Balance, Health, Pregnancy, Yoga

Reclaiming my physical self 10 minutes at a time

When I was pregnant, I remember lamenting to a coworker how I couldn’t wait to have my body back to myself. I was thrilled to be having a baby, but I missed being able to move freely. All I wanted was to be able to run down the street at full speed or lie on my belly in bed. My coworker responded, “Oh, you won’t have your body back to yourself for a long time, you’re planning to nurse, right?”

And, she was right. Between recovering from pregnancy and nursing my daughter around the clock, my body didn’t feel so much like mine anymore. Of course, again, I didn’t really mind, but exercise became more sporadic, and my eating habits revolved more around feeding her than making myself feel healthy.

Fast forward two years from when I found out I was pregnant and it’s officially time to reclaim my physical self. In addition to wanting to be in optimum shape before I decide to have another little person sometime down the road, this week I accepted a part-time teaching job as a “games specialist” at a Waldorf charter school. While a little different than your traditional PE program, it will be my job to teach children to be physically fit, which in my mind also means I should be physically fit!

So, as I lay on my yoga mat yesterday evening and contemplated my course of action, I realized I should start small. 10 minute increments. I can claim to be too busy for a lot of things, but every single day should include 10 minutes of my own. The month before I got pregnant, I did a 30 day yoga challenge, so it only seems fitting to start where I left off and pick an activity I enjoy.

Beginning today and lasting through the month of July, I’m challenging myself to spend a minimum of 10 minutes a day doing yoga. Whenever possible, I hope to do more, but with 2.5 weeks of travel planned for July, I know 10 minutes is something I can realistically complete.

Will you join me? Do you have a favorite physical activity you can commit to for a minimum of 10 minutes a day? We can give each other virtual high fives on August 1 and feel more accomplished for squeezing a little extra health into every single day, no matter how busy we think we are, (and, hopefully, this will translate into a new life rhythm of more daily exercise).

If you need additional motivation, check out this article about how exercise makes you live longer or, if you’re a fellow yoga enthusiast, join me in following along to Adrienne’s 10 minute yoga video below as my day one pick, (Adrienne also has a fantastic series for 30 days of yoga if you enjoy her instruction). I find the hardest part about consistent exercise is getting started, so I’m hopeful to trick myself into action by committing to just 10 minutes at a time.

We all have 10 minutes somewhere, right?

Attachment Parenting, Babywearing, Birth, Hopes, Pregnancy

Oh What a Year…

Hard to believe her first birthday party has already come and gone!
Hard to believe her first birthday party has already come and gone!

I am sitting in the carnage of a first birthday party. The living room is strewn with presents and bits of wrapping paper. Cards are scattered across the floor, each animal picture carefully kissed and then thrown to the carpet. Somehow the scary stuffed dog that talked to me in the darkness found her way back home.

It reminds me a bit of Christmas and how my dad likes to leave the mess in the front room for days. I get it now. Some messes slow down time.

Two more days until E is officially one. A year ago I prepared for battle. With leaking fluid and a ticking clock, I knew it was just a matter of time before she arrived. I dragged my feet in hopes I could avoid induction. I napped and ate pizza and timed contractions. I cried when the rhythm slowed each time I got into the shower. I cried again when they told me Pitocin was in the cards.

We ate the same pizza at her birthday party yesterday. I had wanted to throw a small celebration at home, but it grew bigger than our little house, so we headed to the park instead. The weather gods were on our side, a glorious spring day outdoors, trees blooming and sun shining bright. I handed her over to her adoring fans despite my desire to hold her close and never let go.

I also walked her home for a few more sweet, sleepy moments on our own.
I also walked her home for a few more sweet, sleepy moments on our own.

It hit me yesterday, as I strolled her to her party (another attempt to slow down time); I have no choice but to share her with the world. With each coming year, she will be more independent. She is not mine to keep forever. I sobbed a deep and unexpected sob as I typed those last words.

This year has been so precious. Ours and (mostly) ours alone. Hours of cuddles and milk, kisses and books, walks and doggies, giggles and sweet time spent curled up together in bed. When I think of all the letting go my parents have had to do with me and my siblings, I begin to wonder if they love(d) us with that same intensity. I know they must and then my heart aches for them and for me and for all parents and all people who deeply love the children in their lives.

Sometimes I worry myself to tears over what would happen if I died without leaving E a lasting impression of what she means to me. Luckily she will always have my words. I print these posts and put them in her baby book just in case the internet disappears but somehow her baby book survives (turns out moms worry about every eventuality).

I am just beginning to grasp the enormity of it all. This past year has ripped me inside out. Gratitude and awe does not even begin to describe it.

One year.

365 days of wild emotion.

I think I will leave the party mess a little longer.

Balance, Health, Pregnancy

What Toxins are Hiding in Your Family’s Bathroom?

A risk level of 3 may seem acceptable for toothpaste, but when I scanned our adult toothpaste and found it was only a 1, Earth's Best no longer seemed like the best option for E.
A risk level of 3 may seem acceptable for toothpaste, but when I scanned our adult toothpaste and found it was only a 1, Earth’s Best no longer seemed like the best option for E, (and, for the record, the new formulation receives the same score).

I have to start this post with a disclaimer. Life is full of too many hazards to obsess about every single product we use. However, I believe it is better to know what we are putting in and on our bodies than to blindly follow the labeling at the grocery store. After all, when a tube of toothpaste is marked as safe to swallow for toddlers, it better actually be safe!

Last night, as I was attempting to keep my eyes open through E’s current sleep regression, (yay for the nightly need to practice standing from 10PM to midnight…), I scrolled past an interesting app on Facebook. While I often wonder whether the products I buy for our family are safe, I usually rely on my own knowledge of ingredients instead of taking the time to research all the ones I know nothing about, (most of them).

Thankfully, the Skin Deep app provides a decent solution. From your smart phone, you can either scan the barcode of the products you use or type in the name of the product if the barcode is not stored in the system. Amazingly, I was able to pull up information on all but one item in our bathroom. The downside, I now have to make sense of what I discovered and decide which products get to stay and which will no longer be on our shopping list.

In the words of Gloria Steinem, “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” Amen, sister, sometimes the truth sucks. Regardless, I thought this app was too cool not to share. What you do with it is up to you– I get that the world is full of plenty of worries. I just appreciate the opportunity to evaluate the safety of our products with such ease of use. My smart phone will be scanning a lot more bar codes at the supermarket. Just wish I had discovered this while E was still in my belly…

Surprising to find that some "natural" brands are really not as natural as they claim, (okay, maybe not that surprising). Still, cool to discover which brands hold true, (way to go Tom's). Earth Mama, which is not pictured here, also scored 0's across the board.
Surprising to find that some “natural” brands are really not as natural as they claim, (okay, maybe not that surprising). Still, cool to discover which brands hold true, (way to go Tom’s). Earth Mama, which is not pictured here, also scored 0’s across the board.
Balance, Pregnancy

Thoughts on Maternity Leave, Before Baby

Oh the memories. This picture reminds me of the tired excitement of those last weeks… And the walking every isle of Costco for exercise on a rainy February afternoon. Thanks, Husband.
Oh the memories. This picture reminds me of the tired excitement of those last weeks… And the walking every isle of Costco for exercise on a rainy February afternoon. Thanks, Husband.

As friends prepare for maternity leave, I cannot help but reflect on those two short weeks I spent at home before E. arrived. In some ways, they felt like an eternity, while in others they weren’t nearly long enough.

Every pregnancy is different, but here are the things I would go back and tell myself:

1. Don’t agonize over how much time to take from work before your due date. California offers four weeks of pregnancy disability, take the four weeks. I went into prodromal labor (a very long, slow labor) with E. three weeks early and had her 12 days before she was due. Originally, I had planned to work until two weeks before my due date. So glad I didn’t. There would have been no break and I was already exhausted in the classroom when I left.

2. Make your pre-baby maternity leave about you. After the baby is born, you won’t often have the luxury of slow showers, long mornings in bed, etc. Even if you are anxious for that little bundle to arrive, force yourself to spend time to yourself. Get your hair cut, indulge in a massage, do whatever you enjoy on your own.

3. Don’t forget your partner. Go on a couple dates, take long walks together, snuggle up on the couch and watch TV. After baby, you will have to work a lot harder to make those moments happen, (especially when you are also competing for time to yourself for basic things like showering and eating).

4. R-E-L-A-X. Watch TV, snack, and nap without guilt. There will be more than enough to do soon and you don’t know when you will need that burst of energy for labor. Get in every restful moment you can, even if it means sleeping during the day in your recliner in the living room.

5. Stop worrying about whether or not you have every item you need for baby. Believe it or not, Amazon will still be waiting for you with two-day delivery and there will (hopefully) be plenty of people in your life willing to run to the store if you need something sooner. Do have a speedy thermometer, though. That’s one thing you don’t want to have to rush to the store for when you have a sick baby and an advice nurse insisting on a rectal temperature.

6. Eat well. You are about to run a marathon. If you eat crap, you may feel like crap. Fuel up with food that makes you feel good. This may be easier said than done when the only thing that sounds good is a greasy pepperoni pizza, but find a way to complement those cravings with something healthy. Green smoothie, perhaps?

7. Getting antsy? Socialize. Schedule lunch dates with friends who work. Visit other moms with babies. Call your mom.

8. Can’t rest anymore and don’t feel like leaving the house? Start a project. Or three. I worked on a children’s book for E. I made a collage out of shower cards. I prepared intricate meals to keep in the freezer for after she was born. Releasing creative energy helps take the anxiety out of waiting for those contractions to get real.

9. Be willing to say no. I remember turning down a friend’s birthday party and cancelling a girl’s night and feeling really disappointed. In retrospect, I didn’t have the energy for those things and it turns out I was only days away from delivering, (I thought I had weeks left). Listen to your body. If you’re exhausted, don’t go out.

10. Above all, be kind to yourself. Let go of any expectations that you’re supposed to be doing any of the above. If you don’t feel like it, don’t, if you do, do. Sounds simple enough, but those last few weeks of waiting are one of the strangest stretches of life. Everything moves in slow motion. As annoying as it is to hear when all you want is that baby, make the most of it. There will be plenty of (wonderful) time with baby soon enough.

Anything I forgot to mention? What advice do you have for parents about to have their first baby?

Attachment Parenting, Health, Pregnancy

Maybe Co-Sleeping is Just as Much about Us…

More often than not, she is the little boss around here... thank goodness for naps!
Thank goodness the boss *usually* falls asleep on the job a couple times a day.

E. is napping in our bed. My fingers move quickly because I never know how long I have until she awakens. Some days I get hours, others minutes. The result is an inability to focus. Do I work on my novel? Do I blog? Do I catch up on sleep?

Undoubtedly, her eyes will open when I have settled into a rhythm on my own. I have learned to save everything we can do together, like eating and cleaning, for when she is awake. Generally, I cannot bring myself to nap. Time alone is worth the occasional deprivation.

This is possibly the hardest lesson of early parenthood. Everything cannot be done. Must prioritize. As much as I love yoga, it has become a once-a-week activity. Today my husband watched E. while I went to class. Tears streamed down my face as I lay in Savasana, thoughts of growing old and E. caring for me instead of the other way around. Life, cyclical and gone in a blink.

Back home, I cuddled her to sleep in our bed, lingering an extra twenty minutes, minutes I could have had to myself but were too sweet to give up. Choosing to sleep in the same space has been on my mind a lot lately. As with anything, not everyone gets it.

Sometimes I question our choice, too, on hard nights, when she cannot sleep and I am stuck beside her for hours to keep her calm. Then I remember like everything before, this will pass. The alternative would require “sleep training,” and I am just not willing to let her scream for long. Some babies go down with less of a fight and E. is called Little Beast for good reason.

Most importantly, when it works, co-sleeping is a beautiful part of our life. Moments together, close, savoring now. We don’t worry she will be in our bed forever. We know the time will come when either we will encourage her into her own space, or she will say “Peace, y’all.” Seeing as how she demands to feed herself already, I have a feeling she will be asking for a “big girl bed” sooner than we expect.

A recent parenting piece in the Washington Post struck a chord. Sometimes the path of less stress is better for everyone. Maybe we could teach E. to sleep on her own with a few nights of intense “training,” but for what? So I would have to get up to comfort her instead of just rolling over? So we could sleep without her in our bed? The truth, co-sleeping is just as much for us as it is for her. We crave the connection, too, her sweet little body curled between us.

When it consistently stops working we will find a solution. Until then, I am happy to watch her nap all snuggled in our bed while I sit in my big, brown chair and steal some minutes for myself to write. Nothing lasts forever. Part of me wishes it would. I cannot help but think back to all the nights I lay awake in bed, pregnant, talking to her in my belly as she twirled about. I already loved her intensely then.

The night we stop sleeping next to E. will be a bittersweet one.