Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Why I turned to Formula or...Why Breastfeeding Wasn't the Answer for Us

This has been sitting in my drafts for well over a year!   Time flies when you have a baby and now a toddler :)

This is a controversial topic so I want to first say that there is no right or wrong here. I know passions run deep in each camp and I want to be clear that I am not here to make judgments or say that one is so much better than the other.  I think everyone has to do what is best for their families and trust that everyone makes decisions coming from the best possible place.  I'm just documenting what I went through and why we chose to go the way we did in case it is helpful to others. 

Being as how I am somewhat of a crunchy granola person in many ways, I went into this whole baby thing thinking I would be breastfeeding for up to a year.  Minimum.  I still told myself that there was nothing wrong if I had to use formula (and even bought a brand I felt comfortable enough with to keep on hand...separate post coming on that) but to me, my mind was made up: I'd be a breastfeeding mama!

I knew breastfeeding wasn't necessarily easy and I knew that I'd need to see how my health was after he was born (I have autoimmune issues in addition to some other things I won't go into now). So I told myself that no matter what, if I had to use formula it would be fine.  Truth be told,  I went into this feeling like I had already peeked into a crystal ball and knew how it would all play out.  Breast is best, right? And only the best would do for my baby so obviously he'd be breastfed.  I did give myself an out, but really there was no question how this was gonna go..

Welp, I am sure you saw this coming - Joke's on me! And I was completely floored by how upset I was when breastfeeding didn't work for us.

Let me back up....As soon as Finley was born, I was shocked by how pushy the hospital was in regards to breastfeeding and I say that as someone who is pro-breastfeeding.  Immediately, we had latching issues and I never felt like he was getting enough to eat. He was a sleepy baby and pretty much fell asleep as soon as he made contact.  When he tried to eat, I could tell he wasn't getting anything. It was stressful knowing that in order to be discharged he needed to regain his birth weight yet he wasn't really eating.  Despite the fact that I was having so many issues, no one offered supplementation. Lactation consultants stopped by, but were largely unhelpful.  Nurses contradicted each other (one immediately handed me a nipple shield, the other acted like that was a horrible thing to use).  Still, we kept trying! Throughout all of this, I was never offered formula despite the fact that he didn't seem to be eating very much.  It didn't even feel like an option.

The first night home was a disaster. By this time, my milk had come in and I became painfully engorged making the latching almost impossible.  Having not slept at.all. in the hospital and with frayed postpartum nerves, I was a mess.

I was getting up every 2 hours to feed him and it took almost the full 2 hours just to get him to eat anything.  I'll never forget one early morning session where he was starving and looking up at me with big sad eyes, crying, and I couldn't give him what he needed.   I felt like the worst mom ever and like I was completely incompetent.  Desperate to feed him, I remembered that I had a breast pump stashed in the closet and so broke it out.  Sitting on the couch feeling like a failure, hooked up to the machine, and sobbing is a sad memory from those first few days.  In the end, I was just thankful that I was able to give him a few ounces so he could sleep.   That I wasn't able to see this as a victory - I was able to feed him! - is a testament to how much pressure I was putting on myself to make this whole breastfeeding thing work.

The next day I decided to hire a private lactation consultant and was told that pumping was less than ideal (not a fan of how judgy even attempting to give breast milk can be whether its via pumping or the breast but that's a post for another day).  I was then given a very complicated regime that involved cabbage leaves, hot showers and timing his feedings in between those two events among other things all within the 2 hour feeding window.  It felt very much like an insane choreography and after several rounds of this with no luck, and no break, I finally broke down and pumped to help lessen the pain.  Somehow even then, I felt like a failure. At this point, I was going on several days without sleep (that's not an exaggeration and I quickly realized why sleep deprivation is considered a torture tactic) and felt certifiably crazy. I was not enjoying the first precious days with my baby and I was holed up in the back bedroom trying to keep up with the breastfeeding tips and feeling isolated.  It just plain wasn't healthy for me or my family.  The anxiety I was experiencing was growing by the second and I honestly wondered if I was going insane at times.

In addition, it became clear that I needed to get back on an antibiotic and another medication that wasn't breastfeeding friendly.  I tried my best to keep going, but it was finally my wonderful husband who held me as I was crying and reminded me that I wasn't a bad mom if I decided to use formula.  As soon as he said that, a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders and I sobbed in relief.  I didn't realize until then that I just needed someone to say that for me.  Supposedly I knew that going in, but hearing someone I love and respected - especially one who is as devoted to Finley's wellbeing as I am -  say that was powerful.  I knew my breastfeeding journey was over...

We had an appointment at his pediatrician's office and because it was only 15 minutes, my main question was regarding the best way to transition to formula.  That's when the judgment started: "Despite your health reasons, can't you breastfeed for at least one more month? It really would be best."  "What kind of health issues do you have that you can't breastfeed?!" At this point, I pretty much put a stop to the line of questions because I found them insulting, largely unhelpful and intrusive. I reminded her that we only had 15 minutes and I wanted to use those precious minutes to focus on my son and that was not enough time for me to go through my complete medical history anyway.  I'm relieved that at this point, I had completely made peace with my decision as moving to formula was not something I took lightly.  Otherwise, I probably would have been racked by guilt. Instead, I was pissed.   

Because what I read online is mostly in regards to breast-shaming or formula pushers, I was frankly shocked at how anti-formula TO A FAULT every professional I came into contact with was.  I felt largely unsupported by these people who were supposed to be helping. It was like the underlying message was "breastfeeding is the ONLY option a GOOD mom goes with".  That's just not the case...as with most things in life, it's just not that black and white.

Whenever I confided into mothers that I moved to formula, I was pleasantly surprised by how supportive even breastfeeding moms were with my decision.  Several actually confided to me that they were envious I was able to come to that decision when I did.  One wished they had moved to formula sooner, another wished their husband would have been more vocal in saying that they should try formula instead when breastfeeding was such a struggle.  I think no matter what, every mom is just doing the best they can and feels guilty when what they think is best doesn't work out. Sometimes it really is so helpful for the partner to ease the guilt and encourage them to try something else when it's just not working.  Until Tom said what he did, I realized I thought he was thinking breastfeeding was something I needed to make work no matter what (because breast is best of course) and that just wasn't the case. 

Once we switched, I never looked back and still believe it was the best decision for us.  There are obvious advantages - babies sleep through the night faster, the partner is able to split the feedings and most importantly:  Finley thrived with no issues.   He is a happy, healthy baby and I believe he is because of the formula, not despite it.  

I also think it has a lot to do with what you personally think you can handle.  My best friend has overcome a lot in order to make breastfeeding work and I've been so impressed with her dedication and resilience through it.  Her kids had reactions through the milk from foods she was eating and she ended up basically eliminating every allergen you can think of from her diet.  Had I been in the same position, I know I would not have handled that well. I would have been a mess, blaming myself for accidentally eating dairy or feeling horrible as I watched Finley react to it.  I think Tom could see me going down that road as well which is why he decided to speak up.  In comparison, my friend took it in stride and steadily made changes.  She is different though - this was do-oable for her.  So again, we all have to figure out what makes sense and what doesn't for our personalities and lifestyles.   

My autoimmune issues also react badly to stress. One of my greatest fears when we became pregnant was that I would be sick after he was born and unable to care for him. Stress triggers flares and for all of the reasons above, I am thankful we moved away from the breast, because Finn has a healthy and happy mom caring for him...I do not think I would be either of these things if I had been breastfeeding.    That being said, if we are lucky enough to have another baby I will still give breastfeeding another shot - I just will be easier on myself if it doesn't work out.

So moms, do what you have to in order to ensure everyone thrives.  If you want to breastfeed then go on with your bad self.  I think that's pretty awesome.  If you need or -gasp! - WANT to formula feed?  I think it's great you are able to make that decision!  Everyone should do what work's for them.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Finley's First Christmas and Wedding!

We made it to Florida not once, but twice in December!   The first trip was for Kris and Gabe's wedding (amazing and I need to do a separate post!) and the second trip was to spend Christmas with our families.  You could say it was a busy month...

But first, here's a few pics from Finley's first trip to see Santa Claus.  We went to the mall in Northbrook, a northwest suburb of Chicago, mostly because it was close and they allowed for online reservations.  Note to self: reservations are the way to go if that line was any indication!   We went after work so Tom could join us and we quickly learned that they don't call it the "witching hour" for nothing!  Finley was not in the best of moods so we got the requisite baby crying photo with Santa.  Also, how great is that Santa?!  I think he may be the real deal...

Even while waiting in line, you can see he was not impressed....

Of course, he was all smiles as soon as we were done!  Little stinker :)  His smile goes straight to my heart!

Now onto other random Christmas shots we took throughout the month.   Well this next one is technically not "Christmasy" but it's too cute not to share ;) little cubby bear

Somebody's stocking is bigger than the others (as it should be!)...

Shopping for his first Christmas Tree!

We stayed at my parent's house for Christmas but made it a priority to split our time between Tom's family and my family as much as possible.  It was busy but we are so happy we could be with everyone after such a special year!   It was also unseasonably hot - in the 80's - so I was glad I had the hand-me-down's Karly had given Finn. I remembered to grab them on the way to the airport - otherwise, he would have been pretty hot in his Chicago gear!

"Opening" his first present ;)

Christmas Jammies!

Just a small portion of his presents...he is a very loved kiddo!

Displaying IMG_6035.JPG
Displaying IMG_6035.JPG

Some pretty adorable pics under the tree with his cousins!  Nonnie got the outfits and they were super cute!

Displaying IMG_6035.JPG

Sweaty baby on the way to get oysters at our favorite oyster bar, Hunt's

More of his Florida attire

Airport baby

This was pretty much our set-up for both flights - he had his own seat for most of it and it made it really easy.   He slept almost the whole way.  Traveling with an infant/baby is a lot easier than older babies or so I hear.

The Wedding
The wedding was at the beginning of the month and it was so beautiful!  Kris and Gabe had to scramble and find new locations halfway through the planning process and ended up with an even better location: the Meeting House at Carillon for the ceremony and Runaway Island for the reception.  Both families are pretty large but it managed to feel intimate and special.  Everything from the flowers to the makeup to the weather couldn't have been better and Kris and Gabe have never looked more stunning.  Holly Gardner did a fantastic job capturing it all!  Tom and I felt blessed to be a part of their wedding and I'm so glad Finley was able to make it and be a part of it as well!  Their original date was in October so we were thisclose to missing it.   Sometimes things happen for a reason I suppose :)

I have to note that it felt different being at a wedding as a mom with a newborn (he was 2 months at the time). Normally I'm out on the dance floor tearing it up, but I was more concerned about helping my parents keep an eye on Finley.  Tom made up for it by dancing up a storm for the both of us (the guy has got moves!) so I think we were still well represented, ha.  It did make me a bit sad though, because I didn't quite recognize myself...not really sure how to explain it.  Post baby headspace can be weird.  However,  I had an absolutely wonderful time celebrating with family and friends and we are so excited for the happy couple!

Also, thank goodness she picked black for the bridesmaids!   It is so much more forgiving when you are still making your way back to your pre-baby body.   It was interesting shopping for it because I kept dropping weight (not that I'm complaining!) so a dress that fit the week before would all of a sudden be too big.  Rent the Runway to the rescue..again ;)  Also, my mom is a safety pin ninja and was able to alter the dress when it was still a bit baggy for me which helped a lot.    I wore this dress with lot of spanx!

 Here's a few photos from the day!

What a great month - gonna be hard to top :)


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Looking Back: Finley's Birth Story

I have been keeping notes on this whole motherhood thing since the beginning but was waiting to get my pictures together before posting this.  It was written 2 days Post Delivery on October 7th, 2015.  Needless to say, our lives changed forever in the best possible way on October 5th when Finley made his debut.

I was so fortunate to have a great birth experience - not that I am looking forward to doing it again it anytime soon!.  It was thankfully uncomplicated and Finley came out perfectly healthy with a 9/9 on the APGAR scale for which we are eternally grateful.  Seeing him for the first time was an unbelievable experience that neither Tom nor I will ever forget.  Honestly, I won't spend too much time putting into words what we felt because it was/is just indescribable.  The love we have for him defies explanation and blows me away on a daily basis. However, I did want to document how it all happened because if we are lucky, maybe we will do this again sometime in the future ;)

Prior to Finley's birth, I became increasingly impatient for him to get here already.  I was so excited and anxious to meet the little boy who kicked and hiccupped all night (something he would continue to do as a newborn!).  Yes, it's true that the final weeks are the most brutal. Besides the feeling of excitement and nervousness, I was just plain uncomfortable especially when my pregnancy induced sciatica would flare.  It was uncomfortable for me to do anything like take walks or even sit on the couch for too long.  If I could have stayed in bed all day, I would!  Best purchase of the year was our new king size mattress for sure!

Furthermore, my docs - who are great - kept getting my hopes up during my weekly appointments. I kept hearing how much I was progressing and even got a "you will not make it to your due date!" comment.  All this did was stress me out as my due date approached and I am sure that nervousness halted any progress I was making.  I found myself trying every possible old wives tale trick to kick off labor including oils, acupuncture, and massages.  Nothing. To boot, we had a situation a couple of days prior which resulted in a quick trip to L&D because he had decreased movement – thankfully all was ok (the apple juice did the trick!  I'll make sure to keep that stocked at all times in the future).  So as you can imagine, we were both pretty on edge.
I went to bed the night of my due date (Sunday, Oct 4th) convinced I would need the induction we had scheduled for Wednesday, the 7th.  At that point, I had no real promising signs or symptoms which was beyond discouraging:  There were no Braxton Hicks, no period like cramps, no "cleaning out" and - this should be no surprise to anyone who knows me - no "nesting".  The only possible sign I noted was that I had a couple of hours of hot flashes Sunday afternoon/evening during a mani/pedi which was a first for me. Hindsight is 20/20, but that was really the only clue that my body was preparing to go into labor (I'm assuming it was my hormones fluctuating or something...who knows!).  Again, I am noting this because I spent way too much time on google trying to figure out what signs might indicate it was go time!
I woke up Monday at 1 am  after tossing and turning all night and waddled to the bathroom to pee for the umpteenth time.  Just as I stepped onto the bathroom tile, my water broke. I remember yelling at Tom "Hey! I think my water broke!" and him shooting out of bed saying "Seriously?!"  He was so surprised because he figured it would be Wednesday before we met FInley.  We were both so shocked with how I went from 0-60: from no symptoms to my water breaking.  It actually continued breaking off and on for a bit (didn't realize that was possible,,,) and from there, the contractions started almost immediately.  Mine felt…I dunno how to really describe them at that point…not a tightening, not really cramps, just different.  A quick call to my doc confirmed it was time to head to the hospital!  We doubled checked our hospital bag, brushed our teeth, grabbed the car seat and were on our way!

I remember driving on Michigan Ave seeing the city lit up looking beautiful and just being excited through the uncomfortable waves of pain. This was it!  We were actually going to meet our son in a matter of hours!  It felt surreal.

From there, it actually progressed pretty fast.  Triage confirmed my contractions were 4 min apart and I was 4 cm dilated (at this point, I felt most of them and for me they felt like a ton of pressure – like I needed to poo…also I should note that I didn't feel all contractions which surprised me because so many people said "trust me, you will know it's a contraction".  Guess what? That's not always the case...

I got an epi as soon as I was in my room which – if you are on the fence, I have to say I would do again. in a heartbeat.   I say this even though I had an inexperienced nurse who had do my IV 3 times before it stuck and even then forgot to connect the IV ti to the fluid bag which caused me to almost pass out during the epi process. I had to have them start the epi all over again.  OUCH (in retrospect, this was actually more painful than the delivery if you can believe it).  I couldn't even be mad at that point though because I was just so excited to be thisclose to meeting our son!  The epi allowed me to feel pressure and that pressure definitely felt painful at times, but  I was grateful for the buffer.

Because my waters had already broken, they leaned towards induction (pitocin) which I was also ok with (I know it's not for everyone). Just prior to getting the epi my contractions had stalled a bit and between the epi keeping me relaxed (which allowed me to nap and save a ton of energy for pushing) and the pitocin, I went from 4 cm to 10 cm in about 1.5 hours.  All told, I pushed for 35 minutes which surprised my doc who earlier had warned us it would be a long day!  He also told me I was a terrible pusher, so I guess I had something to prove :)

My mother was thankfully able to change her flight from Wednesday (the date of the induction) to the first flight out of Panama City!  She literally made it to the hospital as I started pushing!  We got a laugh out of the fact that she waltzed into the delivery room suitcase in hand, and I had to stop pushing to say - "I'm a little busy, I will see you soon!".

I still remember them saying as I was pushing that they could see his head which both freaked me out motivated me at the same time (not so fun was hearing, "Almost there! Just have to get past the shoulders"....ouch).  However, before I knew it, he was out and screaming!  I remember Tom looking over at me with tears in his eyes saying "He's perfect!  You were amazing" and them placing him on my chest for skin-to-skin.  It's odd though because I actually didn't see his face for a while as he was laid on my chest.  When I did it was love at first sight.

I was relieved that I lucked out in having a relatively uneventful labor. He was born at 11:00 a.m. so all told it was about a 10-11 hour delivery.  Not too bad.   Also, for those that say their amazing experiences are owed to their obsessive working out and the perfect flow of nutrients, know that my sciatica meant I didn't work out at all and towards the end of the pregnancy, I ate whatever I could get down (typically bland things like cereal and rice cakes)…making me believe even more that you just never know how it's going to go and its luck of the draw. 

It's only been a few days but there were a few things that surprised me about all of this

No one warned me how much staying in the hospital would suck.  Everyone blames the actual newborn for lack of sleep but I have to say that the hospitals screw you over right from the get go so you start off in a sleep deficit when you get home. EVERY hour of the day and night someone was in our room either checking on me or the baby, running tests etc.   I get that it's needed and am appreciative, but I guess I thought it would be more…contained?   between needing to feed him every 2 hours and still riding the high of birth and crashing hormones, it meant that I maybe had 2 hours of sleep between today and Monday morning…so now you know why this is a long rambling post! 

It's tough watching your baby endure all of the newborn tests.  His cries tore my heart out and I highly resented all of the poking and prodding of my kid who was all of a day old.   The practical side of me knew it was a good thing, but the mama bear instinct is real.  The second day was the roughest bc it was essentially non-stop screaming as he was checked out by various docs (and this for a kid with no issues…so my heart goes out to anyone who had any type of complication to deal with). I couldn't wait to get him out of there so we could bring him  to a cozy, warm environment. 

The lack of sleep and crashing hormones are real and make no sense.  I'm probably the only one who is surprised by this.  I was lucky in my pregnancy in that I never had a wave of crazy hormones – I was pretty steady throughout – no major cryfrests etc – and yet going into pregnancy I heard all about how I would be a crying machine bc that is just what happens when carrying a baby.   So now, I am beyond surprised by how many times I have cried since Monday.  i know its the lack of sleep but wow.  Sometimes the crying makes sense (being frustrated at the lack of breastfeeding progress) sometimes its anxiety (we both had trouble even attempting naps when it was both of us alone with him bc we watched him like hawks)…but it's also been because of nothing. Gah.  Also, I was someone who was like – "yeah, I'll give BF a try but no shame if it doesn't work out…yet am now beside myself because I am having trouble with breastfeeding…go figure).  God bless my husband who was a rock throughout all of the craziness!

So that's where I am at in a nutshell…elated, in love and also struggling with figuring this out.  I am off now to finally catch a nap so I can snuggle with my son somewhat refreshed.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

{Vacation ReCap} Costa Rican Babymoom at the Four Seasons & Andaz Resorts

So this is going to be short because there isn't a lot a pregnant lady can do in Costa Rica, ha. However, I wanted to note our trip because it was in celebration of Finley and we can't wait to go back as a family.  We took this trip in May of 2015 which I highly recommend because it's just after the busy season so rates are extremely reasonable.

Where we stayed:  Four Seasons in the Papagayo Peninsula and then the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort.  We picked the Four Seasons for the majority of our stay because they were having such an amazing deal, but on what was to be our last night, the price more than doubled.  The Andaz was nearby and also highly rated so we transferred there for our final night.  At the time, the Four Seasons was rated #1 on Trip Advisor followed by Andaz, but as of this post, it seems to have flipped which surprises me.

We much preferred the service and offerings of the Four Seasons as the Andaz service wasn't quite "there" yet - you could tell they were still working out the kinks and I think they were understaffed at the restaurants and hotel.  It wouldn't have annoyed me as much if it wasn't categorized as a 5-star hotel and considered on par with the Four Seasons so my expectations were high.  We found ourselves waiting a long time at the restaurant and bar and the staff while, nice, wasn't as professional and friendly.  Our room at the Four Seasons also had this amazing closed in porch that was super comfortable whereas the porch at the Andaz just wasn't as conducive to relaxing (no place to prop your feet up, set a drink, etc).  There was also no beach at the Andaz and one of my favorite activities (probably because it was the only thing a pregnant lady could do!) was hiking up and around the beach at the Four Seasons.

However, the Andaz is quite beautiful and we preferred their pools because they were infinity pools.  I also appreciate that the mini-bar is free (no alcohol) and that they have things in the room such as a beach bag, hats, and flip flops available to borrow.  The rooms were gorgeous and modern and the shower was amazing (it was glass enclosed stone and opened onto the porch).  However, the bathroom was an open concept design which doesn't leave enough to the imagination if you catch my drift.  There is no way for someone to quietly use the bathroom or sink at night or early morning.   I think the Andaz is awesome and we would definitely stay there again, but it should probably be a different category of hotel because their level of service is no way on par with a place like the Four Seasons. That would also require lowering their price as well (usually they are comporably priced).

Our Porch @ Four Seasons - we spent many evenings and mornings out here.

Room @ Four Seasons

Monkeys outside our room @ Four Seasons. One morning we saw a huge group of them playing and running around each other.

View into bathroom @ Four Seasons

Beach @ Four Seasons

Pool @ Four Seasons

Room @ Andez.  We loved the style: concrete floors, modern ammenities and more of a nature inspired design. The resort as a whole did a fantastic job of building around the natural beauty of Costa Rica and blending in.

Note the open concept bathroom set-up:  Looks great! Sounds terrible...be sure to room alone or be VERY comfortable with those you are rooming with!

The Shower, however, is incredible. The glass doors open onto the balcony.

The porch @ Andez looks good but isn't very comfortable. The lack of light late at night or early morning makes it impossible to read and there's nowhere to place a glass of wine or cup of coffee. The table isn't sturdy enough to prop your feet on either.  Gorgeous views though. Concept is great - just needs a few touches to make it more comfortable. As Tom is usually up before I am, he missed having a comfortable place to hang out while I slept in.

Gorgeous Pools - loved the infinity design and how much it's built into the land -  like it belongs there.

Cute, quirky van outside of Andez

What we did:  We pretty much stayed at the pool and on the actual resort due to the baby so we can't wait to come back and do the more active excursions Costa Rica is known for.  I loved that the Four Seasons had a ton of free activities such as guided hikes, cooking classes and the like.  One we were looking forward to was a star gazing excursion but it was canceled due to rain which was a bummer. I am also excited to come back to the Four Seasons as a family.  They did such a great job keeping any kids on the resort entertained and away from the more adult areas.  While I will obviously need a family friendly resort someday, it's nice to know that the adults in the group or those without kids can still come on vacation and enjoy themselves in peace!

We took several hikes while at the Four Seasons; some on our own and others guided, and soaked up the stunning views and wildlife.

The one big excursion we sprung for was playing 9-holes at the Arnold Palmer Golf Course which was stunning and something we still talk about.   I laugh thinking about the fact that I initially proposed we "walk the course" instead of ride - yeah right!

How we got there:  We used Southwest points (Tom is my "companion" so he flies free) and flew nonstop into San Jose.  If you aren't constrained by points, I'd fly into the Liberia airport as its only about 45 minutes from the resort vs 4 hours (we hired a private driver).

We had such a great, relaxing trip and it was over way too fast.  As soon as we were back in the States things got crazy: I lost my wallet at the airport (fell out of my bag when I flung it into a taxi trunk...it has a happy ending though: someone mailed it back to me!),  we experienced the move from hell, and I had business trips galore.  So essentially, we counteracted the relaxation almost immediately.   Oh well - guess we will have to plan another trip!


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

{Vacation ReCap} New York, New York!

So this - and a lot of upcoming posts - are about a year overdue...between not having a working home computer and the baby (plus work which revved up just before my leave), I never got the chance to post about our New York trip from January 2015!   It was a really special and memorable vacation for us, because it is where we found out we were expecting Finley!   Besides that, we hit up some great places and I wanted to note them here so that we can find them easily in the future.   I also have friends who are going soon and figured this might help them as well.

I flew to NY for a client trip and decided to turn it into a fun weekend get-a-way with Tom.  The Tuesday prior to leaving, I took a pregnancy test which came back negative.  As anyone who has ever actively tried for a baby knows, the two-week wait can be killer and once I got the results, I resigned myself to the fact that we were gonna have to wait an additional month for good news.  I decided not to take any tests with me on the trip, because those things are spendy and I was obsessively going through them.  I'm putting that disclaimer here for a reason :)

Once Tom got there, we had an awesome night on the town.  Early the next morning, I saw he had packed the pregnancy tests so I took one - it was a sickness, if I saw a pregnancy test, I HAD to take it! - and what do you know?!  It was positive!  It was incredibly happy news and definitely changed some of our plans.

Prior to going, I reached out to Gluten Free Blondie who always seems to post the yummiest food on instagram. I reached out to her for recommendations and she did not disappoint!

Here's the rundown of our trip!

Where we stayed:  SoHo/Tribeca  While the hotel wasn't anything super special (definitely small as it's NYC) it was clean and in a great location. (and free as I used SPG points!). I tend to not worry so much about staying in super unique hotels when in a big city because I know that most of the time I'll be out and about.  For this trip,  I wanted to stay away from the super touristy areas because I have done a lot of the "touristy" NYC things on a previous trip and Tom said he really just wanted to explore the neighborhoods and hang out more than anything else.  Seeing Times Square is fun and a must do for anyone's first trip, but we knew that if we went there, we wouldn't be staying long - therefore it made more sense for us to keep our base somewhere else.  Being able to easily walk through SoHo - a neighborhood where I'd love to live! - and having Chinatown right there was exactly what we wanted.    For what it's worth, my cousin used to live in NYC and she has recommended that no one go past Midtown when visiting or risk being on tourist overload.  Just FYI for anyone else planning a trip.

What we did:  We pretty much just explored and ate and had no real itinerary.  The weather was not the best so our plans to go to the "Top of the Rock" fell through (we got to the line and were turned away). We did make time to run through Times Square because Tom had never seen it, but once we took a gander, we were ready to get out of there - definitely sensory overload but fun nonetheless.  We had less than 48 hours total so just played it by ear.   We knew we couldn't get to everything: shows, Central Park, Statue of Liberty etc, so just made this a relax, eat and explore trip. I  had planned to see the World Trade Center Memorial, but it's not the easiest to get to and it was also a bit somber for what we were looking for during our short time there.  I have heard great things though and will be sure to see it when we come back!   We were able to hit the Natural History Museum with my godson which was a bonus. I am pretty sure NY moms use the lower level as a place to let their kids have free reign to run around in a safe environment. Can't say I blame them!

Where we ate and drank:

Angel's Share: I wish I remember where I first heard of this Japenese Speakeasy, but it was such a blast and I highly recommend it.  Hidden in the back of a Japanese restaurant in the East Village, it is cozy and inviting bar with super creative cocktails.  I recommend being an early bird to avoid a wait - it got very packed shortly after we arrived.  The drinks were outstanding and everyone was super friendly. We made fast friends with the people around us.  I had quite a few whiskey cocktails and was feeling no pain at the end of the night!   I had never really tried Japanese Whiskeys and while I will always be a bourbon girl, I loved the experience.

Babbo:  My cousin once took me to this Greenwich Village Mario Batoli restaurant years ago and said it was her favorite at the time and it still is to this day.  As she lived in NYC for years, I take the recommendation seriously :)  I wanted to try somewhere new for our "fancy" dinner but couldn't get this place out of my mind.  Luckily Tom was game and loved it as much as I did!   If you go to NYC for a show and want a nice place to eat beforehand, I recommend this restaurant hands down. It's Italian food in the vein of Anti-Prima for any Chicago Locals (meaning if you are expecting never-ending bowls of pasta, look elsewhere).  I also appreciated that while it is a "nice" restaurant you can get away with wearing jeans and a good shirt.   I recommend reservations, although if you are early birds you might get lucky!

Balthazar: Another place my cousin took me years ago and I just had to go back.  It's a French restaurant with delish oysters and seafood and another great contender for a nicer dinner out.  We didn't get reservations in time to have dinner,  but made sure to pop in for some cocktails at the bar. At the very least do that so you can experience the unique atmosphere or try grabbing a quick breakfast from their cafe next store.

Keste Pizza:  omg Keste - can you please come to Chicago already?!  This was one of Gluten Free Blondie's recommendations for hands-down the best gluten free pizza in NY.  It's located in the West Village and rivaled the amazing GF pizzas I experienced in Italy.  The only negative is that I have not yet found a comparable GF pizza place in Chicago.  This pizza was so good, I seriously considered cashing in Southwest points during my pregnancy just to have dinner there again.  Tom raved about his non-GF pizza as well and we will be back!

Egg Shop: Another of Gluten Free Blondie's suggestions that I highly recommend.  She noted at the time that it was just getting trendy and we immediately saw what she meant when the line ended up out the door.   I was surprised that Tom was up for trying it as he is not an Egg fan but he loved it. Inexpensive, quaint, healthy-ish, and delish  - it was just what we wanted for breakfast before wandering around the city.  As it is small, I only recommend this if you can get there before 10:30 a.m. - otherwise expect a decent wait.

Chelsea Market  & The High Line:  A really nice way to spend an afternoon or morning is walking through the Meat Packing District to the converted train tracks turned park known as The High Line (only picture I took was at the High Line which is included in this post), followed by exploring Chelsea Market (if you can, plan to  grab brunch or lunch there  - I am told Friedman's is a great option).  If you are not pregnant, I recommend ending the excursion with drinks at the Tippler a subterranean bar located under the Chelsea Market.  Have one for me as I missed out while there!

If you have a sweet tooth, try Tu-Lu's Bakery!   Located in the East Village, they have a delish assortment of gluten free treats.  They are also open late which came in handy after the Japanese Whiskey we took down. I pretty much bought them out and loved everything I tried.  I even made a last minute run to stock up on the way to the airport.  This is another Gluten Free Blondie recommendation I took to heart.  Try the cinnamon sugar donut....yummm

Bareburger (multiple locations):  This is a great easy burger place with a ton of meat options (think bison and elk in addition to turkey and beef) in addition to being gluten free friendly.  It was a perfect place to go with my godson after hitting up a museum with my cousin during our last day in the City.

If you are into coffee, note that Oregon's Stumpton Roasters has taken over the city and the iced coffee (Nitro) is amazing.  I was also a huge fan of Blue Bottle coffee (I believe they are Seattle-based or maybe San Francisco based).

We hit up a few different great bars while there but unfortunately I don't have them bookmarked - we pretty much just wandered around and if it felt like cocktail time stopped somewhere that looked like fun.

Other Suggestions: We didn't make it to the following places, but I have heard good things about these cocktail/bars and restaurants.  I have even more saved under my yelp bookmarks so feel free to check them out and add to your list if you have one.  I recommend adding places you are interested in trying to your bookmarks so that when you are out exploring and hunger or thirst strikes, you can easily see if any of your bookmarked places are in the area.  It has worked like a charm on our trips.

Raines Law Room:  Hidden speakeasy type bar. Reviewers recommend eating somewhere in Chelsea if you don't have a reservation so you can put your name down before coming back.

Flatiron Lounge:  Seems like a fun place to get a drink - sexy, art deco decor.

Milk & Honey:  Speakeasy that is on my list to try.

Otto:  Another Mario Botali restaurant that is a bit cheaper and south of Union Sq.  They offer Gluten Free pasta for those that need it.

Meatball Shop (lots of locations):  Has a decent drink menu and is a fun inexpensive option for dinner.  Some of the meatballs are gluten free.

Lilli and Loo:  Asian restaurant with Gluten Free options including dumplings which I never see...

Pala: Gluten Free Blondie says it's her second favorite pizza place, but it wins over Keste for nicer atmosphere. They even offer gluten free calamari.

Friedman's: Mentioned in the Chelsea Market section above, it has locations all over the city and is supposedly excellent.

Hope this helps! If anyone has other great recommendation, please share!