Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Party's Over

It's official. I'm now the mommy of a 1-year old. One year plus two days to be exact.

The party on Saturday can be summed up in two words: delightful chaos. While the details remain one big blur, I will attempt an account to share.

I spent most of Friday doing some last minute cleaning (windows, floors, etc.) and organizing for the party. DH got off work a little early and stopped by a local farm to pick up some hay bales as seating in the backyard. I baked Nate's smash cake, filled the favor bags and assembled the party hats and blowouts.

Saturday morning, we woke up early to pick up the guest cake at the bakery and prep the food. I set up the food table, hung the decorations and blew up balloons. I had just enough time to shower and take a deep breath before the doorbell rang at noon with the first group of arrivals.

Nate was in the middle of his morning nap at the start of the party so I was able to finish up some last minute prep and socialize while DH grilled. I received some phone calls and texts from friends and family who were stuck in traffic. Apparently, there was a 9-mile backup at the Bay Bridge and many of our guests were unable to avoid it. This meant that many of them arrived late and understandably disheveled. Our party seemed to occur in shifts. I apologized profusely out of guilt for the poor timing.

The weather was sunny. A little too sunny, in fact. The high was about 88 degrees and it was simply too hot for many guests to stay outside. So, everyone piled into our house, which dwarfed with 40 people inside. At one point, it was standing room only. I'm sure I wasn't the only one that felt like a sardine. But despite the close quarters, everyone maintained good spirits - even the youngsters.

Around 230pm, the majority of our guests had arrived and we decided to roll out the cake. Nate looked a bit nonplussed as everyone sang Happy Birthday. He wasn't sure what the big deal was. We put the cake in front of him and he picked at the fondant lettering daintily, suspicious of the contents. Being ever the evil mama, I took his hand and shoveled it into the cake. What can I say? I was desperate for a photo opp. I let him taste some of the buttercream icing off of my finger and he licked his fingers clean from the mess we made. But after that, he was through with the sweets and voiced his dissatisfaction being on display upon his throne. He would much rather play with the other kiddos that were grounded.

Once everyone had been served and indulged in their dessert, it was time to open gifts. Mommy and Daddy gave him a Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Home and Bounce and Spin Zebra. But our lucky little guy received so many other generous presents including a water table, trike, ride-on, puzzles, board books and clothes. His favorite had to be his Elmo Live from Grandma. His eyes just lit up the moment he spotted the furry red monster. The kids just about tackled each other to get closer. He was definitely the highlight of the party for the little ones.

After the last of the cards and gifts had been opened, many of our guests hit the road. Some family lingered for a while longer but by 5pm, it was back to just the three of us. Nate passed out early from sheer exhaustion. Before I retired to bed myself, I looked around the room at the clutter of empty food plates and loose wrapping paper. I never felt more blessed.
___________________________________________

On Sunday, we decided to spend the day celebrating as the unit we created one year ago. As a family of three.

We took Nate on his first trip to the Baltimore Zoo. He marveled at the animals and the sights. His favorite exhibit was the giraffe house. He couldn't take his eyes off of them. He was so enthralled with the long-necked creatures that we stopped by the gift shop on our way out and got him a little stuffed giraffe so he could take a piece of our safari adventure home with him. He smiled at and cuddled with it the entire way home. It was so incredibly adorable.

The amazing thing was that he was on his best behavior all day. It's as if he knew it was his special day. No temper tantrums, like he has perfected as of late. No obstinence. He was in an unusually good mood - laughing, smiling, shrieking. He didn't shed a tear at all, all day long. I'd never seen him so happy. And I don't think I could have been happier either.

I tucked him in that night and shed a few tears as I reminisced about the happenings of the last year. It's always a little sad to close a chapter. After all, we had so many good times and learned so much about each other in the past 12 months.

But like any good story, I anticipate what's to come next. It can only get better from here.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

On The Eve of Your Birthday

My son,

Your first birthday party has ended and as you sleep soundly in your crib, I am sitting here - surrounded by your countless gifts - with balloons, favors and trinkets strewn about. And I am reminded of how incredibly lucky I am to have you in my life. I truly believe you were handpicked from the heavens for Daddy and I. Just for us.

Tomorrow, you will be one year old. I'm in disbelief with a dash of denial. I can't imagine there was life before you. And yet, it seems like just yesterday I was giving birth to you and meeting you for the very first time. As a matter of fact, at this very moment one year ago, I was laboring at home, waiting for permission to make that fateful drive into the hospital.

There are days like today in which I soak in each minute, trying to freeze-frame it in my mind. There are things about you that will inevitably change as you grow older, but I never want to forget you right now, as is. So, in an attempt to capture these moments in time, I will document them here. These special little things I love.

You are strong. You were never a wobbly-headed newborn. You had control of your neck muscles from the get go and could lift your head well, even if you despised tummy time. You even wanted to stand holding onto our fingers at just a month old. Your legs are powerful and you love to exercise, particularly by bouncing. If you were permanently suspended by coils, you would be a happy camper.

You are the handsome, rugged type. You are adventurous. An explorer. If you can see it, you can reach it is your motto. You love to examine things, take them apart or put them together. I think you might be an engineer like your Daddy. It's in your blood.

But you are sensitive. You are in tune with the emotions of those around you. If your friend cries, you will often look sad or cry right along with them. You are empathetic.

You are a social creature. You love cuddle time with Mommy and Daddy and playdates with friends. Even though you play independently, you don't like to be left alone.

You are stubborn and resistant to change. Something you get from both Daddy and myself. It takes you a long time to warm up to new things. But once you do, you embrace it with open arms.

You are determined. You never want to settle for less. You are not afraid to speak your mind if you are unhappy about something.

You have the cutest crease that runs horizontally across your nose when your nurse. It makes me smile each time I see it.

I love when you wake up in the morning and flash me the cheesiest grin. It starts my day off right even if I'm more sleep-deprived than ever.

Your hair is as blonde as blonde can get. Almost white. It's getting a bit long in the back and it's almost starting to look like a rat tail. I love to twirl it around my fingers. And its the funniest thing when it fluffs up in the wind, making you look like Albert Einstein.

You're a thin baby but you have the sweetest fat folds in your thighs and knees. I want to kiss them and squeeze them all the time. You are ticklish in the upper part of your thighs and you let out the most insane giggle when I get you just in the right spot.

You have wide, fat feet. Like Barney Rubble. I could nibble your chunky toes.

You have hairy ears. It's light blonde hair so you can't really tell at a distance but when you nurse, I can see the fine hair on your lobes up close.

Your eyes are a beautiful, bright blue. You have Daddy's eyes and I find them striking.

You stand up in the bathtub to play at bathtime and your little white tush gleams from the water. It's such an adorable baby booty.

You smile and laugh on the boob sometimes. Some of my fondest memories of us involve you nursing, pulling off to smile while milk trickles down your lips and chin.

You can be shy around strangers and I love when you bury your head in my chest when others try to hold you.

In reviewing all of these things I love about you, I get a glimpse of the man you'll someday become. And I am so proud. But I must admit a part of me is sad to let go of my baby. You'll always and forever be "my baby" but with this milestone comes new terminology. You will henceforth be referred to as a toddler. At least for the next couple of years. And rightfully so. You have accomplished so much and deserve to don that title as you graduate to this next phase.

I am amazed at how far we've come in twelve months. And I can't wait to see what's in store for the next twelve months. And beyond.

Happy First Birthday (Eve), my Sunshine. I'll love you to the moon and back.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009

T Minus 5

5 days until partytime. Actually closer to 4 at this hour. And mama is stressed to the max.

I've been absorbed in cleaning the entire house top to bottom. Deep cleaning. We're talking white glove test kind of clean. I want the house to be pretty much immaculate in time for the big day. I am naturally a slob but I will get my ass in gear when I have guests. I guess I don't want the viewing public to see the way I really live.

I've been panicking over everything from the weather to the food to the seating. The forecasters were calling for scattered thunderstorms but it now reads a clear and sunny 85 degrees. But what if it changes again? What if it rains? Will we have enough room in the house for everyone? Will we have enough food?

At 40+ people having RSVP'd - with 11 kids - I'm concerned about it becoming a circus. Will we have enough activities to keep everyone entertained? Will I be able to mingle with everyone so the newcomers won't feel out of place? It's a party and the bottom line is I want it to be fun. But it's exhausting for me to scheme the outcome for every possible scenario.

I'm confident it will be a success and I will look back on it with fond memories. But I'll be happy when it's all over.
__________________________________________

As I predicted, STTN did not last. We were fortunate enough to get two nights of uninterrupted, unadulterated sleep. But I haven't quite figured out the surefire recipe for the suspension of consciousness. I've tried putting him down at the same exact time, dressing him in the same footed sleeper, same room temperature. But alas, what produces eight hours gives us four the next.

Perhaps by the time he's two, he'll have this down pat. Let's hope.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Call For Support

Remember how I mentioned in this post that I had devastating news about a friend? I wanted to elaborate because it has been on my mind everyday since then and I can't seem to shake it.

One of my dear online friends, Shauna, has a son, Christian, who is just a week younger than Nate. Christian always stood out to me because as a newborn, he and Nate could have been twins. I remember finding their resemblence uncanny. As they've gotten older, it's not as apparent but I still remember him as Nate's look-a-like.

On July 8, 2009, tragedy struck. Christian suffered a near drowning incident at their home. After an hour with little to no oxygen, it was uncertain whether he would make it. But he defied the odds. He is alive - Praise God! - but it is very likely that he has sustained a brain injury from the accident.

Christian continues to baffle the doctors with his progress. He has come much further than they ever expected. He is a fighter. There are small miracles everyday and we celebrate. But he still has a long road ahead. A questionable one as they are still testing and waiting to see the extent of his injuries. So prayers, thoughts - whatever you can spare - are very much needed and appreciated.

Shauna has set up a blog to chronicle Christian's progress, so please pay a visit and leave her some love. She is understandably feeling tremendous guilt right now and I know she could use all the well wishes she can get.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

We Have A Winner

The winner of the Laugh & Learn DVD giveaway is: Kim!

True Random Number Generator
Min: 1
Max: 16
Result: 2
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Congratulations! You will be receiving an email from me shortly and will have 48 hours to contact me or else I will have to choose another winner.

Thank you to all who entered and thank you to Alice and Tadessa at Laugh and Learn for the opportunity!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

(Nearly) Wordless Wednesday: And The Award Goes To...

Biggest Ham:

video

I have another video nomination for Most Theatrical but it appears to be corrupted. It will only play on my camera - not the computer. Hmph. If I can find a way to repair it, I will post it here later.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Local Celebrity

On Sunday, I had the pleasure of attending our esteemed infertility advocate, Mel's first book reading in D.C. at Politics and Prose. It had been well over a year since I'd met up with my girls of OOTPU fame and I couldn't think of a better reason to make my long-anticipated resurgence.

When I first stepped into the bookstore, I saw Mel's book front and center on display. I smiled smugly to myself. That's right. Infertility should not be hidden away in the depths of the Health or Self-Help aisles. It should be out in the open for all to see. After all, 1 out of every 6-8 patrons will likely have need for the material.

As I greeted Mel (and her hubby!) and waited for her to take the podium, I admit I got a little vaclempt. This little project, this dream that began way back in 2006 had now suddenly come to life. It was all coming full circle. Here she was. Our Mel. A local celebrity, shining light on the topic of which we've all become passionate. Albeit against our will. But the one good thing that has come of our inhabitance on the Land of IF is that we found each other. We built our community from the ground up. I was so proud. I had butterflies as Mel spoke of "peace of heart" and described scenarios that brought back so many memories of my journey.

After the reading and Q&A (which Mel has shared on her blog), I was able to converse with new and old faces. Some, like myself, had come a long way in a year - culminating with the pitter patter of little feet. Others were still waiting in limbo. But yet we all stood hand in virtual hand. It was empowering and in an ironic way, uplifting.

I even got an autograph from the author herself. So, years in the future when this book takes its rightful place on the throne shelf as the IF Bible, I can flaunt it and say I was there from its inception. I was an apostle.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Just A Motivating Monday



My friend Amanda launched her brainchild today: Just a Motivating Monday. It's a sort of inspirational blog carnival, bringing people together to hold each other up on the roughest day of the week. We can share inspirational words or stories to motivate each other and get through the rest of the week.

This week, she queried about our purpose. What do you feel your purpose is in life? Why exactly are you living? It's a question I've asked myself many times in my life and I've always had different answers. My passions are always evolving - they are like living, breathing entities in themselves.

At this moment, I know:

I want to remain true to my wedding vows and deep down be the same woman my husband married three years ago.

I want to raise my son (and future children if I am so blessed) to be healthy, happy and independent. I want to instill solid values and morals in Nate so he is an upstanding young man.

I want to constantly seek ways to expand my mind and skill sets so that I can be a well-rounded individual. I want to create new boundaries for myself - never growing too comfortable in the present.

I want to tap more into my spirituality. I want to lead a more confident, Christian life.

As an IF survivor, I feel it is my duty to share my story. To educate but also inspire or support others in their journey toward parenthood.

I will conclude with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that is dear to my heart and helped me in my darker days:

"We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope."

Jinx

Pssst...I have something to tell you.

Why am I whispering, you ask? Because if I utter the words aloud, I am afraid it will never happen again. You might want to sit for this one.

Nate slept through the night last night.

Yes, my son - the chronically sleep-impaired - stayed down in his crib from 930pm to just shy of 6am. That would be 8+ hours of sleep, my friends. It only took 11.5 months to witness this phenomenon but it was indeed miraculous. When I awoke to see the time on the alarm clock, I about fainted. I had forgotten what it feels like to rest uninterrupted and wake up somewhat refreshed. For the first time in nearly a year, I didn't have to fight an inherent need for caffeine.

I'm not a very superstitious person by nature but in this case, I'm sure that by sharing this information, I just jinxed myself.

I don't have my hopes up that this is the start of a new trend. Don't get me wrong - that would be sweet. But if history has taught me anything, it's that we'll be back to wake-ups every 2 to 3 hours tonight. I'd rather find comfort in the fact that, contrary to popular belief, STTN really isn't just a myth. It does exist. And maybe one day, I will experience it again.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

17 Going on 16

Days, that is. Until a certain someone's first birthday.

With a little over two weeks to go, I've been engrossed in party planning. Engrossed meaning admittedly going overboard. My vision is coming together but not without its share of stress. As of this moment, we have 40+ invitees and I estimate that aside from a few declines, most will likely show. And our home is simply too small to accomodate that many guests in one place at one time. So, we are depending on Mother Nature to cooperate for an outdoor fiesta. (No silly tricks like a thunderstorm or tornado, ya hear me?!) I've been paranoid that we don't have enough outdoor seating for everyone, so I'm currently researching local farms to purchase some hay bales. To fit in with the whole cowboy theme and all.

Our wooded backyard is quite the hangout for mosquitos so we've been treating the lawn with every chemical known to man to keep them at bay. The last thing I want is for my guests to be attacked by bloodsucking insects and leave with favors of welts.

The biggest stressor is that DH and I just aren't seeing eye to eye about the fundamentals of this affair. I see a first birthday as a fairly big deal. He sees it as just another birthday - one that the kid won't even remember - and so, he thinks we should cheap out as much as we can. Granted, I'm no longer working and money is tight. But I still want to celebrate and do it up right. After all, he's our first son (and possibly only since I am well aware there are no guarantees) and he is only turning one once. It's been a battle of wills and lesson on compromise. After a dramatic "negotiation" regarding the cost of the cake, we are now in agreement and satisfied with our remaining budget. A quick visit to the crafts store and some grub from the grocery store and our corral will be complete.

All in all, I think we'll stay below $300, including invitations, food, decor and gifts. Astronomical, maybe. But it is an important day and I want to treat it as such. We can scale back for future years. But there's something about the first birthday.

________________________________________________

Today is the second anniversary of our second miscarriage. Two years since my little Snowflake was lost. It was fitting that today was pretty shitty in and of itself. Devastating news about a friend. A lingering headache. A disastrous dinner. I'm surprised I'm not in bed already, trying to forget the past 24 hours.

I remember my grief so profoundly. Of course, the knowledge that a real live baby is sleeping upstairs dulls the pain. But I still remember. And I still feel that gaping hole where a part of me is missing.

I've been going back and forth in my mind lately, pondering if I should give names to the babies I lost. Calling them Angel and Snowflake just seems so inconsequential as of late. Part of me feels like they deserve real names. And I should honor them like so. But on the other hand, I never knew their genders. I only have wild guesses linked to ancient instincts. Is it really suitable to name them under these circumstances?

I am still wavering. But no matter the final decision, these anniversaries are always tinged with heartache. I know my babies live in Heaven and serve a much higher purpose than I could imagine but what I wouldn't give to touch their tiny hands and kiss their tiny mouths. I miss them oh so much.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th

I hope everyone had (or is having) a safe, happy 4th of July!

Last year on this day, I remember my belly looking as if I were smuggling a watermelon and my feet so swollen that my toes resembled little vienna sausages. Too much taco dip I recall. I couldn't drink then and I didn't drink today. But at least I could indulge in all the food I wanted and still recognize my extremities.

Fireworks are still exploding outside of my living room window and I can see the flashes of colored light between our venetian blinds. The boy is currently checking his eyelids for pinholes after our long day. The noise doesn't seem to be affecting him. Score.

As I was rocking him to sleep tonight, I realized that this holiday would be his last "first". It made the day a little bittersweet but I took heart knowing we celebrated the day to the fullest.

Here are some outtakes:

You know you're in Maryland when crab is served as dinner
and dessert

Daddy trying to coax a smile...unsuccessfully

Ahh, but Mommy has the magic touch!

Happy 4th of July, everybody!

To the little man that colors my world - I love you more than words can say. Happy first Independence Day.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Popping the Question

With Nate rapidly approaching O-N-E (or perhaps love is in the air as we're in peak wedding season?) it seems as if everyone is proposing to me.

"So, when are you going to give Nate a brother or a sister?"

"Are you working on #2 yet?"

"Aren't you ready for another one?"

"You want them close in age, right? You'd better get started/get to practicing!"

"Now that you already have a baby, you can relax and it will happen when you least expect it."

That last one is my personal favorite. What a zinger. It implies that because I was able to carry a baby to term as a result of fertility treatment, I surely overreacted about my condition. If I had just relaxed...silly me. I could have saved myself thousands of dollars if I would have just taken this gem of assvice.

Not only have the suitors above infringed upon my privacy by delving into the topic that is (or rather is not) my sex life, but they've likely never experienced infertility or loss. Or else they'd know what a weighty, complex decision this is. It's not as simple as planning my children X years apart. Because we all know what a joke that is. I mean, my ovaries run amok, popping eggs at their random discretion. And my uterus acts like a choosy bouncer at a private, elite nightclub.

The likelihood that giving birth has somehow hit the reset button on my reproductive system is pretty low. Sure, I secretly hope that I've been miraculously healed but I'm trying to shuck the naivety and live in the land of cynicism. All in the name of self-preservation.

Despite all of the above, I have to admit I've been feeling the pressure to say yes. In the blogworld and in real life, BFPs abound. Most of them welcome surprises - sans third party intervention. And I find myself strangely battling jealousy. I feel selfish for wishing the same for myself. And greedy for craving another so soon when I've already been blessed with one amazing boy. I fear people may look at me and think, "why can't you just be happy with what you have?" They would have a point.

The only answer I have to that is: our family doesn't yet feel complete. I've always seen myself with two or three kids but after all we went through to get here, I wasn't initially sure I wanted to get back on the wagon. I was entitled to change my mind. But seeing how Nate adores other children - how our frequent playdates really bring out the best in him - I am positive about trying for a sibling. He prefers social situations to being alone so I don't feel as though having another baby would detract from him at all. And with me wearing the SAHM badge these days, I feel like there's no better time than the present. Well, we're actually considering October or November around the holidays but we're not preventing so anything could happen. Right?

I know it's foolishly optimistic of me to think I could be one of the urban legends that has an oopsie second. Especially when PPAF has yet to make her grand appearance. But yet this morning I found myself peeing on a stick. Just in case the headaches, fatigue and nausea I've had the past two days were more than just overnight interruptions and one too many cookies. Oh, and lest I forget the gas bubbles disguised as phantom kicks. I fell right back into old habits. Dumb. Dumb. DUMB. The blaring NOT PREGNANT was the wake-up call I needed. At least the expiration date on the stick was this month so I have an excuse. A poor one. But I couldn't stand to let it go to waste.

So, on one hand, I'm gung ho to pull out the BBT. But then I hesitate. I know what I could be up against. Realistically, the journey could be just as long as it was for Nate. Possibly longer. I could lose more babies. Nate doesn't sleep through the night - do I really want to perpetuate the sleeplessness? Especially when I'm home alone all day and sometimes at night as DH works two jobs? What if my recovery is just as hard or even harder? Could I honestly, truly love another baby like I love Nate?

It's hard to imagine I could be so lucky. I feel like I'm on the game show, Press Your Luck. I could win it all or a Whammy could pop up, taunt me and take it all away. But I guess I won't know unless I try.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Laugh and Learn DVD Series - Review and Giveaway!

It's only been about a year but it feels like eons since I was pregnant, sporting a big 'ole belly and wondering what in the world to expect next. I had become an expert on infertility and trying to conceive but I had no clue about how to handle actually being successful. Everyone assured me my life was about to change and I wanted to do everything I could to prepare for the main event. I spent a fortune - buying up every book I could get my hands on in the Pregnancy/Parenting section at Borders to educate myself. From the time those two pink lines popped up on the pee stick, my mind was consumed with questions. Some so embarrassing that I was too intimidated to ask my own doctor, much less my family and friends. As my tummy protruded, I was given so much unwelcome advice and told so many horror stories that my fears overwhelmed me. I looked forward to our scheduled childbirth and breastfeeding classes so I could get the real scoop and make the right decisions for our soon-to-be family.

So, when I was contacted to review the Laugh and Learn DVD series, I happily obliged. I could wax nostalgic about all the first-time wonder, excitement and anticipation. And having now been there done that, I thought I could provide a true objective opinion on the content.

The Laugh and Learn series is hosted by Sheri Bayles, RN, an award-winning Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. She draws upon her extensive career as a OB/GYN nurse, her education and her own personal experience as mom to twin boys to provide us with 4 videos that chronicle everything from labor to taking baby home.

A 2-DVD set, Laugh and Learn about Childbirth is an all-inclusive childbirth class divided into (6) 45-minute segments covering labor, delivery (both Cesarean and vaginal births are discussed in detail) and postpartum. There is also a special feature on cord blood banking.

I was very impressed with this class. It certainly lived up to its name, as I found myself chuckling at many points in the video. Sheri was very personable and created a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere. I felt as though I was sitting in her class, observing her as she spoke with other expectant couples. She included the fathers just as much as the mothers in the discussion, which was refreshing. There were no "crotch shots" or up-close-and-personal videos of live birth. Just conversational lecture, some visual aids and Q&A. It is apparent that Sheri is a natural childbirth advocate but was respectful and realistic in the fact that natural is not always possible. She also advised mothers to trust their body and motherly instincts and that it is okay to question medical staff, which I found interesting (in a good way) considering her profession.

I was particularly happy that Sheri did not gloss over the postpartum recovery for vaginal deliveries. The class I attended did not focus much on this and I found myself unprepared to handle the pain and complications that arose after my second degree tear. I was relieved to hear an honest explanation of what to expect physically after the baby arrives.

I wasn't expecting to learn anything new - having recently experienced this all firsthand - but surprisingly, there was information tailored to subsequent pregnancies and births. Not only would this DVD be useful to first-timers but it would also serve as a great refresher course for second or even third timers.

The only minor thing I wish I could change would be to cover more breathing techniques. I found those to be particular helpful during my personal labor experience, but I understand that the majority of couples focus on the most popular approach featured in the video.

The next DVD, Laugh and Learn about Breastfeeding, is a 45-minute class covering topics such as nursing positions, burping techniques, pumping, breastmilk storage guidelines, diet, apparel and challenges. Breastfeeding multiples is also discussed. Demonstrations of breastfeeding positions were given with baby dolls but live examples were also provided, which I found particularly helpful.

I found this DVD to be comprehensive and Sheri was just as witty as in the Childbirth class. I do think more attention could have been paid to the subject of pumping, perhaps with demonstrations of how to work both electric and manual pumps. The task of pumping can be daunting so a presentation would have been helpful for me.

The final DVD in the series, Laugh and Learn about Newborn Baby Care, is a 45-minute class covering bathing, dressing, diapering and swaddling. I personally found this session to be common sense. There wasn't much here that I didn't already know or couldn't figure out on my own. I believe this DVD would be best for those who have little to no experience with newborns. I would have liked to see some discussion regarding sleep issues and colic, but Happiest Baby on the Block remains my favored resource in that area. Formula feeding guidelines for those not breastfeeding would also be a good addition.

Overall, I was extremely pleased with the Laugh and Learn set and would highly recommend for any expectant mom or dad. I wish I had known about the series last year. Not only could I have saved myself over $50 - I spent $130 on our local hospital classes and the retail value of these DVDs are $79.95 - but I could have watched them at my convenience from the comfort of my own home. How perfect would this be for bedrest mamas? Or for the couples with hectic, incompatible schedules?

It's not hard to see why Laugh and Learn are the #1 DVD classes for pregnant couples in America, with their entertaining, easy-to-comprehend style.

BUY IT: Purchase the Laugh and Learn DVDs for $79.95 or watch the series online for $69.95. For a limited time, you can watch the Anatomy and Preliminary Signs of Labor segment online for free!

WIN IT: Laugh and Learn is offering one lucky reader the entire 4-DVD set! Interested? Read on!

TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY:

1.) Visit Laugh and Learn and leave me a comment telling me which DVD you are most interested in and why. Feel free to share if this is for you or a loved one. This entry is mandatory and no other entries will be counted unless this one is fulfilled. If your email address is not visible on your profile, please leave it in your comment(s) so I can contact you if you win!

Bonus entries (max 1 entry for each):

2.) Follow my blog (see sidebar) and leave a comment telling me so. If you're already following me, this counts! Just leave a comment telling me you're a follower.

3.) Follow me on Twitter (see sidebar) and tweet this giveaway. Leave a comment with your Twitter name and/or tweet link.

4.) Blog about this giveaway and leave a comment with the post link.

5.) Expectant moms: what is your biggest fear about childbirth or breastfeeding? BTDT moms: was your labor and delivery experience better or worse than you thought it would be?

Giveaway will run from July 1 through July 15, 11:59pm EST. Open to U.S. addresses only. One winner will be chosen at random using random.org. Winner will be contacted via email and will have 48 hours to respond or prize will be forfeited. In case of forfeit, a second winner will be chosen.