The acquisition

“The business of life is the acquisition of memories.”

 – Mr. Carson, Downton Abbey

And this deployment has given me many. It was hard but I have absolutely grown and our family is even stronger. Yes, it was a bittersweet holiday season but far after the memories of lonely days and missed milestones have faded I’m betting I will remember the excitement at homecoming. It was one of the most emotionally charged days of my life; exquisitely tangible anticipation and joy.

And nervousness – oh, I was so nervous. What if I didn’t recognize him? What if the baby cried? What if Rowan acted up? What if everyone thought I was making too big a fuss? Not big enough? What if, what if, what if.

And as it often turns out, the day wasn’t perfect. Connor had been running a 103 fever since the day before.

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He was sick and I was tired.

The plane was scheduled to land super early in the morning – and neither kid wanted to be roused. But my wonderful Aunt showed up long before the crack of dawn with breakfast and coffee and we made our way out. We met with my awesome friend, who had volunteered her hands for holding and her camera for memory catching. We hurried up…to wait.

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And waited.

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I was shaking with nervous excitement.

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The kids started to get antsy.

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And then…nothing else mattered any more. It didn’t matter that the baby was cranky or that I actually didn’t recognize him at first. The only thing that mattered was this.

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We were together again.

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Bliss.

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Stability and subtext

The deployment literature says the first 6 weeks are the “emotional confusion/disorganization stage”: where you feel abandoned, lost and overwhelmed. Crying frequently. Insomnia.
We are 7 weeks in and and I’ve been there, done that (still not sleeping).
The next stage is billed as “adjustment/recovery” where we have established routines, communication and I feel confident and less angry/despairing. A couple of weeks ago I told a friend that I didn’t think we would ever get to that point – that I would probably just cry the whole time. That may well be true: to an extent. The holidays are upon us and he is missing out. We are missing him. But. We are…well…stabilizing. I don’t cry while making pancakes or driving much now. The tears have been traded for a constant dull ache. Something is missing. He is missing.

But we go on.

I threw a Halloween get-together.

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Mad props to my mom and aunt Char, who helped soooo much with party prep and kid wrangling that day!

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We are planning for the holidays and for my upcoming birthday. We text and Skype. Boxes are being sent both ways. I am happy. I enjoy my boys and life is good. I am acutely aware on a daily basis of how very blessed I am. Still, his absence is the elephant in every room – the unvoiced subtext in every conversation. And that is where he will stay – always in my thoughts – until he is in my arms again.

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And the picture was crystal clear

Several weeks ago, this happened.standingdad

We waited in a room for two hours and then in a few quick moments we cleared the room and they were rushed onto a bus. A quick kiss. A few waves of a baby’s chubby hand. A frustrated preschooler who just wanted his dinner – not really understanding the import of that moment. And then he was gone.

We’ve been fine in the weeks since. Sure, there was the stomach virus that knocked us flat. And there have been the tantrums and nightmares, but I was prepared for all of that: I figured it was coming. After all, it was in the deployment literature.
We are keeping busy. Connor has gotten his first teeth and Rowan is quickly improving at soccer. We are having play dates and doing some preschool with Rowan. I am delighting in our precious boys and praying for my husband. It’s all good.

But sometimes, quite unexpectedly, I will cry. I will cry while making pancakes. While driving down the interstate. I hide those tears from the kids. No one has to know about those moments of weakness.

Tonight though, like many nights that we Skype, being able to see him but not reach out – through the miles – got to me. I try not to cry in front of him either. But tonight particularly, the internet connection was really good. The picture was crystal clear, no pixelation. All the better to see the tears shining in our eyes, the big fat drops that traced down my cheeks.

So, let me officially state: this is hard. We are doing it. We are ok. But it is hard. And that is all I have for tonight.

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Objects of my disaffection

We are close to leave day. Packing close. Our house – in addition to being flooded with baby things – is now overrun with new boots to be laced, new uniforms to be washed/prepared, new bags, new socks, toiletries – mounds of stuff to be packed. I hate it all. I hate the bags spilling out into our hallway, congesting the top of our dresser. I loathe each piece of paraphernalia: each piece like a brick, one on top of the other, building the wall which will separate our family.

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A few minutes ago I leaned in the doorway, glowering at the bag on our bed, accumulating neat rows of folded clothing. And then it occurred to me: each one of those shoelaces and Velcro patches will soon be taking care of my husband where I cannot. I won’t be able to offer a comforting hug after a long day, so new sheets, please do it for me. There will be no foot rubs for sore feet after his 12 hour, six day a week shifts; new socks, please provide comfort for them. Multicam rain jacket – yeah, ugly, I’m talking to you – please give my husband warmth and dryness in your embrace until I can again.

Perhaps I can take comfort in this frame of mind until he leaves. The uniforms will be gone. The bags will be gone. On the surface, order will be restored to our house. Then I am sure his side of the bed, his toothbrush, the dust gathering on his Xbox, all the things that have no place in his life for the rest of this year, will take over screaming at me.

But that’s a problem for another day. For today, I will go hug my family and feel blessed that we are still under one roof.

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How to turn an alien pig into bacon

Hubby went back to work after a week off for a family visit. Boo. The visit was awesome; lots of fun and a great birthday party for hubs. With the fun behind us, it’s time to hit deployment prep hard. Accordingly, today so far, I have moped on the sofa and played with play dough. Very productive. This deployment can just go fly a kite. 😡20130819-124033.jpg

 

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Don’t be that guy

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It seems that it is a funny balance, this milspouse thing. They tell you that it is important not to be isolated while your loved one is ripped away from you, that you should take all the support you can get. But then again…how much should we really say about it? Do we really want anyone to know we are going to be all alone for however long? My generation finds its support and comfort through the internet and social media. But it could be dangerous to say too much. In a culture that doesn’t find it strange for a blogger to real time stream her baby’s birth for the world to see, it seems odd, this needing to self edit. I don’t want to be isolated in this, because that will drive me crazy. I also don’t want to violate OPSEC or leave us vulnerable to crazy home invaders.

**Note to crazy home invaders:

Just sayin’.

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Whisper

Last night I couldn’t sleep again. So I decided to do more baby carrier research, as you do. While digging through a message board about carriers people recommend sharing between tall husbands and short wives, a poster’s signature happened to catch my eye. It said she was the proud mom of two kids; and one happens to be a five year old battling a brain tumor. The big C word. Every parent’s worst nightmare. As I went to sleep I thanked God for my healthy children and thought – man, I bet that woman would give anything to only be worrying about a deployment. How blessed I really am.

This morning Dan came home with a funny look on his face. I asked what was wrong and his answer didn’t really surprise me; although I think my heart did stop for several beats. He has been moved up to primary. We are now truly looking down the barrel of our first deployment. I knew he didn’t want to tell me, didn’t want to start the morning with that news, but he couldn’t keep it from me either. As strange as it seems in upsetting moments, time does continue on: we moved on with our day. As we have become accustomed to, as soon as hubby’s boots were off we gathered on the love seat for devotionals and prayer. Rowan’s devo was about God’s joy in any circumstance and our couples devo was about love overcoming all. Whisper. Whisper. The devotionals and the story from last night – I heard it loud and clear; the still, small voice whispering in my ear that all is well, that God will be with us through everything.

I would like to say I’ve been fine for the rest of the day, that I felt God’s peace in the situation and have already cried most of my tears in preparation for this moment. Instead, I had a massive panic attack and decided to go to Target. I’m afraid that ruins the story, but hey – truth in advertising 😉

For the record, I am less panicked now. Specifically, I’m feeling a strange mix of:

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More on this and other stories, after the break.

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Absence

The sky looks pissed
The wind talks back
My bones are shifting in my skin
And you my love are gone

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I’m enjoying the stormy weather this week. I don’t really want the sun to shine while I’m processing the news that our first deployment is on the horizon. Hubby found out last week he is alternate for an upcoming deployment. Hopefully he won’t have to go – but since he could be substituted at any time, we have to prepare as though he is. It won’t hurt to prepare either way: if he doesn’t go now he will for the next. His rotation is up.

Finding out about an impending deployment seems an awful lot like finding out you are going to have a perfectly healthy limb arbitrarily amputated. You know it’s coming and you know it’s going to hurt. You can already feel the pain. You go about your life and little everyday things remind you how much they will suck once that limb is gone. Forget about imagining special or difficult stuff. Thinking about those will just crush you.

I’ve been surprised by the force of my emotions on this one. I’m an army brat and I knew what I was getting into from the start. Or at least I thought I did. I’ve been a single mom. I’m totally capable of going it alone. Or at least I thought I was. Did you know high stress is a risk factor for mastitis? Me either until the high fever struck. That was fun. Particularly since hubby is still on nights and I pretty much had to go it alone while sick. A circumstance that prompted even more tears at the realization of the inherent foreshadowing.

So I’ve been processing and preparing my head. Lots of googling and a Pinterest board later and I feel like I might be capable of surviving this without too much bitterness or a nervous breakdown.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4 NASB)

     God has this all in hand. We will try not to let dread destroy our joy in this pre-deployment phase.

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And when it comes we will take one day at a time. Some days I’m sure I’ll be ok. And on others I won’t. Sometimes it’s ok to not be ok. And I’m ok with that.

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The emergence of the belly dweller

My first birth fell far from the natural ideal I had imagined. I was in my early 20s and in a rocky marriage to a chronically sick husband. At 37 weeks, after being plagued by a misbehaving gallbladder throughout the pregnancy, I was told we needed to induce for a rare liver condition. Despite having a fascination for midwives and natural birth already, I had been too stressed to prepare and had no way to cope with an induced labor. I did not set up a birth plan or support team for myself and the cascade of interventions was predictable. I will never regret the induction – it possibly saved my son’s life – but his birth story could have done without the epidural/surprise episiotomy and the after effects of those.

This second pregnancy was far more peaceful than my first. New hubby and I were open to continuing our family from the get go and were over the moon when it happened so quickly. I was determined to do things differently with this birth. There are no nearby birth centers and with my history of ICP I knew a home birth wasn’t really an option for us. I looked for advice on natural birth friendly doctors and chose one who came highly recommended. We discussed the possibility of my liver problem coming back and then proceeded on with a pretty uneventful pregnancy. I did get more nervous as time went on that the itching would start and we would need to be induced by at least 37 weeks (before the risk of stillbirth goes up). I was making plans for a drug free, doula assisted/husband supported birth and early induction didn’t jive with that! 37 weeks came and went with no itching. It was starting to look like our prayers for a complication free pregnancy had been answered. Week 38 came and went. The weather was warming up and I started to get impatient to meet our son (in the way only an increasingly large pregnant lady can be impatient, haha). The night before our 39 week appointment (Wednesday night) my Braxton Hicks contractions seemed to change. They started to feel lower and more connected to my back. Little guy wasn’t moving as much so at the doctor’s the next day we did a non stress test, which showed little guy doing just fine. I didn’t appear to be having any significant contractions and was at about 3 1/2 cm (I had been at 3cm and 90% effaced since my 36 week appointment). The next evening (Friday) we made a trial run to labor and delivery as I was having contractions 7 minutes apart and was concerned I might have been leaking amniotic fluid. I was sent home on “labor precautions” but was told there was no fluid leak. The next day we took a long walk then attended a birthday party, hoping to either kick start labor or just distract myself.

Birthday Party Shenanigans

Birthday Party Shenanigans

Again the next day (Sunday) I felt sure I was leaking but decided just to keep hydrated and try not to focus on my impatience for labor to get started already. Of course I did take some of my evening primrose oil and gave the breast pump a try just in case those might kick something off!
Monday morning I felt fine, despite having had one or two uncomfortable contractions the night before. I got up, made oatmeal banana pancakes and planned a walk to the playground with Row. We packed lunch, grabbed the wagon and headed off. Pregnancy brain struck and I realized I locked my keys in the house, but luckily hubby was able to leave work and bring them to me. It was good to see him, even if just for a couple of minutes. Little did he know how soon he would be seeing me again!

It was such a beautiful day that we stayed at the playground until 1:45 (45 minutes past the start of naptime). As soon as I stood up to start back home I felt a contraction. I started timing them as I pulled the wagon home. I was surprised to see they were about 5 minutes apart. I assumed they would go away as soon as I got home and had some water/put my feet up. I put kiddo down for his nap, grabbed my water and laid down. The contractions didn’t stop. At 2:08 I called my doctor and asked the nurse if we should maybe come in to have them check for amniotic fluid leaks, since I was having regular contractions. My doctor said to just head to labor and delivery if my contractions stayed regular. I called my doula and we agreed that since I could talk through them I should just go get in a warm bath and see what happened before calling my husband to come home. At 2:30 while I was running my bath I was surprised with a truly painful contraction. It about took me to my knees and when it was over I called my husband and said I was getting in the bath and that if it didn’t stop the contractions he would need to head home soon. Another contraction later and I called him to come home. I was starting to feel panicky about being at home alone with a 4 year old and increasingly painful contractions. Once hubby was home he timed a few contractions and since they were averaging about 3-4 minutes apart we decided to head to the hospital. I got out of the bath and tried to help get a bag packed for Row but ended up waiting on my antique birthing stool while hubby fed the cat, ect ect. Finally it was time to go. The car ride was pretty unpleasant. At first I kept up with Row’s questions/chatter but the ride was taking far too long since we hit pretty bad traffic. The sun was beating down on my face and belly and I zoned out – during every contraction I imagined I was on one of our favorite beaches in Puerto Rico. The sun was beating down on me and I let the heat flow down and come out of the tips of my toes. I told myself that as soon as it was over, I would take a dip in the lovely cool water…
We dropped Row off at my aunts house and I thought – I hope this isn’t another false alarm. That would be such a nuisance! Also, I was worried about real labor if this might not be it.

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We finally made it to the hospital around 5:00. We had to stop twice on the walk to l&d for me to hold on to hubby through a contraction. The tears in my eyes must have been pretty convincing, because we went straight to a room instead of triage this time. They asked me to gown up and checked me. 8 cm!?! I was shocked and elated. We were actually going to have a baby! Sure enough when they checked this time, the test showed I had been leaking fluid, although baby’s head was comfortably floating up high on an intact forebag. The nurses asked me questions and started initial monitoring while we waited for my doula and best friend to arrive. They soon arrived and I tried several different positions and asked for lots of counter pressure for my back. I decided to try out the tub, which was nice for a while but made counter pressure for my back difficult. Hubby clearly found it difficult as well 😉

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As I moved farther into labor-land my own recollections get fuzzier. I know my support team was awesome. My doula and best friend kept me moving and laughing. I loved having my custom warrior labor mix playing on my iPod dock – courtesy of my brother in law. Hubby was always right there with an affirmation, bible verse or physical support when I needed him. It was a team effort and I definitely felt the love.

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Dan was amazing throughout the entire pregnancy and labor – I could not be more proud and appreciative of him! Love you, honey!

The nurse checked me again and I was almost fully dilated with just a lip. We decided to see if we could get the forebag to break by having me lay on my left side. It worked! And was excruciating. Past that point it seemed the contractions came one after another and they were so strong I was just being pulled this way and that along with them, having no ability to think about positions or coping techniques. I know we again tried some positions to get baby to turn his head: it worked and was time to push. My support team told me to push and it would feel better. I told them I needed a C section and drugs. Lots of drugs. Oh, transition 😉 I started to push but felt anything but in control of the situation. I had ended up on the bed, slightly tilted to my left. It felt wrong but I was in too much pain to figure out what to do about it. The pressure on my pelvis was incredible. My support team saw the panic in my face and tried to refocus me. A couple of times I was able to focus on hubby and seize a few seconds of calm surrender in between contractions. But mostly I screamed at the pain – fighting it and not helping my cause one bit. But a fleeting thought brought Ina May Gaskin’s advice to mind: she counseled to “let the monkey do it” or if you didn’t fancy imagining you were a primate in order to let your body take over, to pick any other wild animal. I had jokingly told hubby I would imitate a mountain lion the whole labor. While I didn’t remember this until I was pushing, once I did, I lowered my voice (helpful anyway) and made my screams more like roars. That – the deep down roaring – started to see results. Hubby left my side to prepare to catch the baby. I saw my doctor coaching him on where to put his hands. I knew the only way out of the pain was through it so I pushed. I pushed like crazy. I remember feeling surprised I didn’t experience a “ring of fire” feeling when he crowned. All I could feel was earth shaking pressure. And then…

BABY!!!!!!

BABY!!!!!!

fam1stConnor was born at 7:37 – about 2 1/2 hours after we arrived at the hospital. I was totally shell shocked through his being handed to me and the delivery of the placenta (I didn’t even have to do anything with my first birth. I had to work for it this time!) Then, as my doctor checked me out – not a single tear – (while my much smaller first son had apparently “required” an episiotomy) it started to actually sink in that I had done it. I had gone into labor on my own and delivered our son with no drugs! Now that is one indescribable feeling. And the real payoff was afterwards – no epidural “shakes”, no catheter – just a birth team that followed our birth “preferences” to the letter. Delayed cord clamping, the first hour for nothing but skin to skin bonding and breastfeeding – it was awesome. Finally I did give permission for the nurse to take him and wipe him down/do the necessary stuff. I was pretty content to rest for a bit under a warm blanket.blanket

Big boy rounded up to 9lbs!

Big boy rounded up to 9lbs!

my awesome doula!

my awesome doula!

After resting, my bestie went and got us my favorite Mexican food, and there was much feasting and rejoicing throughout the land!

More pictures, just because:

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Daddy love

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Meeting big brother

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Heading home

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The Newborn Fluff Experience

I didn’t use cloth with my first son until 11 months, so had never cloth diapered a newbie. Here is the stash we ended up with for baby boy #2:

19 fitteds

10 newborn prefolds (15 + infant pfs)

6 newborn/xs PUL covers (3 new OS)

6 wool soakers
9 AIOs
4 pockets
Plenty of assorted inserts
Of course you never know how big babies will be (ODS was7lbs 1oz) so it’s hard to plan! DS2 was born at 9lbs and left the hospital at 8lbs 6oz. Kiddo is certainly on the large side! Basically all of the newborn stash fit for the first 4 weeks or so. Now at 8 weeks we are at about 14 lbs and well into one sizes. I still don’t regret investing in a newborn stash! I haven’t found newborn cloth to be an inconvenience – in fact my first son leaked far more frequently out of his sposies and caused a ton of laundry because of that. I love the look and feel of a cushy fluffy bottom.
With no further ado, here is the rundown on the stash:
Bummis newborn superbrite cover: the only diaper that was too small to start with. The tabs had to be so far out that the very scratchy (almost sharp) sides scraped C-man’s tender newborn legs when he frogged them up. So not cool.
Grovia NB AIO – loved these diapers for about 3 weeks. Had to add a little doubler at about two weeks.
Day two, 8lbs 6 oz

Day two, 8lbs 6 oz

Sized (XS) Thirsties covers and AIOs (no longer made): liked them – aios weren’t absorbent enough at about 2 weeks. We are still barely squeezing into the covers at 8 weeks. The duo system fits longer and I appreciate that with my big guy.
First week,

First week, <9lbs – Thirsties xs cover

7.5 weeks old13lbs 12 oz Xs thirsties over two trifolded preemie pfs

7.5 weeks old13lbs 12 oz Xs thirsties over two trifolded preemie pfs

Thirsties duo covers size one: love them! They have been my favorite cover paired with the fab fitted for a bulletproof combo. They are adorable too! They are getting a little short in the rise now at 8 weeks and almost 14 lbs. Doubt they will make it to the advertised 18lbs. Bummer.
6 days old, Thirsties Duo cover size one

6 days old, Thirsties Duo cover size one

2 weeks 5 days - 9lbs 13oz. Thirsties duo size one over a snappied infant PF

2 weeks 5 days – 9lbs 13oz. Thirsties duo size one over a snappied infant PF

2 days shy 8 weeks 13 lbs 12 oz last weigh thirsties duo sz1 over snappied infant pf. Starting to have leaks - too short in rise

2 days shy 8 weeks 13 lbs 12 oz at last weigh: Thirsties duo sz1 over snappied infant pf.

Thirsties fab fitted size one: hands down favorite diaper. Great absorbency – easy to add a doubler as needed. Soft and squishy – great at keeping poop inside and off of the cover. My absolute only con for these is that he is busting out of them at 14 lbs. Not going to make it to the advertised 18lbs. And since I found these NWOT on the swap for a good price…I probably won’t be replacing them with the next size up if I can’t find a good deal. $17 for a fitted is more than this bargain hunting girl will spend 😉
8 days old Thirsties Fab Fitted size one - weighed at 8lbs 14 oz the next day

8 days old Thirsties Fab Fitted size one – weighed at 8lbs 14 oz the next day

6.5 weeks, aprx 13 lbs

6.5 weeks, aprx 13 lbs

Kissaluvs 0 – another itty bitty favorite diaper. He can actually still wear them with a doubler for daytime. These live up to the hype – soft and awesome!
2 days old Kissaluv 0 - approx 8 lbs 6oz

2 days old Kissaluv 0 – approx 8 lbs 6oz

Swaddlebees AIO size one: love it – didn’t know how I would feel about a side snapper but the fit and functionality has been good. Needs a doubler now at 8 weeks and won’t fit for much longer.
How do I not have a picture of this adorable diaper?
Flip covers: fantastic fit starting around two weeks old – even with his brothers old covers after a little elastic tightening.
2 weeks 5 days - 9lbs 13oz. Flip over a snappied infant pf

2 weeks 5 days – 9lbs 13oz. Flip over a snappied infant pf

2 days shy of 8 weeks - apprx 13lbs 12oz (at last weigh) Big brothers heavily used Flip cover over snappied infant prefold - I did tighten the elastic

2 days shy of 8 weeks – apprx 13lbs 12oz (at last weigh) Big brothers heavily used Flip cover over snappied infant prefold – I did tighten the elastic

BG OS pocket: we had a few leaks in this one, but since we only have one hand me down from big brother and I haven’t done anything with the elastic I’m sure that was the problem.
2 weeks 5 days - 9lbs 13oz. BG with infant insert

2 weeks 5 days – 9lbs 13oz. BG with infant insert

Kawaii OS pocket: decent fit from 9.5 lbs or so. Pockets just aren’t my favorite. I like a nice fitted and cover with double gussets to keep that runny newborn poo in!
Bumkins cover:
So.many.snaps. And I love it! This is a great cover – love the material – it is very sturdy but doesn’t feel thick like the Bummis. Wonderful fit from as soon as we tried it – about 9lbs -possibly would have fit smaller.
7.5 weeks old, about 13 lbs - Bumkins cover over Thirsties fab fitted duo size one

7.5 weeks old, about 13 lbs – Bumkins cover over Thirsties fab fitted duo size one

Bummis newborn cover (not superbrite): bigger than the superbrite – did fit for a few weeks. Adorable print but the material felt thick and the tabs were scratchy here too. Not a favorite diaper.
aprx 3 days/8lbs 6oz

aprx 3 days/8lbs 6oz

3 weeks - ab 9 lbs 13 oz

3 weeks – ab 9 lbs 13 oz

Bummis organic preemie prefolds: love them! We use them as inserts for pockets or trifolded in covers. Afyer a couple weeks we needed two at a time, but that’s no big deal. We need a doubler with those two now at 8 weeks but its still a trim option because length wise they fit in the covers so well.
Infant prefolds – Chinese and Indian: love em! These with a snappi have been a surprise favorite of daddy’s. he likes he simplicity of not having to figure out if something is waterproof or not or which inserts go with what. They are a good fit with our big guy!
2 weeks 5 days - 9lbs 13oz -snappied infant pf

2 weeks 5 days – 9lbs 13oz -snappied infant pf

Good mama
And other similar OS fitteds:
They are ok. Fabric can be a little stiff for a tiny I feel but I only have pre-loved ones. They fit pretty well from early on with an infant insert instead of the one that comes with it. We use them, but they aren’t grabbed until we are at the bottom of the barrel.
4 weeks old, one size Goodmama with random infant insert

4 weeks old, one size Goodmama with random infant insert

Random tidbits:
My wool was almost all too small 😦 I need to make some more but turns out babies take a lot of time!
I used regular wipes and just threw them in the wash with everything for the first few weeks. We now are using my cloth wipes.
I haven’t been spraying the diapers out with my handy dandy sprayer yet (thanks for installing it though, babe!) Its EBF, so no need yet 😉
I need a replacement for my bulletproof Thirsties fab fitted/cover combo – any thoughts?
Just so you know, I didn’t receive any diapers for review ect ect. I just felt like putting my opinions out here on the diapers I liked/didn’t like for us. I know posts like this helped me when I was in the acquisition phase! I may come back and add pictures as I find them or any info I may have forgotten because I am still not sleeping, ha!
If you have any questions feel free to ask!!!
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