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. ❤

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. 

10 Small Changes To Live a Healthier Life

The countdown to Easter has started around our house. This weekend we enjoyed some Easter parties and egg hunts and while I haven’t loved Easter in years, I’m really enjoying celebrating with our girls. This is the first year Isla can really participate in and enjoy some of the traditions associated with Easter and with so little time between St. Patrick’s Day and Easter this year, we’re really cramming in the festivities around our house right now.

Along with the parties and egg hunts, we dared to dye Easter eggs with two under two. And surprisingly, Josie was the first to spill a cup of dye. It’s fun starting traditions with our girls. With this fun activity we ate a simple and toddler friendly dinner of baked chicken tenders, tomato salad, and carrot sticks.

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In my last post, I talked about how it’s all of these small changes that help create the larger and more amazing accomplishments and transformations. So, today I thought it would be helpful to talk about some of the small changes you can make today to live a healthier life.

A lot of the time, when someone is trying to get healthy they give up because it feels too hard and unrealistic. People think they have to do everything right to be healthy and when that seems overwhelming, they give up. And I think if I thought I needed to exercise for an hour every day and eat nothing but salads that I would give up too.

Thinking about the results I’ve seen firsthand over the last several years, I often think my clients who experience the best success (ie. the long term results), are successful because they were making smaller and consistent changes. Making changes in this way means you can be thoughtful about your current diet and exercise routine, and you’re truly able to make thoughtful changes that build up to a lifestyle change and most importantly–something maintainable.

So, what changes can you make today?

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  1. Swap your favorite indulgence with a healthier alternative 3 times per week.  What food are you eating regularly and too much of? What food are you not eating enough of? I ask my clients these two questions almost every week. And over time, by reducing your intake of your favorite indulgences, either by cutting down on portion size or not eating it at all 3 times per week, and replacing them with a healthier alternative you’ll see and feel a difference. And hopefully these kinds of changes will become permanent. Some good examples include cutting down on a portion of nuts and subbing that extra serving with an apple. Swap ice cream after dinner with a bowl of your favorite cereal. Eat scrambled eggs with spinach three times per week instead of a bagel. By committing to a change just three times per week, the change isn’t overwhelming and you can still feel like you’re enjoying some of your favorite things.
  2. Reduce the number of alcoholic beverages you’re consuming. Except when I’m pregnant, I do not eliminate alcohol from my diet. However, I do limit myself to a few drinks per week. One of the ways I hold myself accountable is limiting my drinking to weekends with special exceptions. After spending almost 2 years without drinking (because I was preggers), I don’t want to give up alcohol, but I choose to drink a few days per week so I can really enjoy the drinks I’m having.
  3. Swap soda for seltzer. Men shouldn’t be consuming more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day, and women shouldn’t be consuming more than 5. A can of Coke has more than 9 teaspoons alone, plus a whole bunch of other ingredients your body doesn’t need.
  4. Stop consuming artificial sweeteners. One of the biggest reasons I can’t stand artificial sugar is because it “tricks” the body and your metabolism. Consuming artificial sugar sends a message to the brain and body that you’re about to get a sugar rush soon, but it never comes. Confused, your insulin levels may rise even higher than if you had actual sugar, and then you’re triggering the fat storage system. Without getting too into things, it’s a messy and dirty cycle! Stop messing with your your body and just cut these chemicals out of your diet for the biggest benefit.
  5. Consume ginger, lemon, apple cider vinegar and/or other naturally detoxing ingredients. One of my favorite, natural detoxing regimens includes a regular cup of lemon ginger herbal tea. This is especially great after I’ve eaten some particularly salty food or am experiencing some water retention.
  6. Add fermented foods/beverages to your diet. I am always touting the positive effects of fermented foods to family, friends, and strangers (sorry, not sorry). I love fermented foods and drinks for so many reasons that I will eventually write a whole post about them, but in short: fermented food improves your immune system, can help improve your mood, and yes–it can help aid in weight loss. Some of my favorites include kombucha, sauerkraut (not the mushy stuff your grandma used to serve on top of hot dogs), and kim chi. Just a little bit goes a long way.
  7. Flavor your coffee with an alternative to your favorite processed “dessert” creamer. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup creamer may taste good in your coffee, but it’s not good for you. Instead, consider flavoring your coffee with a slurry of a tablespoon of whole milk, a pinch of cinnamon, and a few drops of your favorite extract (vanilla, hazelnut, almond, coconut, or pumpkin spice).
  8. Go for a quick 5 minute stroll once per hour. If you have a desk job (and even if you don’t), go for a walk once per hour! You don’t have to log a mile, but keep moving to keep blood flowing, feel energized, improve your mood, improve your focus, and more. Hopefully this small movement will help you want to move more than you have more time at another point in your day too!
  9. Drink more water. Aim to drink about half your body weight in ounces in a day. If it feels like a lot more than you’ve been doing, you can count one cup of coffee into your ounce count. Staying hydrated also keeps your body functioning optimally. If you’re drinking enough water you should hopefully be moving enough through the day as you need to keep visiting a restroom.
  10. Exercise for 20-30 minutes, 3 times per week. If that seems overwhelming, be creative when you plan your exercise. Do 10 minutes of exercise a few times a day. Fit in a set of ab exercises while your breakfast is cooking. Go for a walk with the family a few evenings per week. Do some jump squats before you get in the shower and push ups before you go to bed. Fitting in regular movement will help you start exercising more regularly and maybe eventually for longer chunks.

All of these changes might not be easy, or sexy, or even fun. However, I do find that over time, they really help you be a healthier version of yourself for the long term.

When you’re fighting to make these kinds of commitments, the number one way I help myself stay on track is education. Educate yourself! Educate yourself about WHY these changes help you achieve your goals. Get on Google and remind yourself why you’re making these changes in the first place. Unsubscribe from the junk food videos popping up on your social media news feeds and surround yourself with information that supports the healthy changes you’re making instead. When getting healthy, education is your best tool.

Think about what you’re putting in your body regularly and about how various choices you’re making are affecting your waistline, immunity, inflammation, wallet, and more. Consider how eliminating, reducing, or adding something to your life can help you feel better and achieve your goals. Then the likelihood of your sticking to things is a lot more likely!

What are some changes you’ve made to start living healthier? Which one of these changes will you make first? Share in the comments below.

A Diagnosis (and the Start of Our Fertility Treatment Journey)

Normally I like to post earlier in the week, but not only have I been busy taking over both our littles without any help at home this week (and I’m surviving just fine–phew!), it’s taken a lot of thought and care to craft this post. I want to be honest without oversharing because I want the content to be relevant to lots of readers, yet I also want it to be helpful to those going through a similar experience. I also want to really get this right. It’s emotional to look back at where we were several years ago, and to see the incredible difference. We just celebrated our first holiday as a family of four (excuse this blurry photo. We couldn’t hold still). Holy crap.

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There were many months we never thought that would be possible.

So, today’s post is taking things way back. Almost five years back actually. We’re going back to where our infertility journey began. Back to a time where our hope to become parents was fragile, unknown, and charged with emotion. When I think about our journey I remember how terrifying and uncomfortable it was. I remember the toll it took on our marriage. I remember endless doctors appointments, hours logged driving to and from the clinic before work, days and days of bloodwork. And then, yes, finally being one of the lucky ones.

Almost two years after trying to start a family we admitted something might be wrong. We had “tried to relax,” “went on vacation,” attempted to “just not think about it,” and followed all the other advice people kindly give when you’re struggling to have kids. But we finally had to admit, something wasn’t working and we didn’t know why. We needed some help.

When you start infertility testing, men are typically required to do semen analysis and some blood work testing hormone levels. Seriously fun compared to what us ladies have to do, yet not fun at all! Women typically do at least an HSG (hysterosalpingogram) test (where they inject radiographic dye through the cervix and into the uterine cavity and fallopian tubes) and matching blood work.

None of this testing, while uncomfortable, was physically painful. I remember some cramping with the HSG test, but nothing unmanageable. However, emotionally, I’ll never forget feeling like a total failure when we started down this path. And then feeling like an even bigger failure when our doctor told us our diagnosis was “unexplained infertility.”

He couldn’t tell us what was wrong because according to all of the tests, everything was fine. In fact, I learned I’m hyperfertile, meaning my egg stores were huge. I should have been happy they were telling us we were okay, but instead I was sincerely upset they didn’t find a problem. Because this meant there was no easy solution. Our options were to keep trying naturally or with some medical assistance: IUI (intrauterine insemination) or IVF (in vitro fertilization).

We opted to keep trying on our own just a little longer, but not until the last funny bit related to this initial appointment happened and really made things uncomfortable. When our last round of bloodwork, testing my hormone levels, came back a couple days after we met with our doctor they called to say, “You’re ovulating now, you should have intercourse!” Clearly the kind of call that totally gets you in the mood. And then the real funny part. While we sat at the bar that Friday evening trying to relax and laugh at our current life, who sat across from us other than the doctor who had asked his nurse to deliver this instruction just hours earlier. That same doctor we had seen 48 hours before.

We didn’t get pregnant that month.

Or the month after, but three months later we did. We had started using some ovulation prediction kits and apparently it helped. It seemed our prayers had been answered and that things were finally going to be okay.

I mentioned in my last post, we experienced multiple miscarriages, but those happened after our first appointment with our fertility clinic. They started that first month we fell pregnant. I remember being so thrilled when we finally got a positive test. We couldn’t wait to tell our families. They had been dying for us to conceive as much as we had, if not more. I’ll never forget their overjoyed reactions. And I’ll never forget the next day either. The evening after we delivered the good news, I miscarried. And the same thing happened in my next cycle. Everyone was clearly devastated. Adding insult to injury, the second miscarriage took 16 weeks to clear. Meaning my body tried to shed our baby for 16 weeks. This was longer than I had even been pregnant and every day I physically could not forget about trying to have children.

Finally, another 8 months passed uneventfully–at least on the family planning front.

Our dogs turned two.

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We traveled to South Carolina for a week long getaway with our pooches (I poured so much of my “mom” self into our pets during our infertility years–all for another post).

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We got our ducks.

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Also significant in that time, but in a very different way, Chris got a new job and with it came new health insurance. I mention this because while many only consider a new salary and health insurance in general, we were familiar with the intricacies of our insurance and in particular, what it covered regarding infertility. With his previous job, they would only cover IVF after multiple failed IUI attempts. And their cap contribution towards infertility treatments were less than his new job. Sadly, I know many people who have switched jobs just to find better infertility treatment coverage. Insurance coverage was NOT the reason Chris changed jobs, but it WAS a pro vs. con.

During these 8 months, our marriage was also cycling in and out of a dark place. Few people knew this. We looked very happy on the outside. We were traveling (I became an excellent budget traveler in those years). We were still hanging out with our friends. Every selfie we posted online displayed the realest smiles. But despite those smiles we were posting on social media, sometimes I was barely holding it together and I felt like we were crumbling apart at times.

We had been married almost five years and as we faced our infertility and really came to terms with the idea that we might not have children, we were living through the “good times” and “bad.” Things got tense. At times I didn’t want to be married at all, to anyone.  Sometimes we barely talked. And when we did we had endless conversations about how we might start a family. Our moods would often rock with my monthly cycle. We would both be so hopeful when I would ovulate. Then we were both morose when I would get my period. Finally, we would try to heal and build our hope back up in between. I can say infertility tested our marriage. It seemed like we thought about little else besides having children, yet our lives had to function like none of this was happening every day.

Thinking about starting our family in alternative ways, I was most interested in adoption. Chris in IVF. Both options would be taxing financially. And both options never guarantee a child. In the end, we determined both options kind of sucked.

Yet, I couldn’t just sign up for IVF. I knew the option would be taxing on my body physically, but even more than that, I felt like if we didn’t get a child through adoption, at least it wouldn’t be my fault. If IVF failed, I felt like I would be to blame (something I’ll add that Chris NEVER made me feel). Finally, after much soul searching, hours of talking, and finally some marital healing, we decided we didn’t marry each other to just have children. This perspective put our marriage back on track for good. We booked a trip to Disney to remember we will always have good times together–whether we would have kids or not–and we booked another appointment at the clinic.

I wasn’t sure I would actually do IVF, but I was open to learning more. We made our appointment with a new doctor (I love a little bedside manner and this is something our first doctor lacked). We did more bloodwork to test for genetic deficiencies since we miscarried twice and we attended an IVF information session; a requirement with our local clinic. After learning more about conception than you’ll ever cover in a seventh grade science class, we said okay to IVF.

This is a decision that consumed me. One that I really wasn’t comfortable with, but that I felt like I had to try. For years now, I literally felt like I could not do something my body was built to do. But I had to let go of those constant feelings of failure (or at least push them into the back of my mind if possible) and try something new. I wasn’t going to be comfortable knowing I didn’t try, so I picked what felt like the lesser of the two evils.

After an epic backpacking trip to Europe to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary, we came home and started IVF. In my next post I’ll delve into this next phase. Like with any project in life, nothing is ever as easy as you think it’s going to be and IVF was no exception. It’s not a cut and dry tale. Everyone’s story is different. Yet I will say it eventually had the happiest ending we could hope for: our first daughter, Isla.

Three Little Lives

October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. A couple years ago, I drafted a blog post that I never had the guts to post. One, because it was scary. I was afraid what others would think if I shared our story. Two, because I was embarassed about our experience. I felt like the reality we were living was my fault. And three, because I just wasn’t ready. Things were different even two years ago. No one was really talking about pregnancy loss and I was afraid to start the conversation.

Without putting a damper on the beautiful new life we welcomed this month, I do want to share about our struggle to become parents. Two years ago, we first lit three candles in honor of three souls we were so excited to meet, but never had the opportunity to. And today, despite the incredible joy we now have in our home–two amazing girls–I think I’ll always be able to go back to the overwhelming feeling of loss that each miscarriage brought.

I can still remember the empty ultrasounds, countless rounds of  bloodwork and testing, the physical pain of miscarrying, and most of all–the all encompassing fear of never knowing if we would be parents. As we inch towards the end of October, I start sharing my experience to honor three lives that never got to enter this world and think about the good that can come from letting go of a secret. The good it will do me, and hopefully others.

Chris and I tried to start a family for more than four years. After being diagnosed with unexplained infertility, we finally got pregnant (after 2 years) and then miscarried. Then it happened again. And heartbreakingly, after an IVF trial, again. Three little lives. Lost.

I’ve decided to share our story not to make anyone feel sorry for us, but to bring awareness to the subject and to hopefully help others feel less alone. Sharing also helps me let go of two other strong feelings that accompanied our loss: isolation and shame.

Infertility and pregnancy loss are tough. They’re each tough separately, and they’re even tougher together. Pregnancy loss is seemingly the only loss we sometimes keep to ourselves. I felt isolated by our experience and my silence. I also felt ashamed because we never knew what was causing our troubles–we still don’t. And as a total type-A person, I felt like I was to blame. I chose to blame myself. Almost two years since our last miscarriage, I of course know I wasn’t to blame. But when you’re in the thick of grieving, feeling the magnitude of it, you just want an answer to, “Why?” It’s painful–physically and emotionally. And as I was going through all of those feelings, I blamed our losses on every long run I completed, bumpy car rides, food I ate. Time after time, I found new reasons I could have caused our losses.

Almost 7 million women are living with infertility issues in the United States alone. It’s estimated that 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, and they believe this number is under reported. 1% of women will miscarry three or more times. I’m hopeful that when we speak up instead of being silent, we can not only come together in support, but that hopefully progress can continue. More research and more answers and less blame. Almost two years since our last loss, I see a lot more people sharing their losses, both men and women. While I’m sad that we all share this life experience, I’m happy the stigma attached with miscarriage is perhaps fading just a bit.

So, I lend my words to the voices before me to continue progress. To continue stopping the stigma. We shouldn’t to be ashamed about our fertility or miscarriages. While I would’t say I’m grateful for the experiences we’ve had, I accept them as a part of my life path. They invariably changed my life and I think for the better. I choose to think those lives, while not a part of our household physically, are a part of my heart and they always will be. While I didn’t get to meet those three babies, they impacted the most important parts of my life. My career, how I exercise, how I eat, why I travel, and more than anything–they shaped the mother I am today. I feel extra grateful, loving, and think I’m probably more patient that I would have been. I live my life with those losses etched in my heart forever and living without fear, I tell my story. To anyone going through a similar experience, may you someday feel the same comfort and peace and may we all have the happy endings we hope for.