Healthy Homemade Applesauce

At the risk of boring you with two apple-based recipes in a row, I have to share this quick one for applesauce.

Applesauce is something I’ve always loved but was reluctant to feed to my babe because the store-bought brands are typically loaded with added sugar. Learning to make it at home was a game changer because it’s such an easy, healthy, and tasty addition to any meal and one that the whole family can enjoy (husbands included).

Easy-Peasy Apple Squeezy (Applesauce)

This will take you about 45 minutes total, and 30 of those minutes are just leaving the apples in a pot.


  • 7 medium apples (or however many you want; it’s a very flexible recipe)
  • 1/2 lemon
  • A few dashes of ground cinnamon



I love this spice store and I highly recommend this kind of cinnamon in particular.


Peel and roughly cube the apples.


Throw them in a big pot and fill with enough water to cover the apples. They’ll float to the top as seen below, but you can eyeball how much water to add.


Squeeze in half the lemon. I’ve done it without this step and it’s fine, but I think the lemon adds a little flavor and helps it keep longer.


Bring the water to a boil. Then cover, reduce to a simmer, and let the apples cook for 30 minutes.

Drain apples. They should look, well, like cooked apples.


Add the cooked chunks to a blender and toss in a dash of cinnamon.

Blend until smooth.



Serve immediately if you want hot applesauce or wait until it cools, refrigerate, and serve cold. If I’m in the mood, I like to add another little dash of cinnamon before serving.


If your baby hates to be fed with a spoon (like mine), try spreading the applesauce on toast. Here you can see Baby Bear’s gourmet applesauce toast with sweet potatoes. Such a bougie breakfast.


Enjoy! Have any other ideas for how to eat your applesauce?




Mama Bear’s Summer 2016 Reading List

It’s been quite a while since my last list of book recommendations, and since I can’t in good conscience claim to be a book blog without them, here we are.

Before you hit the beach, pool, campsite, or couch, consider checking out some of my favorite summertime reads.



Summer Picks

I’ve organized these suggestions by genre. Before you jump ahead to your tried and true favorite, I encourage you to step outside your comfort zone this summer and pick something you normally wouldn’t read. You never know what you might end up liking.




Galápagos by Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut was an incredible author whose vast body of work would make any bookshelf better. This book in particular is my favorite and is one I’ve recommended and gifted countless times. It’s a little bit sci-fi, a little bit post-apocalyptic fiction, and a whole lot of satire.

The book follows a small, strange group of people stranded on an island in the Galápagos. After a pandemic leaves the rest of mankind sterile, they become the last surviving humans with the ability to procreate. Therefore their descendants alone are responsible for how human beings evolve (hint: life is a lot less complicated with a small brain). Told by an omniscient, ghostly narrator, this book will make you laugh and cringe at some of the more painfully accurate portrayals of our society.

I’m a Stranger Here Myself


I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America after Twenty Years Away by Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson is an American author—he famously wrote A Walk in the Woods–who spent a couple of decades living in the UK. This book is a collection of essays he wrote for a British paper about returning and readjusting to the U.S.

Bryson is hilariously observant as he contemplates some of the bizarre and seemingly mundane features of our culture. Though a few of the essays are a bit dated as the book was published in 2000, you can’t help but smile as Bryson artfully describes things like his nostalgia for motel room showers and the perplexing differences between American and English postal systems.


Gone with the Wind

gone with the wind

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Okay, let’s pause. If you haven’t read this book, then it should be the first on your to-read list. If you haven’t even heard of this book, then you need to climb out from under your pop culture rock.

Topping out at about 1,000 pages (I recommend reading the book on a device for this reason), it is arguably one of the finest pieces of historical fiction ever written, as evidenced its accolades, notoriety, and sheer sales volume.

Gone with the Wind is the story of Scarlett O’Hara, a persnickety and stubborn, yet intelligent and loyal Southern Belle whose life is drastically altered by the Civil War. She alone makes the book worth reading, as you will simultaneously love and hate her, but perhaps the real main character is the American South itself before, during, and after the war.

An epic, Gone with the Wind will be captivate you with its rich writing and complex characters. Though it’s long, you will not want to stop reading it, which makes for a perfect summer reading candidate. For what it’s worth, I also love the movie. If you’re not going to read it, at least make sure you watch it.

Ella Minnow Pea

ella minnow

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

Mark Dunn’s Ella Minnow Pea is charming, interesting, and very short. Like many other books on this list, I’ve recommended it time and time again.

It’s the story of a little island that bans the usage of various letters of the alphabet. The story unfolds in a series of letters between characters, forcing the author to very creatively manipulate the English language in order to have the characters comply with their new, letter-less laws. It’s witty and clever, and makes you appreciate how much you can bend the rules of grammar and syntax all while expanding your vocabulary. Note: you really have to read this one with your eyes in order to properly appreciate it. You will not get the full effect in an audio book.



Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

This book fittingly takes place in Florida, where real life can be stranger than fiction. Like some of the other fiction on this list, it is the story of a family. In this case, it’s a family whose livelihood depends on a gator-based theme park that falls from greatness following the death of its star, the mother of the family.

An adventure builds as the main character, a 12-year-old girl, must put on a brave face in an attempt to save her home and family from spiraling out of control. This book has a little bit of everything: outlandish characters, fantastic scenery, and even a bit of mysticism.

Cold Sassy Tree

cold sassy

Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns

Apparently, something about the summertime makes me want to read stories that take place in the American South. I think it’s because I like to imagine myself sipping ice-cold tea (albeit unsweetened), in a rocking chair, and on an old wraparound porch when I read them. Mosquitoes and heat aside, doesn’t that sound lovely?

Anyway, this is another great historical fiction that chronicles life in a small, turn-of-the-century Georgia town. It’s been quite I while since I read it, but I distinctly remember falling in love with the characters as they navigated the ups and downs of life as well as the gossip that runs rampant throughout it. I smiled with their triumphs, cried with their tragedies, and didn’t want it to end.


No beach or pool vacation is complete without a little dose of romance. While I used to be embarrassed and secretive about my love of love stories, I’ve come to embrace it in recent years. Say what you will, but romance is a genre that has its own literary value.

The Royal We

royal we

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

If you, like me, are strangely obsessed with England’s royal family, then you should read The Royal We. It’s loosely based on Will and Kate’s life, to the point where some consider it to be fan fiction. I’d argue that it’s much more elegant than that. In fact, I’m not sure exactly what I expected when I started it, but I was pleasantly surprised how engaging and intelligent it was. It’s a novel you’ll want to stay up reading.

Sookie Stackhouse series


Dead Until Dark (book one) by Charlaine Harris

If you’re looking for a ridiculous-but-fun series of books, here you go. These novels track the exceedingly at-risk life of Sookie Stackhouse and her friends in Bon Temps, Louisiana. If this sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen True Blood, the HBO series loosely based on these novels.

There are 13 main books and each is more far-fetched than the last (which says a lot seeing as how the first already starts you off with vampires). The writing takes some getting used to, meaning it’s not all that great, but I seriously could not put down these books. You’ll get a nice dose of, ahem, love scenes, and have fun tagging along with Sookie and all her Southern charm.


Into Thin Air

thin air

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer

You might be justifiably wondering why would I recommend a book set in a such a cold, severe landscape as part of my summertime list. Well, chances are good you will feel a little chilled as you read this harrowing tale. Trust me when I say that reading it in the winter when you are also freezing is a rookie mistake.

Jon Krakauer’s account of his fateful Everest misadventure is famous because it is–to most of us–unimaginable. So much so that it reads more like a thriller than a true story. You’ll read this one quickly and can use it to keep you cool at the pool. Fun fact: when I mentioned this list to Papa Bear, he said, “Oh, will you add Into Thin Air, too?” Doubly recommended.

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage


Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing

Need another bitterly cold story to keep you cozy outside this summer? Let’s move from the Himalayas to the Antarctic. Endurance is also a survival story, but this time about Ernest Shackleton’s failed attempt to cross the Antarctic in 1914. Shackleton’s ship, after which the book is named, was trapped and eventually crushed by ice, leaving its crew stranded and scared for their lives.

Author Lansing had access to real diaries kept by crew members and was able to interview surviving members as he was writing this book, making it incredibly honest, scary, and arresting. As it is a tale of near hopelessness, it is not for the faint of heart. But if you’re able to read it, you’ll find yourself talking about it for a long time.

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

born to run

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall

If keeping cool is not your goal, check out Born to Run, which is partly about the author’s path to self-discovery and partly about the history of human beings and our innate ability to run long distances.

This book was recommended to me because I like to run. And while it did inspire me to get out and run more–I only partially subscribe to McDougall’s running philosophies–it ended up appealing to me in a much broader sense, too. Anyone who is interested in learning about new cultures, meeting quirky and nearly certifiably insane characters, or anthropology in general should check this out. You might even find yourself thirsting to be outside to test his theories.

Your Thoughts

I’m going to make this a regular, seasonal feature, so stay tuned for Mama Bear’s Fall 2016 Reading List.

In the meantime, please feel free to comment with your summer favorites!

Swedish Bakery: A Chicago Spotlight

As I’ve established before, I’m a big fan of dessert. As I’m also a fan of supporting local businesses, it just makes sense that I would love to visit local bakeries. I award completely arbitrary bonus points for family-owned bakeries.

Today I’d like to introduce you to one of my all-time favorites that fits this bill, Andersonville’s Swedish Bakery.

Though it’s traded hands a few times in its 80-plus-year history, this family-owned bakery is a Chicago staple, regularly topping best-of lists. Its primary focus is on European-style pastries and cakes, but it really runs the gamut in terms of sweet tooth satisfaction.

I’d like to invite you now to join me on a visual journey through the bakery. Treasure awaits us!


The storefront is fairly unassuming. As with people, what matters is on the inside.



Fika the Swedish equivalent of English tea time. When Papa Bear and I visited Sweden a few years ago, we made sure to partake in daily fika celebrations. You know, to really soak up the culture. Nevertheless, it makes me happy to see some Swedish cultural references in my hometown.

They have cakes.


I was so impressed with their cake displays that I decided to order Baby Bear’s first birthday cake from Swedish Bakery. I’ll add a picture of it when it’s complete.


They have cookies. They have a lot of cookies.



Don’t get me wrong; I love summertime fruits. But cookies shaped as summertime fruits win each time.


Happy Pride Month!


Since I can barely draw a stick figure, I’m always impressed by their decorations, including the ones on this Illinois-shaped cookie.

They have tortes, tarts, doughnuts, bread, and all sorts of other pastries.



I’ll give them points for Father’s Day creativity, but even I’m not sure I’d want to eat a steak cake.


This is apparently one of their best sellers. If I could eat nuts, I’m sure I’d agree.

Okay, I promised you bread and doughnuts, but each time I go, I get too hungry to actually remember to take any more pictures. I suppose you’ll just have to visit on your own to see the rest of their displays.


If you go, you must get the raspberry Napoleon and the black and white cookie. They are more than scrumptious. The Easter Bunny carrot cake butt ball was pretty good too, but it’s hard to top perfection.
I promised myself I would learn how to better stage food photos, but I always lose patience because I want to eat whatever it is in front of me. Thus, here’s a crappy picture of a DELICIOUS Swedish flop cake (accompanied, of course, by some Oberweis vanilla ice cream with cinnamon sprinkled on top).

I’ve never been disappointed with anything I’ve tried here, and believe me when I say I’ve tried a lot.

Plan Your Visit

Location and hours

The Swedish Bakery is located at 5348 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60640. It is open Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and on Saturday from 6:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Parking and transportation

Visitors can use the Calo Ristorante parking lot on the north side of the bakery until 5:00 p.m. every day. After 5:00 p.m., visitors can use the U.S. Bank parking lot to the south of the bakery. Otherwise, metered and street parking are available.

For public transit users, the bakery is about a 12-minute walk from the Berwyn Red Line ‘L’ stop. I’m certain there are buses, too, but you can do some of the work.

Stroller or carrier

There’s a surprising amount of space in the bakery, so a stroller is typically no problem.

Final Word

I know it’s bathing suit season and everything, but you work hard. You deserve this. Treat yourself to Swedish Bakery soon.

Ticket to Ride: A Board Game Review

Around since 2004, Ticket to Ride is an established fan favorite. I’m often asked for game recommendations for people who like to play games, but wouldn’t describe themselves as “serious gamers.” Well, look no further. Ticket to Ride is a perfect game for novices, experts, and everything in between.



The Basics

Time: 30-60 minutes
Ages: 8+
BGG Rating: 7.5*
Baby Brown Bear Status: Owned (original and Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries)

In Ticket to Ride (or TTR, as we affectionately call it), you and four of your old college buddies are racing by train to see who can visit the most U.S. cities–and claim the most routes– in just seven days. It’s a winner-takes-all competition for a $1 million prize, an especially astounding amount in 1900, when the game takes place.

The main game play mechanisms are card drafting and network building. The object of the game is to score the most points, which is done in three ways: claiming routes, successfully connecting cities on your destination tickets, and/or completing the longest continuous path of routes.

The game ends when any player has only 0, 1, or 2 trains left at the end of his or her turn. Each player, including that player, then has one final turn before scores are calculated.

*The top-ranked games have ratings of ~8.3/10.


The setup is quite simple. Here, you can see the major components.


Below the map, from left to right are: a player’s initial hand of four train car cards; a player’s initial hand of three destination tickets; and the pile of train car cards with the top five face-up.


In the center of the table is the map (in the original game, it is of the U.S. as shown here). On the map are several train routes connecting various cities. The colored rectangles in any given route represent the number and color of train car cards needed to claim that route. For example, the route between El Paso and Houston requires six green train car cards.

Some of the routes are gray. This means that a player may choose any color train car card as long she has the specified number all in the same color.

There are also some double-routes. In games with two or three players, only one of the double-routes can be claimed. In games with four to five players, both routes can be claimed, but not by the same player.

Finally, surrounding the map is the scoring track, where players keep a running tally of the points earned from claiming routes.

Destination tickets

Each player is initially dealt three destination tickets and must keep at least two of them. The discarded destination tickets are placed on the bottom of the remaining cards and the deck is put off to the side of the board.

These cards contain the names of two cities and a point value. If the player successfully connects the two cities by the end of the game, she adds that point value to her score. If she does not successfully connect the two cities, she subtracts that point value from her score. These cards should be kept secret so your competitors cannot see where you are trying to go. This is important because your strategy should be largely based on your destination tickets.

Train car cards

Each player is initially dealt four train car cards. The rest of the deck should be set to the side of the board and the top five cards should be placed face-up on the table. There are eight types of train car cards that represent the colors of routes on the map. There are also locomotive cards that act as wild cards and can be used to complete any route (the locomotive card is the rainbow-colored card in the above picture).


Finally, each player chooses a color and takes the corresponding set of 45 trains and scoring marker. The scoring marker is placed along the scoring track (beginning at zero). Optionally, the trains are lined up in a pretty little row, as shown below.


Always bet on blue.

Turn summary

According to the rules, the most experienced traveler begins. In clockwise order, each player can do one the following. Remember, these are simplified rules to give you a flavor of the game. Before you play, make sure you read the real rule book.

  • Draw train car cards. A player can draw two train car cards from the face-up pile or she can blindly draw from the top of the deck. Face-up cards must be immediately replaced. If a locomotive card is face-up and a player wants it, she may only draw that one card. If the locomotive card is drawn from a blind draw, the player may still draw two cards (and consider herself lucky).
  • Claim a route. A player can claim a route by turning in a set of train car cards that match the number and color of the desired route. She then places her trains on the route spaces. Finally, she scores her route according to the scoring table printed on the board and moves her scoring marker accordingly.
  • Draw destination tickets. A player may draw three destination tickets, keeping at least one of them. This is a good strategy if the game is still young and she has completed all her other destination cards already.

Again, this continues until a player has only 2 or fewer trains left in her stock. Each player then has one more turn and final scores are calculated (taking into account completed or uncompleted destination tickets and the longest route).



My Thoughts

Another easy one, and I think you know how it’s going to go.


  • Spite. If other players are able to detect where you are trying to go, they are able to cut you off by claiming the route you need. Since there are so many single routes connecting cities you need to reach for your destination tickets, this can be a real pain in the ass, especially when it’s done out of spite and not necessity.


  • Family friendliness. Yes, this is another train game, but it’s a lot easier to set up, learn, and start than Snowdonia. Like I mentioned at the start of this post, it appeals to people of all ages, interests, and game-playing experience. There’s hardly any learning curve, scoring is straightforward, and it encourages a lot of interaction with other players. The theme is light enough to make it fun and engaging, and yet it requires enough strategy to be interesting. This is one of the only family friendly strategy games I regularly play that requires those meaningful decisions I discussed previously.
  • Fast-paced action. Because this game is pretty easy to learn, it means you don’t have a lot of analysis paralysis. In turn, it moves quickly and you’re able to keep up without issue, even if you’re just starting.
  • So many versions! I mentioned above that we have Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries in addition to the original game, and we love it just as much. There are many different versions of this game, with new maps, slightly different rules, and unique player counts.
  • Wanderlust. I always feel a sense of wanderlust when we play this game, regardless of which map we play. I absolutely love to travel, but since it’s not entirely practical (or affordable) to travel nonstop, I can usually–temporarily–scratch the itch with a quick game of TTR.

In short

This is a great game to have in your personal collection. If you’re not ready to commit, check it out at your local game store. No self-respecting game store would be complete without it in their trial library. It’s a classic game, respected–if not loved–by every board game fan I know, yours truly included. I’m already looking forward to the day I can teach Baby Bear how to play.

Are you a TTR fan, too? Which version is your favorite?





An Open Letter to My Son


Dear Baby Brown Bear,

Please, please, please be a positive change in this world. Let your legacy be one of peace, unity, and love.

Unfortunately I write this to you in the wake of the deadliest shooting in U.S. history, where 50 people were killed and more than 50 more were wounded at an LGBT nightclub. It was a horrifying and hateful act. One which was sadly not altogether unexpected.

We live in a heartbreaking time where adults (and even children) are massacred and nothing changes. People who have the greatest power to affect change sit by and send their empty “prayers” and condolences on social media while families are destroyed and futures are senselessly ended. As Loud is Ladylike said, this issue is especially hard to unravel or even begin to solve as it is a sickening blend of gun violence, LGBT hate crime, and terrorism.

We also live in a time where heinous acts of sexual assault occur regularly and, again, nothing happens. In fact, only 0.6% of rapists are incarcerated. Most instances of sexual assault aren’t even reported (only one out of three is). Just recently, a rapist was given a sentence of just six months instead of the requested six years because prison “would have a severe impact on him” (he was a Stanford athlete, don’t we know?!). His father said even that was too harsh because his crime was only “20 minutes of action.” Even more disgusting, we are supposed to consider this a victory because, hey, at least he was convicted at all.

All the while, we are quickly destroying our planet. Human ignorance, denial, greed, and apathy are all contributing factors to increased greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Pollution is at an all-time high. It’s so bad that there is a garbage island floating in our fragile oceans. Animals and plant species are rapidly going extinct. Despite the growing evidence of dire consequences already occurring, behaviors are frighteningly slow to change. We collectively take and take and take from our precious home, and at a certain point we must face that there will be nothing left.

Needless to say, I am embarrassed by how badly we are failing your generation, Baby Bear. We have the means to make a real impact, and yet we are not using them. Yes, the discussions are happening and awareness is being raised. But that is not enough

By no means am I saying I am perfect. I try my best to think of my carbon footprint, but I can be wasteful. I try my best to treat others kindly, but I lose my patience or make quick and unfair judgments. I’m also absolutely overwhelmed when I think about the multitude of problems we face today and can’t help but succumb to hopelessness.

While I can honestly say I don’t know what the answers are, I do know that they are not to shut down, give up, or become afraid. I know that we must embrace each other for our similarities and our differences, now more than ever. I know that for every vile human being there are even more with love in their hearts, across religions, across sexual and gender identities, across political views, across the world. I know that we must each fight for Mother Earth so we can continue to exist as a species.

I know that change won’t happen with silence or inaction. 

I promise to try my best to instill in you a sense of appreciation, humility, respect, compassion, and integrity. Your grandparents taught me from a very young age to treat others as I would like them to treat me, and I hope to teach you the same. I hope you surround others with as much love as you are surrounded with yourself. I hope you will fight for those who cannot. I hope you will try to make each day better than the day before for the people, animals, and earth around you. It will not always be easy, but I hope to give you the courage you need to stand up for and do what is right.

Baby Bear, every single positive difference you make counts. Even small, nearly imperceptible change is change.

As long as I live, I will try to lead by example. While the atrocity that occurred today in Orlando makes me want to do nothing but cuddle you in my arms and keep you safe against me, I cannot. Instead, I must devote my life to bringing more love and peace into this world so that you do the same for your children one day. I must help you grow to be the good, kindhearted, and intelligent man I know you will be.

I love you with my whole heart, Baby Bear. You are my legacy.

Yours always,

Mama Bear


Little Free Library: A Chicago (& Worldwide) Spotlight

Little Free Libraries excites me because they encourage reading and neighborhood interaction. If you follow this blog, then you know by now that those are two things for which I’ve already demonstrated a lot of enthusiasm (here and here, for example).

A Little Free Library is very simply a free book exchange. Though they are connected through a nonprofit organization, it appears anyone can start one. For that reason, there are now more than 40,000 registered Free Little Libraries across all 50 states and in more than 70 countries worldwide. So if you’re thinking these little boxes look familiar, it’s probably because you have one near you.

The first little box I encountered (near First Slice on Ashland, one of my favorite local bakeries) piqued my interest, especially because it was so carefully decorated. Upon further inspection, I realized it’s actually affiliated with Edgewater Reads, but tomato, tomato (which really loses its pizzazz when written).


Love at first sight at Ashland and Balmoral.

It soon became my goal to find as many of these libraries as I could. Not necessarily to collect or donate books, but rather to take in a little bit of the blocks and neighborhoods they represented.

Here are a few of my favorites from the Andersonville, Ravenswood Gardens, and Lincoln Square areas.


Campbell and Sunnyside.


Rockwell and Leland.
I cannot remember the location of this one. Oops!


Glenwood and Berwyn (woo, Andersonville and Sweden!).

Finally, after months of casually (and a little creepily) taking pictures, I decided it was high time donate. So one day, Papa Bear, Baby Bear, and I all went for a little stroll over to the Little Free Library on Eastwood near Rockwell. I love Ravenswood Gardens, so I was happy to leave a little piece of me behind.


Donation target at Rockwell and Eastwood.


Our contribution.


Adiós, friends.

Plan Your Visit

Check out this map to find a Free Little Library near you. If you can’t, start one!

Postpartum Periods, And I’m Not Talking About the “Fourth Trimester”

Consider this your official warning. If you don’t want to hear about periods–and just to clarify if you didn’t get the hint in the title, I’m talking about menstruation here–you should probably stop reading this post.

It is partly a motherhood blog, after all, and if you learned anything from your elementary school “birds and the bees” conversation, you should know that a period is a part of the whole deal.

Dad, I’m giving you a fair warning.

Are they gone? Okay. Let’s get started.

Postpartum Periods: Revenge of the Menses


At this point, I should probably dedicate my blog to The Shining. It’s so diverse in its relevancy!

My first post-baby period came when Baby Brown Bear was eight months old. Even though I had been wondering when it would happen, even (stupidly) wanting it to come back, it was still a bit of a shock when it actually did. And at eight months, I recognize that I’m pretty lucky! Some moms get theirs back within weeks (and subsequently flip Mother Nature the biggest bird they can muster). As if you don’t have enough bleeding and trauma down there already. I mean, come on.

I have enough friends with babies that I knew that my period might be a little different or that it would suck having it again after nearly 18 months, but I just wasn’t prepared. Why is it that, you might ask? Well…

I’d Forgotten Some Things

Like buying supplies

When you don’t have a period for 17 months, it’s easy to lose track of buying things like tampons. When my period first started, and it came back roaring, I had to desperately rummage through all of our bathroom cabinets. After searching to the point of sweating, I finally discovered a lone, half-empty box of regular absorbency tampons and a handful of postpartum hospital pads. You know, the kind that are basically little pillow-sized adult diapers. I first tried the tampon, but let’s be real, it was like trying to plug a tailpipe with a toothpick. I suppose I’m lucky I had those diapers, because they really work. Pro tip: ask for a bunch of extras when you leave the hospital because you may need them when you forget to buy supplies several months down the road.

Like how hungry I get

Right after baby came, and while my hormonal body was adjusting to milk production, I was ravenous. I must have craved a burger and shake every two hours. That hunger eventually tapered off, though I still feel like I go from zero to 1,000 on the hunger scale if I wait too long between meals, and I returned to eating just slightly more than the average person. Well, lo and behold, when that first period came back, it’s like I morphed into a lumberjack coming home after chopping 65 logs. For a girl who genuinely loves vegetables, all I wanted was cake and chocolate and butterscotch and ice cream and salt and vinegar chips and pickles. And a burger for good measure.

Like how emotional I am

Another throwback to the hormonal shifts immediately following birth, I just wasn’t ready for the emotional roller coaster that comes with a period.


I’m sure my husband would have preferred I be locked up in a glass case.

My sister-in-law said she knows she’s about to be on her period when she feels rage. It’s an appropriate description, really, because I seem to turn from a lovable but slightly irritable woman into a violent, prehistoric sea monster awakened and empowered by nuclear radiation. Otherwise known as Godzilla.


This totally would have been me if I still had a job. Instead I had to resort to yelling at the dog. Baby Bear’s first words are destined to be, “No, Kaiser!” At full volume, nonetheless.

Like the gas

Like many other bodily issues, I had to wonder at first if this was a result of pregnancy or if it was just a period symptom I had long forgotten. When Google told me I must have a life threatening illness, I turned to friends who put my mind at ease and kindly reminded me that being a woman can suck.



Some Things Have Straight Up Changed

Like the fact that I’m feeding a human being

Baby Bear continues to eat more and more solids, but his primary food source is still breast milk. That means he’s attached to me for a good portion of the day. It also means that my body knows how much milk he typically needs in that day. Well, little did I know that period hormones can decrease milk production. I started to feel like I was starving my baby because I couldn’t rebound fast enough each time he wanted to eat. It frustrated him and it scared me. Plus, the taste can apparently change a little bit, which is yet another thing I didn’t realize could happen. Not only did I fear I wasn’t making enough, but half the time he would refuse me by dramatically gagging anytime I got near him. Thanks, Baby Bear. As if I didn’t feel bad enough already.

Like the unpredictability in its duration

Period, period, how it blows. When it stops, nobody knows.

I think I’ve made my point on this one.



Like the flow

Oh God, the flow. Having a baby turned my babbling brook of a period into a flood of damn near biblical proportions. Honestly it feels like I’m being punished for giving birth by having my body experience 17 months’ worth of periods all at once. Maybe time has helped me forget, but I seriously don’t remember ever being able to feel my period happen. On the positive side, I now know what I’d look like in a murder scene.



Is It Just Me?

If that’s the case, then man that sucks. However I have a feeling some of you may know what I’m talking about here. I suppose we should all be grateful that our bodies are functioning as they are supposed to–and I really am OVER THE MOON that my body allowed me to carry, birth, and care for my baby–but I think it’s okay to bitch every now and again.

What am I missing? Were you taken aback when it came for you?




Mama Bear’s Labor & Delivery Resource Guide

Though Baby Bear is still only 10 months old, his first birthday is looming. Every time I see a pregnant woman, I feel like she and I are compatriots, both starting our motherhood journeys. Then I realize that baby months are like dog years and 10 months are practically a lifetime. I mentioned it in greater length already, but it really does feel like it’s just been a blink of an eye since he was born.

In starting to mentally prepare myself for what I know will be an emotional day (mostly for me, no doubt), I’ve been thinking a lot about my labor and delivery. Now that my hormones have regulated and I can reflect on those days with more clarity, I decided to put together a list of recommendations based on what helped me feel most prepared for the big day.



Birth Wishes Disclaimer

I’d like to preface this guide by saying that this is a judge-free zone; this mama is supportive of whatever kind of birth is best for you. In fact, my motherhood mantra is “whatever works.”

Regardless of how you want to bring your baby into this world, I hope you feel supported and empowered. At the end of the day, what we all want is a healthy baby and a healthy mom.

That said, I do think it’s helpful to do a little research so you know what options are available to you, especially should any complications arise. If nothing else, this preparation helps you understand the various and acronym-heavy labor and delivery terminology. It also helps you and your partner think about what you value most in terms of your birth experience. Trust me, you won’t want to discuss your plans in throes of contractions.

I also think it’s helpful for you and your partner to document your birth wishes and discuss them with your provider and support team. The more educated and vocal you are about your wishes, the more prepared you will feel.

Understanding that I had to be flexible, it was my goal from the start to have a natural, un-medicated childbirth. While that is somewhat reflected below, I fully believe that the following suggestions are valuable to any expectant mom (and her partner).

Okay, disclaimer done. Let’s continue.

Labor & Delivery Prep Recommendations

Here are my suggestions for how you can achieve a positive birth experience.

1. Hire a doula



A doula is a trained childbirth expert who provides emotional and physical support before, during, and after a baby’s arrival. I loved my midwives, as mentioned below, but I knew they probably wouldn’t be in the room with us the entire time. As first-time parents, both Papa Bear and I felt we could benefit from having someone with experience on hand throughout the entire labor to help guide me through contractions, advocate for us if we needed help understanding potential issues, and provide reinforcement for Papa Bear.

In addition to day-of support, our doula, Audrey, met with us during a few prenatal visits to discuss our birth wishes and go over exercises to help baby get into position, pain management techniques, breastfeeding, and what to expect with a newborn. These visits were also an opportunity for us to learn more about each other so we would feel more comfortable during labor (I knew she would see me naked, after all). She also visited us a few times after Baby Bear arrived to help with belly binding and breastfeeding.

Most importantly, Audrey was incredible during my labor. She played an integral role in helping me achieve a positive birth experience. Over the course of those 36 hours, Audrey traded back and hip press responsibilities with Papa Bear and took many turns pouring water over my belly in the tub. She also helped me find my voice when I was having complications delivering the placenta and everything turned into a fog. She was an incredible asset and I can’t recommend her enough.

If you choose to ignore every other item on this list, I hope you do yourself a favor and find a doula. DONA International is a great resource if you want to learn more about the benefits of birth doulas or would like to find one.

Chicago recommendation: Audrey (Thomas) Lava of Breathe Love Doula

2. Take a birth class



There are a million varieties of birth classes available in any major city. At the suggestion of our midwives, Papa Bear and I attended a six-week course that focused on, among other topics, evidence-based practices, emotional health, and partner communication. We also took the recommended breastfeeding and bringing baby home follow-up classes.

The biggest benefit of a birth class is that it arms you with information about current protocol, including possible interventions, risks, and options, and helps you think about what you want out of your birth experience.

Another huge benefit is that it is great for your mental health. In a birth class, you are surrounded with other soon-to-be-parents who can relate to all the anxieties you feel about the huge change you are about to encounter. Plus, we ended up making two very good friends in the class, and that’s always a bonus!

Chicago recommendation: The Power of Birth class at Chicago Family Picnic

3. Use a midwifery group



Now, there are many reasons you may want or need to see an OB for your delivery, and that’s totally cool. My previous provider, whom I loved, was an OB. Seeing as how he’s about 80 years old, though, he wasn’t in the business of delivering babies anymore so I had to seek someone new. Luckily for me, there is a highly rated midwifery group right down the street from my apartment. After taking their tour, it was an easy decision to make the switch.

The midwifery model of care takes a holistic approach to women’s health and really centers itself around a woman’s emotional, physical, and social well-being. Generally speaking, midwives handle low-risk pregnancies and are known to have fewer medical interventions (including Cesarean births). Not only were these qualities attractive to me in hopes of having a natural birth, but I was also drawn to the idea of being treated more as a partner instead of a patient throughout my pregnancy and postpartum periods.

I also loved that the midwifery group practiced the latest in evidence-based care. In fact, their standard protocol was almost a perfect match with my birth wishes. I never felt judged or worried after my prenatal appointments, even when I was gaining more weight than expected and was freaking myself out. It was a beautiful relationship, and one I would wish for any woman.

Chicago recommendation: Midwifery Group at Swedish Covenant Hospital

4. Read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth

ina may


Okay, here’s where we get a little crunchy. Ina May Gaskin is arguably the most famous midwife in the country and was a founder of The Farm Midwifery Center, which is basically an out-of-hospital birth commune (I told you it was going to be crunchy). She says childbirth is something women are built to do and is a proponent for treating birth as the spiritual experience it was meant to be. Now, a lot of what she says should be read with a grain of salt, but she emphasizes positivity and that’s why her book resonated with me so much.

I also recommend this book because more than half of it is just different women telling their (positive) birth stories. Pregnancy literature is saturated with horror stories about what might go wrong and how hard labor is. Everyone knows things could go wrong and that labor is hard. Those books made me feel discouraged and like I was facing a mountain. Ina May’s book made me feel excited about the labor and delivery. It made me focus on the connection I had with my baby and think about the beauty of labor. It made me feel strong, powerful, and, well, womanly. Every woman should feel so empowered before she gives birth.

Book recommendation: Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

5. Be active & exercise



This is a no-brainer, but it bears repeating. At the risk of sounding overly emotional, I enjoyed exercise more while pregnant than I ever have because I couldn’t help but think about the physical connection baby and I shared. Each breath I took was for both of us; each movement I made could be felt by both of us. Though I hadn’t been a yogi before pregnancy, I will say that prenatal yoga was an especially good way to focus on this relationship.

It was also helpful for me to view exercise as training for the most difficult physical challenge I would ever face. Once I was out of the exhausting first trimester, I hit the ground running (well, more elliptical riding and walking). Staying active throughout my pregnancy helped me feel ready for the physicality of labor and definitely contributed to my being able to keep going after such a long time.

Chicago recommendations: Women’s Workout World (gym), Bloom Yoga (yoga), North Shore Channel Trail (walking path)

6. Make a kickass playlist


This is a small glimpse of my own labor playlist.

If your labor and delivery unit allows you to play music, I highly suggest grabbing a Bluetooth speaker, subscribing to Spotify (I have the Premium membership for $9.99/month), and putting together your own labor playlist.

Choose music that makes you feel inspired (“I Believe I Can Fly”), sentimental (“Can’t Help Falling In Love”), amused (“Beelzeboss (The Final Showdown)”), like an badass (“I’m Shipping Up to Boston”), happy (“Could You Be Loved”), relaxed (“Aloha Oe”), and like the powerful woman you are (“Run the World (Girls)”).

As you can see from the sample in the picture and my above recommendations, my playlist included quite a random collection from across nearly every category, from opera to disco to rap. Each song was carefully chosen to make me feel as pumped up as possible. For the most part, I had some kind of special memory tied to each song, which made for a nice little distraction during contractions. As labor progressed, I started paying less attention to the world around me (including the music), but one of my favorite labor memories was being in the birthing tub, having a very zen moment, and hearing the suddenly loud and…uh…vulgar words of “Down With the Sickness.” My nurse looked at me like I had two heads, but it made me laugh when I didn’t think it was possible. The only song I ended up telling Papa Bear I “just couldn’t listen to right now!” was “Tearin’ Up My Heart.” Sorry, *NSYNC. I was in a zone.

In Short

Feel free to take or leave the above recommendations; together they helped me feel excited and ready to welcome my baby, but everyone is different.

Again, the most important thing is that you feel supported and empowered throughout your pregnancy, labor, and delivery. You are birthing a human being into this world! No matter what, surround yourself with positivity. It’s a beautiful time in your life and should be celebrated as such.

Do you have any other suggestions? Please comment!