Love Your Life, Momma

Personal growth is inherent in our business philosophy, so much so, that it’s become second nature to me. If there is something that I need to get better at, I simply need to study it, and GO. No wallowing. No complaining. Just recognize your lack, without judgement, and simply grow.

So, of course upon becoming a Momma and incorporating work back into my life, I began to scour the literature and mommy blogs for inspiration and tips on doing the working momma thing. Even more preferable is the entrepreneurial/leadership momma thing. Not only did I find very little on the topic, what I did find was your typical momma gripers. I read one blog that listed this woman’s Perceptions  and Reality of a work-from-home mom. Her so-called perceptions were that Work-at-home-moms (WAHMs) had time freedom and whimsy but (HER) Reality was that working from home was challenging and stressful. But upon reading this, I kept thinking, isn’t she looking at the glass half empty??

Since being pregnant, I have regularly processed the notion of “Having it All,” a common phrase used to describe a working mother. Over and over again, I go back to how silly it is. Because before children, I didn’t have it all. I didn’t have my child, I didn’t always go where I wanted to go or do what I wanted to do. There were conflicts in my schedule or I had bigger goals that were more important than immediate pleasure. But it was always a choice. My choice. And it is no different now. I made a really big choice to be a parent and take full on the responsibilities that come with it. In Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean Inshe claims that the phrase is simply insulting, because you would never ask a man if he “has it all” when referring to work and family. There’s probably even less literature and support for men on the topic. Hmmm…

So here’s the deal: Is being a parent hard? Sure. You literally have to relearn how to do everything you’ve spent most of your life perfecting (perfecting, for my fellow perfectionists). Is it worth it?? A thousand times YES! You wanted the kid, right? But isn’t life hard? Or allow me to re-language that…, doesn’t life present challenges everyday? Yes! And it’s your choice to get better, to change your outlook, and to become more.

While my journey through motherhood has been short, while I only have one child, and I am far from an expert, I do know that motherhood is no different than any other life situation. It does not excuse excuses, it does not limit our opportunity, and it certainly is not a platform for pity. It’s one of the greatest opportunities we are given. And if you also have the opportunity to work or build a business or be a leader in your community, you are only further blessed.

So here is MY REALITY, My Momma Vitamins for the Soul, Life Lessons of a Working/Work from Home/ Entrepreneurial Mom (WWHEM):

  1.  Everyday I get to wake up and see my little girl smile and laugh as she’s excited to start the day. Nothing can take that joy from me.
  2. There are some days that I am so tired and my body aches and I might even cry (ok, I’ll probably cry at some point), and in that moment I have a choice. 1) Cry in self-pitty, or 2) Turn on some personal development, have an extra dark tea (a little extra caffeine in the breastmilk is better than a lotta extra stress… in my humble opinion), cry to get it out, and get better.
  3. Sacrifices come with great rewards. When a baby starts crying while I’m having a meeting or trying to get work done in my home office (or even better, the situation that happened at this very sentence is my husband bringing her to me to eat and instead she wants to play and laugh…), again, I have a choice… Time-wasting Baby –OR– Feel eternally grateful to have the opportunity to have her with me! To see her laughs, to satisfy her needs, and to watch her grow. While it might feel a little hectic going from one thing to the next or shuffling baby and clients, in my opinion it’s better than working full-time and dropping off at day-care (complete and total love for any momma working full-time and taking their child to outside care… this is just my scenario).
  4. Be OK with your new reality. Who cares that it’s taken me 3 months to read Lean In, or that I need a pedicure like nobody’s business. I’ve been giving love to a new human. I probably won’t get everything crossed off my list. And further, my list will probably become shorter than it used to be. It’s ok. Prioritize, don’t quit, and celebrate your accomplishments.
  5. Don’t sacrifice your health. Put your oxygen mask on first! Make healthy meals a priority, get your workouts in, ask for help when you need a break. And when you take that time out for you, enjoy it mindfully and lusciously!
  6. Be present. Or at least the very best you can be. When you’re working, focus on work. When you’re with the babe, focus on the babe. I’ll admit, there is a small portion of my brain that is always on the babe. But rather than let that portion be guilt-ridden, I let it be filled with gratitude. Rather than beat myself up for being distracted, I marvel at the fact that there is a piece of me operating outside of my body; it only makes sense that a piece of my brain follows.
  7. Be selective with the company you keep. It’s not just for you now, it’s for your child. Steer clear from the negative. And steer clear from the ‘woe is me’ mommy dialogue. It’s disempowering for women. Find company that will empathize, but build you up and make you stronger.
  8. Be OK with failure. It’s how you know you are on the path to success.
  9. And like Jim Rohn says, “If you don’t like how things are, change it. You’re not a tree.”
  10. And if nothing else… Choose to Love Your Life, Momma.



Top 21 Things I’ve Learned in 21 Days as a Parent

I can’t believe it’s been 3 weeks since this sweet pea was born. The days are short and the nights are long and the time is flying by. It’s not a cliche when they say that it changes so quickly. And in this short period of time, I have learned so much about myself, her, and being a parent. It’s so important for me to take it all, grow and learn with her each day, adapt, and make the best decisions for my family.

So here are some of my great life lessons in my first 21 days.

  1. Baby Blues should be more like Baby Bipolar. One minute I am smiling deeper than I have ever smiled, the next I am in tears of complete amazement and wonder, then I am laughing at her coos and farts, and then I am crying from pure exhaustion. In any given day, I am the strongest and weakest person I have ever met.
  2. Newborn pictures should be taken in the first 48 hours. That’s when they are asleep and adorable. I can’t wait to get ours back. Rumor has it there isn’t a single shot of her by herself where she isn’t wailing. Oh the joys!
  3. Every day is different. I remember when I got puppies and as a naive puppy owner I would swear that my dog was so smart, knew every command, and was potty trained after two months. The same is true with babies. People ask if she is on a schedule yet and that’s comical. If you think that the same thing happening two days in a row is a schedule, then we have lots of schedules! I hear schedules can’t really kick in until about three months. Truth? I am a schedule person so will welcome that as soon as it’s feasible.
  4. Babies have an opinion a BIG opinion! I am an avid researcher and read lots of books on various parenting styles and reviews on baby gear and while some would suggest that your child will have an opinion, I thought, “OK, sure, but they can adjust,” or “They’re babies. How big of an opinion can they have.” From everything from co-sleeping, to the stinkin paci, and a few baby gear items have proven that it doesn’t matter how much research do, or that am the mom. This kid gets to weigh in on every decision and I am a fool if I think I am the one with the final say!
  5. There is no such thing as a good baby. I have a GREAT Baby! She is the most adorable kid out there, loving, strong, inquisitive, strong-willed, but also stubborn (uh, dad) and impatient (yup… that’s me). She’s a talker too. So in the “good baby/ bad baby” scenario, ours can cry and while that can be hard and tiring and confusing. She is not a bad baby!! We’re just simply figuring it out.
  6. I like to work. I didn’t think that I would work at all for the rest of 2013. I gave myself full permission to clock out. But it’s way more fun to send a follow up text or email to a client or check in with the team rather than go on a Netflix series bender while killing breastfeeding time.
  7. Parenting truly is the hardest thing you will ever do. It’s funny because this warning that everyone tells you doesn’t come for no reason. It’s not the no-sleep thing. Yeah, that sucks. It’s the complete emotional investment in your child’s well-being and not always being able to deliver. It’s devastatingly difficult and I can see why this will only get harder as they age.
  8. There really is this secret/not-so-secret mom’s club. I didn’t get it. I sort of resented not being a part of it. I didn’t understand why my friends with kids were slightly distant. And while I don’t want that to happen with my current friendships, there is just a very special bond with your friends that are going through the same thing, around the same time. Not everyone can understand the importance of topics like thumb-sucking (good self-soothing technique or bad long-term habit) or are interested in exploring the major complexities of newborn reflux. While not glamorous, these are the single most important details of your life and hearing from your most trusted friends who fully feel the same, make everything better!
  9. Breastfeeding is worth it.
  10. Most of the help is needed after the first 10 days. That was my first breaking point. I literally just said on the 9th day, “well this isn’t so hard,” with my mom and husband there to help with everything. I was sleeping about 4 hours per night, completely in a fog, functioning off 100% adrenaline. And then the adrenaline went away, sleep deprivation kicked in, and my awesome sleeper, woke up and wanted to be heard…
  11. Single moms are Gods in my eyes.
  12. If you come across a slightly grumpy, not so patient person in the grocery store, they could be a new parent. Empathize and get out of their way.
  13. While I have been a high-functioning, multi-tasker that likes to be very productive, I have to be ok with accomplishing nothing “significant” other than, you know, sustaining life. I can start lots of tasks, but they very often get interrupted (like writing this blog) and may or may not complete it by days’ end.
  14. I am beginning to eat the same thing everyday because it’s quick, easy, and meets my dietary requirements (B: oatmeal with Formula 1, MS: Shake, L: Sandwich or salad, AS: Yogurt Parfait, D: Chili, soup, healthy casserole… tea, water, water, water… er… a glass of wine… not everyday I swear)
  15. Great communication skills with your partner prior to baby is ESSENTIAL! Patience goes down drastically, everyone is craving just a moment to themselves, you are both tired, and “No, she doesn’t like it like that anymore, she likes it this way,” may come into play. Your partner is your co-captain not the opposing team.
  16. After one attempt at Target with a fussy baby and needing to nurse in public, not knowing what to do, I have slight PTSD of leaving the house. I am confident this will pass.
  17. I have Body Dysmorphic Disorder… but in reverse. I swear I should be able to fit into that top or those pants. Surely my chest and hips are not that much larger. While this is comical now, I hope that my body changes before it’s no longer funny.
  18. Jack Johnson Children’s Station on Pandora has become my new favorite, followed closely by Lullaby.
  19. There is no single feeling in the world greater than your sleeping infant on your chest. I work very hard to stop what I am doing and embrace those moments. I know they are fleeting.
  20. My life has never been more complete than with this amazing human being in my life. I am so blessed to have the privilege of being her mom. I am trying to never take that for granted.
  21. Having it all is a choice. While there are times where I may want to be in two places at once because I am missing an event, that is absolutely no different than any other part of life. Having it all is a state of mind and Big Picture kind of stuff. If you let yourself get lost in the immediacy of what that means then you will never have it all anyway.

Lyla’s Birth Story: 27 Hour Natural Labor and Delivery

I feel the need to preface this by saying, I am in complete support of any amazing heroin that informs herself of her birth options, cares for and nurtures her baby in utero, and makes the best decision for the safety and health of her and the baby. 

This is simply our story.

Everything about pregnancy was different than I imagined. My whole life I have been in awe of pregnancy and babies. I thought it was simply beautiful and empowering. But from the moment I became pregnant, it was somehow just different than what I anticipated for myself. I suppose it is safe to say that that feeling carried on to the very end. Even though my pregnancy was less fun than in my dreams, I was quite certain that I would get through the labor and delivery part with a fair amount of ease. I was strong. I do yoga. Oh how naive…

Long before getting pregnant, I knew that I would want to give birth at our local birth center. It felt much more inline with my beliefs about women, health, and birth. I get that it might not be for everyone, but there are multiple reasons why it was the best choice for me. Some of my reasons are simple: I don’t like hospitals, have never been a fan of going to the doctor, and have fairly poor reactions to medication; I am a wellness professional and always prefer preventive medicine. Others might be more complicated: my core values are about women’s empowerment and I believe that women have been equipped to deliver babies naturally, forever. I also wanted my sweet infant to have the most healthful “welcome to the world experience” that she could, and again, for me, that’s drug-free. It was a simple choice to deliver there and my care throughout was great!

At 39 weeks, 1 day, I began experiencing labor contractions at about 11:45pm on Thursday, October 24. I had three intense contractions about 5 minutes apart when I woke my husband and told him to started timing. About two minutes later, my water broke. We called the midwife and she instructed that we continue to labor at home, try to get some rest and call back when the contractions picked up to every four minutes, lasting a minute, and to the point where I was not able to talk through them. That took about all of two minutes. They began to pick up in time and intensity. Some were coming every four minutes, others were coming every two minutes, all lasting about 45 seconds to over a minute and a half. We called back about 45 minutes later and she encouraged us to come in. So we packed up the car and I began to prepare myself mentally for what was about to happen. I don’t think there is any amount of mental preparation that could have equipped me for what was ahead.

We arrived at the birth center somewhere around 2am (all of my times could be completely off but these are the best of my recollection to give some point of reference). I measured in at 1cm. Ugh. The contractions were still intense and frequent enough where I didn’t see myself getting sleep so we just turned on some meditation music and chilled. In that time, I labored on a birthing ball both in the shower and out. Somewhere around 5ish, measuring at 1.5cm, the midwife asked if I would like a small dose of morphine just to help me sleep. She encouraged that I had a long process ahead of me (most first births average 12-24 hours) and I needed rest. I asked to delay it an hour to see if any progress would be made. I really believed that I would be a woman that would hit some speed and pop this kiddo out. An hour later at 2cm, I took the morphine and took a nap. Nearly 3 plus hours later, in a morphine hangover, I was only at 3 cm.

I was still incredibly hopeful. Bummed, but hopeful, thinking at any moment it was going to pick up. No problem. One of the birth center perks is that you can eat and drink as frequently as you want, so I nibbled on my groaning cakes, Formula 1 shakes, and H30. My contractions remained inconsistent. They continued to go back and forth between every 2-4 minutes, lasting 1-3+ minutes. It was getting exhausting to cope with the pain. In the beginning I was grabbing my husband’s hand and squeezing tightly, but soon learned that I had to conserve that energy. By mid-afternoon, I was coping with a gentle moan. I continued to labor trying different things- walking outside, another shower, side-lying. The contractions were moving from back to front and back again. We determined that my lil munchkin was posterior (aka, sunny side-up or her back to my back). This was causing the intense back labor that literally felt like my tailbone was going to break in half. The tricky part about all of the changing contractions was learning how to cope with the new pain. Just as soon as there would be some sort of pattern in time or location and I could hone in on, then it would change.

Now I was really starting to get worn down. 15 hours + and I was starting to feel lost. I was praying and encouraged my team to do so to whatever they believed. I wasn’t sure why this was happening to me or what the outcome would be. I was starting to lose some faith, but still held on that at any moment, I would be a ten and then surely, it would be an easy push.

At this point, I started a homeopathic regimen to increase energy and something else ( I think to manage the pain). I climbed in the tub and labored there. My mom and Chuck were there and we had the best nurse keeping us company. The problem was, the contractions slowed way down. A welcomed break for me but dismay for the midwives and our goal of progression. So now they wanted to try an herb cocktail that would both speed up and intensify the contractions. I was game. It worked. Dreadfully. Besides tasting like the nastiest version of absinthe, I was in so much pain and my contractions were lasting 3 minutes! I was so exhausted from the pain and only dilating at a 7.

This is the low point in the process. I began to ask about my options because I had started to lose my mind. I was so tired, I was becoming delirious. I felt an out-of-body experience. The scariest thoughts I had ever had started to come into my head: I truly think I may die. I have gotten myself pregnant, and I absolutely have no clue how to get this baby out. That might sound crazy to you because some of you might be thinking, “Just go to the frickin hospital, get a c-section” and while I was asking about what a hospital transfer would look like, I had two different thoughts: 1) I DON’T WANT TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL. I’VE COME SO FAR! 2) I don’t even have the energy to go to the hospital… to pack up, change scenes, get checked in, get a late stage, heavy duty epidural and still continue to labor for God knows how long. I will probably die in the meantime. In my head, hospitalization truly meant there was something wrong, because prior to labor, I had processed the potential of having to go to the hospital and to me that meant that my baby and I were at serious risk and in that case, I accepted that doing whatever necessary for the safety of us would be ok. But, I never believed that I would come remotely close to having to make that decision. And in my state of delirium, at that moment, it equivocated death. Dramatic, maybe? But I knew that given the length of my labor, my water already broken, and a late-stage epidural would mean an even longer labor, and with the great amount of birth stories I have heard, knew that I would end in a cesarian. Again, I have no judgment for anyone that has gone that route, whether elected or not, it simply was the opposite of my birth plan.

What kept me rational were our vitals. They were checked frequently (like every 10-15 minutes) and both me and the baby were stable. I looked to my team for guidance and while my mom and my husband both looked scared (probably from seeing me in such distress) no one was pressing for me to go to the hospital. The birth team continued to give me options. The director of the birth center was called in for a consult and my birth team seemed very optimistic that if I didn’t want to be transferred that I could continue on.

So I did. I ended up resting on the toilet, facing the back with my head propped on pillows. After I got off, I was recommitted. I started another round of herbs, drinking more H30 and pressed on. My cervix continued to inch along, but would not wear through. At some points there was talk about scarred cervical tissue from a LEEP procedure I had 10 years ago, but I am not sure if that was the ending culprit or not. My munchkin also couldn’t make up her mind as to her position. She kept turning her head and going from her side to her back, she had a hand up by her head, changing the contractions. Many variables played into this labor process and we never hit the ground running.

FINALLY, around 10pm, after manual assistance (immensely painful manual assistance) of getting the last piece of cervix out of the way, we hit a 10 and I could PUSH! My hope returned and again, I asked the whole room to pray that this is where it would get easy! An average push for first babies was 90-120 minutes. I could totally do this!!

But just like the entire labor, this proved to be more challenging than expected. My contractions continued to space apart up to 5 minutes, probably losing ground. They were so intense in the back that it made pushing a challenge. My birth team now consisted of my mom and husband, the main midwife on duty, the nurse on duty, the midwife director of the center, and the back-up midwife!! Every single one of them was in the room supporting me. We changed positions several times, someone helping with two legs or supporting me on each side while I squat, manual assistance opening my cervix, someone massaging me through the contractions, someone else feeding me water, maybe another wiping sweat.

FInally we could see the head, which they pulled out a mirror for me to see, giving me determination. As long as I could focus on my baby and the progress, we had a visible goal, and I was committed. Several pushes and 4 hours later, my most precious baby girl arrived on my belly and WE DID IT. The only feeling I can describe at that point was relief. I don’t think I had tears or euphoria (maybe I did), just utter relief. It was over. We were alive.

I am sure that anyone that knows the story will immediately wonder if I regret my decision of the birth center and my answer is 100% NO. If there was any possible way that I would have known that that would be my experience, would I have opted differently? Maybe. And I say maybe simply for the thoughts that passed through my mind were the most scared I have ever been in my entire life. But then when I think about the incredible support that I had, I am completely blown away. It brings tears to my eyes to know of the roomful of committed people that were there for our success.

Prior to the labor, I never dreamed that I would stop at 1 baby, but I said several times throughout the 27 hours that this very likely would be the only one. I was reassured about the amnesia that would accompany the baby, but I thought that there was no way that I would forget this. I was traumatized. Amnesia was for the 8-18 hour labors. Probably for the epidural labors. Not for the agony that I endured. But it’s funny, being home, feeling healthy, recovering without complications (not even stitches or hemorrhoids) and having the most beautiful, healthy, precious angel makes it all worth it. Processing the experience with friends and family and through writing has given me so much perspective and taught me great life lessons on patience and faith. I’m sure she will have a sibling at some point. And more than likely, I will opt for the same birth plan. Because in the end, it’s all about surrounding yourself with people that make you feel strong, loved, and positive. And I am not sure I have ever felt more of that than I do right now.

What is Maternity Leave for an Entrepreneur?

Last week my husband and I finished our final prenatal class. This one was the Part II in our Breastfeeding Class. I believe the eloquent title was Express Yourself. Cute. All about the amazing world of pumping (expressing your milk, for you non-preggers). I am definitely a breastfeeding mom but given some of my independence issues and my struggle with sharing my body while pregnant, I know I want the option to pass off baby to daddy with a bottle when mommy wants to go to the gym, have a glass of wine or just take a break. Plus, I know he really wants the bonding time to feed her and I want that for them too. But I found out I am not your typical pumping mom. I don’t have to  pump. Sitting in this room with all of these working moms really made me so grateful for my life. We had the mom returning to her law school program two weeks after delivery, the mom that was so ready to begin her breastfeeding supplement regimen of fenugreek before the baby arrived for fear that her supply would dwindle, the mom returning to work full-time 8 weeks later (with the dad convinced they would need to supplement with formula), and the yogi mom, probably most closely related to my situation, that would need to leave for a couple of hours for a class. We spent time talking about how to work with (maybe battle, in some cases) your daycare providers so that they will feed the baby at the right times and in the right ways to not give too much nipple confusion. We chatted about the regimented pumping schedule and the nooks and closets you could hide in during your lunch break to pump. My heart ached for these moms. The pressure. I know I would constantly feel a race against time if I had immediate demands to return to an office.

I remember even when I was a therapist thinking how the heck am I going to do this? As a therapist, if you don’t see clients, you don’t get paid. And if you take an extended period of time off, you run the risk of becoming irrelevant to your clients and having to rebuild your caseload. There were some perks because I could still see a full-time caseload and only be in the office part-time… but still… the money…

Since becoming pregnant, I have been grateful to skip through the chapters and the weekly checklists on informing your employer and shopping for daycare. However, as an entrepreneur, I have had to fight my own battles. Different battles. The battles between myself and my boss (myself). So much of how I define myself and my self-worth is tied into my work. Learning how to let some things go and delegate others has been a major obstacle. The only person I have needed permission for any maternity leave is myself. I think many times it would have been easier to just submit my necessary paperwork to a boss.

I worked my normal workload- 60+ hours, leading 2 Fit Camps, seeing clients, working at our nutrition club, etc, up until about 20 weeks. At that point, my first trimester symptoms hadn’t really seized, burpees were becoming awkward, and I was just tired. So I changed my work up, reduced my hours, and started to let go of some of my responsibilities. I think so many of my hormonal mood swings were tied into this. I resented having to do this. I felt bored, sad, and I missed my team!! I didn’t know who I was because at that point, I wasn’t yet someone’s mom. I was just the pregnant woman who needed to reduce her stress and prepare for becoming a mom. And although I knew I should’ve loved and embraced that opportunity, I didn’t. Hindsight it was good for me, my team, and completely necessary groundwork to prepare everyone for the baby’s arrival but it was an internal struggle with myself.

Now I am FOUR WEEKS AWAY (holy crap) from my due date and I am still uncertain about what this leave will look like. Sometimes I say I will be completely removed for the rest of 2013. Sometimes I think a bit longer. Other days I think, no way. I will do plenty of correspondence from home and be back in the game ready to go. But here is what I have learned. I don’t actually have to decide anything right now. I can have the baby and play it by ear. I can see how I feel and how she is adjusting. I can wait until I’m up for it. I can learn what it means to be a working mom at our pace. I have options because of the residual income we have built in only 2 years!

When I was a therapist, I used to talk with my clients about designing an integrated life- one where their work, their family, their interests, were all woven in as one. It sounded beautiful in philosophy. Little did I know that I was simply designing the philosophy for my life.

Pregnancy Must Reads

Like I’ve mentioned, I’m an avid reader and researcher. I love finding out as much information on one topic as possible, taking what applies to me to find the best formula. I’ve read, flipped through and scoured books, and searched blogs and reviews.  These were my favorite reads during pregnancy to help me navigate everything from symptoms to moods to baby gear and most important, parenting.

Favorite Blogs and Websites

Baby Center: This was my favorite go-to for the week-by-week fetal growth and progression. There are many but this is the one that I chose. I also found it the most helpful for community questions and reviews. It was just easiest to scroll through and navigate. There are also some decent less biased articles for your basic baby info, like sleeping, nutrition, pregnancy symptoms, etc.

Fit Pregnancy: The meat of this website is less substantial, but I enjoy the health perspective. There are simple exercise routines, easy recipe ideas, and sometimes their product reviews are good. It gave me a framework to go from.

Dear Baby Blog: I didn’t get into this until late in pregnancy but enjoyed this light read. The writer is local, so the Raleigh references are fun. Her writing is very poetic and makes a great read to relax before bed. Her perspective is romantic and whimsical but also centered and grateful for the moment.

Amazon: I was never an amazon junkie before getting pregnant but since fell in love. You can’t beat the prices or selection. The reviews are abundant (and usually pretty inline with the rest of the reviews out there when you cross compare), and for a busy mom-to-be like me, I simply didn’t have time to drive all over town to research products and selection (which seems pretty poor where I live) and I refuse to settle on quality, especially when it comes to products made with harsh or dangerous ingredients. My registry was held exclusively on Amazon.

Favorite Books

Magical Beginnings, Enchanted Lives: This book by Chopra was much more my “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” It’s a holistic guide to pregnancy with a very non-scary, non-threatening, and non-judgmental voice. It has practical advice for yoga postures and exercising, as well as communication with your partner, and preparing for birth. The only portion that I didn’t completely connect with was the nutrition, but even that section was wonderful at illustrating, eat a variety of whole, nutritious foods and if you have the occasional craving, satisfy it. Zero guilt. Loved it. Probably the best part of the book was about centering yourself body, mind, and soul and visualizing your pregnancy, birth, and beyond. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in pinterest, comparisons, and worries. This book helps to keep your grounded.

Understanding Your Moods When You’re Expecting: I referenced this book in an earlier post and just really appreciated it. I know that I am not the only mom that was impacted emotionally by all of the physical changes in my body- lack of sleep, inability to complete daily tasks like I once could, having to cut back on work, and the stinkin preggo brain that just makes me feel like I am losing my mind, not to mention the cluster of hormones. All of the symptoms really made me feel less empowered, not more. This book was just a fantastic reminder of validating what’s “normal” and what might constitute the need for a little more help. The encouragement of seeking support and the guidance to create a post-natal plan (genius) were immensely helpful at calming my mind and relinquishing control.

Bringing Up Bebe: I loved this alternative perspective by Pamela Druckerman. This book was a comparison between the American and Parisian cultures on raising newborns. Now, while this book was completely generalizing the two cultures and looking at the masses, not breaking down different parenting styles, it was a general overview, which I preferred. I am not a one-size fits all, follow this manual step-by-step, subscribe to this parenting style completely, kinda woman. I never have been. So similarly, I didn’t subscribe to everything in this book (i.e breastfeeding, or lack thereof), but what I did like was her take on learning how to become in tune with your baby so that you aren’t looking to a book to read his/her emotions, and being fully attentive to your child, when appropriate. I am a big believer that this is how to get your baby to sleep and behave through toddler years, which this book is advocating. Now, I am still a naive pregnant person, so we may revise this after Baby L gets here.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting: I know, I know. I just about lost ALL credibility by listing this one. And for the most part, I hated it (to be totally honest, I didn’t even finish it), but the only section that I really liked was the nutrition. For a junkie like me, it was great to see which essential vitamins you need to bump up in your diet. I hear there is just a nutrition version, which may be more beneficial to check out. But I cannot stress the importance of good nutrition while you’re expecting. I completely give all credit to my nutrition and health (before and during pregnancy) for the abundance of sweet compliments I have received.

The Book of Nurturing: This book isn’t a pregnancy book per se, but much more of a personal development read in regards to family and parenting. Again, this helps to keep life into perspective beyond sore nipples and exhaustion from sleep schedules. It helps you to be in tune with your family, keep communication open, love, protect, and nurture, but know when to let go and let growth happen. I think these principles are so key for new parents to remember so your start good habits early.

Other Good Reads

SleepI read a number of books on sleep including Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth, The No Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley and The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karpp. The most humorous part about all three of these reads were how redundant they were. They were definitely written with sleep-deprived parents in mind reiterating the same principles. I initially found it annoying but could appreciate the tactics and began to skim through them. The techniques in Happiest Baby were helpful and I appreciated the principles in No-Cry Sleep Solution. Having a toolbox of tricks is essential, but I am a big believer of going into this with a rough draft and a lot of room to edit your plan.

Breastfeeding: I really enjoyed So That’s What They’re For, by Janet Tamaro. It was well-writtten and very funny (but not in the brash humor that so many pregnancy and parenting books are written in these days). This book would have made my Top Reads list until I went to my breastfeeding class and realized how much this book frightened me with the long list of what-could-go-wrongs.  My class seemed to simplify things more and return the confidence that I think you need to get the job done. However, still highly recommended for any mom that is wavering a bit about breastfeeding, or with no breastfeeding mentor (my mom didn’t breastfeed), simply to strengthen your conviction in the health benefits for your child.

Vaccines:  Touchy subject, I know. But with all of the hype out there, you owe it to yourself to be equipped. I thought my opinion on this topic was one way, went through it very confused, and came out with a better, more confident decision. An unbiased book that just gives you the facts is The Vaccine Book by Robert Sears. I often found myself just wanting the author to tell me what to do but after careful reading, note-taking, and conversations with my husband, we are on the same page. It might be more homework than you want to do, but again, with the controversy, you might just want to feel as educated as you can so if anything arises, you felt you made the best decision possible.

At the end of the day, or your pregnancy, you may not be a big reader. That may work for you. But I think the goal of every parent is to become better everyday. Work on yourself, your relationships, communication, and your ability to be open and learn along the way. Maybe that’s through books for some and mentors for others. But knowing that we are all going to make mistakes and learn from each one of them will make us all a little bit better and hopefully let go of some of this infamous parent guilt.

Body After Baby and Why I am Getting in the BEST SHAPE OF MY LIFE

If you have read any of my recent posts, you may already be familiar that I have not been one of those women who have adored pregnancy. I wanted to be. Really I did. I thought I would be. And I have my moments, like when she is moving around, that I think this is pretty, freakin cool. I’m grateful for the opportunity to bond and connect with her before she arrives. But at the end of the day, you could say, I’m Over Being Pregnant.

I have been a long time advocate and professional in women’s health. I am all about empowering women through health and wellness. How we portray that can be tricky. When you slam pictures up on the internet, it can easily be taken two ways: motivating for some and self-depricating for others, usually more of the latter, especially if we don’t know where or how to start. Approaching health and fitness for women has to be done with care and precaution. I never want to alienate anyone… especially a new mom. We are going through enough as it is.

However, I will be quite clear: I don’t buy into women’s (or anyone’s) excuses to be overweight. Yes, genetics plays a role in our size. No, we do not all need to be a size 6 or smaller. However, embracing obesity (defined by the CDC as 30 lbs overweight or more) is unacceptable to me. When you embrace obesity, you are actually hurting yourself, your culture, and your gender. The health problems associated with obesity are insurmountable and this is the first generation where parents are predicted to outlive their children. NO THANK YOU!! When we embrace being overweight, we excuse ourselves from changing and that’s the message that we pass on to our children.

I don’t always vocalize this opinion loudly, because while obesity runs in my family (and I have lost family members to obesity), I, myself have never been obese. Even when I was carrying my extra weight, I was still in a healthy BMI and weight. So, I am fully aware that my statement above may seem like I lack empathy, but it lacks no more empathy than if I were to be ok with the other side of my family getting away with alcoholism because they are Irish.

For me, pregnancy has been very eye opening as to what carrying extra weight is like. While, I know I am growing a baby (which is awesome), it is still extra weight on my body. At my last weigh-in I had gained 29 lbs in 7 months and I weigh more than I ever have. That’s a lot of new weight for my body to adjust to. So, it’s no wonder that I have been tired, stiff, achy joints and muscles, back pain, hip pain, and S L O W. I actually have to contemplate things like how to get off of the couch, how to tie my shoes, or climb a few flights of stairs.

So here is why I have decided that I vow to get into the BEST SHAPE OF MY LIFE: Because I refuse to live my life that way. I refuse for my daughter to grow up with a mom that can’t run and play with her. I have taken advantage of my health many times. As a child, I was small, weak and unathletic. It didn’t bother me because I was skinny. Then in college, I started to work out. I felt stronger. I was no longer the weakling and I liked it. Working out empowered me. Then I became very comfortable with a maintenance level. Maybe we call it complacency, or maybe we just call it a shift in priorities at the time. My health and weight were good. I worked out. I was content. But now, after a glimpse of a life that is slower, more lethargic, heavier, I don’t want to take advantage of my opportunity to be in my best shape possible. I want to be the best me, not just for me, but for my daughter; for my family.

The life that I envision for my family is active! It includes Sunday hikes with the dogs, surfing and adventure sports, walking through cities as we explore, running and chasing each other at the park, Family 5Ks, lots of lessons in nutrition and cooking healthy foods together, and endurance through the days.

So if my body changes after this awesome baby or the next one through stretch marks or sagging boobs, so be it. But I refuse to excuse the baby weight and let it slow me down. Because the extra weight that we carry isn’t just in our bodies, it’s in our minds. And I have way too many other important things to worry about than my own self-guilt or body image. It’s just not worth it.

Let’s Document the Journey… Stay tuned…


Maternity Shoot

Before becoming pregnant, I looked at pregnancy as something magical. I was adamant that women should be Gods in our society. Superheroes! I mean growing another human being is as close to superhero power that we were going to get. And then I became pregnant and I felt more like a sacrificial lamb. There was nothing super about me. I was slower, weaker, tired, stripped of my memory and quick processing. I would cry on a dime. It felt more like someone zapped me of my superpowerism. I thought that I would love being pregnant and be able to take the negative side effects with the emotional and spiritual connection that I am doing something so much greater and bigger. Not so much. Turns out I really like being articulate and having endurance.

With that said, my husband repeatedly asked me if I wanted to get maternity photos done and I repeatedly said, no. I did not feel beautiful and confident. And as much as I thought I would regret it, I had no interest in recording this pregnancy. I wanted to get through it and get to the part of enjoying our amazing little girl and the adventures of parenthood.

But after his last plea, with a sweet look in his eye and his endearing words of how beautiful he thought that I was, and then his boy-like disappointment when I again said no, I decided to reconsider. For him. He has been such a martyr, dealing with demands, emotions, and most appreciated, picking up the slack wherever I may drop it. He deserved this.

So I called on our favorite photographer and arranged for a surprise maternity shoot that I could give him for his birthday.  I scheduled a hair appointment with one of my best friends, put on some makeup and sucked it up.

Now I can say that I am so grateful to my husband for his persistence and reverie of me and this baby. On that day, I truly felt beautiful. Maybe not superhero, but angelic. And we will get to share these photos with our sweet baby girl as she asks about what it was like when mommy was pregnant. So Happy Birthday to my amazing husband and Thank You for your gift in return- your love and belief in me.