Never Apologize For Doing What Makes You Happy

Hi everyone! Long time, no post. I won’t be apologizing for not posting regularly for the last month(+) because I have been just loving life doing so many things that make me happy. Unfortuantely, choosing to spend so much time in the sun, with family and friends, traveling, and more meant blogging took a backseat.

I love summer and have been enjoying all the things that come with the season. We’ve been busy traveling, playing outside, eating ice cream, celebrating birthdays (mine and Isla’s!), visiting with family, swimming, hiking and so much more. While I thought about posting many times in the last several weeks, my intentions stopped there and were quickly replaced with beautiful memories. I’ll be honest and also admit I’ve been missing some workouts and doing a little bit here and there at home. In fact, I’ve only been to the gym twice in the last two weeks and after one workout I filled out our paperwork to cancel (more on that later).

Living in New England, my thinking is it’s like we wait all year long for summer. However, unlike many New Englanders, while you’ll hear me complain about the cold in the winter (that part is normal), I will NOT complain about the heat or humidity. Instead, I soak up every little bit of it while I can.  Truth: my favorite weather is 85-90 with humid temps and I often feel like winter has arrived here by mid-October. While summer is here, this girl doesn’t mind being sticky and sweaty!

So, to catch everyone up in warp speed on what’s been happening in my world this summer, here’s a quick glimpse in a photo rundown! Since I take tons of photos every day, this is certainly not all encompassing, but it gives an idea of the bigger and more simple moments I’ve been soaking in. It’s been wild and fun and while I’m excited to resume some of our regular routine (like my exercise routine and eating habits), I hope we have lots more hot and fun summer days left in 2018!

My next post will share some details about our fun family vacation. We traveled to Long Island, Maine! Never heard of it? We hadn’t either. With only about 200 people living on the island year-round and no real restaurants or even a grocery store, it was a fun and adventurous (in a different way than we’re used to) so I can’t wait to share about our fun times. Stay tuned!

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Painting. We love using our washable paint outside. This is what baths are for, right?
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Bike riding, errday.
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Cleaning on some rainy (or super hot) days.
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Eating tons of ice cream, much to this girl’s delight!
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Walking laps around the block.
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Our water table is getting lots of use this summer.

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We went on vacation to Long Island, Maine at the end of June. AMAZING. Post coming soon.
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Beach time and family time. Nothing better.
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My brother and his partner came to visit. During their stay we checked out a winery.
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Green smoothies with her uncles!
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Tiny tots means they can both make use of one swing 🙂
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Reading at the park with uncle Charlie.
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Isla turned 2!
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Our garden has been keeping us busy this year.
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I got away for a long weekend to celebrate my cousin’s bachelorette in Newport, RI. So much fun!
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Our girls love blueberries so we definitely went blueberry picking.
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Handfuls of berries.
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Sweet girl with her dad.
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Both girls have wanted “up” a lot lately. ❤

Random Ramblings: Potty Training, Sleep Training, and More Podcasts

Hey all! Yet again, I’ve been MIA. This time I’ve been stuck down the rabbit hole that is potty training, something that has literally consumed my life for the last two weeks. But since I am finally writing again, I guess it’s safe to say we’re making progress! Today I’m going to share some of my reflections on all things potty training, plus another thing I couldn’t help compare the potty training experience to: sleep training. Then I’m going to share some new podcasts I’ve been digging lately because they (along with some quick HIIT workouts) have literally kept me sane lately!

Before I get started, I want to share a link to the second piece I wrote for the blog Swaddles n’ Bottles. This is a fertility diet piece I wrote about a diet you can adopt if you’re trying to get pregnant. This isn’t a “diet” so much as a list of recommended foods and nutrients to include in your diet. Food can’t get your pregnant, but if you’re looking to start or expand your family, eating a healthy, well-rounded, balanced diet can help support any impending pregnancies.

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Potty Training

When we decided to tackle potty training, we knew Isla was showing us every “sign” she was ready and she honestly had been for awhile. For quite some time she was telling us whenever she went potty in her diaper, and sometimes she was even upset and crying about a wet diaper or withholding poop or going somewhere private to do #2 because she was ashamed or wanted privacy. For months we’ve been leaving a potty around, “so she could get used to it,” hoping she would just want to use it instead of diapers with as much enthusiasm as she exudes about the idea of ice cream for dinner.

Thankfully a good friend lent me a book that several other mom friends had mentioned to me and all of these preconceived notions (see above) were cleared up and I finally stopped dreading potty training and was looking forward to it. This book has been my Bible lately. Thanks to every single mom who recommended this!

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Fast forward 12ish days. I’ve done more loads of laundry than I can count, used a few extra rolls of paper towels for clean up, and lost my temper way too many times–BUT we are making amazing progress. We even enjoyed a successful day trip with our favorite new accessory in Boston last week and zero accidents on Father’s Day! These are our happy faces in Boston:

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Buuuut, back to the beginning. Literally, the first weekend we started potty training was like a slap in the face. The first day Isla did awesome. But then she came down with the worst virus we’ve ever seen in her (with high fevers and no other symptoms–we even had her tested for Lyme disease because she was so sick) AND her two year old molars cut through.

Some of the “highlights?” Isla didn’t want to poop in the potty. I made her these fun, calming bottles of glitter which she hated disliked very much.

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We had to give her a stool softener per our pediatrician’s recommendation and it backfired. Thankfully I’m not sharing any photos of that. Yes, some moments have been rough and literally shitty. Potty training is not for the faint of heart, yet trusting that Isla was ready and capable, we are supporting her in her learning and I’m glad we’ve trucked on.

That being said, for anyone else climbing this mountain, potty training is really testing my patience so if it’s testing yours, you’re not alone! For those really close to me, it’s probably more accurate to say potty training is teaching me patience. Patience is not a virtue that comes naturally to me. I really have to work at it. And sometimes, parenting requires more patience than I have which is why I make a point to surround myself with respectful parenting reminders (like reading, podcasts, friends with similar parenting philosophies). When it’s come to potty training, I find myself losing my temper, yelling more than I’d like and then spending my post-bedtime time making a plan for how I can do better the next day.

It’s not even the accidents themselves that are tough for me. I expect messes. More than helping her learn how to pee and poop in a socially acceptable receptacle, reflecting on the last week and a half, potty training has been a struggle as it’s magnified some of Isla’s most challenging behaviors. Though developmentally normal, behavior like testing boundaries and not listening have been magnified through this process and it’s been so incredibly hard. Isla is a strong and independent almost two year old. She honestly doesn’t like being told what to do, or needing help (she definitely gets these traits from mom…). Naturally, power struggles happen and it hasn’t been easy for anyone, but we’re all getting there. At least she’ll use the toilet when we tell her now vs. breaking down into a giant temper tantrum of tears (most of the time).

Sleep Training

Processing potty training, I can’t help but compare it to another parenting experience on my list of not-so-fun things: sleep training.

Every parent has their own personal preference and philosophy about sleep training. For us, we have adopted a version of Dr. Ferber’s methods, though I do prefer to think about the process of sleep training as teaching your child a life skill of self soothing vs. just labeling the method, “cry it out.”

Sleep training wasn’t fun with Isla, but it wasn’t difficult either. Isla slept through the night from week 2, self soothed fairly naturally, and responded quickly to our sleep training. 3 nights of encouraging self soothing and she had it down, only needing to reinforce at regular sleep regression times.

Josie was born and EVERYTHING we did with Isla didnt’ matter. Josie was the complete opposite.

When Josie was born, I had to hold her for 2+ hours to get her to go to sleep and stay asleep until she was 3 months old, when I quickly started trying to help her self soothe. She woke up several times a night when she would nurse, but more than anything–to just be held. The only prop that could stand in for this mommy sleepytime magic was the swing. We used the swing sparingly with Josie, but by the time she was old enough to learn how to self soothe (she didn’t want to be swaddled, could bring her hands to her mouth, etc.).

I love baby snuggles, but I also love to feel well rested and I was eager to get a little time back in my evenings with my husband and to pick up the house before my tiny toddler tornado woke the next morning.

To sleep train Josie we had to take the swing away completely. Josie was almost 6 months old when she started to sleep through the night and really self soothe regularly, but as soon as she figured it out she was so much happier during the day–and so was I! I wasn’t a walking zombie anymore!

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Here’s our happy, well-rested girl.

It’s hard to hear our babies cry, so while in the trenches of those first few days of learning to self soothe where I was inundated with mom guilt, I reminded myself of these key things:

  • Babies cry. It’s literally one of the only ways they can communicate with us in the first year. When Josie was crying, I reminded myself she was in a safe place in between reassuring her, I watched on the camera to reassure myself too.
  • Sleep is key for everyone! I’ve had many a chat about this with both of our kids and I swear it helps. Our kids are capable and understand so much more than we may think. A solid night of sleep can be a regular thing and is so important for all of us.

We’re still struggling with some spotty early wake ups with Josie and tackling room sharing, but we’ve stuck with a method that works for us with no regrets.

I share all of this to remind myself that I can sleep again if we have any more kids AND to say that yet again, as parents we’re all working through a lot of the same stuff, and we’re all just trying to do what’s best for our kids. I commend each and every parent who can co-sleep with their children or soothe their kids into toddlerhood, but that method just doesn’t work for our family. Josie helped us reconsider our parenting choices with and tested our philosophies. If you’re sleep training your little one, I encourage you to trust your gut and do what works best for your family. What every child needs can be different so keep surrounding yourself with people and materials that support your philosophies and remember with all things parenting: it’s just a phase of life and it will pass!

Podcasts

Lastly, I’ve been listening to some awesome podcasts lately so I want to give them a quick shout out.

The first is directly related to sleep training. I’ve been loving the quick episodes of Little Z’s Sleep Podcast. Becca Campbell is a pediatric sleep consultant and I found her page when I was looking for answers after yet another early morning wake up. I’ve basically binged on her podcasts and gathered lots of tips and tricks on how to help our kids get the sleep they so desperately need. They say “happy wife, happy life.” And I seriously struggle to be my happiest and enjoy life when my kids are overtired and cranky so supporting their sleep is one of my #1 priorities.

The other podcast I’ve really been enjoying is Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard. I loved Shepard in the TV show Parenthood and I’m really enjoying his sitdown chats with friends and various “experts.” I saw this podcast in my podcast app’s “featured” list and had to check it out. While there is one episode that features parenting advice from Wendy Mogul–author of Blessings of a Skinned Knee and clinical psychologist–I actually love that most of the episodes I’ve listened to are about nothing parenting related. I’ve enjoyed taking a break from all topics parenting and learning about different topics from Scientology and addiction, and I loved listening to the marital banter between Dax and his wife Kristen Bell (this is the episode that actually sucked me in). If you have some time, check it out!

For now, that’s all folks. Tell me, what are you up to these days? Share in the comments section below. 

Featured Blog Guest Posts: I’ve Been Cheating on My Blog!

While I met my “two posts per week” goal last week, I was totally MIA a couple weeks ago because I was writing two posts for another blog and this week I’m excited to start sharing them with you here!

Yes, I’ve been cheating on my own blog, but I’m not ashamed in the least. In fact, I’m totally flattered. If you’re in a mom and a Pinterest user (like me!), maybe you’re familiar with some of the awesome posts on your feed from the mommy blog, Swaddles n’ Bottles. Some of my go-to pins from Swaddles n’Bottles include indoor activities for toddlers, what to expect before a csection, and lots of tips, tricks, and encouragement about pumping and breastfeeding. Caroline (Swaddles n’ Bottles’ author) asked for interested writers to apply for some upcoming guest post opportunities and I was so excited to be chosen as a contributor.

This month I shared two posts. For now, one has been published. And when the second is posted, I’ll be sure to share that one with you too. Happy reading!

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Six Things I Wish I Knew About IVF – While not fitness related, I’ve shared about our infertility struggles on my blog and I am so excited to be sharing a bit about this experience on a blog with a much larger readership than my little start-up blog. My hope is that pouring some of my love and truth into this piece can offer literal peace, comfort, and feeling of solidarity to another couple struggling in a similar way.

I look forward to sharing more feature opportunities like this in the future!

In the meantime, what would you like to learn more about? Share in the comments below!

If you have a blog and are looking for a guest post, I’d love to learn more! Please send me a message. 

I am 1 in 8: National Infertility Awareness Week

The last two weeks have been pretty quiet here on the blog because we’ve been stuck in what I’ll not-so-creatively call, “Sick-ville.” For the last 10+ days, our girls have been on a roller coaster of sick including a virus that spiked their temps to 102+, ear infections, lots of crankiness and not so much sleep. Josie had a double ear infection coupled with a virus last week. And this week was Isla’s turn. The same virus and an ear infection so bad mucus was coming out of her eyes. Sometimes parenthood is gross.

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Yet, as I’ve been tending to my sick babies, trying to muster as much patience I can (not always successfully), getting by on less workouts yet plenty of carbs (hello cupcakes, ice cream, way too many handfuls of animal crackers, and a glass of wine here and there too), I keep reminding myself I literally cried and hoped for these challenging days, for years.

Despite the chaos in our home during this National Infertility Awareness Week, I couldn’t let the week end without paying homage to a chapter of life that shaped who I have become, and who my husband and I are as parents. 1 in 8 couples are affected by infertility. I’ll admit, sometimes the memories of our infertility journey feel buried underneath the beauty and fatigue of parenthood, and other times the memories still feel fresh enough to bring back some of the same anxiety and pain. Like when I drive by a local clinic where I had blood drawn to confirm yet another miscarriage. Or when I discover the ovulation test kits I still can’t bear to toss out next to a box of pads in my closet. Or when I see or talk to another woman hurting and yearning for a baby as hard as I always did.

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To read more about our infertility struggles, here are a few posts I shared previously, relating our own story:

But as I am present in this week of awareness, I’ll briefly share a fact I’m connecting most with this year: A baby’s cells stay in a mother’s blood, organs, and even have the ability to manipulate her DNA long after a mother gives birth, and is even changed after a miscarriage.

Despite having “two under two” this year, this fact reminds me it’s okay to feel connected and to sometimes still struggle with to our darkest years of unexplained infertility and multiple losses. Because at least three more little people have changed me forever, even if I never got to meet them. And truthfully, as we consider maybe adding to our family again someday, I know some of the same experiences or others could await us again perhaps in the form of secondary infertility or more losses.

So yes, as my current life is emptying yet another box of tissues wiping tiny noses (I should seriously be buying stock in Kleenex…) and missing a few more hours of sleep to soothe another cry, I’m a mixture of thoughts and emotions, but most of all–I am grateful. If this is my calm after one of the most tumultuous storms I never saw forecasted, I wouldn’t trade these times–gross AND beautiful–for anything.

Wherever you are physically, mentally, or emotionally during this infertility week–may we all feel a little more connected and less alone. And for those weathering your own storm, may this mom’s crazy life be a beacon of hope. Because you never know what (or who) will be at the end of your own rainbow.

If anyone ever has any questions or is seeking support, please always feel able to reach out–either in the comments below or privately. 

Random Ramblings: Respectful Parenting, Healthy Eating, & Podcasts

Today I’m checking in with a whole bunch of randomness to help clear my mind AND share more about honest and raw truth about myself, my life, and my habits with you– my awesome readers!

The forecast is finally tempting us with temps above 50 later this week, but as we’re waking up so another day where snow is falling from the sky (it’s April 10, right?!), I’m trying to keep my attitude and outlook positive today. Aaaaand I’m living in struggle city. Or after experiencing a not-so-pretty grown up temper tantrum when my toddler refused to stay still while I got her dressed this morning (she often does this as my husband so nicely reminded me), I’m living in failure city.

Clearly I’m harboring some mom guilt today. I know I’m far from a failure, but my high strung and short-tempered self is jealous of those who are a lot more patient than me. And honestly, I’m just in this funk, AGAIN. Mother nature, please stop knocking me down with your cold and snow! Hopefully this is the real, real end of winter.

Thinking about parenting and how I can avoid more mommy meltdowns when the weather can’t be my excuse anymore, I’ll share that we’re trying to practice respectful parenting using a lot of Magda Gerber’s principles. Gerber really emphasizes respect for and trust in our growing babies. The big picture of our goals mean we trust that our children are capable growing little people. We try not to yell when there are meltdowns or defiant moments, instead opting to stay calm, gently redirect while being firm, but fair. When conditions are ideal (ie. when everyone is happy and sweet) it works awesome. And when a meltdown happens and I use the tools I’ve been learning, I find I stay more calm and the hard moments end sooner and more productively. Alas, when parenting children who are trying to make sense of these huge emotions they’re feeling every day sometimes it’s hard, for everyone! This morning’s mommy eruption was not in line with my parenting goals. Grace. Being a mom keeps me seriously humble and thank goodness I know I’ll have lots more opportunities to do better.

Other things on my mind today: healthy eating. As I mentioned last week, I’ve been motivated to really get my diet back on track. I’m reducing my chocolate chip intake by handfuls (no, seriously…) and replacing my cravings for sugar with more veggies and natural sugars like fruits.

I’m currently chomping on carrot sticks and hummus.

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I can’t say cutting out the junk food is easy right now (cravings are real and you don’t have to be pregnant to have them), but I’ve done this before and know it will be worth it.

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Breastfeeding can’t continue to be an excuse to keep eating junk (at least not for me) and I’d like to rely less on high rise yoga pants and flexing my muscles to mask my postpartum pouch (which of course, I’m super proud of and grateful for, but hello–I’m human and fitness focused!).

We’ve restocked the freezer and pantry at Costco and Aldi a few times in the last couple weeks and I’m excited to feel prepared to keep working at self improvement.

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With two kids, my dinners have been so simple over the last six+ months and thankfully these even healthier meal options are still super easy. I know I haven’t been doing the “What I Ate Wednesday” posts anymore (because they were time consuming and not as popular), but I am still meal planning and some of the menu offering in our home over the next couple weeks will include:

  1. Salmon with Veggies
  2. Pesto Chicken and Veggies
  3. Chicken with Avocado Salad
  4. Ham, Apple, and Sweet Potato Egg Scramble
  5. Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs
  6. Sweet Potatoes Stuffed with Shredded Chicken (BBQ or Buffalo Chicken)
  7. Healthy Ramen with Asian Beef and Asparagus (this last one is an original from my kitchen! Watch for a recipe later this week)
  8. Turkey Quinoa Taco Casserole
  9. Burrito Bowls with Cauliflower Rice

If the actual meal isn’t popular, these are all dishes with at least toddler and baby-friendly ingredients (yes, Josie is eating now too–she looooves food), like avocado, sweet potato, salmon, meatballs, and loads of veggies (most of which both girls will actually eat if they’re not too tired). Sweet!

Something else I’ve been doing that makes me feel good is listening to podcasts. It’s a fun way to listen and learn while I’m driving, with the kids, or getting some work done. Some of my favorites lately have been:

  1. Well-Fed Women – I love the honest advice these two women give on health nutrition, and fitness related topics. Their podcast description says, “Expect real talk, moderately amusing banter, and empowering advice for women, from women” and I think this sums up their show great. I’ve really enjoyed episodes #162-#165 in the last few weeks.
  2. The mindbodygreen – This podcast is full of awesome info on a whole host of health related topics and all from pioneers in the health industry.
  3. Unruffled – This is a parenting podcast by Janet Lansbury, a parenting expert focused on the respectful parenting practices we’re trying to use. Listening to this podcast helps me stay mindful and focused on my efforts and reminds me I’m an imperfect human capable of trying again when I slip up.

If you’re interested in more of the ramblings from my brain these days, follow my IG account where I’ve been trying to post more regularly. Things I’m thinking about sharing in the upcoming weeks include healthier dessert options, ways you can cleanse your diet and jump start weight loss, what we’re planting in our garden this year, exercises you can do at the office, and a workout you can do on your next hike, my Costco and Aldi grocery lists, the benefits of fermented foods, and more.

Tell me, what are some topics you’d like to hear more about? Share on social media, or in the comments below! 

 

Toddler Obstacle Course

The days are snowy and cold around our part of the country (hello, New England!) and that means on days not filled with daycare, mom is left scheming activities and various forms of educational stimulation to keep our toddler busy and happy.

We have one of those children who does not like to sit still. At 17 months, her mind and body are always going. She’s super curious and hungry to learn everything she possibly can and she wants to be as independent as she can (while still stopping for hugs and kisses). While it can be hard to accept her strong spirit at times (like when she’s having what feels like the 100th meltdown in a day because she can’t express herself yet and cannot physically do all that she wants to because hello–she’s 17 months!), I ultimately love her zest for life and enjoy coming up with fun activities.

When we’re stuck inside I’ve had to dig deep at times and today’s post is one way I keep my toddler busy and in turn, myself busy too: toddler obstacle courses. I’m constantly telling parents, “If you keep up with your kids, you’re going to get so much exercise!” My Fitbit affirms this because even being cooped up inside on a day when I don’t do my own workout, I do nearly 10,000 steps a day, “just” being mom.

This particular activity is a favorite around our [messy] house (looking at the photos below, yes, our house seriously is this messy about 10 minutes after we all get up in the morning until after bedtime). I piece together a handful of “obstacles” which keep her moving and keep her brain occupied too, challenging her and helping her grow. The activities are short and realistic. They don’t take too much time to complete and they’re fun enough that my toddler will do this activity for 30 minutes or more sometimes. Other than finger painting, that’s probably the most time she can focus on one activity currently so I’ll count it as a mom win!

I’m sure I could put together multiple versions of this post, and maybe I will in the future. But my hope is that this post will help jog your own fun creations and spur off a fun cold or rainy weather activity for you and your little one(s).

After I set up the obstacle course, I demonstrated each activity and then had Isla follow. I then coached her through each activity if she got distracted or forgot what the “challenge” was. Which meant I participated a lot too. Trying to fit through the tunnel was an awesome ab exercise!

  1. Tunnel – I crafted a tunnel out of a couch, our coffee table, and a blanket. You could always use a store bought tunnel too. We love obstacle courses so much that we’re actually getting one of those for Christmas and I’m sure Isla will love it! tunnel
  2. Climbing over an obstacle – For this I used a giant stuffed animal and we army crawled over it. You could also use a couch cushion or a few pillows stacked on top of one another. Carrying a copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar is totally optional.climbing
  3. Stepping activity – I used a dog bed and Isla had to step in and back out, crossing to the next activity. Again, you could use a foam pad, pillow, or even a folded blanket. I wanted something that would challenge her balance and wouldn’t be too big so she could actually take small steps. I made sure I was nearby to catch her if she stumbled.
  4. Sorting – I grabbed two empty baby wipes boxes and filled one with balls from our ball pit. She then transferred the balls from one box to another. Either one by one, or she loved dumping them from one box to another. You could also use blocks, toy food, plastic Easter eggs, etc. sorting
  5. Balance beam – Finally, we did not use an actual balance beam here, but rather a piece of masking tape on the floor. Place your tape and then have your toddler walk heel to toe down the line–an awesome activity for balance and agility! balance

How do you keep your little ones busy when you’re at home? Share in the comments below.

 

Our IVF Story

It’s a new week and since I didn’t write last week, I guess I’ll explain by saying I’m making room in my new life for grace. Last week felt like a real “maternity leave” week. The truth is, things were chaotic at our house. While the week before had been smooth sailing, last week things exploded. The house got messier each day, both girls needed lots of love and attention, and everything else in life had to slide to the back burner to give them every ounce of energy (and patience) I could muster. I decided since we had just become a family of four a little more than 3 weeks earlier, I should cut myself a little slack.

Thankfully, this week is starting much more smoothly. So, as promised, I’m sharing our IVF story.

I want to preface this story with these words.

In the last several months, while contemplating restarting my blog, I thought long and hard about whether I wanted to share our infertility story, at least so publicly. I’ve had talks with people who asked if I would be quiet about our struggles. Not because IVF is a shameful thing, but because our “fertility baby” might read this someday. And then she’ll know. Know she was conceived differently, and know that she might have the same issues her mom did. Or that our second daughter might feel less wanted because she was conceived naturally. But honestly, these are exactly some of the reasons I want to share our story.

Both of our daughters should know how badly their mom and dad wanted to be their mom and dad. How badly we wanted to be parents and to what lengths we were willing to go to, to have our children. And how grateful we are to have each of them regardless of how they were conceived.

Perhaps even more important, both our daughters will know the struggles we faced because as women, they should feel informed (and empowered) about their own fertility if they choose to have children of their own. And I promise this blog post won’t be how Isla or Josie learns about their family history.

So, here it goes. Brace yourself: it’s a long one.

In August 2015, Chris and I started IVF. Multiple boxes of medications arrived via mail. Lots of synthetic hormones, loads of needles, alcohol swabs and bright red containers to dispose of all the supplies we would go through. I went to the clinic to get specific instructions, a time line for medication administration, and did some blood work. We were finally cleared to begin.

By no means is this a medical account of IVF. If you or a loved one is really interested in that, I encourage you to do more research or to meet with your own medical professional. But here is my bare bones explanation of IVF.

Step 1: Control ovarian stimulation. This is where you start the process of ovulation without actually allowing for it.

Step 2: Step one allows for step two, follicle stimulation. In a regular monthly cycle, we ovulate one or maybe two eggs, but in IVF you are looking to generate a high number of eggs to be retrieved. Egg retrieval results in about 15 eggs on average.

Step 3: At a precise time, you use a “trigger drug” to prepare for egg retrieval. This is administered exactly 36 hours before your procedure will take place.

Step 4: Egg retrieval occurs. In the 36 hours after the trigger is administered, the eggs come to the surface and are easier to extract.

Step 5: Fertilization. Once the eggs are retrieved, they are fertilized. We chose to utilize a process called ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection) for the fertilization of our eggs. In typical IVF, the eggs and sperm are allowed to fertilize “naturally” in a dish. In ICSI, the best looking/healthiest eggs and sperm are selected and fertilized manually. We opted to do ICSI after our multiple losses. The idea is that genetic problems caused the miscarriages and that perhaps selecting the best looking eggs and sperm would help prevent another loss.

Step 6: Embryo transfer. Once the embryos are old enough (at either day 3 or 5 after fertilization, TBD by your doctor), the embryo(s) that are of high enough quality are either transferred or frozen.

Looking back at IVF, there are of course some specific moments that stand out. Here are my cliff notes following the timeline of our experiences.

I’ll never forget the first time I had to stab myself in the stomach. There is at least one injection per day, and for us injections lasted until we were 10 weeks pregnant with Isla. The first time I needed to stab myself I was a mess. I remember saying to Chris through tears, hands shaking, “How is this our life?” Before our foray into infertility, I HATED needles. I certainly won’t ever say I like them, but I guess after all the stomach injections, blood work, and countless progesterone shots, I came to tolerate them. The next several nights I injected myself were easier and easier. And yes, even the progesterone shots I did while pregnant, known to be notoriously awful, got easier.

Each morning following the hormone injections, I had to visit the clinic to have blood drawn. At one point, I had blood drawn for 10 consecutive days, with many more draws during the month too. I remember hiding my bruised arms with long sleeves as much as I could at work, even though it was still summer.

Another hiccup related to work that I recall: I couldn’t exercise while doing IVF. Yeah, I’m a personal trainer so that’s kind of an issue. Follicle stimulation can be dangerous when coupled with high intensity exercise. As you prepare your body to “ovulate” so many eggs, your ovaries grow unusually large and high impact exercise can cause an ovary to twist, which could complicate the whole process. I didn’t want to miss work because I didn’t want to tell people I was doing IVF. So I adapted everything I did as quietly as possible. I instructed more low impact exercises and talked my clients through the high impact ones (normally I love to demonstrate everything).

The day we went for our egg retrieval, while setting my IV, the anesthesiologist punctured through the valve in my arm and blood shot across the room. It was a great way to start the procedure. Then, when I was laying spread eagle on the operating table, the performing doctor who walked in was none other than the one Chris and I chose not to work with the year before. Thankfully I trusted his capabilities and simply didn’t prefer his bedside manner, but a propofol blackout is just as fun as an alcohol black out. NOT FUN AT ALL. I apparently talked for 10 minutes before they could start the egg retrieval. And I’ll never know what I said in those 10 minutes (though my nurse assured me I was nice). Cue the eye roll.

The retrieval took 45 minutes, a full 20 minutes longer than normal. 10 of these minutes were clearly due to my babbling on about Lord knows what, but another 10 were because they retrieved so many eggs. 28 eggs. Again, the average is 15. We still feel so grateful for this number, and days later we felt even more grateful when they told us they had been able to successfully fertilize 9 eggs. This is huge, and it’s something I often think about and feel guilty about. I know many women who were not so lucky. Some who get none, or just one. Or have to do loads of rounds of IVF. It’s like what I imagine survivor’s guilt feels like.

Transfer day came. They showed us a photo of our embryo and then I was yet again on that operating table in a compromising position. The nurse held my hand and as they injected the embryo I anxiously watched the ultrasound screen. The nurse described it as a shooting star and I felt a few silent tears fall. I was very close with my maternal grandmother and one of her favorite songs was, “When You Wish Upon a Star.” In this pivotal moment, I thought of her, simultaneously wishing this this little baby would stick and become the child we had been dreaming of for so long.

Two long weeks passed then finally we did the blood work we were anxiously anticipating. And finally, the call we were anticipating even more. We were pregnant. After more than a year, we were pregnant again. IVF had worked. We told our families and closest friends who knew what we had been up to. Two days later you’re required to recheck the HCG numbers with more blood work, to make sure you’re still pregnant. And it was with this blood test that our joy turned to sorrow once more. I was miscarrying and just didn’t know it yet. I was instructed to stop all medication and let my body take its course.

A couple days later I did start to miscarry, and yet again as the year before, my body wouldn’t stop bleeding. Fearful I had experienced an ectopic (or tubular) pregnancy, they brought me in for an endometrial biopsy. This would be like a mini D&C (dilation & curettage), a procedure often done under anesthesia when a woman is miscarrying. However, unlike with a d&c, the biopsy would take a sample of cells and see if any surviving cells from the embryo were present. We wanted them to find these cells. Thankfully they found them. Now they knew I hadn’t experienced an ectopic pregnancy (ectopic would have meant we couldn’t try to get pregnant for several more months since they would administer a drug that would be dangerous to a developing fetus).

After the procedure, I literally got the hardest news of my life. Visibly upset by the biopsy, and just emotionally exhausted by the whole previous month and change, the doctor sat me down and delivered the blow I had feared. While asking me how Chris and I would like to proceed, he gently told me, “This might not ever work.” He had to be a doctor, honest about our new statistics. Women who miscarry 3 or more times clearly have a higher risk of continuing to miscarry and a lower risk of maintaining a pregnancy. But despite the science behind our new statistical reality, these words crushed me. It was like a door was shutting on a part of my life I wanted so badly, but would never have. I can’t even begin to describe how devastated I felt. I remember sobbing with my doctor (Chris was at work when all of this happened). My doctor encouraged me to go home and discuss things with Chris.

The biopsy helped me finish miscarrying our IVF baby. And a couple weeks later we were back at our doctor’s office. We had decided to do a frozen transfer, but we had also decided we were done “trying” after this procedure if things didn’t work. We were just a couple months away from the start of a new year. If I didn’t get pregnant (and stay pregnant), this time I was going to start counseling. We were going to move forward childless. We were going to try to stop thinking about babies. Our doctor was compassionate and advised us to transfer two embryos. We agreed.

Shortly after this appointment we prepared for the frozen transfer. This is a different process for everyone and I won’t get into the details, but basically you either stimulate or allow for natural ovulation, then transfer the embryos at exactly right time and then support the pregnancy with hormones until a pregnancy is or isn’t confirmed.

We had our two embryos transferred with a lot less fanfare and celebration than immediately after our IVF cycle. Two weeks later, after I had started bleeding on Halloween and was sure I wasn’t pregnant, we got another positive pregnancy test call. And this time the numbers elevated in our blood work two days later. They continued to elevate with each new check.

However, I wouldn’t let myself celebrate. We told hardly anyone about this frozen cycle, or about the positive test. Not even our parents knew. We were tired. We were broken. Yet we had to fight one more time. We had to know we had done all we could that year. So, with this pregnancy, we barely believed it ourselves, though I was starting to feel sick. Something was different.

Finally, the last step with the fertility clinic. We went for an ultrasound to really confirm our pregnancy. Was this a viable pregnancy? And if so, was it twins? The ultrasound screen clicked on and there, for the first time ever we saw what we had been hoping, dreaming, and wishing for. One heartbeat, so strong and beautiful. I’ll admit, I was sad there weren’t two babies, but I was more overjoyed for that one little life. Our baby had survived the freezer, and we had weathered the hardest storm of our lives.

Our pregnancy continued with a whole mixture of emotions and anxiety, but 9 months later, that heartbeat emerged from my belly, still beating so strong and inside one of the sweetest people I had ever met: our daughter, Isla. Placed on my chest, I immediately knew she was worth it all. This little person was worth everything we went through; every ounce of sorrow, every tear, every injection, every vial of blood, every procedure, every loss. Our baby was finally here and when she was born, a new part of us was too. We became parents and our lives are forever changed, in the best way.