She ROCKS!

    One thing that I am confident any mom can agree is that there is just not enough time in the day. We work, we cook, we change diapers, we entertain, we clean, we feed, and if we can squeeze in a workout then it is a good day. This is a constant struggle for me as I try to balance everything while still being present for my daughter. I have found that if I don't make this time for myself to at least sweat a little, I lose my patience easily and I just feel worse overall which I know trickles into my interaction as a mother. Lately, I've been doing workouts whenever and however I can, often using Charley as my 25 pound barbell. She's not always eager to be used as my exercise prop, unfortunately.

     Luckily, I have found the perfect solution: combining a play date with a workout with Stroller Boot Camp!! I wish I had come up with this myself. Enter Kathleen Uhran: a Fitness and Lifestyle Coach who recently moved from Texas to Nantucket. Obviously there was an instant connection when we crossed paths a couple of months ago at the first stroller boot camp I attended. An hour flew by as we lunged, jogged, and crunched all while chatting and playing with our babies overlooking Children's Beach and Nantucket Harbor. There really couldn't be a better scenario. Both to my surprise and delight, I was sore for days! It was a really good workout and a great time. I went again several times and was NOT disappointed. I hope to go every Saturday I can while I'm here. Kathleen is the picture of health so she is a great motivator.

     I have come to appreciate the emphasis on moms being active while engaging their babies, such as stroller boot camp. There are lots of YouTube videos of postpartum workouts that incorporate the baby into the exercises which is awesome. One of our affiliates in California, Baby Bump Ballet, has Babywearing Barre classes!! I am dying to try this and I know my daughter would get a kick out of it.

     In short, moms in Nantucket should make their way down to Children's Beach Saturdays at 9:00! Check out Kathleen's Website for more information on her brand and business at SheRocksFitnesstx.com. I would also love to hear more ideas of how to engage our little ones in our own efforts to stay active and healthy. In turn, I believe we can be better moms while setting a good and healthy example.

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Why I Left My Home and Husband for 3 Months

       When I tell people I picked up and left home for thirteen weeks to do a travel nursing assignment in Nantucket, they usually think it's pretty cool. Then I tell them I also brought along my thirteen month old daughter and am here without my husband and they look at me a little differently. There must be trouble in paradise... Surely I'm on the verge of a divorce. Why else would I leave for so long?

     Well, truth be told, my husband was a major driving force in my decision to leave, but not for the reasons you may be thinking. A couple months back as we sat in the JetBlue Terminal of JFK while on a layover coming home from Nantucket, we discussed dreams for our future. A hypothetical conversation quickly turned real as my husband encouraged me to apply for a travel job on the island. "If not now, then you'll probably never do it," he said. Knowing my love for this special place after coming for nearly half my life, he knew I might regret passing on such a unique opportunity. Other reasons included being able to spend some invaluable time with my parents, including my father with newly diagnosed leukemia. We also knew that as Charley got older, it would be harder for her to be separated from her daddy and if a sibling was thrown in the mix, forget about it.

    So I applied for a travel L&D RN job the next day and had a job offer the day after that. It all happened so quickly, I hardly had time to process what I was even considering. I thought about it over an emotion-filled weekend and decided if my manager would allow me to keep my job in Austin, then I would do it. To my pleasant surprise, he agreed. I accepted the job literally four days after manifesting the idea.

     I had no delusions that it would be easy. I would be working lots of night shifts, nearly doubling my work hours, and be away from my other half and stability of home. But with the challenge would come an immense reward of giving my daughter a piece of a place so close to my heart. While it was scary stepping out of my comfortable bubble, lots of support from my husband and prayer told me it was the right decision for my family.

    I know that this scenario unconventional; a lot of people think I'm crazy for doing it. But my husband has instilled in me the mantra: "Get busy living or get busy dying." Instead of just talking about ideas and dreams, he has pushed me to make them happen. He was the driving force behind ACK Wrap's conception. I hope to instill this in my daughter and show her that we can make our ideas, no matter how crazy they seem, a reality. Although she may not necessarily remember these precious days in Nantucket, she will grow up hearing the stories of our ACKventures and create her own destiny knowing it is okay to be a little unconventional.

We get by with daily FaceTime chats.

We get by with daily FaceTime chats.

Their reunion after 3.5 weeks

Their reunion after 3.5 weeks

Savoring every moment together during dad's visit

Savoring every moment together during dad's visit

Mom to Mom... Stop the Catty BS

     Man, I'm a little taken aback right now and feel inclined to write. Recently, in a mom's blog that I follow and am closely connected with, a mom blogger opened up about making the decision to go back to work leaving her twin babies and toddler in day care. The article was honest and open on a pretty personal topic. While many moms applauded her, the comments turned nasty and quickly turned to shaming her. At one point she was called selfish. "Too bad for the kids," someone else wrote.

     While reading these posts, I had tears in my eyes for this mother. Here she is with a toddler and now pregnant... with TWINS no less. Twins are incredible, but I would be terrified! I doubt that the decision for her not to be a stay at home mom was not just determined on a whim. It is a difficult decision for any parent to have to make and she is doing what she and her husband believe is best for their family.

     What I can't figure out is how it got to be socially acceptable to be so outright judgmental and nasty to each other. As women, we should be building each other up and supporting one another. I understand we are in the age of cyber-socialization. Cyber bullying (as much as I hate using that term) is very real and it's easy to say whatever comes to mind sitting in front of a computer screen. The middle school cattiness truly never goes away for some women and that gives females a bad rap. Shaming one another for having different parenting styles and choices is horrible. We should be positive and supportive, as MOTHERS, setting an example for the little people we are each raising. 

    As I am writing this, I don't want to come across as if I'm on my own high horse. I have judged and had differing opinions than other mothers. I have said the words, "Why have kids if they are going to be in day care all day every day?" I am ashamed to admit this because who am I to judge another mother?  Just because that is not right for ME and my family personally, I would never attack another mother for making that difficult choice. We should be applauding one another's strengths, different as they may be from our own. How fortunate for us as women that we are in the day and age to be able to have a career AND be a great mom.

     At the end of the day, focus on your own life and family. To the moms writing the nasty, derogatory comments to other moms on any online forum, maybe you need to look internally and question why you feel the need to put someone else down. Too much free time? Hopefully you're writing these comments while your own kiddos are sleeping. Why not try to find something positive out of a difference of opinion. If not, remember what they told you when you were five: "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

    

Learning to Love My Postpartum Body

    Recently, I've seen a lot a lot of beautiful pictures posted by mothers showing their physical aftermath of nine months of creation. It is easy to stomach (pun intended), the extra 20, 30 or in my case 40 pounds of weight when there is still a baby kicking around in there. But it becomes a little depressing and even discouraging when it doesn't all just melt off in the first few weeks like we hope it will.

    From the time I was a little girl, I was acutely aware of the havoc pregnancy and childbirth can wreak on a body. Not only was I a nearly ten pound baby at birth delivered naturally by my mother, my birth was documented on video for all to see. That's right- all up close and personal. My mom also never missed an opportunity to razz me about how much I messed up her body being the fourth and largest watermelon to come out of her.

     I never really stressed about the postpartum body while I was pregnant too much. There was one time a family friend told me, "As husbands, we are so terrified our wives will never look the same." Really? Probably not the best thing to tell a first time mom in her third trimester. That nonsense aside, I did ask for a lot of tips from friends on how to get back in shape postpartum. Invariably, I was told staying fit during the pregnancy was the key. I couldn't agree with this more. Before 32 weeks (when I had my little preterm labor stint in the hospital), I continued to exercise regularly with weights and cardio. I would walk everyday and do lots of squats and lunges, which is also good prep for childbirth. After 32 weeks, I couldn't walk or do weights anymore without bringing on crazy contractions so I did lots of prenatal yoga which also helped me mentally prepare and connect with the baby on a deeper level. Staying fit in the pregnancy also aids in an easier labor and better pushing. I can attest to that as I only pushed twice.

     The immediate postpartum period is quite difficult physically as the body recovers (obviously, I know). But for me the hardest part came in the weeks that followed. Once the acute pain was gone and I was getting in the groove of motherhood, there was nothing about me that felt attractive. I couldn't imagine feeling sexy again. Of course, at the time that wasn't even a priority. All I wanted to do was snuggle with my precious baby. But to feel some ounce of normalcy, I knew I wanted my body back so that I could feel good about myself and in turn allow me to be a better mother and wife. The first step was realizing that it would never be quite the same as it was before. Things are just... different. Skin has been loosened, ligaments have been stretched, even the freaking bones have relaxed and adjusted (thank you relaxin hormone). I also realized after about the four month mark that breastfeeding was Gods greatest gift both to moms and babies: I could eat whatever I wanted and the pounds really started to fall off. At one point, I was down to about five pounds below my high school weight, unintentionally. Not going for the emaciated look, I worked hard to strength train to achieve muscle tone. Motivation came from seeing actual results and having better energy levels.

     I am now at one year postpartum and I have found a good balance of body acceptance and motivation to be fit. I am pretty close to being in the best shape of my life and I feel great that I have not fallen into the "mommy rut" that many do. Time is not my friend and I never seem to have enough of it (I still work as a nurse, run a business, and chase a toddler), but even a 20 minute workout creates results. I realize every situation is very different. For example, I didn't have to recover from a C-Section. Nevertheless, I am proud of my body for creating my incredible little person and being able to provide her nourishment for an entire year. I want to be happy and healthy for her. I also want to be attractive to my husband. I have come to accept that these things start with me being confident in my own body. Yes, the very body that has been stretched and loosened, that bears a deep stretch mark right above my belly button, but also allows me to squat 145 pounds and clean and jerk like a badass.

 

Disclaimer: I never thought I would share these pictures with ANYONE. I documented this for my own personal motivation. However, I have been inspired by the other mothers out there who have posted their beautiful postpartum body pictures and feel empowered to do so myself.

Ready to pop! The day before I went into labor.

Ready to pop! The day before I went into labor.

Yup, there could still be a baby in there. I don't even recognize myself. (Notice the hospital granny panties)

Yup, there could still be a baby in there. I don't even recognize myself. (Notice the hospital granny panties)

Holy swelling.

Holy swelling.

Thank you, milk production.

Thank you, milk production.

Starting to look and feel somewhat normal.

Starting to look and feel somewhat normal.

Finally cleared to exercise!

Finally cleared to exercise!

Okay now I'm off to buy some new shorts because apparently I only have this one pair.

Okay now I'm off to buy some new shorts because apparently I only have this one pair.

We're So Much More Than Cute Wraps

     We at ACK Wrap put a lot of emphasis on the cute and chic side of babywearing because that is what separates us from the many other baby wraps and carriers on the market. In addition to our supremely soft and lightweight fabrics, we offer classic styles in hopes of broadening the prospective baby wearing population. It used to just be the more granola, hippie parents who wore their babies. That stereotype is breaking down each day as I see parents of all walks of life wearing their babies, from the crunchy moms at Whole Foods to pampered celebrities in magazines. So what has changed and why is it becoming so widespread? Quite simply, it has become common knowledge that it is better for babies.

     Babywearing has been around for centuries, dare I say millennia? In yesteryear, it was out of necessity more than anything else. Parents and older siblings needed to be able to use both hands to fulfill necessary daily tasks. Wearing the youngest siblings freed up hands and kept the little ones safe simultaneously. This is the practical side of babywearing that continues to be a huge benefit to parents and caregivers today. Invaluable hands-free wearing allows for completion of daily tasks, as well as just a minute to rest arms from holding a needy newborn. Mommy biceps are great, but they need a break every once in a while. This hands-free time is also essential if there are older siblings in the house who have needs as well.

     A very interesting study in Evolutionary Psychology Journal suggests that human babies are physically made to be held and carried, as opposed to 'nested' (i.e. left in the bassinet). "The human infant, when lying on the back, frequently assumes a position where both legs are flexed and abducted," (1). The study goes onto discuss the shape of an infant's spine is a 'C' shape which is conducive to being carried on their caregiver's front (facing them), as opposed to an adult's spine which is 'S' shaped. It is perfectly natural for babies to be worn and carried; they are physically created to be!

    Other studies suggest that babies cry 43-54% less in the evening hours if carried at least three hours throughout the day (2). One cannot spoil a newborn. Just imagine for a minute being carried every single second of your life and then suddenly pushed out (quite literally) into the cold, bright, scary world, suddenly separated from your life source and everything you knew. Isn't it only natural to ease this transition by creating a womblike environment on the outside? A baby wrap carrier perfectly accomplishes this; We like to think of it as a womb with a view.

      As a Labor & Delivery RN, it is part of my daily job to encourage skin-to-skin contact between mom and newborn. Immediately after birth, placing the infant directly on mother's chest (dried off) promotes more stable temperatures, blood sugar levels, respiratory efforts, and breastfeeding success. Allowing the newborn to feel the warmth of their mother, hear her heartbeat and voice, and smell her creates a hormonal chain reaction promoting the health and wellness of both parties involved. Premature babies in the NICU greatly benefit from skin-to-skin (often called Kangaroo Mother Care) when stable enough to do so. The importance of physical contact to babies is essential for their growth. A study showed mothers who practiced Kangaroo Care at least six hours a day with their low birthweight infant showed significant increases in weight, length, and head circumstances in comparison to babies who did not have this contact (3). Baby wrap carriers are perfect for skin-to-skin as they keep baby secure and snug while in immediate contact with their caregiver.*

     Another benefit of babywearing is that it creates better socialization for the infant. From the very beginning, they learn the sounds of the world around them. Comforted by the closeness of their caregiver, they can adapt to the new often overstimulating environment. As they grow older, being worn gives them more face to face time with others which in turn helps them to learn language and social cues.

     Baby wrap carriers can assist in reducing infant pain from reflux which is an increasingly common ailment. Aside from pharmacological intervention, doctors will suggest keeping infants who suffer from reflux in an upright position which the baby wrap carrier accomplishes. 

    Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the baby wrap carrier can be a wonderful assistive device to promote bonding between parent and infant. Carrying a baby often using this method allows the caregiver to learn the cues and needs of their child, thus instilling confidence in themselves. The baby is constantly reassured as they learn how to communicate their needs. This reassurance leads to better sleeping habits and self-soothing habits, leading to an overall happier baby and parent. Babywearing may also decrease incidence of postpartum depression in mothers (4).

     It is clear that babywearing has hugely positive implications, so it is no wonder why it is becoming increasingly popular. I do not believe this is a passing trend. It is our vision to see a broader population of moms and dads who choose to wear their babies, one ACK Wrap at a time!

 


References

(1) Evolutionary Psychology- ISSN 1474-7049- Volume 5(1). 2008, -106- Natural Parenting

(2) Increased carrying reduces infant crying: A randomized controlled trial. UA Hunziker, RG Barr Pediatrics 77 1986

(3) Effect of Kangaroo Mother Care on physical growth, breastfeeding and its acceptability. G Gathwala, B Singh, J Singh, Tropical Doctor 40(4) 2010

(4) Palaez-Nogueras M, Field TM, Hossain Z, Pickens J. (1996). Depressed mothers' touching increases infants' positive affect and attention in still-face interactions. Child Development, 67, 1780-92.


*ACK Wraps can be used for skin-to-skin by stripping baby down to nothing but a diaper. The caregiver should not wear a shirt or bra, but just the wrap in place of a shirt. Place infant in wrap and enjoy the ultimate bonding experience!

My Pregnancy Journey- First and Second Trimester

            There is nothing in the world I wanted more than to be pregnant. I could not wait to experience the miracle of a tiny person growing inside me. From the time I was a small child, I was fascinated with pregnant women. I thought it was the most beautiful site to see an adorable woman confidently walking on the beach in a bikini with a giant swollen belly. I would be that woman. I would be an adorable pregnant lady with a little basketball belly. I would never whine or expect any kind of preferential treatment. I would embrace each new day of my pregnancy with a gracious smile and love every minute of it. I would do prenatal yoga every day, continue running at the lake several days a week, maintain my vegetarian diet while abstaining from caffeine... I could not wait!

            And then I became pregnant.

            The moment I saw the second line appear on the pee-stick, I screamed and jumped around the room. Yes, I actually did that. I felt like my heart was about to explode out of my chest, I was so ecstatic. I picked up the phone to call anybody but remembered my husband would kill me if I told anyone but him first. Unfortunately, he was in a golf tournament that day and wouldn’t be home until later that night. I could hardly contain myself. I ran to the store to buy another confirmatory test. Yes, still positive. Thank God.

            I spent the rest of the afternoon thinking up a creative way to tell my husband. I couldn’t wait to see him scream and jump around the room just like I did. Hey, I would even film it to capture such a magical moment. I didn’t want to buy a silly bib or shirt that said “Best Dad Ever” so I just decided to hide one of the sticks in a special box that I gave him on our wedding night. After he got home I asked him to grab my earrings out of the box. As I patiently awaiting his joyful scream, iPad video filming from a stealth location, I merely heard the sound of him drop the stick on the ground, fumble around to find it, then say, “Uh Les, what is this?” Really? I decided to give him another minute to figure it out… … Nope not happening. No screams. No jumping. Just, “That’s great! That’s what you wanted, right?” Um, yea I’m pretty sure for the last two months when I said, “I think I’m ovulating; Let’s get busy,” that’s what YOU wanted, too! But I didn’t have time to dwell on that. I was pregnant. This was my dream. Nothing could get me down.

            As a Labor and Delivery Nurse, I am around pregnant, laboring, and postpartum women all the time. I decided when I was twelve that I wanted to deliver babies for a living after watching my nephew being born. I thought it was the most incredible thing I had ever seen and couldn’t imagine a better career. I also had the unique opportunity to watch my own birth on video several times. In fact, from a very young age we would watch it on my birthday (we as in the whole family) and I never knew that was weird. It wasn’t until several years later when I mentioned to my friends about it that I realized that was the weirdest thing ever. I think the fact that I never knew it was strange or thought it was gross definitely contributed to my desire to be in this field. How many people can say they watched their own birth?

            The next night at work I asked one of the doctors to give me a sonogram to confirm the pregnancy. I realized how lucky I was to get free sonograms at work and I took full advantage of that privilege. And there it was—a tiny gestational sac barely visible on the screen yet undeniably there, in my uterus. Maybe now my husband would believe me.

            My first week of knowing, I felt great. I was getting by on one cup of coffee even on a 12-hour night shift three days a week. The girls at work knew so they all asked how I was doing and I excitedly responded, “I feel great!” I was still working out almost every day, eating well… pregnancy was a breeze. And then came week 6. The nausea swept over me like a tidal wave, knocking me on my knees… over the toilet bowl. I had no energy, could hardly stomach anything besides crackers and ginger ale, and felt seriously hungover ALL the time. I thought maybe I would beat morning sickness being nocturnal and all. But no, it seemed it only meant that I would be sick in the morning, afternoon, and night with only a few hours of normalcy in between. I dreaded going to work and even had to back out of an eight-week bonus plan where I would work an overtime shift each week for a large bonus. The only thing that seemed to help was being horizontal. I quickly grew sick of ginger ale and saltines. I tried all the little tricks I found online like sucking on lemonheads, ginger pills, drinking soda, snacking constantly. Nothing would help for more than an hour. It was miserable! Of course I had heard of “morning sickness” but this was completely debilitating. No one had warned me about this. Was I just being a big wuss? Should I just suck it up? In addition to the constant hangover, I was cramping at least half the time. I certainly was never warned about that. I was miscarrying? It felt like I was on my period every day. Are these the things that oxytocin makes you forget along with the pain of labor? Why didn’t I know about this?! My dream of having three or four babies was quickly disseminating in my mind. There is no way I could feel this terrible for another two or three go-arounds.

            Now I’m not just being whiny. In fact, most of the time I was feeling so bad, I made sure not to take it out on my husband or complain too much. My days were still filled with nursery planning and name games and I couldn’t have been more excited about the blueberry-sized embryo inside me. Besides feeling terrible, I started to gain weight from not working out and eating constantly to try to keep the nausea at bay. In this early stage of pregnancy, however, no belly was obvious yet so I just felt fat and frumpy.

            Thankfully, around week 12-13, the nausea slowly started to get better. It could have been coincidental but I was also diagnosed with hypothyroidism and put on the correct dose of medication at that time so that may have contributed to my feeling better as well. The second trimester was absolutely awesome. All the discomforts, or most I should say, were gone and I had tons of energy. I started exercising again, I was sleeping well, and work was not unbearable anymore. The first time I felt the baby move, I was exactly 16 weeks. I was eating Mexican food and I swear it was the Serrano peppers that did the trick. It felt like tiny bubbles popping in my lower belly. If I wasn’t paying attention, I would’ve easily missed it. Each day the movements became progressively more noticeable until there was no mistaking what it was. Matthew wouldn’t feel it until about week 22.

            We found out it was a girl at 20 weeks with our friends and family by cutting into a pink cake at a gender reveal party. I have to say it was the best way to have found out and I am so happy we did it. It was SO hard driving from the doctor to the bakery with the results in my hand without peeking but it was totally worth it. We were so surprised to learn it was a girl! I had thought it was a girl from the beginning of the pregnancy but the ultrasonographer said she "got a really great picture" during the anatomy scan so we assumed it had to be a boy. Finding out with our family and friends made for an incredibly emotional and awesome experience that I wouldn't trade for anything. 

     I trekked on in the pregnancy with high expectations. So far everything had gone pretty much textbook. I had the first trimester-filled morning sickness, followed by the energized second trimester. Surely the third trimester would be miserable...