these. My favorite romantic memory of  my husband is of a Valentine’s Day when I was in college and he was working night shift. We both came home super late on Tuesday’s and had dinner together, and when i came home that day, the Mechanic had gone to Coldstone early that morning and bought a gallon of my favorite mix to enjoy with homemade whipped cream and tons of sprinkles as dinner. (It’s romantic because he HATES sweets and we’re pretty sure he’s lactose intolerant..) I can be bribed to do almost anything with ice cream, and I have a habit of dipping entire bites of pasta into grated cheese.

So you can imagine that when Ryan was diagnosed with a Milk-Soy Protein Intolerance, I was pretty bummed. Two weeks into having a little baby, Ryan started getting super cranky. At this point, I figured that he was out of his super sleepy, quiet newborn phase, so I brushed it off. He was finally gaining weight, and as a first time mom with little-to-no baby experience, I was unsure that his screaming was anything other than normal.

But his poops never got yellow, and stayed bright green. He started spitting up literal handfuls of milk that I would catch in an effort to keep the mess in on spot. His screaming jaunts continued, and his diapers started to get stringy and mucus-y. It wasn’t until blood started that I Googled and came to a conclusion – this kid had an allergy.

I started with just cutting out milk, and then quickly realized that soy was a problem too, so I cut that out too. Very quickly, he stopped screaming and spitting up, and by his 1 month appointment his diapers were clear. At that same appointment, the doctor confirmed my suspicion.

My choices were stop breastfeeding, which was going extremely well, and go on a milk/soy free formula, or keep breastfeeding and continue on a dairy and soy free diet. I chose to keep breastfeeding, which I am glad I did. (Though I miss ice cream and cheese and eating out with no complications!!) Knowing my child is getting the best I can give him is worth the inconvenience.

I asked Ryan’s pediatrician at his 4 month appointment when we can start trials – eating some soy or dairy and waiting it out. When you look online, you find everything from 3 months to 18 months. Our doctor told us 1 year. According to him, if we wait out the whole year, avoiding contact with soy and dairy, the chances that he has a long-lasting allergy are greatly reduced.

So that’s that! I’ve got at least 8 more months on this diet. I’ve definitely found some work arounds with this diet that I’m planning on sharing. If you have any tips or tricks, please leave them in the comments!

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5 Unexpected New Mom Needs

When I was pregnant, I poured over lists of what a new mom would need. I was afraid of the unexpected- what would I be like postpartum? What would I need? As I’ve said multiple times on this blog, before Ryan was born I’d never even changed a diaper. I’d never had surgery or a major medical problem that needed recuperation other than wisdom teeth removal. Because of this I relied on my old friend Google to help me out.

Most of these lists were the same : giant pads, breast pads, pre-made meals, nursing camis, huge undies. While I drank in all the information I could, I still felt like I was missing things. Was it really possible that all these post-partum women wanted was some loose PJ bottoms and a boppy?

The answer for all of those women who wrote all of those lists may in fact be “yes,” but for me, it simply wasn’t the case. In fact, there were a bunch of things that I didn’t expect or anticipate needing or being extremely thankful to have after Ryan was born. So, all you ladies dying for just a bit more information o what to expect post partum, here you go. My list of Unexpected New Mom Essentials.

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1. A big ol’ cup with a lid and a straw. I got this cup at Target while still pregnant and although everyone made fun of me for carrying around this huge 32 ounce cup, I was so thankful to have it. The first few days (uhh.. weeks?) getting out of bed/off the couch sucks. Either because you’re exhausted, or it hurts each time you sit up, (hello tears..) you’re feeding the baby or the baby FINALLY fell asleep on you, you don’t want to get up. You’re also dying of thirst. All.the.time. So a big cup that can hold a lot of water that is less likely to spill on your sleeping cherubs head with each sip is a godsend. I can also say that there were many times that my loving husband put the straw up to my mouth while I was feeding the baby and afraid to move and ruin the latch..

2. Netflix. If there is one thing I can say you should invest in for your postpartum days, it’s a subscription to Netflix. In fact, I suggest getting it the month before you give birth, when your home a lot more and bored. Being pregnant and subsequently a new mom, you will quickly realize that daytime TV is terrible. I mean terrible. Do yourself a favor and get Netflix to keep yourself entertained while nursing your baby home alone mid-day.

3. Single serving quick food. Yes, frozen meals are nice. Really, they are. But most of the time, I was home by myself while my husband was at work in the first few weeks, and a whole lasagna for one person was a bit of overkill. Thankfully I thought ahead (this never happens..) and made and froze individual bean and cheese burritos, soup, and fried rice that I could quickly heat up while the baby was asleep. I also had a stockpile of peanut butter, microwaveable oatmeal packets, and trail mixes. Things I could eat quickly and with one hand if needed were a lifesaver.

4. Lightweight shelf camis and zip up hoodies. While I bought a few nursing bras prebaby, sometimes they were a pain in the ass to undo and keep out of baby’s face while we were both learning the ropes of breastfeeding. Also, when my milk came in and it felt like I had huge, hot lava rocks on my chest, these camis were awesome. I could easily pull a strap down and leave it down to feed, and pull back up to cover when the FedEx guy came.

Junior's Cami with Shelf Bra

Zip up hoodies are also absolutely necessary. Even though Ryan was born in summer, we cranked up the AC for fear of heat related SIDs. Pulling up my shirt every five minutes to feed left me freezing, so it was (and still is!) nice to throw on a hoodie to keep warm while feeding. Later cardigans would be a more stylish option for the same problem while out and about.

5. Nook. My last thing that kept me sane the first few weeks was my Nook. I read books on it to keep myself awake during late night feedings. I propped it up on a counter to read while rocking him to sleep. I have a Nook from 2011 that I can surf the internet, read books and magazines, and watch Netflix, and it was perfect for my postpartum needs. I love to read, but it would have been nearly impossible to read a traditional book and turn pages/actually hold the book while doing baby things. Being able to turn a page with one finger and buy a new book at any moment was great.  I still prop it up and read in the middle of the night when Ryan’s particularly fussy.

So there you have it. My top five unexpected things I couldn’t have lived without the first few weeks as a mom.

Moms- What did you find to unexpectedly need in the first few weeks?

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Ryan’s Birth Story

No exaggerations, I have written this four times and all four have been deleted somehow. So here it goes, for the fifth time, Ryan’s birth story:

In order to tell you this accurately, I feel the need to explain the days leading up to May 26, 2014.

Friday, May 23 : I have what would be my final OB appointment. I’m nervous since for the past week I’ve been having consistent Braxton Hicks contractions – 5 minutes (or less) apart, lasting a minute, (or more) and going on for hours upon hours. When we arrive I’m quickly sent to the hospital for monitoring because I’ve gained 6 pounds and my blood pressure is crazy high.
The hospital is crazy busy – we wait in the waiting room for about an hour before being let into a room. I’m nervous but calm all at once. Turns out the nerves were for nothing – Blood pressure went way down, and I’m only 3 centimeters. We’re told that I am in fact having contractions about 5-7 minutes apart and am told that the baby could come this weekend or in the next two weeks. Alex takes me home, he goes to work, and I sit on a yoga ball all night.

Saturday, May 24: I have cramping and spotting on an off all day but decide that it’s from being checked yesterday. Yoga ball, pineapple, nipple stimulation.. I do it all. I’m over being pregnant and I’m over having contractions for 2 weeks straight.

Sunday, May 25: I loose my mucus plug at 3 am in the morning and have some good cramps. I’m having more Braxton Hicks, and I start timing them – every 5 minutes, lasting a minute. Not painful, just uncomfortable. During the day we end up walking 4 miles and I spend the rest of my time on my yoga ball. We go out to dinner and they get further apart and irregular. 5 minutes, 2 minutes, 7 minutes… I sit on the yoga ball and we decide to go to bed when it seems nothing is going to happen.

Monday, May 26: I’m awake at 4 am with low, warm back pain that feels like I have my period. I’m uncomfortable, and know I won’t be going back to sleep for a while, so I go downstairs. As I’m making myself a PB&J – don’t judge me. It’s quiet, quick and delicious – I have my first contraction. Not painful but not comfortable. It lasts about 30 seconds, and I start timing. They start out 9 minutes apart and by 7 they’re 5 minutes apart consistently. I go upstairs to wake up Alex and tell him I think today is the day.
I hint to Alex that we should go to my favorite bagel place as just in case fuel and he takes the bait, so off we go. We go for a walk after and call my doctor, who tells me to come in when I can’t talk and when all I can think about is drugs. I am hoping for a natural birth, but I tell her okay, and we go inside to watch Breaking Bad, shower, and hang out on my yoga ball. At this point I’m timing my contractions and they seem to be getting further apart, more irregular (same as last night – a few super close, then nothing for 10 minutes, then a few 5 minutes apart) It’s stressing me out so I stop timing them, which makes them more regular and closer. I tell Alex I need to get out of the house so I can stop thinking about it. What will be will be.
We decide to go to Princeton for Chipotle and our favorite ice cream. It’s an hour away from the house and a half hour from the hospital. We walk around the town and enjoy ourselves. I’m still having mild contractions, but now I’m questioning if they’re Braxton Hicks or real contractions. In the car home I cry to Alex. I feel like a total crazy person. Am I in false labor and just creating it all in my mind? I’m generally a pretty bad hypochondriac, so I’m worried that this is it. Alex calms me down, and assures me that this baby WILL eventually come out, just maybe not today.

I must put in a sidebar here – we were on a weird schedule for when this baby “could” come. We knew he would come when he was ready, but at the Mechanic’s job requires him to take vacation days one week at a time, starting on Mondays. He can use sick time, but with the million and seven snow days we had this year, he used most of them to ensure he’d get paid during them. At this point he had 2 days of sick time left, so if I went into labor after he left for work (1 pm) on Monday through Thursday, we were mildly screwed. So I was definitely feeling pressure to have the baby on the one Monday he had completely off since it was a holiday.

Anyway, we get home and rest, planning on a late dinner out, and I’m once again on the ball while we watch some TV. All of a sudden I feel what I can only explain as the baby giving me a HUGE kick and – poof! my water breaks all over the yoga ball. I tell Alex that my water broke, I stand up and start bawling. I honestly just felt such a rush of emotions, I couldn’t handle it. I told Alex that, “it feels so gross!” but that was just a bit of what I was feeling. It didn’t hurt (yet) but I just felt such a rush of relief – it wasn’t in my head! – and also excitement that this was finally REALLY happening. I change and use the bathroom (I told Alex that I kind of felt like going number 2, but wasn’t sure if I was allowed since my water broke and I was afraid of infection. Alex sets up the car with a garbage bag and towel on top (I HIGHLY recommend keeping this in your car the last few weeks along with your bag. Never know when it’s going to happen.) and we’re off. I still feel pretty good at this point, and we’re a half hour away from the hospital.
About ten minutes into the drive I’m feeling contractions and man, they are no joke. Half way there we joke about having to give birth on the side of the NJ Turnpike. When we pull into the parking garage I tell Alex that I’m sorry. I can’t do a natural birth. This is worse than I anticipated.
The hospital has the option of valeting, but I tell Alex to park as far as possible. My biggest fear is being sent home, so I want to walk as much as possible to help it progress. I stop in the middle of the parking garage since I refused to take the elevator much to my husband’s dismay. we get to check in and they take their sweeett time. I cant blame them first-time mom, water broke, and I was pretty quite as I don’t like making a scene. It seems they ask a million questions before they give us wrist bands and tell us to sit in the waiting room. Thankfully its an empty hospital, because with each contraction I dance a weird jig to stave off crying/puking/grunting.
Our nurse comes to take us back to our room and she’s chatting us up non stop. We get to the room, and while I’m doing my contraction dance and pacing she asks if I’m okay. “Yeah, I’m just in a lot of pain..” I tell her. She says we’re going to check to make sure it was m water that broke (it was) and then calls my doctor. Does she want to come and check me, or should the nurse? My doctor was in her quarters or whatever, so the nurse checks me while she gets ready and heads over. This is where I’m nervous – please let me be far enough along that I don’t get sent home. Please. She goes in to check, and she makes a funny face. “Let me just check to make sure this is right,” she says. Oh dear god, I went DOWN in centimeters. Alex says she looks absolutely stunned. She picks up the phone to call me doctor. “She’s nine and a half centimeters.”
What seems like immediately, eight nurses come into my room. There’s no time for anesthesia, which I’m happy about – I’m getting my natural birth, whether or not intentional. A nurse gives me a shot in the thigh, no time for an IV, and my doctor gives me some shots of lidocaine down there. I start pushing. Ryan is out in four contractions. My water broke at 6, and an hour and a half later I had my son. There were so many different variables that could have made this birth happen on the side of the road, or in a waiting room, or at my house, but thankfully none of these happened.

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So that’s how Ryan was born. I had two tears and I don’t know how many stitches. No desire to ever know, haha. But regardless, I got the best little boy I could have asked for, I became a mother, and my life changed forever.

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I’m back! And with a baby!

I’m baaaaaaack! Things got a little crazy over here.. uhm, I had a baby! AND we bought a house! Between getting used to a baby, packing, moving, getting used to a new town, a new house.. this blog has fallen to the wayside, and I’m sorry! But here I am and I’m ready to get into it with you guys!

So here he is, my little baby boy, Ryan Richard.

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Born on Memorial Day, May, 26, 2014 at 7:55 pm, he’s the love of my life.

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He came to us at 6 lbs, 4 oz, 21.25 inches long and a head full of hair.

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I’ll be back soon with my birth story, the house story, how we’ve all been coping and so much more soon!

-Morgan

PS. Cooper is loving on his little brother just as much as his mommy and daddy are.

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