December 27, 2014

Liam's 100 days party

Almost 3 weeks ago, on Saturday December the 6th, Liam turned 100 days old, and we invited the extended family for a little get together. It was 25 of us! If you're European or American, you may not have heard of this 100 days party thing, but it's a pretty big deal in Asia. Koreans, Japanese and Chinese consider it their babies first big milestone, and a big party is thrown to introduce the baby to society. This tradition comes from several decades, maybe even centuries, ago, when infant mortality was higher during babies' first 100 days of life, hence hitting the 100th day mark was a major reason to rejoice.

J and I decorated the meeting room of our new office with green and yellow tones. Did I ever mention yellow is Liam's favorite color? It's just SO obvious, he loves to look at all things yellow, it's terribly funny!

I hanged yellow, white and green honeycomb pom poms all over the room, mostly on the sides so that they wouldn't interfere with the big 100 i put on the wall. I did the 100 by crumpling several pieces of yellow silk paper, and then stuck lots of green dots I cut from a cardboard all around it. 

The cake was from Pastisseria Torndelacreu, located in c/Balmes, 59, and which I highly recommend! They specialise in custard and have superb cakes. I love how they decorated this one for Liam, he couldn't stop staring at the cake! Here's a little video I posted on Instagram, just in case you missed it!

Pastís Torndelacreu

I'm glad Liam turned 100 days on a Saturday, so that we could celebrate it on the exact day it was happening! It was a lovely party! P.S. How cute was that crown of his I DIY-ed? :D

December 13, 2014

Best brunch in Barcelona: Brunch & Cake


This post will probably come as no surprise at all after you've seen my numerous check-ins on Instagram at Brunch & Cake saying how much I just love their food. This is the best brunch in Barcelona for sure. I actually think I'm a bit addicted to it, and for the looks of it with so many people queuing outside Brunch & Cake on the weekends, I'm not the only one! If you want to make sure to grab a seat without having to line up for it, I'd recommend hitting the shop before 11:30AM. At that time it's mostly full, and by noon you'd have to be very lucky to find an empty seat.

coffee Brunch and Cake Barcelona

My absolute favorite dishes are the quinoa burger, the mango, guacamole and chicken salad, and the eggs benedict with waffle. You cannot go wrong with any of these. If to this you add a cup of matcha, which all the Cup & Cake branches added to their menu about a month ago, you've found perfection! {The matcha is not in the printed menu yet, you need to ask for it if you want it!} You'll be good with a cafe latte too if you're not that into green tea, their coffee is in fact my favorite in town! Oh my, just how many things do I love about this place?!

eggs benedict brunch and cake barcelona

Visited on: Way too many times, these pictures are from mid November 2014
Overall Quality: Full Marks! 5*
 Around 9 euros for a dish and 2 euros for a drink. A perfect brunch for just 11 euros!
Value for Money: 5* Perfect price-quality relationship.
Would I recommend it? Hands down! 

Brunch & Cake
Enric Granados, 19
Open Monday to Sunday 9AM to 10PM

December 4, 2014

Staycation at Praktik Rambla

The hubby turned 28 on Monday, December the 1st. Yeap, he's a month and a half younger than me! I thought about how to celebrate his birthday for several days, and I finally made up my mind: we would be spending the night out at a hotel! We couldn't go too far away because J had to work the following day. I considered different options but finally decided on staying at the Praktik Rambla Hotel. You may remember I visited Praktik Bakery at the end of my pregnancy for afternoon tea at Baluard Bakery, and loved the whole feel of the place. All Praktik hotels have been designed by Lázaro Rosa-Violán, my favorite interior designer! Seriously, it's in my to-do list to visit all the spaces he has designed: shops, hotels and restaurants, they're all beyond amazing with that modern style of his. You may remember how gorgeous Boca Grande restaurant is, one of his stunning creations I reviewed last year.

Happy birthday, hubby!

There's four Praktik hotels in Barcelona and, believe it or not, they're all in the city center! Location is absolutely superb for all of them, so that was not an issue when it came down to choosing one among them. I decided on the Praktik Rambla because I thought their WOW rooms, were truly WOW :D 

Yeah, superior rooms are called WOW, and it's no wonder. Unlike the regular double rooms, these ones have a gorgeous balcony overlooking Rambla Catalunya. I think it's totally worth the extra money! You can get a Praktik WOW for around 100 euros, amazing, right??

Liam was there with us as well, of course! I'm breastfeeding him and I have never pumped milk yet, so he's always with me. The three of us went out for dinner at Ciutat Comtal, my favorite tapas restaurant in the city, which is at 2 minutes walking distance from the hotel! There's also Cerveseria Catalana, which is the same restaurant but in another location, very close to the hotel as well. Both are equally yummy and always fully packed! There's no reservation available so be ready to queue for more than an hour at rush hour.

Ciutat Comtal                                           Cerverseria Catalana
Rambla de Catalunya, 18                         C/ Mallorca, 236

Our room was the one on the first floor right at the top of the hotel entrance

There is a very nice common area on the hotel's first floor: a working/reading space, a lounge and an interior patio. Too bad when we went to take some pictures, there was actually a professional photography team shooting a fashion catalogue, so I couldn't take nice enough pics! There's also Illy coffee capsules, and Dammann Frères tea bags. J is very picky with his coffee, and I'm very picky with my tea. Illy and Dammann Frères are top-notch in their categories, so we were good :D

J told me he had a really good time, and that's all that matters! Of course, I had an amazing time myself :p If for whatever reason there is no time to go traveling abroad, staycations are a great idea!

Good morning!

The breakfast buffet is served at Piscolabis restaurant, right next to hotel. It was pretty decent! I'm kinda looking forward to repeat this staycation thing. If you do read this, hubby, please kindly remember my feast day is coming up soon on January 24th ;)

Praktik Rambla
Rambla de Catalunya, 27

December 1, 2014

Liam's birth story

My labor story is finally up! I actually wrote the whole thing in Catalan a month and a half ago, and I think the Catalan version is way better. I found it somehow difficult to translate it into English hence I kept procrastinating. I hope I didn't make up too many terms and you guys will be able to enjoy Liam's birth story. Here we go!

1. August 27th at night in the pool during contractions
2. August 28th, 11:45AM, Liam is born
3. August 28th afternoon in our hospital room
4. August 29th, 2PM, we arrive home. Liam is 1 day old

On August 26th, 41 weeks and 2 days pregnant, I decided it was time to try to induce labor naturally: long walks, chocolate, spicy food and sex. It obviously worked wonders, because on August 27th at 3AM, I went into labor. I was sound asleep when I was woken up by the need to go to the toilet. Nothing new, you may think, since having to pee two or three times per night during pregnancy is totally normal. But it was not the same, it was more like a need to poo. I went to the toilet but nothing happened, so I went back to bed, only to find myself in the toilet 15 minutes later again. I thought it was a bit weird and I knew the urge to poo was a labor symptom, but at that moment I didn't put two together. Back to bed, at approximately 3:30AM, I felt my first labor contraction. I knew it was not like the Braxton contractions I had been feeling on the last few days, but I didn't want to get too excited just in case. Ten minutes later I had another contraction, and my excitement was pretty high by then. Some more minutes later came the third contraction and I had barely any doubt: I was in labor!!!! I woke the hubby up and said the sentence I had been wanting to say the most for the past few days: Liam is coming!!!

Truth be told, I still wasn't 100% sure that was it, but I was pretty sure. I think J didn't really believe it either when I woke him up, but after a while and seeing how my contractions kept coming, we both knew. We hugged and I remember feeling ecstatic. I dreaded an induction, since it would have been a dead sentence to my idea of having a natural labor, so going into labor naturally was the best news ever.

We stayed in bed for a while, and eventually I went to get my fitness ball and put it in our bedroom next to our bed. As contractions kept getting stronger, I spent some minutes on bed, which was the most comfortable for being able to rest in between contractions, and on the ball, which was the most comfortable for the pain.

Around 7ish in the morning I decided it was time for breakfast, and I ate something while sitting on the ball, way better than sitting on a chair! I spent the rest of the morning either resting on bed or on the ball, until 11AM when I got hungry and ate a bowl of pasta. In one of the many books I read during pregnancy on natural childbirth, the author recommended eating pasta when labor started, because carbohydrates give fuel to the body for a long time, which is exactly what's needed for a natural childbirth, seeing how it can be as energy consuming as running a marathon. A while after lunch, I really felt like taking a bath, so I prepared the bathtub and enjoyed a while in the water. The hot water was SO good at reducing the pain of contractions. I went back to bed and managed a light sleep for a couple hours until 3PM, when the contractions didn't allow me to rest anymore. I ate something else, and back to the same: ball, bathtub, and walking on the hallway. Walking is such a pain reliever too!

At 6PM, I decided it was time to go to the hospital. You're supposed to have 3 contractions every 10 minutes for 1 or 2 hours before going to the hospital, and I had one every 5-6 minutes, but after 15 hours I thought it was about time. We left home at 6:30PM and arrived to the hospital at 7. I wasn't even sure whether I was 3cm dilated, which is the minimum you need to be so that they take you in at the hospital, otherwise they send you back home. We arrived to the hospital and J and I went in immediately, not knowing that was the last time I was gonna see my parents, who accompanied us to the hospital, until after giving birth. The hospital made me so nervous I started shaking. In that state, my body was obviously secreting adrenaline, and my contractions stopped completely. They checked my contractions and I just had two contractions in 20 minutes.

Then they got me checked for dilation with a pelvic exam. It was the first time ever I had a pelvic exam performed, since I always rejected them during pregnancy. It wasn't painful as I thought it would be. In fact I didn't feel anything. What I didn't like was both midwives performed a pelvic exam, which was obviously unnecessary. Having so many pelvic exams during my labor process was one of the worst things I remember from the whole thing.

It turns out I was 4cm dilated, so even though I barely had any contractions at that moment, they decided to keep me. I was relieved because even though I loved being home, once I decided to go to the hospital I just really didn't want to go back! It was time to remove the earrings and rings, in case I needed a C-section. Unfortunately, my hands were so swollen there was just no way to take out both my engagement and my wedding ring. We tried in every possible way, and it just couldn't be done. I obviously didn't want them to cut them, so I begged them to just leave them like that and cut them only if I really ended up needing a C-section. Luckily they agreed and I kept my rings, because I would have been really upset had they cut them, and seriously, do you think this is what a woman in labor should be thinking about?!

Once this was settled, I had to deal with having an intravenous line placed in my arm. One of the reasons I wanted a natural childbirth was that I HATE needles, and now I had to have that crazy big needle on my arm for the whole time OMG >.< I really didn't want one, but it was hospital routine and there was nothing to be done against it.

As soon as we arrived to the delivery rooms, I asked whether the pool room was available. I knew there was only one, so I had been worrying a bit about it being occupied. Well, bad news... it was! But on the other hand, the midwives told me that woman had been there since the morning, so she would probably be finishing anytime soon. I was placed in a regular delivery room, just with a bed and a ball, and I spent some hours there with the amazing help of my husband, who kept massaging my lower back, and a hot water bag that did wonders in helping me coping with pain as well. 

Around 10:30PM, they told me the pool room was now free and clean for me to go. Yay!! Before going, though, the midwife performed another pelvic exam. I specifically told her I didn't want one, but she said it was necessary to know how I was doing before going inside the pool. I was 6cm dilated. We went to the birthing pool room and the midwife helped me get into the pool immediately. In fact, I still didn't feel like going inside, but before I knew it I was already in. Contractions were way more bearable in the pool, and the room was absolutely gorgeous, I was delighted! I kept eating energy bars and drinking plenty of water and juice to keep up with the effort. The first thing I disliked about the room was the fact that they had lost the wireless fetal monitor to use in the tub and I had to get out of the pool every 45-60 minutes to check the baby's heart rate with the regular monitor. Seriously?!

Around midnight, I had another pelvic exam (sooo fed up with those already!!) and I was 7cm dilated. At that point I was SO sleepy, sleep was all I wanted to do. In fact, I fell asleep several times in between contractions in the pool. I think my relaxation was not how a 7cm dilated woman is supposed to feel, but I think my body was trying to give me just what I wanted: a break. Human body is so intelligent after all! But the hospital has a routine to follow, and it's not particularly a patient one, so a couple hours later, after another pelvic exam (aaaarrrrgggg!!), my midwife told me I was still 7cm and started talking about breaking my waters artificially, saying it would speed up labor. I told her no way, I wanted a natural birth and that was the absolute opposite. An hour later, there was another pelvic exam and pressure to break my waters once again. I was getting way too angry with that impatient midwife. It's impossible for a woman to give birth in these circumstances, stressed out and scared that someone will break her waters. Sometime between 4 and 5AM, Laura (the impatient midwife) told me breaking my waters was now or never, like an ultimatum. I should have said "never, and leave me alone". But somehow I finally gave in and got my membranes stripped. It was the saddest moment of my whole labor. Feeling how that warm water, my baby's world, came out of me because someone broke the bag, and then seeing the bed all wet and stained with blood, it was heart breaking. After this moment, my labor work stopped completely. It's what doctors call "Failure to Progress". And seriously, it's no wonder. With this scenario how could one's labor not stop? Women are supposed to give birth in a relaxed environment, free from fear, pressure, or stress. This conditions were obviously not met at the hospital.

Later on, I got another pelvic exam and the midwife told me I was going from bad to worse, and was now back to 6cm. I was really angry by then, she was the one who practically forced me to break my bag claiming that it would speed up labor, and all it did to me was stop my labor process completely. She told me that at this point she recommended getting Pitocin (synthetic oxytocin) to increase contractions and, of course, epidural anesthesia together with that. She said that was my best option if I didn't want the morning shift to bring me in for a C-section. After hearing this I got even angrier. I wouldn't have a C-section unless I wanted to, and if I really ended up needing one, the main reason would be the artificial water break she performed on me.

The hubby and I discussed the whole thing and around 7AM we left the pool room and went to a regular delivery room (the one I had been in when I first arrived), to proceed with Pitocin and epidural. Bye bye to my longed natural childbirth. I knew it was not my fault though, but rather the lack of a good environment at the hospital. I have no doubt at all I could have birthed this baby without drugs, that's how it has always been done after all, right?

Around 8AM everything was ready: intravenous synthetic oxytocin and epidural analgesia. I was left alone with the hubby for an hour and when they came to see how I was doing (hello, pelvic exam), I was just the same. Liam had fallen asleep with the epidural (I did, too!), and we hadn't moved forward at all. The midwife from the morning shift, Maria, who was really nice, told me to keep changing position every now and then, left side, right side... to see if Liam started moving downwards with my movement. They also increased the Pitocin. After a while my left side started hurting like nobody's business. It was the most painful moment of the whole labor process. Synthetic oxytocin makes really painful contractions, nothing like my natural contractions, it was just unbearable!!! They called the anesthesiologist to put more anesthesia, and the time it took for him to arrive and for the drug to take effect was like the worst thing ever.

After a while I started feeling better and dozed off for a couple hours. Then the midwives came in again and I got checked for the last time. I was fully dilated and Liam was practically out! I put my hand in my vagina and was able to touch his head, it was such a blissful moment. I was crying with absolute joy and excitement, I had just touched my son for the very first time!! We set everything for delivery: my legs were placed up in lithotomy, but I didn't have to be lying down, my back was up, as if I were sitting. I removed my clothes and stood completely naked for the arrival of my baby.

The epidural prevented me from feeling pain, but I was still able to feel the contractions, which saved me from having to rely on the midwives about when to push. I pushed about 4 or 5 times, and in 15 minutes, at 11:45AM on August 28th, my precious baby boy was born with no nuchal cord, with lovely skin, and crying loudly. 

I felt how his body slipped out of me, and he landed in a towel the midwife had prepared for that purpose. I immediately got him and placed him on my chest, skin to skin, not to be separated again. I had asked for them not to clamp the umbilical cord until it stopped pulsing, it's an important thing for the baby's wellbeing, and for the hubby to cut it when the moment was right. I got more Pitocin to help me deliver the placenta, and it came out pretty fast. Maria told me it was a gorgeous placenta :D thank you very much!

Liam latched on my breast immediately and definitely like a pro. He was weighed right next to me (3,350 grams), and J held him a moment. Those were the only seconds he was not with me. Apart from that, we were skin to skin for the whole time, in the delivery room where we stayed for an hour, and for several more hours up in the hospital room, until we finally decided to get him dressed at 5PM. They only took Liam away for 2 minutes for the pediatrician to see him. That was it. He was never separated from me again in the 24 hours we stayed in the hospital. The following morning at noon we were discharged and we went home.  

This is the birth story of my first son, Liam. It was not the natural labor I wanted, but all went well and I'm happy with the result. My son was able to come out of me through my vagina, with no episiotomy, forceps, vacuum and the kind. I just got a tiny tear that required three stitches. Liam was perfect when he was born, and he still is. My life has changed for so much better :)