Saturday, February 17, 2018

Confessions of a Preggo Lady :-)

For anyone out there who’s been curious how my pregnancy has been going, here’s a brief synopsis! I’ve been blessed to have a happy and healthy pregnancy and I’ve hit 39 weeks. The second trimester (~week 14-27) was awesome and I fully recommend taking advantage of that time to stay as active as you can and to get things done that you may not be as anxious or comfortable doing when you get well into the third trimester (like the nursery). It’s the sweet spot so to speak…where morning sickness and fatigue has faded away, you get a great source of energy back and your belly isn’t quite big enough yet to cause you very much discomfort. That’s not to say that the third trimester is going to be awful though. I was surprised at how good I felt for the majority of this too. I really couldn’t complain about anything until around 37 weeks. And even since then, there’s days that I feel good, content and pretty much no different than being a non-pregnant person. Those are mixed in with days, usually at night, that I have felt pretty uncomfortable…where neither sitting, standing or laying was working well for me. But all-in-all, I feel lucky to have had everything go smoothly.

Here a few things I did that I think really made a difference in me having such an easygoing pregnancy:
  1.      Stay active however you can for as long as you can. I went on a walk almost every single day of the first trimester (it was summer), a majority of the second—up until snow was on the ground and temps were too cold to go outside—and throughout the third trimester (which was winter for me) I found ways to move inside whenever I felt up to it. I suppose it’d be even easier for those with a treadmill or gym membership, but since I lacked either, I chose to do prenatal yoga routines at home and go to the mall or other big stores like Target or Meijer and walk laps or weave through all the aisles to get my steps in. I occasionally mixed in some strength training exercises using lightweights for arms and doing lots of squats. Stretching regularly was also extremely beneficial to my hips, legs and back as they started to feel stiff and often cramp up later in the pregnancy.
  2.      Everything in moderation. When I first found out I was pregnant I was in the middle of a detox that had me eating cleaner than I ever had my entire life. I did my best to finish the 30 days of it I had committed to, making slight alterations to be safe, but once that time was up I slowly regressed to eating many things I had just spent a ton of effort eliminating from my diet. But I took it all in stride. For one, many of the foods I had gotten used to eating all the time starting sounding repulsive all of a sudden (like chicken, sweet potatoes, kale, cashews) and secondly, I knew I had to still fuel my body with something to get me through the nausea—not to mention develop a growing fetus. So I let carbs back in. Not long after dairy followed and within a couple more weeks processed snack foods were in the rotation as well. The key was I would let myself indulge if I was craving something but I kept myself from going overboard. And the thing I recommend always abiding by is to take note of the amount you eat. Any time I ate beyond the point of being satisfied, like being overly full, I regretted it later. Especially when baby gets bigger and is pressing on your stomach and everything else down there…making gas and bloating twice as bad as having it without a baby in your belly.
  3.    Staying regular. Typically an uncomfortable thing to talk about, especially for me personally, but gut health is a big part of your overall health and I’ve heard lots of women and sources say that constipation can become a big pain in the butt (literally and figuratively) during pregnancy. I was worried because of all my past problems that I’d be a top contender for this. Surprisingly, I was able to maintain regularity for the majority of my pregnancy. A couple things that I think helped were: drinking lots of water (morning, noon and night), eating six small meals/snacks every day (an apple was usually one of my snacks), taking my prenatal vitamin and a fish oil supplement at night right before bed (which usually seemed to aid in delivering a BM come morning) and lastly as I already mentioned, staying active. Even a 10-minute walk can help and is better than no activity at all.

4.     Listen to your body. Some days you may not feel like doing anything, while others you feel like you can’t sit still. If it seems like way too much effort to exercise in your free time, take the time to rest or nap if it feels good. And don’t feel bad about it! If you can manage the aspects of your life so that none of them become too overwhelming at once (or at least not more than one part), your body and mind will thank you for it. Stress has such a huge impact on every aspect of our health. I know it’s often not possible to avoid stress in some situations but it’s so important to recognize when it’s becoming potentially harmful to you and take a step back to see if there’s any way to alleviate some of it.  There’s almost no situation where you can’t at least step away for a few minutes, take a break to get some fresh air, reassess how to move forward, change direction or do something else entirely and come back to it.   I can’t stress enough how much I feel being active and minimally stressed has helped me feel this good this long. Exercise helped me keep discomfort and back pain to a minimum AND get nearly full nights of sleep until the very end, with the exception of getting up to pee once a night—which I’m pretty sure becomes unavoidable.

Some other thoughts…
·      Now that I’m in my final days and looking back, I wish I would have documented more of the pregnancy and my feelings about it throughout. I think I was so set on getting to the end (or the full term mark) and anxious to know things would be okay with our baby that I was mostly wishing time would go faster instead of enjoying each part of it. Each pregnancy, each life really, deserves to be celebrated. And although at times I felt myself holding back on bonding with this baby because of fear or worry, I don’t think that would make it any easier if something were to go wrong. And it doesn’t make me any less human for having those worries, in fact it probably makes me more like any other parent, wanting the absolute best for my offspring so much it hurts. 
    Don’t worry about what other people say. Some times you might have to completely ignore it (Cue: "You're HUGE!" in reference to your growing belly). But do expect people to ask you questions like: When are you due? How far along are you? Is this your first? Boy or girl? What names do you have picked out? Over and over. And be prepared for them to share their opinions whether you want to hear them or not. I wish we would have not shared any names we liked with anyone at all because I did not always appreciate people’s reactions or opinions of ones we liked. People are nosy! But just because they ask doesn’t mean you have to share. 
    Educate yourself. On the pregnancy as a whole but definitely about childbirth and your options. You’ll have lots of questions throughout the process and it’s always better to be prepared than in the dark. Keep track of your questions so you can ask at your appointments. I’ve found that some doctors of modern day medicine tend to recommend what’s best/convenient for them. If your gut is telling you something different than what your doctor recommends don’t be shy about voicing your concerns and standing your ground. I’m in favor of natural childbirth at the hospital and looking back, I wish I would have found a midwife instead of a traditional OB who is so quick to turn to drugs whether for induction or an epidural.
    Childbirth. Let’s change the stigma/stereotype! It bothers me that through movies, media and word of mouth most people (myself included before learning more) have an awful perception of what childbirth is like. Sure it’s not going to be painless or an easy stroll through the park but I have read and heard about many experiences that were very positive and in fact pretty much the opposite of what you’d expect in a birth. Even while striving to prevent horror stories from altering my feelings on childbirth, I still must remind myself to keep an open mind on all aspects of the process. Drugs for pain and induction, cesarean deliveries…all are not among my preferences if I could choose my ideal delivery but that’s the thing, a lot of times things don’t go to plan and you don’t have a choice. So I’m trying to stay flexible. Keeping in mind that as long as the end result is a healthy baby... the journey there shouldn’t matter. 

Well, that’s all this preggo brain can muster up right now. If you have any tips to share for having a healthy happy pregnancy or birthing experience… feel free to leave a comment!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Finding a New Normal for the New Year

Going through a miscarriage, the loss of a pregnancy (or infant) or getting the news you won't be able to have a child naturally can turn your life upside down. And if you're anything like me, the grief and every other feeling that comes with this devastating news/experience can hit you intensely in the beginning, then take a backseat where it remains there quietly, but to no less magnitude.  For me it was as if the pain started to seep deeper inside my mind/heart/soul, little by little and unnoticed at first (or maybe I chose to ignore it), until it reared its head and felt like it had consumed me.  It can do this whether you try to work through it or not I've found from my own experience! I remember sometime after our loss when I started seeing a therapist thinking and even saying to the therapist, "I'm ready to tackle this head first, just tell me what to do and how to get better and I'll do it." I figured if I followed a few pieces of her advice I'd be happy and 'normal' again. Little did I know that there is no formula, no shortcuts and no step-by-step instructions to get through loss. I found the only way to get through is just that, to live through it and do the best you can to find your way through each day, while trying to hold onto the positive pieces in your life that still exist. 

I want to stress that I'm not a mental health professional or any sort of proclaimed expert. I'm not trained in grief or loss, but I do speak from the experiences I've been through personally and what I've also learned from others along the way. Looking back on where I was a year ago, here are a a few things that I learned and that I wish I'd figured out sooner: 

  • Take care of yourself. Translation: slow down and listen to what your body is telling you it needs. Sounds simple but for some reason this is one of the most overlooked tasks for all of us, but by far the most important in my opinion. We often get so caught up in our routines, taking care of others or all other aspects of our lives (i.e. work, bills, social functions) that we put ourselves last. This is completely backward! I've always had the habit of convincing myself, I'm fine, I can do it/I can take on more and just power through...neglecting to really stop and process if that's true and instead usually finding myself overwhelmed. But it's OKAY to NOT BE OKAY and okay to admit if you've got more on your plate than you can handle. I'm sure you've heard the saying, "You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others." When is the last time you set time aside for yourself? I bet its been too long.  hat's required to take care of ones' self may be different for each of us. It could be reading a book, writing a journal entry (a.k.a. venting), taking a bath, crying your eyes out, going on a long walk, or indulging with a mani/pedi, massage, etc. Whatever it is your mind and body are longing for, make a habit of setting aside time to tend to it.  Treat yourself to something that feels good; because you deserve it! And I'd recommend taking some time to be in a quiet, peaceful environment, where you can open your mind, and listen to what your heart tells you. There are no wrong answers, thoughts or feelings here.
  •  Confront your feelings, then try to process them or find a way to express them.  Also a difficult thing to do, since acknowledging your feelings will most likely lead to actually feeling them. But I believe that that's the only way to start healing the wound and working your way through this dark cloud you may feel like you're in. If you're comfortable, talk to someone who's a good listener...emphasis on the listening part. Find a counselor, therapist or perhaps a support group of women who have been through similar situations to what you have. To me there’s nothing better than finding someone who understands first hand what you’re going through that you can connect with in ways others just haven’t been able to help or relate to you. And again from experience, I found that many of the people I'm closest to in my life, including my husband, usually couldn't relate to what I was feeling and either had no idea what to say or said things they thought would help that felt more like they were trying to "fix" me or make the pain go away--which they aren't capable of doing. Or, if sharing your feelings is totally out of your comfort zone, find another way to release all the pent up stress and/or sadness you’re carrying around. Maybe exercise or writing down everything going through your head would help. Just don’t keep all your feelings to yourself, where they can get bottled up. 
  • De-stress and de-clutter . Get rid of the negative (people, things, thoughts) and make room to let in more positive ones. Take this as an opportunity to look at what may be working in your life and what really isn't. Have a friend or family member who is more of a hindrance than a help? Take a step back from your relationship and give it some room to breath, a break or if it's really not a healthy one, consider moving on without it. Been miserable at your job for months/years? Why not find a new one? Or better yet, take a brief hiatus from work, either a few days/ a week of vacation or a more permanent step, like putting in your official notice, to give yourself time to rest, recharge and reevaluate what should be next for you. Maybe it's time for you to reinvent your life in ways you can control and find something for work or a hobby that your more passionate about. I realize this can be risky, scary, unfeasible (in some cases) or all of the above, but there has to be something you can change in your life that will alleviate some stress and allow you to focus on improving your quality of life. Life is too short to not keep your health and happiness at the forefront.
  • Keep living your life and doing things you enjoy. I made the mistake of trapping myself into thinking I couldn’t plan a trip (especially anywhere Zika could be) or find a new job because “by then I may be pregnant” or something along those lines. This tendency to stay in the same routine and not go after something better or take that trip I'd been wanting (needing) potentially held me back from making progress. Have you had something on your to do list for months but been putting it off? Make a plan to put that task in action. Try something new or dig deeper into one of your hobbies or passions. Whether photography, yoga/fitness, writing, traveling, etc. As difficult as it is to be at peace with not having your lifelong plans and dreams actualized, there may not be anything you can do to change what's happened or happening--or maybe you've already done everything you can do to try. The circumstances are most likely out of your control, whether you think about it constantly (obsessively in my case) or not. I'm not in any way trying to say "just relax" or "stop thinking about it", because that didn't work for me and I know that's just not how it works. But I do think if you try to redirect some of that energy into something else that's constructive, it can give you some relief...and maybe even some moments of peace, even if it's purely from distraction. Try to  take the focus off of what you don’t have (a baby or pregnancy, YET) And concentrate on what you do have and what you can do to enjoy your life right this moment. For me that meant making a career change and starting a holistic health and wellness regimen that, although challenging, was the best thing I ever did. It wasn't easy and I faced some plenty of weird looks and awkward convo's with people when I told them I was leaving my job without another one lined up, but it was worth every bit of that to feel the healthiest and strongest I've ever felt. **Remember though,  it's okay to have bad days and times when you're not up for doing things you used to. Don't push yourself to do something that doesn't feel right or to take on more than you can handle. If you're hesitant to say yes to something, ask yourself what you think is giving you pause, and decide what's the best decision for you.** 
  • Try to accept what's happened and make peace with your circumstances. This is probably by far the hardest thing to do. No doubt it is easier said than done, and also not something that will happen for most until after a significant of time has passed, and the wounds have begun to heal. It doesn't mean you have to be okay with what happened or give up on your lifelong dream of having a baby, starting a family. But it does mean to  try to accept that you can't change what has happened, you can't go back and undo or redo anything to change the outcome of your situation. And you should try to let go of any feelings it was your fault.  I was so fixated on getting pregnant, I pretty much convinced myself that was the only way I'd ever be happy again. I would stress about whether or not I could even get pregnant again and torture myself over why it wasn’t happening for me while it (seemed it) was for everyone else. For months it was on my mind much of the day, every day. Again, I would never tell anyone to just relax and stop thinking about it, since that's the last thing that will help. But I would say that trying out some of the things I've mentioned, like reflecting on your circumstances and come up with a new plan of action or taking something else off your plate that could be weighing you down, can alleviate a small part of your unhappiness and potentially allow you to feel lighter or fill that space with something else that makes you feel a little more hopeful and life feel more manageable. One thing we did to help make peace with our loss was finding ways to acknowledge Elle Jay and keep her memory alive, such as talking about her and to her in prayers, acknowledging and celebrating times she would be heavy on our mind (like her due date and the day she was born) and looking into planting a tree in her memory.   
  • And lastly, know that things are going to get better...eventually. It can be hard to see your way out of a dark and lonely place while you're in the middle of it. But knowing you are not alone and there is help out there if you need it can bring a lot of comfort and hope to your situation. And while "someday" may seem so far away, every day that passes -makes you a little bit stronger (hey- you survived another day!) and brings you one day closer to feeling like the happier version of yourself you once knew.
I hope you've found at least one thing in this post to be helpful to you. And as I've mentioned before,  feel free to reach out if you're interested in finding support through a group or share this with someone who you feel may find it helpful. Wishing you all a holiday season filled with love, light and laughter and hoping we can all go into a this new year with a positive mindset! 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Fear and Guilt

Holy cow. It's like I blinked and another two months have gone by. I'm now headed into week 26 of my pregnancy, with my eye on the third trimester, just around the corner.  As I get further into my pregnancy I feel myself settling in and enjoying it more and more but I have still noticed feelings of fear and worry come and go. The fears range from telling people the news (STILL), to buying a crib, or anything associated with going all in with the pregnancy, planning and preparing for it to go all the way to term. 
A few weeks ago we made the official announcement that we're expecting on social media; a step that my husband and I were hesitant to even take at all this time around. In the end I felt strongly that this baby deserves as much praise and excitement as any other, and I wouldn't want to look back later with regret.  But still, I sat there with the post typed and photo ready to go, with my finger lingering over the share button, while several things crossed my mind.  Crazy thoughts like if we put it out there that may somehow jinx it or make something go wrong; not-so-crazy thoughts like maybe we were just better keeping things the way they were...everyone close to us knew, and that was all that mattered to us. I had sort of enjoyed that the news had mostly stayed within our inner circle, and I was feeling as if putting it out there for everyone would make any potential wound hit deeper since we wouldn't be able to hide from it.
 Then there have been the times I've gotten nervous and worried to myself over things happening in the present. Like the time I was doing exercises with weights and I started to feel a couple weird sensations in my abdomen...or another day I freaked out when a large dog jumped up on me and pounced right on my belly with all its weight. I felt the baby push back and I worried the next several days the dog may have hurt her. Just last night I woke up in the middle of the night to find the right side of my upper body (which I had been sleeping on )felt numb, with that feeling like it had fallen asleep. My mind quickly raced to an headline article I remember skimming past about "the one thing to watch out for when sleeping on your right side", that I now was cursing myself for not reading so I could know if I should be worried.  All these things I fear because I'm worried at any time of the worst happening--losing the baby again. A loss I'm not sure I could endure.
Fear can be a crippling thing. It can weaken our ability to enjoy and appreciate the happy moments, especially if you let it grab hold and take over. These feelings of fear often make me feel guilty for not being more excited and more present in the moment. An old habit I'm all too familiar with. 
I can remember feeling this same way back when Jason and I were in our first few months of dating. I was so incredibly happy that I feared something was bound to go wrong. I thought 'How could I possibly deserve to have so much going for me?' Surely it would be taken away or it was only a matter of time before it came to an end. But that's not a healthy way to live. I've had to accept that just because I've worried something bad can happen doesn't mean it will, and even if something does, there likely isn't anything worrying can do to stop it from happening. Instead it takes away from the happy moments. And those are the ones you should let linger as long as you can, and appreciation them.

Guilt has also played a different role in this pregnancy at times. There's guilt that stems from the loss of our first, feeling as though she's being overlooked or forgotten when sharing news of this current pregnancy. I often get the question, "Is this your first?" from many acquaintances and strangers who engage me in conversation. My first thought is always of Elle Jay, since she'll always be my firstborn, but since she's not with us and to avoid making things uncomfortable or get into detail with people I don't know well, I'm quick to respond "Yes, our first." 
Until we found out the sex, I had hoped for a boy this time around; mostly because I felt like it would make more of a distinction between this pregnancy and my last. That way I wouldn't feel as guilty being excited, as if I was still honoring our girl we lost and this wouldn't overshadow her place in our hearts. Guilt also creeps up when I'm thinking about the many women I know who are trying to conceive or have been for so many months, even years, without success. I can relate to those feelings of despair from wanting nothing more than to be pregnant and become a mom and feeling as though everyone else around you, except you, is. I'll always feel for those struggling and wish with all my being that they'll find the way to getting their bundle of joy.

What I've come to conclude is it's only natural to have these feelings, especially after experiencing a pregnancy loss. Maybe part of it comes from the maternal instinct we don't even realize starts forming the moment we realize there's another life growing inside our wombs. By acknowledging how I'm feeling, I'm able to process and usually dismiss the fear, guilt, worry, etc. I still wish there was an easier way to overcome the hard parts but as with most things in life, there's no shortcut or detour that will get you to any place worth going. Only lessons to be learned and work to be done. And never let a bad day stop you from getting to where you want to be.

Love to all on this cold and rainy day...hope you enjoy the approaching Thanksgiving holiday with your loved ones!