Tag Archives: pregnancy

Advice For New Moms

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Last year, when several of my friends and clients were getting ready to have babies, I polled some of my already-mom friends to get their suggestions on what friends and family could do to help new moms in those first few whirlwind weeks of life with a newborn. Now it is my turn to have a baby (plus I have a whole other batch of friends who are due in the next couple of months), and so I’ve reached out again to my expanding network of mamas to get some advice on what new moms should do for themselves to make the transition to parenthood feel a little more manageable.

Here’s what they had to say about the stuff  you’ll need, things you should do, and what’s most important to remember about this life changing experience.

Make Time For Yourself

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Find some time every day to step away from the baby, and take a moment for yourself. It may feel very hard or scary at first to break away for even short periods of time, but it was the primary piece of advice offered by my friends who have more than one child. If a well-seasoned mom is telling you that it’s important to make time for your own self-care, you know it’s advice that’s worth prioritizing.

As my friend Nina explains:

…once the baby arrives, a lot of attention gets shifted from mom to baby. But mom is recovering and her world has been rocked–so self care is important, as is asking for help…do your best to do something for yourself each day. Take a walk, take an extra long shower, etc.

Naomi, another mom of two, reiterated the value of a good shower.

No matter what, make time for a shower.
This was the one thing I stressed out about each day when I was home alone for those first few weeks after my husband went back to work – when would I get a chance to shower, if my baby wasn’t a good napper. Well, turns out, kids cry… frequently. And, if you miss the window of showering while they nap, nothing bad will happen if you place them in their crib and they’re safely contained, while you jump in the shower and have 10-15 minutes of hot, steamy YOU time. It does a body good.

She also added that in addition to making a little time for yourself every day, it’s also worthwhile to find time at least once a week to get out of the house on your own, and enjoy a bit of extended alone time.

Once a week, step away from the baby for an extended period of time.
Daddy (plus any other family) bonding time is important for both daddy and baby, so why not use that as an excuse to get out of the house, put on something other than clothes that have spit up on them, and go do something that requires either physical or mental energy for your own benefit and psyche. As much as you may want to sit at home on the couch snuggling with your tiny little human, fresh air and adult conversation (or just listening to music without baby cries interrupting you!) is SO worth it. Go for a walk. Spend some quality time with the dog at a local park. Go to a coffee shop and sit with a warm mug and people watch. Relish in the peace and quiet with a good book that hasn’t been touched since before you became a mom.

 

Spend Some Time With Other Adults

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While alone time will help you feel nourished and sane, it’s also important to spend some time with other adults.

My friend Erin recommends:

…[finding] some friends or neighbors that have young children and might be stay at home moms and try to do play dates/walks/etc.  The first few weeks are hard being in the house all the time so getting out and having some adult conversation is so nice!

She also encourages taking advantage of the fact that little babies tend to sleep a lot, which can make leaving the house with your little one in tow feel a lot less daunting.

Don’t be afraid to go out to dinner or go to get-togethers with friends/neighbors and take the baby with you. Take advantage of the first few months when they sleep all the time and this is actually pretty easy.  This goes for flying too.  We have only done short flights so far (under 2 hours), but every one she slept the entire time and the flight attendants are super helpful and nice when they see you walk on with a really small baby!

Build A Strong Support System

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This was another commonly shared bit of advice. Accept help from others when it is offered. Ask for help when it is needed. One thing I have learned over time is that people do not offer their help unless they actually want to give it. Don’t worry, if someone feels annoyed or put out by the thought of having to help you, they won’t offer in the first place. So trust that anyone who asks how they can help genuinely wants to be available and helpful to you. Take people up on their offers to come over and hold the baby while you shower or nap. Let people bring you food. Let them tidy up while they’re visiting. If you’re having a hard day, don’t be embarrassed to call up a friend and tell them that you need some company or a helping hand. It may feel selfish and overly indulgent in the moment to have people making you dinner and trying to anticipate and accommodate your needs, but trust that life will present many opportunities for you to make it up to them in the future by offering your help when it is needed.

Make Time For Each Other

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Don’t forget that your partner is going through this major change too. You’re in this together, and it’s important to use that relationship to bolster and lift each other up when you are feeling tired and frustrated. Remember, the baby is the enemy, not your partner.

My friend Alyssa‘s recommendation:

set aside time every single day to check in with your partner. It is so weird and hard, and tiring in the first few months, but if feels much less so if you are communicating well and having your feelings (fears, excitement, etc.) heard. It will also help you feel less alienated from your life before baby.

Soak It All In, But Don’t Feel Pressured To Love Every Minute Of It

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The thing I hear most often from new parents is that the time really flies by. Soak it in and try not to worry too much about what you’re doing right and wrong. And as Erin recommends, don’t fret about all of the other little things you aren’t getting done while you’re busy just enjoying your time with your new baby. The house may get dirty, the laundry might not be folded, there are probably lots of errands you need to run, but don’t feel guilty about letting those things slide while you devote your days to spending time with your little one.

But at the same time, don’t feel pressured to love every single second of motherhood. As Nina so wisely explains:

People will say “ENJOY EVERY MINUTE! They grow up so fast!”

Don’t feel bad if you aren’t enjoying it all. It’s hard. There are so many good moments! But also some really intense ones. So enjoy when your baby smiles, but don’t feel like a bad mom for questioning this whole parenting thing if your baby keeps you up all night, and don’t feel guilty for checking Facebook while holding your baby, or leaving your baby to go get a pedicure.

Other Miscellaneous Advice

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Stay hydrated and well-fueled.

Keep snacks and a water bottle nearby as much as possible.
Whether you’re breastfeeding or not, staying hydrated when you’re body is changing and you’re sleep deprived, is key. It’s easy to have hours fly by amongst the changing, burping, rocking, feeding routine and not have eaten a single morsel. Make sure you have granola bars, trail mix, protein (hard boiled eggs… string cheese…) and any other snacks that you enjoy, within arm’s reach. Portable, pre-packaged snacks are also good – frequent doctor’s appointments and grocery errand runs are great times to refuel!

Things you made need when recovering from a vaginal delivery:

ibuprofen, stool softener, super maxi pads with wings, tucks medicated pads, preparation h medicated wipes, and the little squeeze bottle the hospital gives you. Things down there can be rough for a little while!

Look out for signs of postpartum depression:

postpartum depression and anxiety are common, and the symptoms may be different than what you think they are. If you aren’t feeling right, talk with someone.

Stuff to have on hand:

invest in a good travel coffee mug and use it around the house instead of a mug.  It’s the only way a new mom will ever drink hot coffee.

[Keeping in mind that every baby is different:]

Rock N Play- This is so easy and convenient to move around from room to room or pack up when you travel.  I use this all the time when I need to shower.  I can sit [the baby] in this right outside the shower door and still keep an eye on her.  We have done a few road trips as well and have taken this for her to sleep in at night.  Much easier than packing up a bulky Pack N Play.

Bobby Lounger- Love this for the same reason as the Rock N Play.  You need a lot of “things” to sit them in when they’re really little and this is just so easy to move from room to room with you. [The baby] would nap in hers all the time.

Bibs and Burp Cloths- The amount of spit up and drool is no joke so you can never have too many of these!

Sleepers with zippers- The sleepers with the snaps I found to be super annoying when you’re doing diaper changes in the middle of the night (or anytime for that matter).  Do yourself a favor and buy the ones with zippers…..so much quicker and easier!

 

Lastly, while advice from other moms is helpful and it’s always nice to have a little guidance before you embark down a new and unknown path, remember to trust your own instincts. No two babies are exactly alike (not even those that are genetically exactly alike), and you’ll come to learn what works best for your baby and your family. Trust yourself, and let yourself off the hook if you feel like you don’t know what to do. No one has all the answers. Just like your kiddo, you have to learn as you go. Good luck to all of the new and soon-to-be mamas out there! Wishing you all safe, happy deliveries, and lots of sweet baby kisses.

 

Images for this post were provided by Naomi Caltaldo of Urban Row Photography. You can check out more of Naomi’s fantastic work at the Urban Row Photography blog, or schedule your own Maternity photoshoot today.

Gentle Workouts For The First Trimester, And Beyond

As I mentioned previously, during my first trimester I felt consistently worn down, and to the point of total exhaustion on most days. It was important to me to keep up with regular exercise, in part because I find it stabilizes my mood, and sticking to my regular routine felt like a worthwhile goal. The combination of heat and exhaustion kept me from running at all during those first few months, though, and in general I found that if I did anything too vigorous, I felt dizzy and lightheaded. So instead I tried to stick to doing short, gentle workouts most days of the week, and focused mostly on videos that I could do at home, in the comfort of my air conditioned living room, though I did find that easy walks along shady paths with the dog were a nice alternative when I needed to get out of the house.

I did a lot of easy prenatal yoga videos, and mixed in a few gentle strength or cardio workouts that were designed with prenatal modifications in mind. Because I had been working out regularly at a much greater intensity before getting pregnant, these videos were a big step down in terms of energy output. If you are feeling good, and are used to higher intensity workouts and your doctor gives you the okay to exercise, there’s really no reason why you can’t keep working out at or close to the same level as you were before pregnancy as long as it feels okay to do so. But if you didn’t workout regularly before getting pregnant, or you find that you simply cannot keep up with the level of intensity that you preferred before pregnancy, then these videos may be a good starting point, or a helpful way to step back without having to stop working out entirely.

Once I got into my second trimester, I found I had the energy to run again (though MUCH slower than before), and can make it through a higher intensity workout, or a strengthening workout with heavier weights, without feeling lightheaded. No matter how you feel, or what kind of workout you are doing, remember to stay well hydrated, and cut out any moves or positions that cause pain or discomfort (lunges really bother my round ligament, so I don’t do those anymore). If you are used to being really active, it can be hard at first to wrap your head around the idea of slowing down or significantly modifying your workout routine. But when your body is changing as much as it does during pregnancy, in both visible and invisible ways, it’s more important than ever to respect how your body feels on any given day, and give yourself rest and make any adjustments that are needed to keep your pregnant self feeling happy, healthy, and as pain free as possible.

If you’re looking for some gentler workouts to either incorporate into your existing pregnancy fitness routine, or are new to exercise and looking for a way to ease in, I highly recommend the videos below. They kept me going during the first trimester, and I still use a few of them on days when I have less time or energy available for a longer, more intense workout.

 

These first two are around 10 minutes long. I usually did them as a series.

 

 

I continue to do this one on days when my lower back is feeling especially strained.

 

 

I often did this one in the mornings when I was really struggling to get going, but knew I had a long day ahead of me:

 

 

 

I still do this workout at least once a week, but have increased the amount of weight I’m using now that I’m not as tired. Once my belly really starts weighing me down, I’ll likely cut back on the added weight:

 

 

I didn’t find these videos until I was into my second trimester, but they are good if you want something that is a little higher intensity, but still offers some pregnancy modifications. I usually do these as a series and just adjust my intensity/effort depending on how I’m feeling that day:

 

First Trimester Insights

I am currently in my 22nd week of my first pregnancy. So far it has been a fairly easy and joyful experience. I certainly don’t have much room for complaint. But now that I am safely and securely in the middle of my second trimester, I thought I would share a few first trimester insights. If you are newly pregnant, or planning to get pregnant, I hope this post will bring you some comfort and a little guidance as you transition to life as a person with another person growing inside of you.

It is important to note that this post is based on my own pregnancy experience and what I write here may not be true for every pregnant woman. Every pregnancy is different, with distinct aches, pains, anxieties and desires. No one can tell you exactly what your pregnancy will be like. It can be a really fun shared experience when you are pregnant alongside your friends, but it is also a wholly unique experience and you shouldn’t waste any emotional energy on comparing yourself to other pregnant women. We are snowflakes, ladies. From a distance we all look like the same round-bellied waddling baby-growers, but viewed up close, we couldn’t be more different for a group of people who are all going through the same physical process.

Congratulations to any and all pregnant readers of this post, and best wishes to anyone out there who is trying to get pregnant.


You may instantly regret your decision or feel completely terrified, and that’s okay.

I did not get pregnant on a whim. I have been married for the better part of a decade and am in my thirties. My husband and I had countless conversations over the course of several years about if and when we wanted to start a family. The timing of when we started trying to conceive was chosen with very specific scheduling concerns in mind. This was very much a planned pregnancy. And yet, when I got that positive test result, I immediately thought, “oh god, what have we done.” I later learned from talking with several friends that this is a fairly common experience. No matter how planned, or desperately desired a pregnancy is, it’s pretty natural to have an oh crap moment.

I think it took me until about week 17 to be fully on board with being pregnant. To go from not pregnant to pregnant feels like such a sudden, momentous shift that you shouldn’t be surprised if you find your head spinning for a while. Even if you were beyond ready to have a baby, it’s hard not to fixate on all the ways your life will change, the big and little things you’ll be missing out on, all the stuff you don’t know and need to prepare for, and all the stuff you don’t know for which there is no preparation and you just have to wait for it, live it, and hope you make the right choices.

Allow yourself some space and time to feel frightened, rattled, or even disappointed. It’s okay to grieve the part of your self and your life that will be lost through pregnancy and childrearing. It’s okay to be scared about what the future brings and whether or not you’ll be able to welcome all those changes with an open heart and mind.

I wanted to be overwhelmed with happiness and excitement at being pregnant, but I found that my emotions were much more mixed. I was excited, but anxious, confused and a little bit sad at moments. I really could have beaten myself up for feeling this way (I am very good at beating myself up for having less than perfect emotional reactions), but I decided early on that because I had never been pregnant before, I couldn’t possibly know what kind of reaction was the “right” reaction for that moment. I needed to let myself feel whatever emotions came up, and just accept that, like the rest of me, those feelings would likely change a lot throughout the course of my pregnancy. Flexibility and a nonjudgemental approach are positive parenting qualities, so you might as well start practicing them now on yourself.

It can be helpful to tell a few trusted friends early on.

How and when you decide to tell people that you are pregnant is a very personal decision. Some people like to get the word out right away, and others choose to wait until the end of the first trimester, or even longer to start spreading the news. You have to do what feels right for you. I had originally planned to tell my sister a couple of days after getting a positive test, but ended up waiting several weeks before letting her know. The moment just didn’t feel right before that. We ending up telling most of our close friends and family sometime between week 7 and 12, but that’s mostly because I found that trying to hide it or keeping it secret felt too stressful, and I just said the hell with it and let people know what was up, especially if we saw them in person.

Week 7 is a pretty early reveal for most people, but I actually told a few people even before that. Because I was feeling such a wide and confusing range of emotions, I found it really comforting to tell a couple of friends who had either recently been pregnant, or were currently pregnant. The first trimester can feel very isolating, and kind of lonely. You probably don’t feel your best, you may be worried that your pregnancy will end before it even has a chance to really get started, and your mind is racing trying to figure out what you’re supposed to do next, what things you should be avoiding, and if you’re making the right decisions. It helped me to have a couple people I could turn to and say, “what did you do about x, y, z; when do I need to decide about the following things; is this a normal feeling or something I should call the doctor about?”

I found it calmed my nerves to have people I could turn to who had recently been in my situation and could advise, celebrate, and commiserate about what I was going through.

Everyone will tell you what you should or shouldn’t do.

Pregnancy is a global experience. I don’t mean that women all over the world get pregnant (though, of course, they do), but that you’ll likely find that everyone you encounter will feel like they have a role to play in your pregnancy (this includes strangers that stand behind you in line at the grocery store). This happens a lot more once you are further along and visibly pregnant, but just know that once you start telling people that you are with child, everyone will have a story to tell you and advice to offer. In a lot of ways this is very sweet, and it’s nice to hear other people’s stories and, you know, some advice is good advice and I’m thankful to hear it. But for the most part, this gets tedious really fast and you need to quickly perfect your polite smile and nod, because you are in for a long 40 weeks of hearing about what other people think you should do while pregnant.

I have noticed this mostly in people telling you what you can and can’t eat, especially as caffeine and alcohol are concerned. I have run out of fingers for counting the number of times someone has said to me (or more often about me, to the group), “well Claire can’t have a drink,” when discussing general evening plans, or what everyone would like to drink to accompany their dinner. My dirty little secret is that I’ve had an occasional drink throughout my pregnancy, pretty much exclusively in the second trimester. For the most part, I’ve only done so around male friends, who either don’t know much about the big bad faux pas of pregnancy behavior, or just don’t care. I read up a lot on the topic, did my due diligence in terms of research, and made the decision that a small glass of wine once or twice a month is something I am comfortable with. Now whenever someone mentions how I’m not allowed to have anything to drink, I just smile and nod and make a mental note not to have my monthly glass of red when I am around them.

You will get so many opinions and so much advice that eventually it all turns into white noise. My recommendation is to pick 2-3 people whose advice you trust and go to them with questions, and just let everyone else become background buzz. There are so many “rules” to pregnancy, and very little consensus on which ones are the most important to follow. It’s impossible to do everything exactly right, because you have to live your life and that means that sometimes you need to pick up a quick meal on the go and are not consuming enough fresh produce for the day. Or you need to lift something a little heavier than is preferred from time to time, or you have a long day, or a restless night of sleep and you need a caffeine boost to make it through. You have to decide for yourself which rules matter most to you and which ones you don’t think are as important, or are simply not realistic for your life. Everyone has an opinion on how you should behave when pregnant, but the only opinion that really matters is your own. Feeling anxious and stressed out about every little choice you make is not any better for your health than avoiding all caffeine, never having a sip of alcohol, or cutting out certain foods entirely because of a small risk of food borne illness.

If you don’t know where to start when making these decisions, talking to your doctor is a good first step, but most docs will give you advice that carries the absolute smallest amount of risk or liability for them (which is to mostly avoid all things that could be considered slightly dangerous during pregnancy, or have never been tested and the risk is therefore unknown). I recommend checking out Emily Oster’s book Expecting Better: Why The Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong–and What You Really Need to Know. I found it to be extremely useful in helping me feel more empowered to make my own decisions and cut out the excess noise of everyone’s advice.

Take it easy on yourself.

I went into my first trimester thinking I was going to continue full steam ahead with my fitness and exercise plan. My hope was that I could use those first few months to get into really great shape for the six months to come when my growing belly would inevitably slow me down. This did not turn out to be the case even a little bit.

I was lucky in that I didn’t feel too sick during my first trimester. I had some mild nausea that I could mostly manage by eating something small every couple of hours (string cheese, kiwis, and dried fruit and nuts worked pretty well for me), or munching on a piece of candied ginger whenever I started to feel especially queasy. I did suffer from pretty extreme fatigue, though. I blame this in part on being newly pregnant in ridiculous hot and humid weather, so that pregnancy fatigued combined with miserable Baltimore summer fatigue. Either way, I was ready to drop into a deep sleep within about two hours of waking up each morning, and by the end of the day, it took every ounce of will and resilience to keep myself standing upright, which was not so great given that my job is physical and requires a lot of time on my feet.

My dreams for a supercharged first trimester were dashed pretty quickly. I did find that sticking with some amount of exercise kept me slightly more energized and helped me fight my nausea a bit, but I only managed about 20-30 minutes each day and none of it was especially rigorous. (In a future post I will share some of the online videos that I found useful for first trimester workouts on the days when I was feeling my worst.)

Most women experience some degree of illness and/or fatigue during the first trimester. It’s okay to take it easy and give yourself some extra rest and respite. Whether that means cutting back on the intensity of workouts, trying to reduce your work hours, making space to accommodate a midday nap, or going to bed much earlier than you ever have before, you need to do what feels right for your body in those first few months. It takes a lot to grow a baby and a placenta. Your body is working overtime, and dealing with significant changes in blood volume and oxygen needs. You may find that you get dizzy or feel out of breath more easily. Be gentle with yourself. While some women continue to struggle into their second trimester, I found that my energy returned by week 13 and I felt much more capable of doing longer and higher intensity workouts, and could make it through my standard workday without worrying that I’d fall asleep in the middle of massaging someone.

My one recommendation would be that if you have access to a swimming pool during your pregnancy, use it. I swam laps a couple of times a week during the first trimester and I definitely felt my best when I was in the water.

It’s important to celebrate.

I’m not super into baby clothes or the little stuff that most people find so adorable about tiny humans (should I be having a baby?), so I didn’t feel the need to run out and buy up a bunch of cute onesies during my first trimester. But if you do feel that need, go for it. Fill your house with baby books, or go out and purchase some nice maternity clothes even if you don’t need them yet. Do something that makes you feel like you are recognizing and celebrating this momentous occasion in your life. Other people might not know that you are pregnant yet, but you do and you have right to celebrate and make a big deal out of it. My husband and I went out for dinner to celebrate very early after finding out, and it was really nice to be out at one of our favorite restaurants that we had been to countless times, but to feel like this time it was different. Pregnancy can feel scary and overwhelming, but it can also be really great and it deserves to be celebrated in whatever way feels right for you.

3 Interesting Articles for Expecting Moms (and everyone else too)

Have you ever seen a Disney or other animated movie that has a time-lapse depiction of the transition from winter to spring? The snow melts and trees and flowers begin to bud and then bloom, and the whole screen transforms into a bright, colorful world where blinking animals emerge from their nests, or underground homes and step into the sunshine quietly followed by a row of their new, tiny babies who look out over this strange, beautiful world for the first time with a glint of wonder and excitement in their eyes.

I am currently experiencing a human version of this transition in my massage practice. The snow has melted, the trees are in bloom, and it appears that every third person who walks through my door these days got pregnant sometime during the winter hibernation. I always get an influx of prenatal clients in early spring. I have done a great many prenatal massages in the last few weeks, which don’t get me wrong, I am definitely not complaining about, because I love giving pregnancy massages and working with expecting mamas.

Given the number of women I know both in my work and personal life who have babies on the way, I thought I would share a few articles I’ve read recently that may be of particular interest to new and expecting mothers.

First up, I thought this new study about how exercising during pregnancy could result in having a child who intrinsically loves to exercise was pretty cool. If this is the case, then I know a couple of kiddos who will be some pretty serious runners one day.

It’s also neat to think about how what you eat during pregnancy and while breastfeeding can influence your baby’s future diet and taste for certain foods.

Lastly, this essay is a good reminder that feelings of sadness and even depression during pregnancy are quite common and worthy of your attention.

Five Articles You May Have Missed: Women’s Health

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As March comes to a close today, so does Women’s History Month. Before we officially wrap up the month, let’s take a moment to shift from women’s history and focus on women’s health. Below I’ve got five articles you may have missed this month about current topics in women’s health and wellness.

An iPhone App is helping researchers conduct a new study on Postpartum Depression.

In her new book Girls & Sex, author Peggy Orenstein shares the findings of her research with young girls about sex, intimacy and popular culture. You can listen to an interview with Orenstein about her research, her book, and a better way to talk to girls about sexual pleasure and health.

A new, simplified IUD inserter is improving access to birth control throughout the world.

Researchers are taking another look at the potential heart health benefits of estrogen replacement therapy during menopause.

A new study has found that high caffeine consumption in both women and men could lead to miscarriage and fertility struggles.