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.

sick-days

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.

1in8.jpeg

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. 

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.

40 + Weeks Pregnant and T-Minus 3 Days Until Baby

I’M STILL PREGNANT. I officially get text messages and calls every day, checking in to see if the baby has arrived. I’m currently 40 weeks and 2 days preggers. While I am loving all the contact from my favorite people, I really love that I will be able to finally say in a few more days–yes, the baby is here! Because as of this morning, we have a cut off.

Here’s some side by side sweetness of me 39 weeks and 2 days pregnant with Isla (the day she arrived), and then 40 and 2 days with this bambino.

40plusweekspregnant

Last week when I went to the doctor, I was officially told I cannot be induced. Since my last pregnancy resulted in a csection and there is only about 15 months between deliveries, I am not eligible. The midwife I saw also told me if the baby doesn’t come on its own by 41 weeks, it probably won’t without some help. And since that’s not an option, and now that I’m overdue, I had to pick an end date. My options were next Tuesday (41 weeks, 2 days) or this Friday (40 weeks and 5 days). Next week would be a surgery with a doctor I’ve never met and after much discussion with Chris, we chose Friday as our cut off.

This is not a decision I made without a lot of thought, and tears. Since I cannot be induced, if this baby doesn’t come on its own, the end of the line is another csection and I’m trying not to feel guilty about this decision. Ultimately, I think it would be nice to have the “natural” birth experience, but as with all things motherhood, a lot of the decision making is out of our control. You’d think I’d be used to this by now.

Initially the decision of VBAC or csection was made for me. The baby was breech like Isla and I had mentally prepared myself for another surgery. However, when they checked the baby’s position at 34 weeks and told me it was head down, I was disappointed that I now needed to decide. I immediately scheduled a csection just in case the baby moved again. And because I wasn’t prepared to think about a natural delivery at that point.

That csection was supposed to be last Wednesday and I didn’t cancel it until a week before. At that point, the head was way down (it still is), I was starting to efface and dilate. It took me forever to decide, but after making multiple pros and cons lists, I knew I had to at least try for the VBAC for my own peace of mind.

Making this choice, I considered two major parts. The physical side and the emotional side.

Physically, having gone through a csection already, I think it would (maybe) be easier to care for Isla after a VBAC vs. repeat csection. But I know we’ll make it through either way.  My doctor told me weeks ago he thought my recovery would be easier after a repeat csection if I had one. This is because they will be cutting through the same incision site. I also hope this is because I won’t lose as much blood. With my last csection they removed endometriosis they found. I lost a lot more blood than they thought and I went home recovering my iron stores for weeks. This meant I would literally have to sit down at the top of the stairs just because I would start to black out and be out of breath. I wasn’t out of shape. I just didn’t have the iron my body needed.

That being said, even so exhausted, I was doing some slow hiking by 3 weeks postpartum, while baby wearing. So, I can’t really complain. The first two weeks after any kind of birth is tough, but I know I’ll be back to feeling more like myself no matter how this baby arrives. And I have to find solace in that. If this baby is going to come out via surgery, at least it’s the best kind of surgery I can have. The kind that results in a baby. Michele’s reminder: there’s a BABY at the end of the journey!

I know that last part is so obvious (see photo above), but sometimes I seriously forget I’m pregnant. I have Isla keeping me so busy and I often feel like I’ve been pregnant forever. This time around I haven’t had strong pregnancy cravings, I haven’t felt extremely limited physically, and I’ve now had two full term pregnancies in two years–that’s a lot of time that I’ve spent pregnant! I guess some days, it just feels like a new kind of normal to me. Though truth: by the end of every day in the last couple weeks, I normally want to cry because I feel so huge and uncomfortable. Thank you full belly and achy, tired joints, oh–and hormones. Haha. That final look in the mirror while brushing my teeth is a slap in the face reminder screaming, Hello! Yes, you’re pregnant! And then next: I won’t be forever. Sometimes Chris is the one that reminds me of that second part. Initiate eye roll now.

Emotionally, I made this decision for myself with no judgement for the same decision so many other women have had to make. The decision of VBAC or csection is an extremely personal one. When you have a csection you can always opt for another automatic csection. Or, if your doctor okays it, you can try for a vaginal delivery.

In the last several weeks, as I’ve been mulling this over, I feel like I’ve been drafting two blog posts with all of these women in mind. One is titled, “I had a repeat csection, so what?” and the other, “I had a VBAC, so what?”. I know this decision is often a tough one for many moms. After much Googling and talking with other women, I also know it’s a decision a lot of moms are judged for. When I personally tell people I might have a repeat csection, I’ve have actually had people say they’re sorry. Like they feel sorry for me. And people repeatedly tell me they hope I can have a natural birth. On the other side, some moms who have VBACed have told me not to do it while others have told me their experience was blissful. Everyone seems to have an opinion on the subject and I can only say from firsthand experience, it takes a lot of strength and courage to make the decision that is right for yourself and your family. Ultimately, it shouldn’t matter.

After being instructed to pick an end date, I went so far as to say during a family walk around the block this past weekend that I felt like my body is failing me in another way again. First I couldn’t get pregnant on my own for years, then I couldn’t stay pregnant, and now it doesn’t seem to want to deliver babies. Chris literally stopped me in my tracks and told me to look at Isla. He said, “Look at her. Shes’s beautiful. And it doesn’t matter how she got here.” And he’s exactly right. We have this beautiful daughter and it doesn’t matter how she got here. And soon enough we’ll have another baby adding to the joy we experience every day and it doesn’t matter how this baby arrives either. As long as we’re all healthy we are so fortunate to have the ability to deliver these babies using whatever means available. It’s that kind of thinking that’s seeing me through my choice.

So yeah, we’re having a baby by the end of the week! We’re not totally sure how the baby will arrive, but we have an end game plan in place. And I’m finally feeling comfortable with that.

Now that I’ve poured out so much info about VBAC vs. csection, I will share that I’ve still been trying all I can to not be pregnant forever and induce labor naturally. Today’s trick, some “labor inducing cookies.”

cookies-belly

A friend shared this recipe this morning and after dropping Isla off at day care, I bought the few ingredients I didn’t have in my pantry to make a batch. I didn’t even try to health-ify the recipe. Something I definitely do almost 100% of the time. I stuck to the full butter, full sugar, spicy cookies. No stranger to spicy foods (my favorite hot sauce is a habanero hot sauce from Belize and I’ve been eating lots of it lately), who knows if they’ll work, but I will say they’re not too bad. They’re like a gingersnap with a spicy finish. Regardless of the outcome, I think I can safely say I’ve tried every wive’s tale possible. There’s nothing like being 40+ weeks pregnant to make you do lots of desperate and crazy things! If they work, I’ll let you all know. But for now, just hold on for a baby update by sometime next week. WILD!

Have you induced labor naturally before? What are your favorite tips and tricks? Share in the comments below. 

Hospital Bag Checklist

Another week and another post saying I’m still pregnant! Seriously, I’m not at my due date so I guess I should be patient. I just didn’t think I’d go this far past 37 weeks without having a baby, especially with all my symptoms. Alas, I am. So I’m doing my best to keep living every day and making the most of things. It is getting more difficult to do some things (like pick stuff up off the ground), but I know I’m almost done! I can’t be pregnant forever. It’s October and sometime this month we will have another baby.

I find I’m having a mix of good and “bad” days. We went for another big hike over the weekend. Another 2.5 miles on a local favorite with a steep incline at the beginning. As always, the view was worth the work.

hike.jpeg

But, clearly it didn’t help this baby come any faster. The rest of my workouts have been more found exercise, with a couple 20 minute workouts on two days of the week, either first thing in the morning or during naptime. Plus, at least one walk per day.

Generally, keeping up with Isla who is an incredibly active 14 month old is a lot of work and feels like enough of a workout if I’m honest. She has wanted to be carried a lot. Thankfully, prodromal labor seems to have stopped, but carrying Isla around often causes lots of braxton hicks. I have been doing squats while she plays, push ups on the side of the couch, tricep dips, rows, walking lunges around the yard. I’m always moving and trying to make the most of my time. That being said, I do look forward to my stronger workouts once the new baby has settled in and my body is feeling better.

Thinking about having the baby, I’m sharing some info about my hospital bag. I know there are a ton of these hospital bag packing lists on the internet, but having had a baby last year, I’m adding my list to the masses. I used a lot of the lists I had seen on Pinterest and I’ll be honest, I brought way too much stuff! So, I’m putting my short term memory to use (one of the perks of having had a baby 14 months ago) and sharing what I packed in my hospital bag this time around.

I guess I should preface this by saying I am a pretty minimal packer. I like to bring just the essentials, plus maybe a few conveniences. I have a ton of minimal packing lists how-to’s on my Pinterest travel board. A couple years ago, my husband and I backpacked through Europe for two and a half weeks, each with one backpack (mine weighed 19 pounds fully packed, his weighed 40 pounds).

Earlier this year, we traveled as a family of three to California (with our then nine month old) living out of one backpack, a diaper bag and a stroller. Our main bag weighed almost 50 pounds, but it sustained us for a week of enjoyment. I would want to do the same thing for our soon to be family of four too. Even if it means I have to wash some socks in the sink.

So yes, my hospital bag is fairly minimal. Some people include things like comfy towels from home for the shower at the hospital and you won’t find that here. I don’t want to do any more laundry when I get home after having a baby than I have to. So a scratchier hospital grade towel is a-okay in my book. Though if it’s not in yours, that’s okay too.

For baby: 

  1. Little brother/little sister outfit – We don’t know if we’re having a boy or girl, but we want to have a cute photo op when our big girl and the new baby meet. Isla has a sweet big sister outfit to match one of these options.
  2. Hats – Our baby can wear a lot of the hospital supplied onesies for the little time we will spend at the hospital. Again, it makes clean up and laundry at home a ton easier! However, I like to be able to distinguish the baby’s gender with a couple sweet hats. We packed two for a boy and two for a girl.
  3. Formula – When I had Isla, I didn’t bring this item. While I was able to breastfeed, her glucose got very low at one point and I needed to give her a little formula. As a mom who eats a lot of organic food, I was really upset to use a conventional formula from the hospital. So this time, I’m bringing my own, just in case!
  4. Going home outfit – Again, since we don’t know if we’re having a boy or girl, we have a gender neutral going home outfit, complete with a onesie, pants with feeties, and little hat. I know moms say it all the time, but I seriously can’t believe how tiny these clothes are!
  5. Car seat
  6. Pacifier – This is something I want to have just in case. We didn’t use one until Isla was really comfortable breast feeding (after about one week), but that can come at a different time for all babies. So, we’ll have our pacifier with us.
  7. Swaddle blanket – This is great to not only swaddle the baby, but I can use it as a breastfeeding cover up too if I need it. Another gender neutral pattern!

For mom: 

  1. Robe – I love having a comfortable robe for at the hospital. It makes feeding the baby easy and layers easily over my nightgown or other clothes.
  2. Nightgown – since I had a c-section last time, I wanted to make sure I had something that didn’t have a waistband to wear at the hospital. This nightgown has a built in bra top that cuts right under the bust. So, it provides some support for my filling boobs, and it’s not terribly old ladyish. I can actually wear this 9 months pregnant, or normally. Win, win!
  3. Going home outfit – Living in New England, the weather has been cool in the mornings and warm in the afternoons. So, I packed a skirt and tank top to go home in. I can always layer a jacket over this for the ride home (I’ll have one stashed in the car).
  4. Socks – I like to bring two pairs of socks I don’t mind getting dirty and throwing away if need be. Hospitals are clean because they’re hospitals, but how many people have seen white socks turn black? So, I bring a couple pairs of thick Hanes socks and call it a day.
  5. Sweat pants and long sleeved shirt – I like to be comfortable in the hospital. I can also use this as my going home outfit if it’s a cooler or rainy day.
  6. Nursing bras – an essential item!
  7. Depends – This was just more convenient. A recommendation many people made online and I’m glad I followed.
  8. Underwear – Just some inexpensive Hanes granny panties. I pack these, but also take full advantage of the disposable underwear from the hospital. I still have some of those stashed at home from last year too. Isn’t postpartum life so glamorous?
  9. Overnight pads – Eventually I wanted to use pads and I didn’t want to use the ginormous hospital grade ones. Seriously, have they ever updated those?
  10. Special Toiletries – A client gifted this toiletries set to me last year. She said it’s nice to have some nice soaps and shampoos at the hospital and I loved having this last year. This is one of those extra amenities I really enjoyed and made sure to pack again this year.
  11.  Stretch oil – I have been using this stretch oil throughout my entire pregnancy and I know it’s important to also keep my skin hydrated after I have this baby too. I love that I can actually use this oil as a full body oil. It’s light, but hydrating.
  12. Boob butter – I used this after I breastfed every time at the hospital last year and I’m glad I did. Isla was a serious cluster feeder and I felt like this saved my boobs.
  13. The Stick – I didn’t bring this last year, but since I’m trying for a VBAC, I thought this might be a helpful tool if I’m having a lot of back labor. This is one of my favorite tools for self myofascial stretching at home, and it’s also a great massage tool. It might save Chris’s hands.
  14. Belly wrap – This was a life saver at the hospital and when I went home last year. I’m wondering if I’ll be as interested if I have a VBAC, but after a csection, I loved how it helped support my shredded (literally) stomach.

Last, but not least, we pack so many snacks.

snacks

Our hospital food is not very good. It’s full of preservatives and pesticides and when I’m trying to refuel my body either after a surgery or delivery, I’d like to have some tastes from home that are a little more nutritious. I certainly don’t pack the healthiest snacks, but it’s comforting to have food that I know I like. Some of our favorites include beef jerky, veggie sticks (something salty for after labor), Tate’s Bake Shop cookies (something sweet), Kind bars, Annas’s Swedish Thins (I love these with cheese or with tea), some juice boxes, trail mix, gum, and raspberry leaf tea (to help my uterus recover). Also not pictured are some instant oatmeal cups with chia and flax. I love that all I need is some hot water to enjoy this healthier breakfast or snack. And last, but not least, seltzer! It’s nice to have something other than water.

What do you pack in your hospital bag? Share in the comments below. 

38 Weeks Pregnant Update

It’s Tuesday and it’s been two weeks since I’ve posted. And oh what a two weeks it’s been! I officially started maternity leave, leaving my post at the gym and literally the next day I started having contractions. From 15 minutes apart to 7 minutes apart, from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m.. I called my doctor’s office and they suggested we have child care come over. So, I called my mom and got my hubby home from work. Yet, here we are, two weeks later and wait–no baby? That’s right. Not yet! So what happened?

It turns out, this mommy is having loads of fun experiencing this thing called prodromal labor. Prodromal labor is a super fun experience kind of like false labor (sense the sarcasm?). Except prodromal isn’t false labor because contractions feel real, last 60 to 90 seconds, and they consistently get closer and closer together. And then they just stop. In false labor, you get these shorter contractions maybe 15, 7, 5, 20, 2, etc. minutes apart. There’s no rhyme or reason to their pattern. I experienced that with Isla and while uncomfortable, I knew it wasn’t real. This is harder to distingush.

Not only can prodromal labor be phyisically exhausting (the uterus is a muscle and mine is sore after hours of contractions), but it’s emotionally exhausting. I get so excited that it might be time, and then when they just stop I feel pretty let down. It’s also hard because I don’t know if I’m going to know when I’m really in labor. At this point, I’m pretty used to just feeling contractions every day. If you’ve gone through this, feel free to reassure me I’ll know the difference!

I’ve read about what causes it, and basically they don’t know. They said if your baby is facing the wrong way in your pelvis, that can cause it. But they confirmed our baby is not. So, I’m not really looking for a reason any more. Instead, I’m just living life day to day and trying my best to be patient. Not my best virtue. Haha.

Continuing along the timeline, after the first day of labor pains, I then came down with a horrible sinus infection. And then the real icing on the cake (because I’ll handle whatever I’m feeling), Isla came down with a stomach bug that lasted four days! Happy maternity leave mommy!

No, but seriously. I felt so bad for our poor girl. She was such a trooper and thankfully I’m happy to report she’s feeling much better. But boy, was momma tired last week! I wasn’t feeling like nesting for once, but I was forced to do just that. I disinfected our house and washed endless amounts of laundry for five days straight. That was basically my exercise last week, though I did do a couple 20 minute workouts during naptime and before lunch. I just needed to make sure my muscles were feeling as balanced as possible. Funny thing, pregnancy can totally mess with your body’s alignment! So, exercise helps me keep the right muscles engaged and feeling strong.

By this past weekend, we were all feeling better (or had stayed healthy) and with some awesome weather–albeit hot–in New England, we headed out for an early morning hike on Saturday. This baby is super low, as they keep reminding me at my weekly check ups, and I was hoping we could just keep working it down with a short hike. We set out for 1.25 miles on a relatively flat trail, and after taking a wrong turn, ended up completing about 2.5 miles of elevation. A part of me can’t believe I’m so proud of those 2.5 miles, but I am. I celebrated being 38 weeks pregnant with a hike I know I couldn’t have done at the end of my last pregnancy and that is AWESOME! Bottom line–we are often so much stronger than we think! And that is just the reminder this mom needed before heading into labor.

38-weeks-pregnant-hike.jpeg

Other pregnancy related updates:

With just a couple weeks to go, I have still only gained about 26 pounds. I haven’t gained more than about a pound in the last 6+ weeks. And for the first time ever, they started telling me my belly is measuring small. This initially made me very nervous. However, I’m again having faith and trusting my doctors and midwives.

Two professionals have now assured me that since Isla was breech and this baby is not, that my belly was going to look and measure very differently this time. Last week they also said my belly will measure differently when the baby is as low as ours is. Finally, they reassured me they are not worried about my weight. No matter, I’ve been trying to pack in some extra food this week. I want to make sure I’m taking care of this baby to the best of my ability, but am also trying to listen to my body. Like last time, I eat when I’m hungry, and I’m certainly not eating 100 percent healthy. Last week I kept joking I was eating my feelings. I ate ice cream, donuts, a box of mac and cheese, and a bagel (or two). But honestly, after just devouring a salad for dinner tonight (with a burger on top!), that’s definitely more my speed this pregnancy. It’s so funny how pregnancy cravings can be different!

What have you been up to in the last couple weeks? How have you been staying active? Help me pass some time in the comments below. 

Transformation Tuesday (32 Weeks Pregnant)

Being pregnant, I can’t help but reflect on my body and everything that’s transforming, inside and out! Some days I feel like a serious superwoman, toting my mini toddler and tackling every task the day throws at me–all while growing another person! Then other days (like today), I am literally waddling from place to place and relying on nap time for recovery. My pelvis aches and everything feels challenging.

On days like this, I’m grateful I have more good days than “bad” and that I’m even pregnant at all. Coming from years of infertility and multiple losses, I keep my chin up and try to smile as much as I can. Truthfully, most days are easier than not. This isn’t my permanent state. As I wind down through the last weeks of this pregnancy, I know my normal body should be back soon! Hallelujah! So in between moments of just wanting to be done, I’m also trying to enjoy feeling this little person grow. For the gift of being able to carry this baby in my body, and help it thrive–despite the wear and tear my body endures.

Thinking about being pregnant with Isla, and this time, I try not to compare the two. But that can be pretty hard. My pregnancy with Isla is still so fresh in my mind. And Isla and “new baby” are already both so different. How they move is different, how they lay in my belly is different, and I look different. This baby is much lower in my belly. I know–the wives tales say this must be a boy then! Who knows, though soon enough we’ll see.

Another way that I find myself comparing these two pregnancies is weight gain. While I don’t want to find myself perseverating on a number, loving or hating a scale, I try hard to keep my weight gain in a healthy range and so I stay aware of my number. This time around, I think I’m eating healthier overall, but I’m convinced my body is just going to do it’s thing–no matter what I shovel in my mouth. I gained about 35 pounds when I was pregnant with Isla, and I ate a lot of ice cream! At 32 weeks pregnant, I’ve gained about 25 so far. I’m on track to gain 35 again, even with a lot less ice cream trips (I love ice cream–I’m not giving it up).

Here I am, 6 months postpartum (and unknowingly 4 weeks pregnant–eek). And today, 32 weeks pregnant.

Looking back at myself 6 months postpartum my first thought is: I’m too hard on myself. My abs were coming back and even if they weren’t, I was working so hard! While I feel chunky as a 32 weeks pregnant woman, I also look at myself and feel strong.

I look forward to my postpartum journey this time. For once I seriously don’t care about the scale. A pound of fat is much larger than a pound of muscle and I love when I look lean and strong. I can be lean and weigh more than I did when I started this pregnancy. I honestly hope that’s what happens too. And ultimately, it doesn’t matter what the scale says. My weight is much less significant than how I feel. I can’t wait to see how my composition has changed throughout pregnancy and how my progress can continue postpartum. That’s the journey I look forward to. How much muscle am I building in these 40 weeks? With Isla I gained about 5 pounds of muscle. How much can I maintain? Postpartum last year, I struggled with that. I needed to eat more than I thought (working out and breastfeeding require a lot more calories than we sometimes think).

These side by side photos and the thoughts they evoke help me realize this baby hasn’t been the only thing growing in the last 8 months. My mind and body have been too, and in the best ways. I am healthy, strong, more confident, and open to embracing everything the next several months has in store. Bring it on!

How have you transformed this year? Share in the comments below! 

Cardio Upgrade: Don’t Just Walk, Strength Train Too!

Today’s post is all about a quick workout I put together to do on a family walk, run or hike, turning a bonafide cardio workout into an opportunity to strength train. My favorite! We completed this workout on our local bike path, but you can do this workout anywhere and with or without the walk.

Staying active as a family is important to me. I think it’s important we’re healthy parents for our kids. I want to do everything I can to stick around for as long as I can. I tell Chris that when we are grandparents, I hope we can be out hiking with our grandkids. And that vision starts now; with lots of training while we’re parents!

I also love that we are setting an example for our children every time they see us working out–and that Isla is already creating this habit of being active. Isla is one of those babies who rarely sits still (just like her mama). She is always busy and into something. She wanted to skip crawling and hop to walking, and though that didn’t happen, she is now walking and trying to run away from us (and into trouble) as fast as she can. This new growing baby is getting a head start too. When mom’s active, baby is active! No wonder this kid is trying to bust open my belly with some serious ninja kicks and jabs.

As an added bonus, I love being an active woman. I love that I’m showing my daughter that she can be active, through every stage of her life, including pregnancy if she chooses to have a family. I feel strongly that Isla is as healthy as she is because I made the choice to stay active and healthy during my pregnancy. I feel lucky that I had the opportunity to make this choice too, but the human body (and in particular here, female body) is pretty amazing. Clearly Isla’s not taking all of these intricacies in right now, but these are the lessons I look forward to teaching her in the years ahead as she’ll be able to look back on photos and videos.

So, the workout. I’ll preface this by saying: clearly, I’m pregnant. Like really pregnant. 31 weeks pregnant actually. I have been exercising before and throughout this entire pregnancy. That being said, if you’re pregnant and just starting exercise, I wouldn’t recommend you start with all of these exercises. Particularly those where you’d find yourself in a plank position. Like the push ups and plank arm pulls. If you include them, here are some tips.

If you are pregnant and doing the plank-based exercises, consider starting from your knees and always make sure you’re wrapping your abs together! Our abdominal wall naturally separates when we’re pregnant and this prone position puts extra pressure on our abs. Do your part to hold them together by squeezing your abs together, like you’re wearing a corset. If you see your belly “pointing” out, stop the exercise. That’s literally your belly muscles split apart. If you take a peek at your belly, it should still be rounded. This is something I actually couldn’t do when I was pregnant with Isla and I’m proud to say I’ve built even better function of my abdominal muscles between these two pregnancies and can keep my belly round this time–even after a c-section. Just do what is right for you and your baby and do what you can. If these two exercises aren’t possible, lots of others are–I promise!

For the general population, all of these exercises are a fun way to mix up your workout routine or intensify a walk or hike. I used a jogging stroller for a couple exercises, but you could easily just use hand and foot reach/taps instead.

As far as putting all of the exercises together, here are a couple ways to structure this workout:

Option 1:

  1. Walk for 2 minutes
  2. Complete 15 reps of one exercise
  3. Walk for another 2 minutes
  4. Complete 15 reps of another exercise
  5. Repeat

Option 2:

  1. Walk for 5-10 minutes
  2. Complete 15 reps of all exercises in a circuit
  3. Repeat

I would do 2-4 sets of each exercise depending on how much time I have. If you can’t do 2-4 sets, just do what you can. Something is better than nothing!

Walk/Hike Full Body Strength Circuit

  1. Squat (15 reps)squat.jpg2. Lunges (15 reps each side)lunge3. Side lunges (15 reps each side) – without a stroller, just reach and tap your foot to the sideside lunge4. Push ups (15 reps)push up5. Single arm plank pulls (15 reps each side) – without a stroller, just reach and tap your hand to the frontarm pull stroller

What is one of your favorite ways to mix up your walk or workout? Share in the comments!