Wednesday, June 5, 2019

How I'm Prepping for Natural + Unmedicated Birth



Today I am going to be sharing everything I have been doing to prepare my body and my mind for unmedicated birth. I have two goals this pregnancy and that is to 1. go into labor naturally without being induced, and 2. to have as few medical interventions as possible. As a result I have been doing a lot of work these past six months, and want to round it all up on one place! Even if you plan on getting an epidural, many of these things may be helpful to you as labor is a physical feat either way.

I am meeting with a team who supports natural + intervention free birth. I was recommended an OBGYN known for that by a friend who happens to be a labor and delivery nurse, so I am in good hands. The team is conservative with decisions that will need to be made the day of, and I can trust that if they do need to move forward with interventions such as episiotomy, forceps, vacuums, or C-section that it was for the good of myself and the baby. Not only that, I trust them to communicate with me at all times about the need for those interventions. Having a team around me that I trust, that I am confident in, and that I know rarely perform those interventions has given me peace of mind this pregnancy. I am so grateful for the OBGYN, midwife, and nurses I have worked with so far.

I have been consuming a healthy diet. I have been trying to nourish myself and my baby through food and gentle nutrition. I have felt such a difference this pregnancy compared to my last just from intuitive eating and gentle exercise. I have more energy, feel less chronic pain, and overall my mood has been better. Of course I give in to cravings here and there as I believe in balance, but I find myself craving fruits and vegetables more often than not. I've gained less weight this pregnancy and am more fit.

I've started taking prenatal yoga during the third trimester. I cannot recommend this enough, especially if offered by the hospital or birthing center you will be delivering at. My class is taught by a labor and delivery nurse who has taught yoga for ten years. She has been such a valuable resource to me not only in helping me stay physically active, open, and limber but also in teaching me coping mechanisms and positions for labor. Labor and delivery is a marathon not a sprint, and I am happy to be training for it each week! I only wish that I had started sooner.

I have been meeting once a week with a pelvic floor physical therapist since the second trimester. Meeting with my physical therapist has been eye opening to not only how important the pelvic floor is during pregnancy, but after! If you are postpartum and peeing while you sneeze, then that is something that can be addressed by a pelvic floor physical therapist. We are taught as a society that is something that comes with the territory, but it doesn't have to be! She is helping me strengthen my pelvic floor in preparation for labor.

I've been reading Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way: Revised Edition by Susan McCutcheon. This is one of three popular childbirth methods, the others being Lamaze and Hypnobabies. I haven't completed the book as of 31 weeks, but have found the information in it and the exercises very helpful! There are classes offered with an instructor, but if I am being honest I haven't had the time. If you are interested in classes, you can find a local instructor here.

I started drinking red raspberry leaf tea at the start of my third trimester. Mama Natural has written a wonderful article all about the benefits of red raspberry leaf tea here. While most of the evidence I have found online and in person have been anecdotal, I am willing to try anything to make my contractions stronger and more productive! It tastes pretty nice, so no complaints.

I have been upping my mental and spiritual self care. The more you can calm your mind and your spirit during labor, the better! I have created a Pinterest board  with birth affirmations that I say out loud to myself. I have been spending more time outdoors and relaxing at night. I have let myself be still. I have tried to do some guided pregnancy meditations, and so far I haven't found one that I connect with. If you know of any great ones, send them my way! I have also been making more time for prayer and reflection.

I have been listening to, watching, and reading positive birth stories. It seems par for the course that when you are pregnant women feel the need to tell you negative birth stories. They aren't serving me right now, so I am focusing on positive ones! It has helped me remain confident, happy, and relaxed looking forward.

If you are currently pregnant and preparing for an intervention free birth, please let me know what you are doing! I am always open to new ideas.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

7 Ways I Practice Self Care as a (Busy) Stay at Home Mom



There seems to be a misconception that stay at home moms spend the day leisurely, without worry, and with all the free time in the world. The truth is I have less time to myself than I ever had before. When I was working and child free I had an entire morning routine of sipping on my coffee, reading devotionals, and catching up with my coworkers before I settled into my work. At night I would go for a walk, meditate, and cook healthy meals. I was on top of my self care and when I faltered I was easily able to get back on track spiritually, mentally, and physically. Since becoming a stay at home mom I wake up to my job (taking care of my child's physical and emotional needs) after minimal sleep, spend all day and evening caring for someone other than myself, and then crawling into bed only to start over again the next day. You see when my child goes to bed, I get to take care of household duties I couldn't when she was awake, and it's nice to be there for your spouse too. It is easy then for me to go weeks without making time for myself, and when I do, it feels strange being on my own and not having anyone depend on me.

Since I worked as a therapist before taking time to stay at home, I know how important self care is. I've even written about it on this blog before. When I practice self care I am more patient, kind, and productive. However knowing and doing are completely different things. I have gotten caught up in the cycle of "I should schedule time for myself" or "I'd like to, tomorrow". Except tomorrow turns into the next day, or next week, or next month. Unfortunately, this leads to burn out and next thing you know, you haven't washed your hair in days and you're finding yourself having to take more and more deep breaths to keep from being snippy when asked a question.

So what's a mom to do? Micro self care. Think small, real small. I too roll my eyes when someone tells me to practice self care by getting a massage or a manicure. You don't have to schedule an hour for self care every day, you can implement a few minutes scattered throughout when you do find yourself with some down time. Here are some ways I like to do so.

1. Sleep. This is the self care I feel the most guilty about, but being in my third trimester has really forced me to slow down and take power naps more often. Your body needs to recharge, and chances are you are not getting enough. Take a 20 minute nap during your toddler's nap, and when you are done try to get some chores accomplished before they wake up. Have your partner (or support person) take the baby and feed them breakfast while you sleep in for 30 more minutes on the weekend. My husband does this for me often on Saturdays, and it has been a miracle for our marriage. Sometimes even being able to wake up, stretch, and browse on my phone for a few minutes before starting my day is a nice reprieve. Start with sleep.

2. Say no. It is easy to find yourself volunteering for things because technically, your schedule is more flexible than those who work office jobs. You know it "would be good" to get out and see that friend of yours. That doesn't mean you should. If you find yourself overwhelmed and irritable, say no. I know how difficult it can be to say no because of a fear of what others may think of you - what if they think I am rude? - but people say no all the time! There is nothing wrong with saying no and prioritizing yourself. Practice in the mirror if you need to, and avoid the temptation to make up excuses to justify your no.

3. Ask your partner for time alone. When my husband gets home or when our daughter goes to bed I ask for 15 minutes to myself to do whatever I want. Not all the time, but often. Believe it or not, he enjoys that time to himself as well! I close my eyes, watch TV, read a book, or write during that time and he does whatever he likes as well. When that time is up we regroup and I feel refreshed enough to ask him about his day.

4. Take advantage of the morning before your child wakes up. On mornings I get up, get ready, and get my day started before my daughter wakes I feel much more accomplished and happy. I am not the best at doing so, but it truly makes a difference when I do.

5. Multitask self care with child care. My daughter loves going to the park and being outdoors during the summer, and so do I. At least two to three times a week I take her for walks to get fresh air for us both, and to get some exercise in. I take her to things we will both enjoy, such as the zoo, museums, or the library. We attend an interactive class at the library once a week, and during that time I see other mom friends and catch up. I even sometimes get a book for myself. Time can be spent enriching your child and enriching yourself.

6. Say yes. Just as it is important to say no, I have also found it incredibly important to say yes to help when it is offered to me. I don't live near family, and so I don't have that kind of support available that many mothers have. I've had friends organically offer to watch my daughter for doctor appointments, occasional date nights, or even for me to run an errand. I used to feel embarrassed or like I was taking advantage of their kindness, but the truth is: I would do the same for them. We are all struggling, and we all need time to ourselves and with our spouses. If your friend, neighbor, or teammate are trustworthy adults who you know well then try to say yes more often.

7. Do not abandon your hygiene/beauty/skin routine, simplify it. One of my favorite parts of the day is my skin care routine, as simple as it is. I love having those 15 minutes of quiet and taking care of my body. I have altered my hair, skin and makeup routines to be much more simple and I feel more put together when I stick to them. Besides, you can still wear a face mask while folding laundry or doing dishes!

There are so many ways as mothers we can make time for ourselves, and they will look different for everyone. We all have different needs and interests. How do you practice self care as a busy mom?

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

2nd Trimester Recap: Symptoms, Cravings + Anatomy Scan



Hello 27 weeks! By the time you read this, I will be entering the third trimester. How is that even possible?! This pregnancy feels as if it is going so quickly, probably because I have been kept so busy these past few months. There is a reason everyone calls the second trimester the "honeymoon" phase of pregnancy...it is the BEST. Overall I have felt pretty great this pregnancy and things have been much easier on my body than the first pregnancy with my daughter. I did experience some symptoms worth sharing, though, in case you are experiencing the same or wondering if your symptoms are "normal".


SYMPTOMS

Sleep - I have always been a side sleeper, but often found myself wanting to sleep on my back due to hip pain. You can't comfortably do that with a baby growing in you, so I finally invested in a pregnancy pillow to make my sleep more comfortable. I went my entire first pregnancy without a great pillow and now that I have one, I don't know how I survived! It provides support so you can stay aligned, and that has helped me manage physical pain. I am having some difficulty relaxing at night due to baby being active at that time, so I have moved my night routine up a few hours.

Pain - I have minor scoliosis where my spine twists in two locations. It is not as major as many people deal with, but does cause alignment and structural issues. As a result I do get back pain with the added weight that comes with pregnancy. I also tend to get pelvic pain and so I have been seeing a physical therapist that specializes in the pelvic floor. Seeing a professional has been wonderful, and I cannot recommend it enough. If you are postpartum and experiencing a weak pelvic floor (aka peeing when you sneeze), know that can be addressed and contact your doctor for a referral!

Weight gain - I don't weigh myself very often because I am a big proponent of gentle nutrition and intuitive eating. I eat when I am hungry, stop when I am not, and try to make healthy choices along the way. So far I am right on track. It can be difficult not comparing yourself to other women, but know that everyone carries babies differently. We are all built differently! The number of children you have had also affects how you grow throughout pregnancy. Love the bump you have.

Movement - I started having quickening this trimester, which always feels like butterfly wings against my belly. I love this phase because it lets me know baby is growing and moving around. Over this trimester they have become stronger and more frequent. You can now even see movement by watching closely! It appears that our baby is as strong as their sister, who was super active in the womb and never stopped moving when she was born. I am going to have my hands full.

Queasy or sick? Only when I have gone too long without snacking on some protein. Otherwise I left any nausea in the first trimester. If only I could shake off the fatigue!

Braxton Hicks contractions - have officially started as of 27 weeks, especially when I am very active. If you find yourself experiencing them rest and stay hydrated! I have been viewing them as practice for the real thing and tend to rest, break out my pregnancy meditations, and do deep breathing. I personally find them uncomfortable, but not painful per say.

Cravings - As I mentioned in my 1st trimester recap I don't experience cravings like many women do during pregnancy. Rather, certain things taste better to me than usual and others taste worse. I still enjoy fruit the most and find myself wanting avocado toast with a fried egg on top for lunch more often than not. I wouldn't say that I need those items immediately like it is depicted in the media. I have been continuing to eat a lot of protein and as much produce as possible. Overall I am finding I am more active and eating much better this pregnancy, probably because I am chasing after and feeding a toddler. It takes too much energy to make unhealthy meals for myself and healthy ones for her!


ANATOMY SCAN

We personally choose to forgo any genetic testing due to being low risk, and the potential for false negatives/positives. (That is a very important decision you need to make for you and your family, so do what is right for you! My doctors have never been concerned when I decline.) Therefore, the anatomy scan is a Big Deal for us. It is when we get to see the baby, check on their development, and find out more about them. I am happy to report that our baby is completely healthy with no abnormalities, thank God! I am always so in awe at the ultrasound being able to see their limbs, movements, and organs. It makes me truly amazed at what my body can do and how incredible modern day technology is. With all that being said, we did find out gender and we are having a BOY!  I've had so many people inquire if I am excited to have a boy, so...

Cheesy story time: when my husband and I were dating and would discuss children, I would always dream of a little girl. I could see her, but no other children, and she always looked the same. However the day after I gave birth to my daughter I dreamed of a little boy playing with her. As a result I always tell people my children chose me a long time ago, but my husband likes to smile and roll his eyes at me. I was a blubbery, happy, tearful mess at the ultrasound when I found out I was going to be meeting him soon!


LOOKING FORWARD TO 3RD TRIMESTER

This may shock a lot of people, but I am looking forward to labor! I have been doing a lot of preparation mentally and physically, and I am so positive and excited about it. That is probably why I have been nesting so much lately, because I know my son will be here soon and I want to have everything in place when he does make an appearance.

If you are also pregnant at this time, I hope everything is going smoothly for you and will continue to pray for you and your growing families. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

How to Practice Catholic Mindfulness




Something that I have struggled with for many years is feeling “too busy” to work on my spiritual growth. I have difficulty managing my time and focusing my energy on prayer and reflection rather than my to do list. As a child my family encouraged educational achievements, for me to set goals and to work hard towards accomplishing them. I soon began to attach my worth to that busyness, and therefore I did not perceive stillness or rest as virtues. Rather, I associated them with being lazy.  You can imagine what my prayer life looked like. I entered it with a set agenda, I was concise, and I didn’t take time to rest or listen to what God may have to say to me. It wasn’t until I began to study and teach mindfulness as a mental health therapist that I had a shift in my mindset.

Simply put, mindfulness is focusing your attention completely on the present moment. Doing so will put you in a relaxed muscle body. It is intentionally letting go of the past and not worrying about the future for a short period of time. Mindfulness allows you to calm an anxious mind, to rest, and to enjoy what is occurring in the present moment. It is associated with meditation, but it can be a state of mind in every day tasks as well. It can be you taking the time to notice the breeze playing with your hair, listening to and enjoying the birds chirping, or breathing in the smell of your shampoo during your shower. I instructed clients to become an observer to thoughts, or allow them to float through their mind like a cloud rather than attaching to them. When trying to relax and be in the present moment, if they found themselves distracted I would tell them to turn their attention back to what they were currently doing: deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or even prayer. If you suffer from any sort of stress - and let’s face it we all do - then mindfulness is a great practice to implement.

I was confused then when I met people who claimed you could not practice mindfulness and Catholicism at the same time. Isn’t that what meditative prayer is? Mindfulness allows you to calm your mind enough to appreciate and see what God is putting before you in any present moment. Being in a state of rest allows you to rest in Him and more importantly, listen to what God may be trying to tell you. When one comes with their own thoughts or list of requests, they aren't taking time to listen to God or to simply spend time with Him. I know that in my own life I tend to become hyper-focused on small details, on past hurts, or worries about the future. It is difficult to step back and be present, to appreciate the blessings God has given me. I am only able to do that when focusing on the present. 

Ways you can implement Catholic mindfulness include:

Making the everyday tasks of your job your vocation. Being intentional about listening to others you may encounter, the task in front of you, and the little moments of beauty found there transforms what may seem mundane into an offering to God. He has given you talents, he has put you in a position at this very moment to use them. Rather than thinking about your to do list or what you want for lunch, focus on the current task with all of your mind. In times you may feel overwhelmed call on the Holy Spirit to still your heart and mind. How else can the Spirit speak through you? He will always provide you the words needed at that time.

 Lectio divina is a great time to be present with the word! Again, focus on what is right in front of you - the words of God -  instead of what was happening before you began or will come after. This will deepen your prayer. In times when you feel your mind wandering, turn your attention back to the word. 

Praying the rosary. Listen to the words you are praying, feel the beads under your fingers, smell the incense if you are in church. I find when I am mindful during the rosary, I am able to be more intentional and focused on what I am saying.

Resting during Eucharistic adoration. Eucharistic adoration at its core is spending time with God. Just as you would appreciate someone being fully present to you, God calls us to be fully present with Him. While many go to adoration with specific tasks, I like to take that time to simply rest with Him. 

As an LISW, I have seen mindfulness change the lives of many. While there are some roots of meditation in Eastern spirituality, the overall concept can be adapted and applied to our own Catholic practices. Take the time to be present with God today.


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Favorite Breakfast Meal Prep Recipes

As I mentioned last week, I will be sharing some of my favorite recipes for meal prep. This week I am sharing five of our go to breakfast recipes so you can start your day off with zero stress. I have tried to include recipes for everyone, or ones that can be easily modified for your own dietary restrictions. All pictures are by each blogger, and the recipe is linked in each description.

Hash Brown and Sausage Breakfast Casserole



Whole 30 compliant, dairy free and gluten free. I discovered this casserole by 40 Aprons when I had to go dairy free while nursing. It is creamy, hearty, and keeps well in the refrigerator. Oh, and did I mention it's super easy to make? This recipe is both husband and toddler approved, so it's a keeper.


Simple Banana Bread


If you have bananas that are going a little too ripe, this is the perfect recipe to use. With minimal ingredients and skill required it is a great on the go treat or addition to a larger meal. You can also modify it by adding anything you like! Nuts, chocolate chips, or berries.


Vegan Overnight Oats


If you're vegan, gluten or dairy free, then look no further than Oh She Glows overnight oats. Easily modified to be none of those things, this is a great "base recipe" and only takes a few minutes before bed each night to whip together. Overnight oats are wonderful during the summer, because they are cool and creamy. Sometimes I heat mine up in the morning, and it is still faster than cooking oats from scratch. 


Zucchini & Caramelized Onion Egg Muffins



These Tone It Up  egg muffins are quick and delicious! They keep for about 4 days in the fridge, and can be used for more than breakfast. If you need a quick high protein addition to a meal or snack, they are just as good as grabbing a hard boiled egg. I like eating mine with a little hot sauce.


DIY Starbucks Protein Bistro Box


Last week I told you that we always hard boil eggs as a part of meal prep each week, and these are a great use of those. In fact this "recipe" by No. 2 Pencil is great for those who like to portion out full meals for the entire week. I still approach these by loading them up the night before, but they are hands down my husband's favorite breakfast to take with him to work.  


What are some of your favorite meal prep recipes? 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Meal Prep 101: Getting Started



Oh, meal prep. I cannot tell you how much it has changed not only my life, but our family life. Taking some time each week to plan out our meals and prepare items ahead of time obviously saves time but it also saves money, too! When my husband and I first started budgeting each month we noticed that most of our money was being spent on last minute "quick bites" aka unhealthy fast food. We have saved money by eating at home more often and we have been living healthier lives as well. Win-win! Meal prep can look different for everyone. I will break down different methods today and what has worked best for us.

Start with a clean refrigerator. Take some time to take inventory of what you have in the fridge and what you need to replenish. I like to do this on Fridays by taking everything out, wiping down the shelves with some DIY cleaner, and making my list as I go.

DIY Refrigerator Cleanser:
- 1 teaspoon of castile soap (I use Dr. Bronner's unscented)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 4-6 cups of warm water
- 3-5 drops Lemon essential oil (optional) - I like to add this in for the scent, and because lemon oil is great for cleaning grime without a lot of harsh chemicals.
Mix all ingredients together and use a microfiber cleansing cloth, washcloth, or paper towel to clean off your shelves

Make a list of essentials you need to restock. For us this is fruit, milk, and eggs. What do you find yourself reaching for consistently? Assess your pantry items as well - what has gone out of date? What are you running low on?

Create a weekly menu. This is where we get into different thought processes. I have seen people come up with one meal idea, such as a salad and sides for lunch, and put together 7 containers of individual meals. You can find this all over Pinterest and Google. This is not feasible for our family because there are too many people and not enough space. Personally I would prefer to make a big batch of that meal and take some time at night to put it in the container needed for work the next day rather than dedicating that much room in my refrigerator for lunch alone. However, if you have the room then go for it! Break out all of those containers and create individual portions. It makes grab and go very easy and you can keep on track with portion control. On the other hand, we tend to make a menu/list of what we will be eating throughout the week and I make certain items ahead of time. I organize that list like so:


Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Sunday
Breakfast
Egg muffins, fruit
Egg muffins, fruit
Egg muffins, fruit
Deli boxes
Deli boxes
Leftover items
Scrambled eggs, toast, fruit
Lunch
Salad + protein
Salad + protein
Salad + protein
Sandwich, snacking vegetables
Tuna sandwich, snacking vegetables
Leftovers from dinner
Anything left in the fridge, thrown into a soup or salad!
Snacks
Protein muffins
Protein muffins
Protein muffins
Greek yogurt + berries + granola
Greek yogurt + berries + granola
Greek yogurt + berries + granola
Snack on protein muffins/balls, any vegetables left from the week
Dinner
Tray bake
Leftovers
Crock pot meal
Leftovers
Fish + vegetables + rice
Grill out
Leftovers


Keep in mind we have a toddler, so we also make a list of her favorite foods such as fruit, yogurt, hot dogs, etc. to have on hand. While we always offer her meals we eat in order to encourage her to try new things, she is definitely on a toddler diet and we have to play it by ear.

Certain meals may vary week by week (such as dinner) but certain things I meal prep each week without fail:

- hard boiled eggs, perfect as breakfast or a protein add-on to any meal
- chopped vegetables for easy snacking such as celery, sweet peppers, carrots, cucumber
- freeze bananas for smoothies
- wash and slice berries, our daughter's favorite
- a large salad for lunches or as a side for dinner - kale is a perfect base for this because it is hearty enough to marinate in dressing for several days without getting soggy

Do the main meal prep on Sunday, and refresh on Wednesday. Wednesday is the day I boil more eggs, run out for milk if we ran out, and freeze any bananas that look like they are getting too ripe. I may also replenish our lunch salad bowl. It is also a time where I may notice that we have more leftovers than anticipated, so I can make some menu items the following week, such as chicken breast. I will freeze any meat or bread that will not be needed after all so as to not go bad.

Soon I will be sharing my favorite/go-to recipes for meal prep! Have you tried meal prep? What has worked for you?

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Making friends in a new city


Our first weekend in Cinci, 2013

Shortly after undergrad I was in the middle of applying to graduate programs when my husband received a call from an employer offering a full time job and a master's degree. The only catch? It was in a different state. He had been excited about this program and telling friends about it for months, so I didn't think twice about it when he asked me to move with him. It would be a new adventure together as a married couple. We had a family member living there, and extended family within driving distance.We packed up our small car with suitcases, an air mattress and our cat to move from Raleigh, NC to Cincinnati, OH.

Now this would be different living in a new city solo. We had a family member introduce us to a few people, and I had my husband with me. However I have lived in new cities by myself, too. Catching up with friends via text, phone calls, or messenger was nice for a short period of time but I found myself longing for an in-person friendship. I wanted to form my new tribe, so to speak. Connection is important, and I wanted to have people to share this new chapter of my life with. On my first birthday in my new city I decided to make a change and really put myself out there. It took time, but slowly I formed relationships and now five years later I can confidently say we have "settled" into a new circle of friends.

But I'm an introvert, I can hear some of you thinking. Me too. I am what I call a "very extroverted introvert" in that I am often bubbly and can talk to people, but I recharge individually. Whether you have twenty friends or one very close one is up to you and what you feel comfortable with, but it is still important to make those connections. Here is what I learned over the last few years.

Let your friends, family, and acquaintances know where you are moving. Often times someone you know will know someone in the area you are moving. Even if you do not form long lasting, deep connections with them it is nice to feel like you can reach out to someone if you need to. Say, if you have a flat tire. I've been on both ends of this: seeking people out who lived in the area I was moving, and having people let me know someone they are close to is moving into town.

Join groups or clubs that interest you. It is different making friends in your twenties than it is in college, when you are surrounded by people in the same situation as you all day and night. You have to seek people out with similar interests. Join a class, a young adult group, a moms group, a church group, a singles meetup, a community organization, a subcommittee at work. Being in close proximity to people who are into the same things as you takes out the awkward what do we have in common stage of getting to know someone. You already know you have something in common! It at least gives you something to talk about, whether that is a project you are working on together or a broader topic.

The internet is a beautiful thing. I joined a website - and there are a lot out there - which was essentially like Tinder for friendships. (Does Tinder have this? I'm a decade into a relationship so I don't know!) I know it sounds a little strange, but I actually ended up meeting up with and forming a friendship with a lady off of the website. We are five years in, and I would consider her one of my closest friends! There are meet up websites as well, so think outside of the box and give them a try. Note: be safe and use your best judgement. This website specifically verified you were a female, a real person vs. a bot, and lived locally.

Step outside of your comfort zone. Try new clubs or activities, go to an event where you have one trusted friend to fall back on, and meet up with that friend of a friend who lives in the same city as you. You really never know what will become of it. I have met people at parties through mutual friends, joined groups that neighbors are a part of, and connected with people on Facebook groups such as Blessed is She in person. Sometimes those have turned out to be great and I have continued to hang out with them, and other times I left knowing it wasn't going anywhere but feeling more confident in myself that I was able to get out and be a little more extroverted. It never hurts to practice!

It's all about your mindset. As a therapist I can tell you with utmost certainty that your thoughts are powerful. If you have negative, fearful thoughts, they will hold you back. The ultimate truth is not everyone you meet will like you, just as you do not necessarily like everyone you meet. I'm here to tell you that's okay. If everyone were the same, life would be boring. There are people out there who are meant to connect with you, who bring out the best in you, and can make you feel comfortable. Not everyone will be that for you, and you will not be that person for everyone. Go into situations hoping for the best with no expectations. Use your strengths to build your confidence. If you are introverted, chances are you are a good listener. If you are someone who is great at planning events, invite people over. If you are great at something work oriented find a need for that in the workplace such as a subcommittee or a club. Identify your strengths and use them to your advantage.

Most importantly, it takes time. It took about five years for me to feel like I have my foothold in this new space, and even then I am always growing and learning. Give yourself a little grace, it will take some time to adjust to this new chapter.

Hopefully this was helpful to you, and I wish you best of luck in your new city!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

How do I know God loves me?



I am so excited that an article I wrote all about this question has been featured on a new ministry's website. Here is an excerpt:

As a clinical social worker, I have heard and seen a lot of pain.

Often people would sit across from me, wondering aloud if they were loveable, if they were worth fighting for, if anything they said or did mattered. Hundreds of people. People of different ages, different ethnicities, different genders. It’s a universal question I am sure we have all asked at one point or another in a moment of darkness. As a Christian woman, I have been taught that God loves us infinitely. However, it is so innately human to ask…how? How do I know God loves me? If you are a Christian, then the answers can be found in His word.
One of the simplest answers to this question is that God never forces His love upon anyone. Love is consensual, and God respects us enough to invite us into His love without demanding it. God has given us everything we need to find our way to Him if we so choose, and He longs for us to do so. For centuries people have looked to the stars and asked if there is something greater, and that is due to a desire He has placed into our hearts. The Catechism puts this beautifully: “In many ways, throughout history down to the present day, men have given expression to their quest for God in their religious beliefs and behavior: in their prayers, sacrifices, rituals, meditations, and so forth. These forms of religious expression, despite the ambiguities they often bring with them, are so universal that one may well call man a religious being.” We can find God through the world and it’s beauty, other people, scripture.

If you would like to read the article, it can be found here.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Why (and How) I am going Non-Toxic

Overall health and wellness has always been important to me. I have several family members who have been diagnosed with serious illnesses, some of whom didn't make it. Unfortunately, seeing the people in my life who I cared for and loved deeply suffer made me realize how fragile and fleeting life is. I am aware that some of those things were unpreventable, but I began to question whether there was anything I could do to give myself the best chance for a long and healthy life. Over the years I started to switch to balanced, clean eating by weeding out a lot of unnecessary processed foods. I began to incorporate physical activity into my everyday routine. I also prioritized my mental health including self care. Still, I never looked into the household and beauty products I use every day until the beginning of the year.

That is, until I started looking at all the ingredients listed on the back of the products I was using on my one year old. 

Suddenly I began asking myself, "what the heck is that ingredient?" I honestly never questioned it before, because I assumed that stores wouldn't allow companies to sell products unless they were safe for use. Why pay more money for products that are already working perfectly well? I began to Google just what those preservatives, fragrances, and other unpronounceable words were and I was shocked. "Fragrance" which is listed on almost every product you use on a daily basis commonly contain parabens, phtalates, and synthetic musks that can cause hormone disruption, reproductive problems, or other serious health concerns. According to the Environmental Working Group many companies are allowed to use "fragrance" as a catch-all term without having to describe what chemicals make it up. Even in my own life I have had allergic reactions such as rashes from products such as Tide, and was told by doctors to switch to fragrance free blends. 

I'm certainly not trying to condemn any company in particular, or any mother who uses conventional products. I simply began to have a shift in thinking. "If I am told not to take or use this while pregnant...then why use it when I'm not?" It must not be good for me, either. I decided to get back to basics. As I am currently a stay at home mom, the home is my workplace, so I am going to be overhauling it this year slowly to as many non-toxic products as possible.

The plan of action is this: I am going to replace items that we run out of with "better" options. My husband and I are creating a hierarchy of what is the most important to us for being non-toxic, and what we are fine continuing to use. The products we would like to focus on are ones that touch or are absorbed into the skin, as well as cleaning chemicals which we may be breathing in. This is especially important to me as I often clean with the little one around. I also plan on making many products at home. I can share DIY "recipes" as I perfect them in this space.

Switching to (mostly) non-toxic products can be quite expensive. That is why we are focusing on doing this over the year rather than all at once, and as we run out. DIY cleaning solutions often use things in the home such as vinegar, baking soda, and castille soap. Therefore it will be easy to throw them together with what is on hand.

I am excited to share this journey and what I learn along the way. If you have switched to non-toxic products, I would love to hear from you! Let me know your favorite products/DIY solutions. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

How I survived 1st trimester


Sounds dramatic, I know. Listen, first trimester is difficult. There is no getting around it. I know it's a miracle that you are growing a little human. I know you may even feel guilty letting other people know you are having a difficult time because there is a misconception that you are somehow ungrateful. You aren't. You are just tired of throwing up, tired of not being able to stomach any food...and just plain tired.

Every pregnancy is different, but I have learned some tips and tricks along the way to help make this one easier for myself. If they can help you too, great!

Give yourself a break. You are doing the best you can.
You are growing a human. Your body is going through so many changes, and that baby is developing at a rapid pace in those first few weeks. The brain and spine began to develop and the heart is now beating. Limbs are forming. Heck, even the baby's nose is starting to take shape. (Read more about development here.) It's no wonder that you might not have the energy to cook a fancy meal. Give yourself a little grace. Your home doesn't have to be perfect, and neither do you. Take some time for a little self care. Rest! I assure you if this is your first, you won't get a lot of rest when the baby is here. Nap or simply be still as often as you can.

Listen to your gut. Literally.
I am a huge proponent of intuitive eating. I could go on about this for a while, but I would suggest doing your own research. A really great blog post all about intuitive eating during pregnancy can be found here. Your body will react the way it does to pregnancy, and that will look differently for everyone. I carry babies differently than other women do, and I have cravings you may not. In fact our eating habits may be in stark contrast to each other. If you are in tune with your body, practice gentle nutrition, and are mindful about your eating then you will gain the amount of weight your body needs. I know I fell into the trap last pregnancy of feeling as if I needed to eat more than I wanted to because I was "eating for two". That isn't a healthy mindset, and frankly it's uncomfortable. Your baby takes up room in your body, and if you are like me then you won't be able to eat that much at a time! I have been eating balanced meals, and I usually eat several smaller meals throughout the day rather than three large ones.

Get your protein in.
Experts recommend 75 to 100 grams of protein a day for pregnant women (source). That is a lot! I have an aversion to meat when I am pregnant, so this is always difficult for me. However, I made a conscious effort this pregnancy to get as much protein in as I could. Turns out I had a much easier time this pregnancy! I know several factors play a role, but I am convinced my nutrition helped ease my symptoms.  Smoothies are your friend in the first trimester. I would often make a protein smoothie with water, chia seeds, frozen fruit, and spinach so that I could pack as many nutrients in as possible. Even when I felt sick, I could always get a smoothie down. Often drinking one would help my blood sugar, and I would be able to eat a small meal about thirty minutes later. Greek yogurt, cheese, eggs, and beans are all good sources of protein.

Blame the hormones.
One stereotype that is founded? You aren't in complete control of your emotions when you are pregnant. Remind yourself that those times where you are irrationally irritable, tearful, or anxious will pass. That isn't to say you can go around being mean to everyone and blaming the pregnancy, but the truth is hormones do crazy things to your moods. I cried over my husband turning down the heat one degree because I told him my bones hurt. I was luckily able to laugh about it and make fun of myself even while it was happening. You aren't being yourself, find the humor in it.

Find your tribe.
You are not alone! I have relied so much more on friends and my support system this time around, and I am glad I did! I asked my husband to pitch in and cook dinner sometimes, I asked people for recommendations on healthcare providers, and I learned to say yes when I was offered assistance with my toddler. The thought of miscarriage is scary, but I would rather have gone through that with people I know, love, and trust than all alone. I shared what I was going through with those closest to me, because I knew I didn't have to suffer in silence.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

1st Trimester Recap

As I have mentioned several times I started this blog due to how helpful I found other motherhood blogs during my first pregnancy. Being an eleven hour drive away from my family I often turned to my friends and the internet for support. It only makes sense then for me to share my experiences with this pregnancy in case anyone else does a frantic Google search at two in the morning, because we've all been there.


SYMPTOMS

Nausea - This pregnancy is both very similar to and very different than my first pregnancy. I knew what to expect this time, so I prepared myself. With my first pregnancy I was sick every single day, multiple times a day and often had to carry a discreet bag in my purse with a toothbrush, mouth wash, and change of underwear (I know, sexy).  I have only been sick three times. It may be that my body is used to pregnancy this time around, I am getting more sleep, or because I am taking a different prenatal vitamin. Whatever the cause, it has been a God-send! I feel queasy and icky often, but believe me I would prefer that over what I experienced last time.

Food aversions - I experienced aversions to just about any and every food, specifically meat. Even looking at pictures of food was unpleasant until about the 12 week mark. This is the same as my first pregnancy, often meaning I had to force myself to eat anything my stomach would allow. Luckily I have learned a few tips and tricks to get all of my essential nutrients, which I will share in another blog post. Fortunately my appetite has been returning as of week 12, and I eat several small meals throughout the day.

Fatigue -  has been my most prevalent symptom, and while I certainly experienced it with the first pregnancy I am convinced it's worse because I have a toddler to keep up with! You can't take a nap before dinner when you have a fourteen month old climbing on you. This means the house is less than perfect, and I have been focusing my energy on caring for my daughter, husband, and myself. I have taken time for self care when I can either by resting when my daughter naps, sneaking off for fifteen minutes when my husband gets home, and going to bed earlier. It is upsetting that the house is messy, but my family will be happier if I am taking care of myself because their needs will be met with kindness and compassion.

Exercise has gone out the window, if I am being honest. I respect women who continue to go to the gym when they are in the early stages of pregnancy but my energy levels didn't allow it. I was in survival mode! I went for walks indoors to keep moving, and now that my energy is returning I plan do be more active. Walking actually helped my nausea and lifted my spirits when I felt hormonal. If you are able to exercise avoid any twisting exercises or laying on your back, and keep things simple. I wasn't running before I became pregnant, so I am not going to start running now. I'll go for long walks, do some prenatal exercises at home, and work on both pelvic floor strength and postural strength.

Acne - My skin always becomes very sensitive and dry during pregnancy, so I have simplified my skincare and am using gentle products. I am currently dealing with cystic acne, which is painful and embarrassing, but are a result of all the hormones and changes my body is undergoing! If you have any recommendations on how to treat that, let me know.

Sensitive to smells - Luckily I am not in the early stages of pregnancy during Lent this time around because I cannot be around fish currently. Even thinking about it right now is making me queasy. This was awful when I worked for Catholic Charities and my desk was right next to the kitchen. I had to smell fish once a week! It has been easier to avoid this pregnancy, and I usually just power walk past that section in grocery stores. Cigarette smoke also sends me over the edge, but again no one in my family smokes so I don't smell it often.

Cramping - I always get anxious about cramping in the first trimester. It is important to remember that you are feeling your uterus grow, and it is (usually) completely normal!

I have also experienced some vivid dreams and mood swings, but they haven't been too bad this trimester.


CRAVINGS

As far as cravings go, they are the same as I had before. I crave fruit, especially apples (which I don't like outside of pregnancy) and citrus. Either this baby is a girl, or that is something I will have with each pregnancy! I will be interested to see if there is a correlation. While overall I continue to have an aversion to meat, I do crave a burger every now and then. If I am being honest though, I don't experience cravings like other women seem to. I get moments where something finally sounds good to eat - and I need to take advantage of having an appetite - or certain things tasted better to me, like fruit. I don't wake up in the middle of the night craving things like you see in the movies, and didn't the first time around either.


LOOKING FORWARD TO 2ND TRIMESTER

Yes, we will be finding out the gender of the baby at 20 weeks and no, we don't have any preferences or predictions. We would love for our daughter to have a sister to play with, but would be happy with a brother for her as well! It is so funny because at my 20 week anatomy scan with my daughter I completely forgot about finding out her gender. I was so impressed with how I could see the four chambers of her heart, and how far technology has come! There is something about seeing a beautiful, healthy child that is more special to me than whether they are a girl or a boy.

I am doing things very differently this time around, which I will expand upon in another post. The jist of it is this: I am working with a different team, and planning an unmedicated and (hopefully) intervention free birth. I was "open to whatever" last time, which resulted in an unpleasant hospital induction, as well as several medical interventions where I had absolutely no input. While those interventions may have been necessary (I don't know and will never know, I am not a doctor) they made me feel as if I was not in control of my own body, and didn't have a choice in my labor. I know that I cannot ultimately plan my labor, but I want to take as many steps as I can towards a different experience. We'll chat more about that another time.

Lastly, a confession for you guys: I missed church pretty often in my first trimester. I was often afraid of throwing up in mass, sometimes threw up right before, and sometimes had no energy to look after my toddler during that time. My husband would let me sleep as much as possible during the weekends and often that would mean I slept through Sunday service. I am sharing that because I want to be open and honest about pregnancy, and that was something I experienced. I am not beating myself up about it, I kept holy the Sabbath by praying, reading the readings at home, and being kind to myself and my family. I am not holding myself up to a standard of perfection. I am glad that my symptoms have calmed down and to have more energy to attend regularly again.



This is such an exciting time, and I am happy to share this with you guys! If you are pregnant too, let me know how first trimester is going! I will be praying for you and your growing families.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Surprise!



Today I am so excited to share that baby #2 is on the way! We could not feel more blessed. Hopefully this explains my absence here, and in person (ha). I have been a hermit lately because first trimester with a toddler really wore me out, and because I am showing a lot earlier this time around.

Often people share an exciting anecdote about how they found out they were pregnant, but I feel my story is relatively boring. I am very lucky (and trust me, I don't take it for granted) that I have never struggled with infertility, even with irregular cycles. I have certainly had times where I thought I may be pregnant due to those irregular cycles and was not. However, when we have tried to conceive we have been able to fairly quickly. My husband and I knew we wanted children close together, assumed it would take a while, and did nothing to prevent/avoid pregnancy for a couple of months. When I weaned my daughter off of breastfeeding we decided to try that cycle. Turns out it only took one cycle to conceive - same as our first child! We are thrilled that we are adding a new member so quickly.

I can't wait to share more about my first trimester/overall experience with this pregnancy. It has been extremely difficult to keep this secret, because we have wanted to shout it from the rooftops! It was always our plan to have children close in age, but I will admit I am nervous to have two under two years old. I will certainly be relying on my family and friends to keep sane!

Little baby, you are already so loved. We can't wait to meet you.