Monday, August 19, 2019

My Favorite Nursing-Friendly Clothing Styles || Part One

The nursing-friendly clothing issue is a BIG one for mamas everywhere, at least all the mamas I've talked to! You have that baby and say bye-bye to your maternity wardrobe, but discover that your former tee shirts and fitted blouses are too tight (everywhere!) and if you are like me, you all find out in a hurry that most of the dresses in your closet just don't work for nursing. At all.

Since Axton has been born, I've (slowly) been on a search to add fun, staple pieces into my wardrobe that will work well for the this nursing season. Buttons and wraps on blouses/dresses have become my key search words, and I always instantly check if an online boutique has a "nursing friendly" section.

I've loved Amazon for this because actual thrift and mall shopping is more hit and miss for nursing styles in particular, and with Amazon prime I can search exactly what I want and send it back easily without hassle etc. (sizing can be strange anyhow but when you're a nursing/postpartum mama even YOU don't know what size you are and fast free returns are life savers for all the things that don't work!)

To all you new wives/ladies who hope to be mamas in the next few years, do yourself a favor and start transitioning at least part of your wardrobe into nursing-friendly options now. You will thank me when you have a brand new baby/not much time to go out to shop/try things on, and realize that hardly anything in your closet works for this nursing business!

A few last things: I know you're gonna ask why I didn't link the knit dress I am wearing in the post title picture, and that is because it was thrifted. However, it is a great nursing dress because the entire neckline is elastic and it can easily be pulled down for nursing.

I'm impulsively adding a "part one" to the title of this post because I have found this to be a big topic with all the mamas I've talked to, and I'm also hoping I will have more great finds in the future. So maybe this will become a little series.
This lovely summer dress has been by FAR my most often worn, most often complimented, and most comfortable nursing-friendly piece thus far. I love love LOVE it. It is the perfect dress for summer! The flutter sleeves add class and the wrap bodice stretches perfectly for nursing but then bounces right back and lays great the rest of the time. I usually wear it with a cami for more coverage but the neck is higher than most wrap dresses and might be fine without depending on your preference. I bought a medium and it fits me perfectly. The elastic/gathered waist is super forgiving and slimming to the leftover ten pounds that are still hanging around (!!!) and the material lays perfectly everywhere, really. I'm 5'6" and it hits just at the top of my knee. 
This dress is also perfect for multiple occasions! Pair it with white wedge heels and pearls for a wedding, or with tan/brown sandals/jewelry (like I did here) for a girls shopping day out, or messy bun/barefoot for around the house/home! 
I honestly can't count the times I've worn it since I ordered it earlier this summer. Just do yourself a favor and buy it. 
You can (obviously) also wear it if you aren't nursing, or aren't a mama, or whatever. I'm pretty sure it would work great for a baby bump too!
(sadly, when I was linking it, I discovered they no longer have the exact print of my dress available. But they have a host of other options, and also carry the dress in sleeveless styles as well)
This knit floral shirt is so fun; fully functional buttons all the way down the front, extra room and a fun little tie in the front (again, works miracles for slimming you down and hiding that extra baby weight!) and adorable ruffles on the sleeves. I usually wear a cami but again it is borderline and you might be fine without! It isn't sheer at all but very breathable and lightweight which are big summer wins in my book. And again, it comes in multiple prints/colors!
I paired it with a size medium elastic waist H+M pencil skirt that I found at Salvation Army last year and wore all through pregnancy. 
(This could maybe win the worst mirror portrait of the year award for multiple reasons, but hey. My son isn't old enough to be my personal photographer yet so ya do what ya gotta do to get a shot, ha!) 
This adorable graphic tee isn't technically nursing-friendly but I have a little hack to tell you about-how I transition tees into nursing friendly tops! I have loved my graphic tees for postpartum because I can pair them quickly and easily with a basic maxi skirt and viola! I have a comfy and fun outfit that doesn't look like pajamas all day but it feels almost like it! Graphic tees also tend to be a bit looser than your typical tee and hello mamas-we are ALL about a little looseness! 
The hack? You can pair your graphic tee with a nursing cami underneath and you've got your coverage! Especially if your child is like mine and likes to kick and wiggle and do allll the things while he is nursing, it is really nice to have your "middle self" covered with that cami for the time he suddenly kicks out his legs and attempts to emerge from the nursing cape.
(Graphic tee is courtesy of my dear cousin who is also a boy mom and got us matching shirts.So fun!)

I really wish I had a great recommendation for a nursing cami with a high enough neckline to wear for just the neckline, but the only ones I've found that I like are borderline high enough, and the lace neckline is starting to pull/rip a little, so I mainly just stick with wearing them under shirts that already have high enough necklines but don't have zippers/buttons/etc. These are the ones I have. In my opinion, they are overpriced, and really weren't exactly what I wanted (and I even ended up cutting out the weird insert straps inside the top part, and then also sewing in the sides because the cami is so loose at the bottom) but I just haven't been able to find anything else that I like better, so for that reason I recommend them because they are better than nothing. I'd love to hear if anyone else has found better options! 
This white zipper top is super soft and comfortable. It comes in about a dozen colors and I need to get another one in black for sure-it is such a great basic top. The cap sleeves and and lose-laying bottom half with it's rounded/tunic style hem are such cute features. I wasn't sure what I thought of the zipper look initially but it was worth a try, and I have been very impressed. I was worried about it randomly sliding open (yikes!) but it is very secure and only moves when I adjust it myself, and I can wear it however high/low I want. Also, one of the first times I wore it, one on of my nieces told me that she "likes my zipper" so there's that. =) 
It also zippers down far enough for very comfortable nursing. (some zipper tops don't) 
I'll end with a pic of me wearing the white zipper shirt a different day (earlier this summer) because I know that in reality we're all here for pictures of my child and isn't he CUTE. So squishable. 

So let's chat! Where are your favorite places to find nursing-friendly clothing? Would you like more posts like this in the future if I hit on more great finds? 
-Chels

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The New Blogger Mama

(our little family on July 4th. See the last picture of this post to see that our son can smile =))

I've been thinking a lot lately about this platform and what exactly I want for it. There is so so much I always want to say, but I'm not a full-time blogger, and neither do I want to be one. I enjoy popping on here and posting about the things + people that I love, and topics that are close to my heart, but the first moment I start feeling pressure, or "falling behind", it just makes me want to lose my computer and forget that I have a little .com spot. I've been sorely tempted at times to just delete this blog, but somehow that just hasn't seemed the right thing to do.

With being a mama now, I find myself contemplating this all more than ever. In the past, I always liked to at least give a bit of a general recap about as much of my life as I could. Somewhat like an online journal of sorts. I hated the idea of months and months of time that somehow weren't documented here. Not sure why it bugged me so much, it just did. (I can tend to be a bit of an all or nothing personality!)

Now I am re-thinking that. And the one thing I've realized is this: this blog isn't a scrapbook. It isn't my entire life. (not by a long shot!) It isn't "everything summed up". And nor do I want it to be.

It is a little corner of occasional highlights, musings, and tools + tips. I might post about my son's birth story, but I might not post any pictures or details of the first four months of his life. I might write about a special little family vacation, and then I might never make mention of the equally fun and varied little trips here and there that happened during the same season. I might blog multiple times a month, and then you might not hear from me for months and months on end.  That's a snippet of what this blog will probably be in the coming days and years.

Also, I don't intend to exactly become a "mama blogger", but I am a mama now, so you might see more of that style on here than posts on singleness. Makes sense, yes?

In closing, I'm curious: who are you all? Wives? Mamas? Singles? I know many won't respond, and that's just fine, but as I post about different things on here, I would be curious on the life stages of my current readership. I know many of my followers are more recent (as in, the past several years) but some of you have "grown up" with me, so I imagine there may be more in my current life stage than I think.

Leave a comment below and let me know in a word or a few, what your "status" is! (note: commenting on here is super easy; literally will take about 60 seconds of your time! And I love hearing from you readers!)
(having one of his cousins make funny faces sure helped to produce the grins!)

Happy Wednesday! 
-Chels

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Bontrager Extended Family Pictures May 2019

Back earlier this year, we siblings started brainstorming about a surprise Fathers/Mothers Day gift for our parents. We discussed several ideas and finally settled on a professional photo shoot with the whole clan! There hadn't been a professional group photo done with everyone since John's and my wedding, and with four new little members of the extended Bontrager tribe, it was high time for an update! 
Fun facts: We four "young couples" got married within a four month span, and the four babies were born within eight months from oldest to youngest! 
Just a little PDA...
All them handsome men..
...and the lovely ladies.
Have you EVER seen anything QUITE so adorable in your whole life?!?
I sure haven't. 
It's not every couple that gets their first four grandbabies within eight months. 
Special special.
And then, our little Maxwell family!
Axton was a champ and remained generally quite chill throughout the entire shoot!
His little hands just slayyyyy me. 
I'd like to crop this one and submit it to some photo contest or something because THIS CHILD!! 
It was a big feat to work with multiple schedules and weather and everything, not to mention babies. But it was SO worth it. I know we will all treasure these pictures for years to come, and not one of us regret the commitment to make it happen. 
Let me encourage you, friends-having your family/memories captured in this way is a decision you will never regret! 
And I'm pretty sure almost any parent loves having pictures of their offspring in all one place at one time. Consider gifting a professional photoshoot next time you need a gift idea for your parents/inlaws!

Hope y'all are enjoying a restful weekend!
-Chels

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The Birth Story of Axton John


This is the story of the arrival of our little firstborn son, Axton John Maxwell. The details of his entrance into the world had unexpected developments and more trauma than we anticipated, but they were laced throughout with the grace and goodness of Jesus. God was so so good to us in protecting and watching over our little man. Truly we are so blessed...

Wednesday, January 23rd was my due date. I had a midwife appointment that day and my midwife confirmed what I was already thinking: "it's going to be awhile yet!". I had had not a single contraction (except a few Braxton Hicks back in December) and I was feeling quite energetic and normal. Thursday seemed like the perfect day to deep-clean the garage. (I had all the nesting feels going on!) That was the last real thing on my "do before baby comes" mental list, and once that was completed I felt like I was truly and really ready.
(Friday morning)

Friday, my sis in love Elissa had planned a birthday lunch + shopping out with me, since we both knew that most likely I could have the baby the week of my birthday. (which was the following week) Again, I felt great, and enjoyed walking around the outlet mall at the Legends and eating our favorite (Chipotle!) for lunch. We got home around 6pm and I excitedly dumped all of my purchases on my desk in the office and showed them off to John.

I left his office and five minutes later, my water broke. Apparently there is nothing like a full day of shopping to kick things in gear?!
(last "normal" pregnancy picture I snapped right before we left for Walmart)

We were so excited-finally, baby was on its way! Still, not a single contraction, but I knew they were surely soon to come, so I hurried around getting dinner, and we planned to head to Walmart right after for some snacks/etc for the weekend. As we drove into the parking lot, I had my first contraction. I didn't tell John about it because I wasn't positive that it WAS a contraction, but twenty minutes later I felt the exact same thing, only stronger, and I realized that this was the real deal!

Once we got home we headed to bed. By this point I had had several contractions, but they weren't very painful, and were spaced apart, and since I was fully expecting a long, drawn-out labor, we figured I'd get a good nights' sleep before everything really got going.

I think I must've slept on and off for the first two hours, but it really didn't feel like I slept at all. Contractions kept coming closer and closer together, and getting more and more painful. I have a very high pain tolerance so I was fine for awhile, but around midnight they started getting so intense that I was having to breathe heavily through them, and was having a hard time doing so quietly. I didn't want to wake John, so I slipped out of bed and went out to the couch in the living room. From there things really progressed, to the point that I was moaning so loudly that John woke up and came to see how I was doing. It was about 2am by this time. He got out his phone with the contraction timer app (I highly recommend it) and began timing my contractions.

4 minutes apart.
5 minutes apart.
2 minutes apart.
5 minutes apart.
2 minutes apart.

This definitely wasn't looking like the hours and hours of labor that I was anticipating. From everything we had heard and known, one needs to get moving with calling the midwife/heading to the hospital, when contractions get 3-5 minutes apart. I could hardly believe that my labor was progressing so quickly, but those contractions were close and just not slowing down, so it really appeared that labor was well underway.

As my labor continued throughout those wee hours of the morning, I kind of lost all sense of what was going on. John handled all the details-timing my contractions, coaching me through, and deciding when it was time to call the midwives. He called our doula in at 6am and she arrived an hour later. By 7:30am I was exhausted (I basically hadn't slept all night) and had that first tinge of "what in the wooooorld am I doing?!" (all you other  moms know what I mean---it is that moment when you realize that you think there is NO WAY you can do this and there is also the very real understanding that there is literally no turning back, and it is QUITE the helpless feeling) John told me later that I also told him that "I can't do this!!" around this time. If only we had known what all was ahead yet!

The midwives came several hours later and when they checked me I was only dilated to 3cm, in spite of, by now, 6 hours of contractions 3-5 minutes apart. I had prepared myself for not being very far dilated, so that wasn't too discouraging; my main thing I kept thinking though was "if it is going so slow and I'm not further progressed, than why in the world are my contractions so close?!"

The rest of the day was honestly a blur. Time seemed to stand still as I labored through contractions all day long. I hung on to John for dear life and I don't think there was a single contraction that I went through without him right there. It may sound odd to some but it literally felt to me like we were laboring together. I felt emotionally knit to him, throughout that day, like nothing I have ever experienced before.

 There was about an hour, over noon, when contractions slowed to every ten minutes, and we were able to get a little bit of sleep. (although I have to say that drifting asleep knowing that you will be awakened ten minutes later with excruciating pain, isn't very restful)

(this is one of my favorite photos that our doula took-a perfect depiction of the closeness and unity we felt throughout the labor. Every minute of it was together, as a team, working toward the GOAL of birthing this baby!)

To spare this story from being thousands of words long...I will tell you that I was unable to keep anything down, was in and out of the birth pool, tried every position under the sun, walked up and down our street, and did allllll the things...and little man was still just not even close to coming. John was right by my side the entire time, holding the bucket, rubbing my back, holding my hands, and coaching me through the pushing. Even though I couldn't seem to keep anything down, he knew that I had to have something to keep up my strength, and so he kept trying to get me to eat different things. In the end the only thing I could keep down was some sparkling juice, which wasn't much, but provided just a little boost to help.

John also occasionally updated our families via text with updates of continued "no progress" and it was such a gift to have such an army of our loved ones praying for me. My mom and sisters-in-love texted encouragement and scripture, which John read to me at various times as I was laboring:

"Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Hebrews 12:2

"Delight thyself also in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass. Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him...."
Psalms37: 4-5, 7

"They that wait upon the Lord, He shall renew their strength..."
Isaiah 40:31a

"The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in Whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower."
Psalm 18:2

"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee."
Isaiah 26:3

My doula had also set up twinkle lights and had the diffuser running with my favorite oils, and John had set up a playlist of worship music. It was such a sweet environment to labor in and the verses and words from the music were such beautiful promises of God's faithfulness and nearness. In a way, it was so hard to process and think through the verses and lyrics, but little bits here and there would sink in and give so much peace. It also just combined to create such a time of beauty, in spite of the pain. Words can't describe but that atmosphere really just felt holy to me. We felt the Presence of Jesus surrounding us and carrying us along throughout the entire time.

By 5pm I was almost fully dilated and pushing. I proceeded to push for three hours and still no baby.

The midwives held a consultation in the other room to discuss options. I remember being so out of it that I thought " what is there to discuss?" I couldn't even think straight to process what happens if a baby just won't come...

They came back into the room and told us: "you are going to have to transport to the hospital to have this baby delivered safely." John immediately said "yes" and began preparing for the transition. I can't explain it, but there was such peace in the decision, and I actually remember feeling relieved. It could sound very strange, considering that we had really wanted a home birth, but by this point our only concern was delivering our baby safely. We knew that if that couldn't happen at home, but could potentially happen at the hospital, we wanted that.

Pieces started to fly as I dressed and John packed in 5 minutes flat. (John said in future we will ALWAYS pack a hospital bag just in case!) 

It was dark and bitterly cold outside as John opened the door and half-carried me out. (Again, I'm just in awe of the unity we had, and the incredible experience God gave us. I'm literally getting teary-eyed just remembering as I write this!) It was such a scary moment, in some ways, as we still had so many unknowns ahead of us. It seemed as though time was standing still as John helped me into the backseat of the truck. I laid with my head on my midwife's lap and I pushed almost the whole way to the hospital, although I tried SO HARD not to. I was so afraid I was gonna deliver my baby in the backseat of the truck! I remember crying out in fear and pain, and telling John that I just couldn't keep myself from pushing, and John telling me that it was okay, and that everything was going to be alright. I have no idea how he stayed so sane and calm, but that was my lifeline, to be holding his hand, and hear his voice speaking encouragement to me. That drive was terrible and beautiful, all wrapped into one, and I think I will remember it for the rest of my life! John drove safe but FAST and we made the 45 minute drive in...significantly less.

The staff was ready and waiting when we arrived. I couldn't focus on anything, but John and my midwife were on top of all the details and I didn't have to take care of a thing. We flew up to the delivery room (me in a wheelchair) and everything was ready to go. Within a mere matter of minutes, I was changed and prepped and was pushing again. (actually, I don't think I ever really stopped pushing during all that)

The room became a beehive of activity. I didn't realize it until John told me later, but with Axton's heart rate dropping, the NICU team was lined in the room/hallway, on call for the very real possibility of extreme complications. The room was full of doctors, nurses, and NICU staff, but all I knew was that I was GOING to get this child born. Just a few pushes in, and the doctor said she needed to use vacuum suction, and asked if that was okay. Obviously it was not our preference, but I looked at John and my midwife (who knew exactly what we wanted and is very naturally minded) and when she said "yes, this has to happen", then it was a YES for us. It was quite the process and one I wouldn't wish on anybody; John said afterwards it looked like I gave birth twice, and it certainly felt that way. I was completely focused on pushing and I remember thinking (in my very foggy mind) that watching the vacuum process would most likely not benefit me anything, and that it was best for me to just look UP and push. After trying that to no avail, the doctor told us, "I never do this, but we really need to do an episiotomy." Again, I didn't care-I just looked at John and knew I was at peace with whatever he said; I didn't even have the ability to think through what I wanted other than OUR BABY.

I remember at the very end, after one of my ten-second pushes, the doctor said "and done" to encourage me for a several second break before going again, and I said "No! I'm going again!" and her and the nurses said, "OH! Okay! Well that's great, then let's go!" I have to say that those last minutes were only Jesus, because I have NO CLUE how I powered through pushing over and over again for the last batch of pushes with no break. Humanly speaking, I was way too exhausted for it, but it was like every fiber of my being came together in the most powerful surge of energy to BIRTH THIS BABY.

The moment when he finally shot out was the most incredible and beautiful thing I have ever experienced. Literally, the joining of the most painful moment of the actual delivery,  directly to the most exhilarating moment of having my son on my chest. Words simply cannot describe. I thought my heart would burst. What glory.

Our birth team was so incredible. I didn't even get to meet all of the many people (nurses etc) who assisted our little one into the world, but I am deeply grateful for each of them. We are pictured above with two of my three midwives (the third was at another birth) and my doula. They were all absolutely amazing and I cannot imagine a more perfect team. Unfortunately only one of my midwives was able to come with us into the hospital room for the birth, but all three of these women assisted us all day long during the labor, and even though the circumstances did not allow for them to do the typical delivery that they usually do, I still think of them as being the birth team for Axton's birth. We did not get pictures of the doctor and nurses who delivered Axton but they were truly amazing in every way and I am beyond grateful for the medical intervention and tools that helped our little man enter the world safely.

Our baby. The miracle of life. The perfect blending of two people into a tiny little human.
I counted his fingers and toes. I kissed his soft little checks. I cuddled his tiny little form, and then my heart burst all over again as I watched his daddy do the same. (You think you love your husband, and then you watch him with your newborn, and you fall in love alllll over again)

I've heard many women say before that "I could never have done it without my husband". And those sentiments could not be more true. John was literally the most amazing support I could have ever imagined. He was by my side throughout the entire labor and words just really cannot describe how steadfast and confidant he was. I felt like he was in labor WITH me, that is how unified we were. I am the most blessed woman in the world to have him!

So.much.joy.

Axton was wide eyed from the start-so curious about the big new world and all the adventures just waiting for him to discover.

First picture as a family of THREE!
Our baby, our Axton John Maxwell, was finally here!

And that's the story of his little grand entrance into the world! 
-Chels

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Little Axton at Three Months

How is he three months already?!

I know all of y'all have been dying for more pictures and the birth story of our little guy, and I have been so excited to share them with you! As you can see, he is growing like a weed, and one of the happiest little fellows around, not to mention the fact that he is cute as a button. Is it just me who thinks that? I know I'm his mama, but I'm not the only one who says it, so I'm inclined to think it isn't just my bias!
Want his outfit for YOUR little guy?! You can find it here. I love it---stretchy, soft, true to size, and so adorable!

Birth story up next, I promise! 

Have an awesome day! 
-Chels

Monday, January 28, 2019

Our Baby Has Arrived!

We are thrilled to announce that we have a son! Axton John Maxwell was born at 11:15pm Saturday night, January 26! He weighed in at 7lbs 5oz and was 20inch long. He is charming as can be with dimples, dark hair, deep blue eyes, and long fingers! We are so blessed and grateful! I am doing great and recovering well. Thank you for everyone who was praying for us. The Lord answered our prayers and gave us a healthy little man! His birth  was very traumatic and didn’t go as planned whatsoever! (I will share more in the coming days) But we had amazing teams helping us, both during my 24hr labor at home and then at our final unexpected hospital delivery. It was so perfect how the Lord gave me strength each moment I needed it. My husband was a ROCK and I could not have done it without him either!
Anyways! That is the short story-most of all we are just overjoyed at the arrival of our handsome little man! Thanks again for all your well-wishes and support!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

My Soft Pretzel Recipe!

Finally! My long-promised soft pretzel recipe is here today! This recipe comes straight from the church cookbook of the church that my mom grew up in, out in upstate New York. Soft pretzel making is a big thing in my moms family. Also, the owners of the franchise "Auntie Anne's Pretzels" (Jonas + Anne Beiler) are actually relatives of my moms, so soft pretzels are even in our blood I guess! =)
Soft Pretzels
*1 1/2 cups warm water
*2 tablespoons yeast
*1/4 cup brown sugar
*1/2 teaspoon salt
*4-7 (approx) cups white flour

In bread machine (I use my trusty Bosch which I LOVE and highly recommend btw!) let yeast set with water for several minutes. Add sugar, salt, and part of the flour. Continue adding flour while mixing until sides of the bowl are cleaned. (same way as if you were making bread)
Let dough rise for about 25 minutes. (either in the Bosch bowl or in a glass bowl, as pictured above)
Later added note: if you don't have a bread machine, no worries! You can easily make these by hand in a bowl! Just use the same ingredients + instructions!

Mix together 1 cup cold water and 2 tablespoons baking soda and place in large bowl and set aside.

Roll dough into ropes and form into pretzels. (below)

Dip each pretzel into water/soda mixture and then place on greased baking sheets and sprinkle with pretzel salt. (or some other course salt; I use Kosher salt)

Bake at 500 degrees for 5-7 minutes or until golden brown. Keep an eye on them-they can burn quickly!

Dip in melted butter and serve hot. (for serving, I like to place several paper towels on my plate/serving tray, and then place the buttered pretzels on top of the towels)

Yield: Depends on the size you make them, but I would say this recipe will yield approx 6-8 pretzels.
(No, I didn't use all that butter you see above! =) Just one stick from the pack!)
On the pan, straight out of the oven...
Covered in melted butter and ready for consumption!
Deliciousness!!

Let me know if you try them and how they turn out for you!
 -Chels