The workout I’m currently loving

I talked about my postpartum workout strategy yesterday: focus on one body issue at a time. I think I’ve achieved some great results with this strategy, because it’s more realistic and easy to fit into my busy life as a mother. In addition to my focused workout, I utilize my “5 ways to lose the baby weight without trying” on a daily basis so my whole body is still getting some attention. I also take Emerson for walks several times a week.

via

Back to the focused routine. I was getting sick of not being able to keep my pants up after I lost the baby weight. I had no junk in the trunk to keep them on my hips! Which is why, I am currently loving the Brazilian Butt Workout. If you’re on Pinterest, you may have come across it. Well, trust me, you will feel the burn with this one! Personally, I love the feeling of waking up with sore muscles the next day because it’s proof that I’m making progress. And I am making progress! If I knew I would be writing about this on my blog one day, I would have taken before and after photos, became damn. What is it about pregnancy that makes your butt flat, droopy and extra jiggly? I don’t know, but I decided to do something about the “mom butt” a couple of months ago. Thanks to the Brazilian Butt Workout, I’m happy to report that my buns are looking rounder, firmer and less assaulted by gravity.

The workout suggests doing the whole routine three times through, but I will be the first to admit that that sounded impossible to me at first. Okay….it still does. It’s all about easing into exercise and being realistic for me as a postpartum woman, so I decided to only commit to doing half the routine once through, and gradually increase that over time. That wasn’t so much a choice as it was a necessity given I collapsed onto the floor, unable to move my legs the first time I did the workout (okay….again, this still happens).

This is also a great routine to do while watching the kids. Emerson is thoroughly amused and entertained watching me work my buns out! She especially likes to watch me do frog jumps!

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I hope you enjoyed health and fitness week as much as I did! I’m feeling this as an addition to my blog right now so I’m going to go with it—maybe once a week—as long as I feel like it’s working.

TLC for the postpartum brain

I don’t know about you, but I feel depressed when I focus on the parts of a problem that I cannot control….the parts that are immoveable. When it comes to my physical appearance, though, I have often done just that: focused on things I cannot control. Given that fact, I could have very easily slipped into self-loathing postpartum. I could have gotten lost in the plumpness of my still pregnant-looking belly or the dark line that ran its length, fixated on the wideness of my hip bones that never fully disappeared, longed for the breasts of my former self, obsessed over the millions of new freckles and beauty marks that erupted all over my body during pregnancy, cried over the loss of skin elasticity in various locations, or pitied the fact that my belly button has been forever stretched and reshapened. But, I didn’t. Sure, these issues occur to me at times, but I have chosen to focus on what I can control.

In the first few months postpartum, I can honestly say that the joy (and lovely euphoric hormones!) of new motherhood almost completely shielded me from any negative thoughts about the state of my body. There was no time or reason to focus on my appearance. All I could see was how awesome my body was, because it made a perfect, beautiful little creature. I felt thankful (and still do) that becoming a mother changed the way I view my body and the importance I used to place on my appearance.

Then I arrived at the point in time when my attention began to take short breaks from obsessing over my baby. I began to slowly take stock of what had happened to my body. But, I tried not to ever linger in the mirror, because it can be overwhelming (and paralyzing) to look at the whole picture postpartum. Your entire frame has endured a massive ordeal—a metamorphasis and subsequent deflation in a relatively short period of time. It finally occurred to me that I was never going to look the same again. Maybe close, but never the same “same.”

It’s not just about the weight, though. For me, losing the weight was step one. But step two is a much bigger project: renovations. That’s the phase I have been in for awhile now. And for sanity’s sake, I have chosen to break those renovations down into manageable chunks rather than having the expectation that I can fix it all at once. Because, when I was focused on the entire package, I just wasn’t working out. I mean, who has the time to do cardio, an ab routine, weight train, tone your arms, tighten your butt and thighs, practice yoga, etc. etc. all while mothering a baby?

So, I thought to myself why not pick one thing? Maybe, the one part of your body that bothers you the most….or that you’d most like to show off. Because, sometimes, having one awesome part of your body is a great way to detract attention from the less appealing parts and feel confident about what you do have going on. Age-old female trick, right? So, just one body part. Work on that until you achieve a noticeable difference and then move on to the next. All the while, working in some light cardio so the parts that aren’t being focused on are still getting a little attention. For me, this has been a great way to ease into exercising postpartum while keeping myself motivated instead of giving up because it’s too much work.

To that end, I will share the workout I am currently loving (and focusing on) tomorrow. Check back then!

Did you miss my earlier health & fitness posts?
5 ways to lose the baby weight without trying
My go-to meal: fueling a healthy, fit pregnancy and losing the baby weight

My go-to meal: fueling a healthy pregnancy, and losing the baby weight

I am obsessed with food. Healthy food, that is. If you were a fly on the wall of my life, you would often hear my husband asking, “I’m eating a banana! What kind of vitamins and minerals am I ingesting? Hey, hon, what can I eat to get rid of this cold faster? Baby, do you want a lot of kale or a little kale with your dinner? Is that organic/in season/dairy-free/gluten-free/sugar-free/from the farmer’s market?

Yes, I think about, read about, and talk about food a lot. It’s the number one way I take care of myself. So, naturally, I was very interested obsessed with eating right during pregnancy. I wanted to provide the best nutrition possible for my baby while giving my own body what it needed to remain healthy and fit. And I found that, after giving birth, my goals were pretty much the same. I was still growing my baby by fueling her little body with breast milk and I still wanted to support my body so it could heal and recover from pregnancy without adding to the baby weight. The easiest way to accomplish these goals is to eat nutrient-dense meals (or snacks), more often. This means eating meals that pack a good variety of the vitamins and minerals your body needs into one dish. I find that I am left feeling much more satisfied (and with much fewer cravings for not-so-healthy food) when I eat this way.

I have a few go-to meals that I eat in rotation, but the “Big Salad,” as I so dubbed it during pregnancy, is one that never fails. I feel so nourished and satisfied afterwards, almost as if I can feel the nutrients going to work in my body. It’s tasty, filling and so very nutritious. The protein from the eggs and hummus will fill you up, the whole grains from the brown rice bread will give you some fuel/energy without feeling heavy, and the healthy fats from the olive oil and avocado will satisfy cravings (cravings are usually your body’s way of asking for something….it just takes a little bit of detective work to figure out what that is).

All the “fat” in this meal might make you nervous. Personally, I swear by healthy fats. They are rich in omegas, good for your heart, fight fatigue, improve your overall health, and can actually help you control your weight. Healthy fats are one of my secrets! My diet is high in healthy fat and virtually devoid of unhealthy saturated fats. Let’s not fail to mention that this way of eating also benefits a growing fetus or growing baby (through breast milk) enormously!

So, here is my recipe for “Big Salad,” including the health benefits of each ingredient (click links for full nutritional information):

Alexa’s Big Salad

2-3 cups mixed dark, leafy greens salad mix (I prefer Olivia’s Spring Mix)
*high in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, and iron

1 cup baby spinach
*high in Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Manganese, Magnesium, Calcium, Vitamin C, Iron, Folic Acid, Fiber, B Vitamins, on the “12 best foods to eat during pregnancy” list

1-2 large carrots, peeled and diced
*high in Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Fiber, Vitamin C, on the “12 best foods to eat during pregnancy” list

6-8 grape tomatoes, halved
*high in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Lycopene 

1/2 an avocado, chopped
*high in Folic acid, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Potassium, Omegas, on the “12 best foods to eat during pregnancy” list

2 hardboiled Omega/DHA-enhanced eggs, chopped
*high in Protein, Omegas, B Vitamins, Choline (research indicates Choline can help prevent miscarriage in addition to its many other health benefits), on the “12 best foods to eat during pregnancy” list

2-4 tablespoons hummus
*high in protein, Folic Acid, Fiber, Manganese

Olive oil, to taste

Balsamic Vinegar, to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste

Gluten-free brown rice toast with Coconut Spread, on the side

Directions:

Mix all ingredients, salad mix through avocado in a bowl with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Top with hardboiled eggs and hummus. Serve toast on the side.

5 ways to lose the baby weight without trying

I have always been an active person. Constantly moving my body (and burning calories). But, my body responded to pregnancy and postpartum by shutting down. On the one hand, I felt healthier than ever because it was a time of supreme nutrition as I obsessed over growing the healthiest baby possible. But, I had the urge to be sedentary. I went from a life of constant motion and craving exercise (to feel vital, energized and sane) to a life of napping and sitting on the couch all day. I would get dizzy, see stars, lose feeling in my limbs, and generally just felt overwhelmingly weakened when on my feet. Thus the extent of my exercise regimen during pregnancy included taking slow walks. I listened to my body and inner wisdom and rested. I knew that was what my body needed in order to support a healthy pregnancy. If you listen closely, your body will always tell you what it needs….and that is the starting point for health. Listen.

I hoped that my need for a relatively sedentary life would end abruptly as I pushed my child out of my body. But, it did not. My recovery from childbirth was very slow. My body would loudly protest at the slightest hint of movement. I would suffer complications from simply climbing a set of stairs. At times, I would push myself and resist my body’s wisdom by going for long hikes with my baby strapped to my chest. And things would get even worse. So, I rested. For nearly four months, I rested. While eating ice cream daily. And, as I mentioned yesterday, wearing maternity clothes.Eventually, I reached a point when I was finally able to move again (it felt like an eternity!). True exercise, such as jogging, was still too painful, but I simply began to move. And the ways I began to move led to some significant weight loss. This may not be a cure-all for the postpartum body, but by adopting a more active life, you can make a difference. You can tighten and tone, lose weight and feel better while simultaneously entertaining or soothing your child.

**A word of caution: Please remember, it’s very important to start slow after giving birth. Wait the customary 6-12 weeks to allow your body to heal. Give yourself time. And don’t expect your body to be capable of doing what it did pre-pregnancy just because you’re no longer carrying a child. Your body has gone through an enormous ordeal. Respect your vessel.

5 ways to lose the baby weight without trying:

1. Wear your baby– I mentioned some of the many benefits of baby wearing here. But, wearing your baby doesn’t just benefit the baby. It’s a great way to strengthen your back and legs, and tone your abs and glutes. If you start wearing your baby from birth (or as soon as your body has healed enough), your muscles will grow with the weight of your child allowing you to continue carrying your child for many years without strain, all while toning your body. I have been wearing my baby for a minimum of four hours a day (up to 6+ hours a day) from the time my body had healed from childbirth until today. In fact, I am currently writing this with a 20 lb. passenger on my chest. Four hours may seem like a lot, and you can certainly enjoy the benefits by doing less, but it adds up quickly when you go about the business of your life or allow your child to nap on you.

Bonus tip: Wearing your child while going about your every day life does a body good. But, to take it up a notch, try wearing your baby while taking a walk or hike outdoors. Can’t get outside? Wearing your baby while cleaning the house will also make you sweat. I attribute much of my weight loss to vacuuming and cleaning a two-story home while baby wearing. All the lifting, trips up the stairs, and constant movement is a workout! Meanwhile, your baby is content and you are being productive. Win. Or, go a more traditional route and try doing some squats or lunges while wearing your baby.

Caution: It’s important to know how to properly use your baby carrier to prevent injury to your body. If you do it safely and ergonomically, you should not be in pain. And please, do not attempt cardio or weight training while wearing your baby.

2. Bounce on an exercise ball– I attribute the current shape of my abs to a billion hours spent bouncing on an exercise ball to soothe my baby. I mentioned the magic of bouncing here. Like baby wearing, it’s not just magic for the baby, but also for your body! Comfort, soothe, and help your baby to sleep by bouncing on a ball instead of rocking in a chair and tone your body at the same time! When I first began bouncing on the ball with Emerson a few weeks postpartum, I could feel the burn in my back, abs, and legs. Fast forward twelve months and I am still bouncing my baby on the ball, but it feels easy because my muscles have developed so strongly. Another added benefit: my posture has improved greatly (I even get comments on this!).

Bonus tip: Use the ball to play! Sometimes I will hold Emerson and play “bouncy baby.” This involves holding her tight against my body and bouncing as high as I can while sitting on the ball (all while singing bouncy, bouncy, bouncy baaaaby….of course). You will feel the burn.

3. Be a tour guide– From the time Emerson was born, we wanted to show her the world. We would walk her all over the house, narrating what we saw. As she grew, she loved this activity more and more. Whether we’re stuck inside because of the weather or we’re exploring the neighborhood, there is always so much to see when looking through the eyes of a baby. This may sound like a simple activity, but it can add hundreds of steps to your day. We’ve all heard how adding steps to your day can benefit your health. That’s because all those steps add up! For roughly every 2,000 steps you add to your day, you have walked a mile. So, put one foot in front of the other!

Bonus tip: Take a tour around your neighborhood instead of just the house or yard. You can easily add thousands, rather than hundreds, of steps this way.

4. Play with your child– Your child will love it, your body will love it! Get down on the floor and crawl around. A mobile child will “chase” after you. Give your shoulders, arms and back a workout by raising or safely throwing your child up into the air (try bouncing a smaller baby up and down like you are doing bicep curls….Emerson loved this as a newborn!). Roll around, jump like a frog, be silly. And the older your baby gets, the more strenuous playtime will be!

Bonus tip: This qualifies as real exercise, but you can “play” by incorporating your child into a strengthening routine. Use your baby in place of weights for bicep curls, chest presses, and shoulder presses. Hold your baby while you lunge, squat, or plié. Sit your baby on your belly as you do crunches. She will probably giggle the whole time.

5. Dance– Do you remember when you were in college and you would leave a bar drenched in sweat after a night of dancing? I do! I also remember the soreness I felt in my muscles the next morning. That’s because dancing is a great workout and burns a ton of calories. And, it’s fun! It didn’t feel like work to dance with my friends at a bar when I was young, and it doesn’t feel like work to dance in my living room with my child now. This suggestion has the added benefit of putting you in a really good mood, too! Oftentimes when I am having a stressful day as a mother or I’m feeling a bit blue, I will turn on some upbeat music and dance with Emerson. In no time, I am smiling and feeling better. Plus, babies love music, and they love to dance.

Bonus tip: Dance with your baby. As in, hold your baby in your arms while dancing to an upbeat song. Try incorporating your baby into your dance moves by raising them up into the air or holding them straight out in front of you and rocking them side to side. This used to be easy with a newborn, but these days I am wiped after just one song when dancing with my 20 lb. child. I can feel the calories melting off!

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That’s it, folks! Simple ideas that can give you big results! Check in tomorrow for my go-to meal for fueling a healthy, fit pregnancy and losing the baby weight.

Health and fitness week

For most of my adult life, I have been active and fit. I was raised to pay attention to what I was putting in my mouth, to live as naturally as possible, to exercise and take care of my body. And all of those lessons stuck. At first, they were just seeds. But, as I journeyed deeper into adulthood, my interest in health, fitness and nutrition (with an emphasis on natural living) expanded and grew into passion. And then, after moving to health-concsious San Francisco in my mid-twenties that passion became borderline obsession.

So, given my obsession, I assumed that getting back into shape after giving birth would be a priority. I thought I would want to exercise. But, while I was still very focused on nutrition for the sake of healing and providing my baby with grade A breast milk, exercise was one of the farthest things from my mind. Instead, I found myself lost in babyland—the amazingly exciting, chaotic, overwhelming space and time that occurs when you bring a new little being into your home. For me, though, that newborn haze seemed to extend outward and consume much of my first YEAR as a mother. There were the complications I suffered as a result of childbirth. But, mostly I was always too tired to exercise regularly. I didn’t have time. And I didn’t want to miss anything at home.

But, I did gain weight during pregnancy. Obviously. We all have baby weight after giving birth, regardless of our pre-pregnancy shape. So, after the initial shedding of tissue, bodily fluids….oh, and a HUMAN BABY from my body, I had weight that sat on me without budging like any normal woman. Still, I didn’t have the time (or inclination) to employ a full-on workout program. Instead, I continued to wear maternity clothes and eat enormous bowls of ice cream every day. I’ll worry about that later, I thought.And then, around five months postpartum, the weight started coming off little by little, though I still hadn’t started a regular exercise routine. But, what was I doing differently?

To learn the answer to that question, check back this week! That’s right, I’ll be talking health and fitness all week. Though this is a topic I have never broached here before, in real life, friends, relatives, and even strangers have been coming to me for advice and suggestions in these areas for the better part of the last decade. So, it occurred to me that I might have something to share.

I will preface this all by saying I am not an expert nor am I a dietician, nutritionist, personal trainer or doctor. But, I am passionate about health and fitness…..and I live it.

Up this week….

Tuesday- 5 ways to lose the baby weight without trying
Wednesday- My Go-to Meal: fueling a healthy, fit pregnancy and losing the baby weight
Thursday- A little TLC for the postpartum brain
Friday- The workout I’m currently loving

This is labor

Last May 10th, on a warm, sunny day much like today, I went into labor thus commencing an incredible three-day journey that changed me in countless ways. And lately, I’ve been revisiting every form of documentation I have from before, during and after that time—photos, blog posts, baby book entries, videos. It’s as if I have to replay it all a thousand times before it finally sinks in. Before it finally feels real. Before I can understand how this all happened so quickly. This whole year it has felt like I just gave birth….like, last week maybe. But, in going back and watching the SIX video tapes we recorded throughout the actual labor and birth, I finally get how long ago it actually was. For the first time, I saw the divide. I saw the transformation take place on camera, so clearly, before my now slightly seasoned motherly eyes.

The video footage I watched begins with me waiting to go into labor (though that part is not included here). I am 40-weeks pregnant, not knowing I have another three weeks (on account of my due date being changed when I was 41-weeks…..the worst). And that girl—yes, I would call her a “girl”—has such a different presence about her. She looks younger. Much younger. Though it was only a year ago, giving birth and mothering a babe have aged me. It’s not just physical though. My voice, my demeanor, and my energy look different, too. I wasn’t fully a mother yet. I wasn’t fully a woman yet. And then there is the way Alex and I talk to one another….it’s so different than it is now. We were gentle and quiet, overly loving in every interaction. You can see that it is just the two of us. Now, we get to the point. We are blunt and communicate rapid-fire style in an attempt to get as much out in the five-minute window our child has allotted us each day. We are in love, but still in the trenches of the most challenging upheaval to our lives that we’ve ever known. We are there, helping one another survive and feel supported rather than making out every five minutes.

But, back to the video. I attempted to put together a montage of my 51-hour, three-day-long labor. That was a tall task, let me tell you. Be forewarned, the video quality is pretty awful most of the time (it gets better part way through). I have yet to figure out how to get the footage off of my ancient video camera and onto my computer so I had improvise (read: horrible method). Also, it was nighttime during a lot of this footage so it’s rather dark.

ANYWAY, you don’t care about any of this, do you? No. Because you are just curious as hell to see me in labor. Right? I know I would be. I’m so fascinated by birth! I’d watch a video of any one of you in labor. But, this we already know. SO. Most of what you see is taken out of context. I think it’s not so important to understand all the stories or jokes—it’s really just to give you a sense of what it actually looked like. FYI- I did not include any of the footage after I was transferred to the hospital. It gets naked-y and graphic, people. What IS included is dancing, contracting, booty shaking, eating lots of buttery toast, the baby’s heart beating inside my contracting belly, me in hysterics telling stories in between contractions (a story about Alex dancing with me in a drum circle at my favorite yoga retreat center….where coincidentally all the hippies fart at will….if you were wondering while watching the video), the mood shifting to a more calm, subdued mama bear, the contractions getting stronger….and stronger. Yes, this is labor: joy, excitement, humor, strength, courage, persistence…and yes, some pain. It’s the most amazing experience ever. Enjoy!

P.S. If you haven’t read my six-part birth story, here are the links: Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IVPart VPart VI

**This is a 7.5 minute video so you might want to let it load before you hit play

http://youtu.be/iKINIyFOMuw

 

April 24

This day last year was my due date. I was reminded of that fact when I ran into one of the midwives who attended my birth this morning (how crazy, right?). It feels so strange, and almost impossible that a year has passed since that day. In fact, this entire year has left me feeling bewildered at every turn. I seem to constantly be playing the “this time last year” game either in my head or out loud to Alex. “This time last year, we found out we were pregnant….This time last year, I couldn’t see my own feet….This time last year, Emerson was spooning me in bed from inside my body.” It’s all my way of trying to come to terms with the enormous, night-and-day, life-altering changes that have occurred while being completely in awe of the miracle of life.

(I never got a good video of Emerson trying to rip her way
out of my belly—she was incredibly active in utero—but
I did take this one (very tame) video. You can
see her rolling around a bit and poking her elbow
out on the left side at the end.)

It’s hard to believe that this time last year I was hugely pregnant and in agony waiting for labor to begin….looking for any possible sign that the end might be near. Little did I know I would be waiting another THREE WEEKS! That waiting was unreal. Both the physical discomfort and emotional impatience were at crazy high levels. The funny thing is, I went back and read my post from this day last year thinking I’d feel so far removed from whatever it was I was feeling then, but instead found myself still identifying with my April 24, 2012 self…

I can’t seem to move forward or backward, but instead hang and float in what appears to be never-ending stillness and nothingness. My past life, and past self, have long faded away, yet my new life and self still feel so far out of reach. I know I am waiting for my baby, but I’m also waiting to feel connected to this world again, to feel anchored to an identity and move along with time and space like I used to.

What I didn’t realize then was that the waiting doesn’t stop when you give birth. Neither does the identity crisis. Emerson is here, and nearly a year old, but I still feel like my life is on hold. I still feel like I am waiting to feel “normal” again, to start moving forward, to somewhat resemble my old self. Because mothering can feel much like pregnancy. It can feel like nothing is happening or being accomplished. You may do nothing all day but take three naps and satisfy food cravings as a pregnant woman, or change diapers and clean up messes as a mother. But, something IS happening. Everything is happening. Life is being created, nurtured, developed, and enriched. All of your “nothing” is forever changing a little being’s life. All of your “nothing” is the biggest “something” there is in this world.

But, it’s difficult to always remember that—to feel like you are living your life with great purpose (in your sweatpants) rather than feel like you are putting it on hold. Last year, I sat on the couch putting the finishing touches on organs, strengthening lungs, and growing a brain. This year, I am sitting on the couch cuddling with a happy, healthy, loving little girl who is totally pumped that I am doing nothing but giving her my undivided attention. Though much of “me” is still sitting on a back burner waiting somewhere this April 24th, the smile on Emerson’s face is exactly the reason I have given myself over to this past year (plus nine months) of transitionary limbo. And wouldn’t you know, more life and meaning and depth has unfolded around me during this time.

Maybe life is what happens….when you are waiting for the rest of your life to begin.

Marriage and baby: Not for the weak, Part VI

Conception, The Finale (Part IPart IIPart III, Part IV)
 
TTC Month Six
Alex and I were still in (attempted) relaxation mode this month so we had a string of road trips lined up to take our minds off of our crazy life. Up first was a trip to Vermont, where we stayed in the hotel suite we had stayed in when we got married. We spent a lazy few days reminiscing and reigniting our spark. But, we found it difficult, as we were right in the middle of deciding on a house and spent much of our time on the phone with our realtor.
By the end of the trip, we had a house. The price being the continued tension being Alex and I, as a couple.
We decided to try again. So, I packed up my ovulation kit with my camping gear and we headed up to the Adirondack Mountains. As Alex and I set up camp the first night, we suddenly felt removed from our life. We talked deep into the night by the camp-fire. I cried in the darkness of the forest, feeling so lost and distant from the man who sat beside me eating s’mores. This was the summer that was supposed to bring us closer together as we created a new life—a new town, new home, new child. But, there was distance. Our living situation and a bevy of enormous and simultaneous life changes had led us to escape into separate corners.
We longed for the simplicity of our newlywed days, which weren’t all too long ago.
We came together that night, sweating on top of sleeping bags, the lullaby of loons echoing all around us. The next morning, I peed on a stick in the woods…an ovulation stick, that is. Something felt incredibly unnatural about that, though. It was like a metaphor for my conception obsession. Having a baby was the most natural thing in the world, but I was chipping away at the naturalness of it by trying to force it. I mean here I was, in the mountains, surrounded by nature, with an ovulation kit in hand. In that moment, I wished that I had had the kit six months ago, I wished that I could have remained relaxed…I wished I could start over. I was fed up with the whole thing.
The next day I took my temperature when I woke up, like I had done all the mornings before it for almost a year. I grabbed an ovulation stick, but on my way to use it, chucked it in the garbage—partly in frustration, partly as a symbol of my surrender.
That day, we rented canoes and paddled through the mountain lakes. For the first time in many months, it was just me and Alex. Alone. And calm. We didn’t talk about babies or houses or moving. We paddled and laughed and let go in the summer sun. Eventually, we came to a tiny, deserted island and decided to stop there for lunch. As we sat on a fallen tree together, munching on cashews and homemade protein balls (no, that is not a euphemism), we delighted in the silence. We talked about how great it felt to be sitting on a small piece of land, disconnected from everything….and everyone.
Then, we let our clothes fall to the pine needle laden ground, along with all the pressure we had put on ourselves.
The next day, we packed up our camp and headed to Saratoga Springs to stay with Alex’s sister for a few days. I started to feel the twinge of pain I had come to know quite well. I was ovulating. When we arrived, I ran to the bathroom with my last ovulation stick and discovered that the egg was already gone. Alex and I gave it one more try in the bathroom, but I knew it was too late.
Although I desperately needed all the relaxation and to approach baby making in a more casual manner the past two months, there was still the part of me that was not okay. I still wanted a baby. So, that part of me cried, feeling regretful about “not trying hard enough” that month.
***
A week and a half later, back home, Alex and I were leaving a movie theater when I suddenly exclaimed, “I need a steak. Like NOW. Seriously, you need to find me some beef or I’m going to lose it!” This sounded incredibly strange to both of us, not because of its randomness, but because I don’t even like meat. And I don’t eat beef. Yet, I was obsessed and could not quell this desperate need. We spent an hour driving around trying to find a hamburger before I ended up in the Whole Foods prepared food section, inhaling a meatball.
The following week, I woke up before sunrise one morning, and did what was as routine as brushing my teeth at this point: take my temperature. I looked at the thermometer and to my surprise the number was much higher than I expected at this time of the month. Alex, who was woken by the sound of the thermometer beeping, told me to get in the bathroom and take a pregnancy test. No, I couldn’t. Could I? I had already cast aside any hope of a pregnancy this month given the lackadaisical manner in which we had sex on our camping trip. But, I got up anyway.
I crept into the bathroom and grabbed a test by the light of my cell phone. Then I set my timer to three minutes. I sat in the complete darkness of the bathroom, my stomach fluttering. Alex called out excitedly, “what does it say?! Babe? Hello?” The timer went off. I couldn’t look. I took a deep breath, lit the screen on my cell phone and aimed it at the test.
Oh my god!
I shot up and turned the lights on. And there it was. A faint, but very real, second line staring up at me.
I walked back into the bedroom and announced, “I’m pregnant!” as Alex pulled me into the bed in a giant hug.
“Finally!” he said.
We couldn’t imagine a more beautiful ending to our story: on a small, deserted island, Alex and I returned to one another, and our reconnection created a new life.

As I hugged my husband, the past six months faded away, and our life began to circle around the small ball of cells that now lived in my uterus.

Yay! I just made a baby…but I don’t know it!
Up next, pregnancy…
Soapbox afterthought: I am not a doctor, or an expert, and my recommendations cannot solve any medical problems, but I am a woman. And I have this to say…Your fertility is your business. Getting to know your body and cycles can make all the difference when you are trying to conceive. I highly recommend using an ovulation predictor kit. They are pricey to buy on a monthly basis, but you can also use them just once before you start trying to conceive so you know when you ovulate, which can vary from woman to woman (not to mention, it’s always good peace of mind to know that you are, in fact, ovulating). I used the Clear Blue Easy Ovulation test. I also highly recommend using an online tracking website. It does require you to take your basal body temp every morning and monitor your fertility signs, but the extra work results in an incredibly helpful analysis of your most fertile time of the month. The website I used is Fertility Friend, and though you can sign up for free, I opted to pay for the extra features, which include things like alerts when it’s go-time (green light-have sex today, red light-wait), an analysis of your chance of conception each month given the information you’ve inputted, and much more. Obviously there is no guarantee, but after I signed up for the paid features and actually read all the information on the website and USED it…I got pregnant that same month. Just sayin’. One more thing. Pre-Seed. It’s your friend. Saliva and lube are not. Happy baby making!

marriage and baby: not for the weak, part v

Conception, Part IV (Part I, Part II, Part III)

TTC Month Five


I decided to buy an ovulation predictor kit this month. I had restrained myself from making the purchase earlier, at the advice of the OBGYN I was seeing when we first began trying to conceive. This was the same doctor who, during that same time, very casually suggested that I might have endometriosis, which could severely injure my ability to get pregnant. When I questioned her about the statement that she made in a very unsympathetic monotone, she brushed off my concern like it was no big deal. She continued on to tell me not to try to get pregnant. She told me not to pay attention to my cycles, or get caught up in the particulars or spend the money on an ovulation predictor kit. “Just wing it for a while,” she said.

My mistake was listening to a woman that I didn’t even trust instead of listening to my own voice and knowing that I was in charge of my body (a lesson I have yet to forget since).

This OBGYN was a terrible doctor, but her advice about trying to conceive was not at all uncommon. You often hear, “don’t make it a big deal—just let things happen naturally” when you are trying to conceive. “Just have sex during the middle part of your cycle,” you are told. “Don’t worry until you’ve been trying for a year unsuccessfully” they insist. But, I’m not so sure there should be a one-size-fits-all approach to conceiving. 
It would be nice if baby making could be nothing but romance and exciting, spontaneous sex. It would be even better if none of us had to work hard to make it happen, and we could remain perfectly calm until we were successful. But, some of us worry. Some of us would like to have all the information—about our bodies, our health, the science behind conception—before we even begin so we can minimize the surprises and make intelligent decisions. Some of us cannot remain calm when we are shooting blindly in the dark. What about those people? What about me
Listening to a blanket statement is exactly what eventually led to my inability to let go and enjoy the process. Because I need information. I need to know when I ovulate and what signs to look for in my body just before I ovulate so I can have sex on the best days of the month. I don’t do well with estimations and no plan. In effect, allowing myself to be completely neurotic about something gives me the power to remain calm and centered. Granted, other people may not operate like me, but I’m sure I am not alone in wanting to get pregnant quickly. And what is so wrong about wanting to have a baby? Why is it not okay to be involved and hands-on from the beginning instead of waiting until you are frustrated, emotionally exhausted and afraid? What is the harm, really, in buying an ovulation predictor kit on day one of TTC?
So, I bought an ovulation predictor kit. And I joined an online cycle tracking website (basically inputting your BBT and fertility signs every day so the website can analyze your data and tell you when to have sex). I took charge of my fertility (which I highly recommend over leaving it up to anyone else) and discovered that I was ovulating much earlier than the average woman. This was somewhat relieving, because it simply meant we were concentrating our efforts around the wrong days.

***
It was fairly obvious that Alex and I were failing to relax and take our minds off of all of the enormous life changes we were trying to force. My body knew that my life was in flux, and that I felt protective and unsettled given my current life circumstances and living situation. 
This was about the time I had the run-in with our next-door neighbor. While it was difficult to have a complete stranger accost me in the driveway and ask me questions about my sex life, it was far worse to know that I now had an audience while trying to conceive—an audience that slept across the hall from me, and was very doubtful in my ability to procreate. 
I myself was doubtful that I could get pregnant under the current circumstances of my life at that moment. I was suddenly very aware of what I had wanted to ignore the months before: it would take a miracle to conceive under such massive stress. When we started our TTC journey, the timing was perfect. But, after a few unexpected twists in our plan, the timing quickly became less than ideal.  

At this point, I knew that I needed peace and stability before a baby was a possibility.

***

I used the ovulation predictor kit, which helped me determine exactly when I was ovulating, but Alex and I were taking it easy this month. We planned to spend as much time out of the house as we could in order to focus on reconnecting and recalibrating. We decided to go ahead with our annual pilgrimage to my favorite yoga and meditation center, despite our need to save money for a house. It was the perfect place to center myself and get away from all we had been through the past five months.

We were deep in meditation and heavily lost in restorative yoga poses from sunrise to sunset. And I ovulated in the dead middle of my spiritual recharging. We missed our chance to capitalize on the perfect fertile moment, but I think we both let it pass by on a semi-subconscious level. If it had been one of the months before this, we probably would have found a tree to procreate behind in the middle of our guided nature walk, but not now. We needed a break.

Although we failed to conceive yet again, I felt more confident and at ease (even if only temporarily so) now that I was armed with the forbidden ovulation kit and the tracking website. I understood my body so well after all that I had been through, which renewed my faith a bit. And I had another road trip to look forward to next month, right around the time that I would be ovulating. It felt like a new beginning. 



To be continued…

marriage and baby: not for the weak, part IV

Conception, Part III (Part I, Part II)

TTC Month Four

In the midst of packing up our apartment, moving into the in-law’s place, and beginning our housing search, my period was late. Very late and very abnormal for me. With the exception of a missed period, though, I didn’t feel pregnant. But, the days kept passing regardless. Alex constantly asked if I was feeling “different,” he patted my belly and hounded me to take a pregnancy test. Still mourning from the month before, I couldn’t bear the thought of taking a pregnancy test, so I waited.

Though I doubted that my missed period meant I was pregnant, Alex’s excitement took hold of the part of me that so desperately wanted him to be right. I had gone a significant amount of time with no period in sight…which is why I began furiously scouring the Internet, looking for cases of other women who were symptomless and did not feel pregnant, but were

Eleven (long) days later, I got my period in the middle of viewing houses. When I began to bleed, I began to consider the possibility that I might never get pregnant. 

Rational or not, I could no longer keep my calm. Instead, I became obsessed with conceiving—reading hundreds of stories on message boards, studying every aspect of fertility and conception, monitoring every minute change that occurred in my body on a daily basis.
I had reached my threshold for being relaxed and letting things happen naturally. Four months may not seem like a long time, objectively speaking, but when you are trying to conceive, time is not the same “time” you are used to. When you are trying to conceive you go from believing you just need to have a bunch of sex all the time to knowing an egg must be fertilized within 12-24 hours of it being released or it will die…..along with your dreams of being a parent.

There is also a lot of waiting involved, and that further distorts time. First, you wait for that holy time of the month when you are fertile, then you wait two weeks (give or take) to either bleed or take a pregnancy test (or maybe both if you are like me and you don’t even trust a period anymore, because what if it’s implantation bleeding or you’re one of those random people who still get a period, or or or?!). Then, if you fail to get pregnant that month, you start the waiting game all over again.

And again.

And again.

I used positive visualization and meditation to try to will it to happen. I painted paintings of pregnant bellies and babies. I imagined the moment I would see two lines appear on a white stick, probably several hundred times. I read books. I googled all things conception-related, reading the same material over and over, and researching new possible reasons for my lack of bun-in-oven status. I tried to make my body less acidic and more inhabitable for sperm. I tried glutting myself on full-fat dairy products because that can help protect against infertility. Alex and I had sex every day. Every other day. Every 36 hours, on the dot. I made an emergency appointment, sure that I had some sort of infection that was keeping me from getting pregnant, only to have a midwife swab my cervix, put my cells under a microscope in the same room and report that the only thing living inside me was a very abundant population of sperm, which was equal parts relieving, embarrassing, and semi-gross.

I wanted to step outside of the body I had been living in all my life, because it was empty and not doing its job. I would stare at women carrying their babies in slings in the grocery store, wondering why they were able to do what I could not. The sight of swollen bellies was almost too painful for me to bear. Yet I was constantly looking for signs of pregnancy. 

My skin is breaking out. I must be pregnant! I’m feeling crampy. It’s got to be fertilization! I’m tired. It must be the teeny, tiny baby in me sucking all my energy away! 

Then there were the pregnancy tests. I went through so many boxes of them, I’m fairly certain I ended up making money on them given all the rebates and coupons I collected over the months. I never trusted the results, or maybe I didn’t want to believethe results, so I rarely took just one. Regardless of the frequency of my test taking, though, the suspense existed each and every time. Those moments before you pee on a stick are the safe zone. It’s the window of time after you’ve already done everything you could that month to conceive, but before the timer goes off and you have to actually look at the test and know whether you succeeded or failed. Every month, the anticipation became incrementally more intense during that window, and the subsequent disappointment of one line compounded by all the months of one line that had come before it.

There was the all-too-familiar hug that Alex would be waiting with outside the bathroom door. I’d silently bury my head in his shoulder, a few tears falling from my eyes, and he’d tell me that everything was fine and that we’d have a baby soon.

I tried talking to friends who had children to find perspective. There were the friends who tried for years, rather than months, before they conceived, but their stories didn’t erase the impatience and fear. Consequently, there were the friends who got pregnant after only two months yet they cried and feared and 100% lost it during the entirety of those two months. Every couple had a different story, and a different emotional reaction to the process. As much as I wanted to find some sort of solace in it all, I knew that none of it could predict what would happen to me.

***

Our sex life began to change drastically once we moved into mom’s place. There was no more baby making on the kitchen floor, it was much trickier to have sex at the specific time intervals suggested by my OBGYN, and there was the total awkwardness of having sex in your mother/mother-in-law’s house. Sure, it used to be fun to occasionally do it in her guest room, but that was when we were visiting, not living there.

Long gone were the days of romantic, exciting, fun procreation. Now, the reality was mom walking by our bedroom door, or coming home in the middle of the day when she had told us she’d be out late. It looked a little something like…

“It’s time.”

Sigh.

“I read that I should be lying perfectly flat while we do it so just….no….that’s not good….”

“Wait….move this….no….I mean….WHAT do you want me to do?!!”

“Shhhhhh!”

“Shhhhhh!”

Sigh.

Perhaps the joy would have been slowly sucked out of the process at some point even if we had been doing it under our own roof. I don’t know. But, it was happening now. We were stressed out, feeling a little creeped out about our sex life at mom’s, and not sleeping at night on account of the insanely bright city street lights, transparent blinds, and bus line that ran all night outside our window. This is when the fighting began.



Not having a job or home was overwhelmingly stressful for Alex, but moving in with his mother was somehow a much greater challenge. He had always had a combative relationship with her, and found it difficult to remain calm in her presence. 

We were both on edge and uncomfortable in our “home” and it became difficult for us to connect. Connecting had always been the easiest thing in the world for us to do, but we were suddenly living in a PDA-free zone, feeling awkward or unable to express our love or talk privately. Our weekly dates and summer road trips were a thing of the past now that we had to save money for a house. And other than having sex, the only time we spent alone was when we took our morning walks through the park, during which we mostly vented about our living situation.

Despite the fighting and regular bad moods, we were still committed to having a baby. We began following my OBGYN’s recommendation to have sex every 36 hours, rather than the somewhat lax approach to that rule we took earlier on. We set up a calendar in our bedroom that marked the days and times we were scheduled to get it on. Though this was far from the romantic daydreams we had had about conceiving a child, we were getting nervous. What if something was wrong with one or both of us? All the books and doctors and well-intentioned friends told us not to worry until we had been trying for a year, but that seemed like such a long time. 

To be continued…