Fitness, Pinterest, & Postpartum Body Image

After S, I lost all the baby weight and then some by about 4 months postpartum, mostly thanks to her food sensitivities. But then I gained some of it back and my weight would fluctuate up and down until I got pregnant with Ellie.
Almost the same thing has happened this time, but it’s been more of a struggle for me this time than last time, both to lose the weight and in how I think about myself.
In addition, other healing has been slower this time around, mostly with diastasis recti. After S I had a teeny one that resolved itself just by being careful for a few months. This time, my midwife said I had a small one, so I checked it myself and it was about 2 fingers and weak but not too deep. By the time we moved it seemed more normal, so I stopped being very careful, which was a horrible idea 2.5 months postpartum while carrying and wearing a baby, a toddler, and lots of stuff, and either I hadn’t been measuring it well or it re-opened to about 3 fingers. It was hard to come to terms with that, both it reopening and being there in the first place, since I had been so careful while I was pregnant. I am still glad I was careful while pregnant because not only could it have been worse, but I was still fairly connected to my core and pelvic floor so that has made it all a little easier.

I’ve slowly been working on closing it again and building strength for more intense exercise with Fit2B (in large part thanks to my sister Cait in a number of ways!), and while my gap isn’t totally closed again I still wanted to write some about it because it has been SO good for me, not just physically, but in how I view my body. I didn’t realize some of the struggles I was having until I started Fit2B and kept hearing Beth talk about being thankful for what my body has done (not bashing it in my thoughts while trying to “get it back”) and how it has been made and used for its purpose. For me that’s also been paired with being surrounded by more older women than I have been for a long time, and I have been challenged just by watching them to not be so concerned with clothes and fitness and all the latest social media fads (things that I never would have thought I was swayed by until I was surrounded by people who aren’t!). And last year I heard a lot of women talk about poor examples their mothers set for them with food and exercise and body image and am so thankful for my mother’s GOOD example of health and moderation, something I pray I will pass on to my girls even as it takes so much self-discipline for me – to eat healthily but not over analyze, to exercise but not obsess, to heal my core but not make it about looking a certain way, to dress in a way that honors God and is respectful to others (right now I don’t love a lot of my clothes, but they’re just that: clothes. If they fit, if they’re cotton, if they’re modest… right now, they stay. I could buy others, but I feel like with the world the way it is that money should go elsewhere, instead of me having a shirt that’s a little more flattering than the old one).

I still have a long way to go, physically (my gap is still about 1.5-2 fingers and deeper than it should be, and I would like to run again but want to gain some more core strength first), but even more to renew my mind to be content with my body the way it is (how it looks & what it can do), eating simple food (read: staying off Pinterest), making do with what we have (not the latest mama/baby gadget), not being so concerned with how so and so disciplines their kids and what they think of me – just generally not being so self-conscious and focused on things that will pass away.
Because as long as the days are right now and as much of a struggle as it is to say no to cravings, this season of littles is going to pass away, this body is going to just deteriorate more, and what’s left is their souls and my soul and that’s where my energy should be going.
Pray for me to be growing in that!

A couple links that have been helpful to me:
Dear Postpartum Mama, You are Beautiful
129 Times to Turn on your Transverse Abs
10 Times to Align
Bare Naked Gratitude
5 Mom Posture Tips
a few more DR links here
This recent podcast from Risen Motherhood has some good thoughts on who you hang out with!

Ellie: After the Birth

Ezra left around 6 AM to go back home to be there when S woke up, and brought her over around 7:30. S was so excited to see the baby (even more excited to see me, though), and loved pointing out all her body parts, kissing her, asking to hold her, etc. Throughout our hospital stay she would go home with Ezra for bedtime and nap but otherwise was mostly there with us and would play in the room, with Hannah, etc. She would get jealous when I nursed Ellie, but we reminded her that it was Ellie’s turn and she would have her turn later, and that she had just/would soon eat some food Ellie couldn’t eat. Mostly she was just excited, protective, and proud, though – she got upset when the nurses would come check the baby’s vitals, and when friends came to visit she would say “baby Ellie!” and point to the baby. We had snacks and some toys/books for her, as well as a stuffed camel that was “from” Ellie and a Melissa and Doug reusable sticker book that kept her occupied for a while.
After a few days at home, she is definitely feeling the change. I kept thinking “what special thing can I do with her right now?” but finally realized she doesn’t want special she wants the normal she had last week… so we are trying to do our normal stuff as much as possible… even when it means snuggling my deflated belly (she was definitely snuggling it for skin to skin and not baby the whole pregnancy…). It’s been hard for me to not have as much time with her but her doing so well has made it much easier on me and I know it will be even easier when I can pick her up and get out of the house with her again (though by then Ezra will be back at work and my mom gone so that will be its own new hard!).

Recovery has been SO much easier this time around. I really have to work at resting, since I feel good but know I have an open wound. The hardest part has been not being able to pick S up or really hold her. Nursing has been a breeze – Ellie is great at it and it helps that I was/am still nursing S some, especially when my milk came in. Afterpains were definitely worse (I didn’t really even have any after S), but otherwise it has felt more like resting than recovering. I didn’t really enjoy the hospital stay, mostly because it was so hard on S and so I wanted to be home. It certainly did help me rest more completely for the first 36 hours postpartum, though, which was good because we had to go back the following two days for Ellie’s bilirubin to be checked and those were rather long and exhausting trips out for the first week postpartum. It was still a few days before I really got any quality time with Ellie, though.

As for emotional recovery – the first week (which is where we are at as I write) was good. I struggled a lot in the weeks leading up to the birth, feeling like God wasn’t listening to my prayers in the way things were working out, especially as it seemed Hannah and/or Ezra wouldn’t be there for the birth, etc. But now that we are on the other side it’s so clear how He really was listening and answered those prayers how we asked and then some! The first night in the hospital lots of memories of PPD were filling my mind as I tried to sleep, but I was equipped with prayer and verses and songs. It has often felt “right there” but so far I have felt pretty stable – the postbirth high was not quite as high, which was a little sad, but if it means the low isn’t as low, then that’s okay. Adding another child is just as exciting but less “monumental” than becoming a mother for the first time, and I think that’s made it an easier adjustment this time, especially emotionally.

I have been so overwhelmed by His grace to us and everything working out how we asked and then some. It’s especially overwhelming because the next day my friend was being induced for preeclampsia and after a long, hard time of labor she had a C-section – and with an induction on the calendar for us I often wondered “why wasn’t that us?” in the first few days – and still wonder it sometimes. But then I was reading in Daniel, and seeing again and again how God rescued people or brought them down so that they could (or because they didn’t) give Him glory. That’s why He gives us times of ease – not to wonder why it is there and why life is so different for us than for those suffering in Syria, but to glorify Him for how He has worked in our lives and use His blessings to love others. If I had to sum up Ellie’s birth story in two words, it would be “answered prayers!”

Specific prayers answered:
Hannah and Ezra here
no heplock
water intact till end
delayed cord clamp
immediate crying, easy nursing
negative blood type
a Doctor whose name I was familiar with and nurses I knew (one a believer!).
S’s excitement and protectiveness
short pushing
S sleeping so well post-birth, especially with Ellie’s nights being a mess
clarity/control

Ellie’s Birth Story

(This is a birth story… so there’s lots of stuff about bodily functions that are normally TMI. It’s also a somewhat condensed version, so if you want all the details just let me know)

Ellie was due either the 13th or 19th of September. S came early so we assumed Ellie would too, but also knew we couldn’t count on it, and leaned toward the ultrasound due date of the 19th. With Ezra’s schedule we weren’t sure if he would be able to be here for the birth or even very soon afterwards, but Hannah was going to be with me for most of the time he would certainly be gone. Even with that, I had felt that I should pray for both of them to be there, knowing it was a long shot, but knowing that God could totally work it out.
Hannah arrived, and still no baby, so we kept busy exploring some and doing odds and ends. A few days later, Ezra surprised us by showing up at home!
Within a few days I was really starting to get antsy, since Hannah only had a week left and we were running out of things to do while we waited. We (mostly jokingly) tried natural induction stuff like eating pineapple, long walks, bouncing on my exercise ball, letting S nurse longer, etc. (NO castor oil, don’t worry) but it was apparent baby just wasn’t ready. I was often having excruciating round ligament pain, but otherwise was really comfortable and not having any signs of labor being imminent. I was feeling much more rested, though, due to having both Hannah and Ezra around to help cook, clean, and take care of S.
Thursday (Sept 15) afternoon Ezra and I spent a while talking and praying since I was feeling so stressed and nervous about the timing of everything. At one point I was curled up on the floor crying and he was just reading to me from the Psalms. I felt so much better after that that I was hoping that (like Hannah and Ezra’s arrivals) it would send me into labor, but nope.
At my 40+ week appointment the next day the midwife had us schedule an induction and NSTs for the next week (this was where having 2 due dates was really frustrating, because even with somewhat of a compromise it was still a few days earlier than we would have liked, so thankfully we never had to decide if we wouldn’t show up). I did let her check me and do a membrane sweep, neither of which I liked or really wanted, but figured it was worth a shot, especially since Hannah only had 3 days left. But it was mostly painful and disappointing, since I wasn’t really dilated at all, so we didn’t think the sweep would do anything. I had some cramping and spotting, but it stopped a few hours later.
Partway through the evening I had a strong contraction and then about half an hour later another one, and was having excruciating round ligament pain. I took a bath after S went to bed, and during the bath the ligament pain lessened and I was able to tell that I was having some lighter contractions in the midst of it, and was seeing some bloody show in the water like I had while I was in labor with S.
But I didn’t say anything before bed, in case it was all just because of the membrane sweep. I rested for a while, but couldn’t get comfortable, again mostly due to ligament pain. Soon I was starting to pick out contractions and then had to breathe through them, especially to stay quiet to not wake up S or Ezra.
At 12:50 AM (Sept 17) I got out of bed and went to the bathroom, and went again and again, which along with contractions getting stronger told me I was in labor. I timed contractions, nervous because of how strong they were even though it was so early in labor… but then found they were 1 minute long and 3-4 minutes apart.
At 1:16 AM I woke Ezra up and we went to the living room. I was on my hands and knees but also somewhat leaning on the birth ball, rocking back and forth while Ezra rubbed my back. I threw up a few times and we turned on music, turned down the lights, and he got me some of my red raspberry leaf tea concentrate and some coconut water.

I was staying quieter than I had with S, really just focusing on breathing and relaxing. Just like with S timing the contractions myself was so important to me so I could see where I was at. But even still, I was starting to get overwhelmed and was commenting to Ezra on how much it hurt and that I couldn’t do it. Which said to us “transition!” but I was also in denial about that because it felt too early, I was still getting a clear break in contractions, and I was thinking so clearly – with S it had all been a blur when I was in transition. I knew it was likely to be a fast labor but it still felt too soon, and I was terrified at the thought of getting to the hospital and being sent back… after all, that morning I wasn’t dilated at all, so I doubted an hour and a half would have gotten me to a 6.
By this point Hannah was awake, and we filled up the tub and I got in, but didn’t get any relief. We decided to call the taxi as soon as we could get ahold of childcare for S, or if we couldn’t, then just call the taxi and Hannah would stay instead of coming to the birth. Finally at about 2:30 AM a neighbor (not on our original childcare list!) said he would be over and the taxi said it would be 5 minutes, so I got out of the tub and got dressed, still wondering if we should go yet since I was thinking so clearly, and in the excitement of getting ready to go was starting to feel more on top of things again… but I was also starting to feel more downward pressure, so we ran down the stairs and out of our apartment building, where I had a contraction on the ground just as our neighbor was walking up, and the taxi driver was getting out of the taxi. The poor guy was so worried – he kept asking if he should call an ambulance while Ezra loaded up the car and assured him we didn’t need an ambulance. A few minutes later we got to the hospital and the driver ran inside to tell the front desk we needed a wheel chair (which was sweet but no way was I going to sit down again) – and one of the desk people ran off to find a wheel chair while the other pushed the elevator button for me and it arrived just as Ezra ran in with all our stuff. We made it into Labor and Delivery, where I had another contraction on the floor while nurses ran up and started asking Ezra questions.
They got me a bed in triage and I threw up again, then after a few minutes of trying to get on my back in between contractions they finally were able to somewhat check me and said they couldn’t totally tell but I was close, so they would get a room ready. Somewhere in there Hannah came, and we moved into the labor room where they hooked me up to the monitors (which never got taken off, which was fine in the end since they didn’t bother me much – sometimes they did increase the round ligament pain, but otherwise I didn’t notice them). They asked if we wanted the heplock (which we had forseen as our biggest battle) and when I said “no,” said that was fine for now and they would just monitor more closely. They also asked what I wanted to wear and I couldn’t think about changing so just said “THIS!” (tshirt and maxi skirt) which they were fine with. I was on my hands and knees in the bed, and the lights were mostly off. Hannah was coaching my breathing and I would often make comments about the pain or not being able to do it to Ezra, but both he and Hannah would encourage me. Each contraction started really horrible but then as I got into my “zone,” breathing and focusing on relaxing, they would get more bearable.
One of the nurses suggested supporting myself on the head of the bed, which was almost upright, and that felt really good. I could feel the baby moving, turning (something I had been nervous about; she was always on the right side and I knew that meant she would need to turn more), and descending, which was excruciating but wonderful at the same time.
The doctor came in and checked me and said I was at 9 cm. It was a doctor I had heard really good things about, so I was glad that that was the case even though it wasn’t one of the midwives. Our main nurse was also the one who had given me the tour of Labor and Delivery and I had really liked her, and another of our nurses I had just met at Bible study a few days before and knew she was a believer and a friend of one of my good friends here.
The downward pressure was increasing and so was the urge to push, but they kept telling me not to yet, so I just tried to do the J-breathing from hypnobirthing and redirect my breathing gently downward.
The nurse checked me again when it got even stronger but said I was only at 8 cm… that was the lowest point for me and I remember saying “no!” The nurses said to call them again when the urge to push was even between contractions.
I don’t remember exactly what happened after that, but soon the urge was there all the time, and the next thing I knew the doctor was in the room asking if I wanted her to break my water. I had always said I wouldn’t let them break it because having a baby en caul sounds like one of the coolest things ever… but all I could think at that time was “get this baby OUT!” so I said yes. At 4:40 AM the doctor broke my water and her hand was still inside when I could really feel baby moving down FAST. I said “SHE’S COMING!” and after that time seemed to speed up.
Pushing was one of my biggest fears going into labor this time around because of how much I hated it with S. I had read a lot about hypnobirthing’s J breathing/breathing the baby out and that was my goal – and while I definitely did push with the most intense urges, for the most part I was able to breathe through the contractions and it really helped. I felt in control of my body (unlike pushing with S), and could tell where baby was and knew when she was crowning – which once more was awful but this time I knew that that was going to be the end, and was able to fight my instinct to tense up/scream and instead managed to keep my voice low/open. Then her head was out, and they were telling me to push for the shoulders – I momentarily freaked out because S’s body had just slipped right out without a push so I was nervous about shoulder dystocia… but she came right out and then I felt her body slip out and she cried almost right away. She was born at 4:50 AM, September 17, after only 3 pushing contractions (10 minutes, but to all of us it felt like 3!).
After putting her on my chest, they asked if we wanted the cord clamp delayed, and we said yes, surprised, since they had previously told us hospital policy was to not delay it! The placenta came really quickly and then they gave me a shot of Pitocin (which I didn’t really want, but since they hadn’t given me the heplock I didn’t fight it, especially since the placenta had come on its own already). The doctor checked and said I had a small tear, and we could leave it or she could stitch it, but if we left it I would need to be really careful and take good care of it… and I figured that as much as I hated being stitched up it would be better to have it done then than have a complication later, so told her to stitch it up. I stayed pretty calm throughout that – I think in addition to all the hormones the decision having been mine really helped – but all those hormones and adrenaline also had me shaking like crazy.
Ellie latched on well very soon after and nursed for a while (another answered prayer! Nursing with S was rough for the first 6 weeks). Then they did her newborn exam – 6 lbs, 13.8 oz, 19.5 inches.
After about four hours (and lots of food… unlike after S I was STARVING) they moved us upstairs.

Overall, I felt more aware of the pain and discomfort than I remember being with Soraya, but I also felt much more in control of my body and response to the pain (staying lower/quieter/directing tension out), and my thinking was much clearer than it had been with S, even sharper than usual at some points. Except for breathing the baby out, I don’t feel like I used stuff from Hypnobirthing as much as that the wording of some stuff in Hypnobirthing helped me apply the stuff from Bradley Method more. It was hard… but God’s hand was so clear throughout and He heard all our prayers, both before and during labor.
The hospital was definitely different than the birth center, but I felt it more in the lack of education we got at the hospital than I did in procedures. Maybe that’s just because they didn’t give us as much info because we were second-timers, but I am SO thankful for how much information and preparation and postpartum teaching and support we received at the birth center.

{I will post more later about recovery and postpartum… this is long enough!}

Postpartum Freezer Meals

This list is mostly for our records so that I know next time what I did this time, but this is what I stocked our freezer with preparing for baby #2! I wanted to make sure we had a good mix of breakfast and snack stuff and meals, as well as some frozen veggies to use as sides and grated cheese to make other meals easier. And I wanted it all to be fairly healthy and some of it paleo or at least gluten and dairy free in case this baby has food issues like S did!
We also had some canned beans, salmon, and corn, and some dry goods like oatmeal, buckwheat, etc. on hand.
I prefer to do freezer meals by doubling a recipe/week for the last few months of pregnancy instead of doing a bunch all at once. We eat half the recipe and freeze the other half.

Meals
Slowcooker sausage spinach tomato soup (minus the pasta. Gluten and dairy free)
harvest spiced chicken stew (paleo)
Beef enchiladas (Ezra’s family’s recipe)
Japanese curry (minus potatoes)
lamb stew with dried plums (paleo)
2 9×13 egg bakes
2 recipes of soaked baked oatmeal (used steel cut oats)
Hawaiian Chicken (paleo)
Maple Dijon Chicken (paleo)
BBQ Chicken (paleo)
Ginger peach chicken (used honey and coconut aminos, so paleo)
Stroganoff
chicken wild rice stew
spicy tuna cakes (doubled, paleo)
spinach & leek soup (paleo)
pumpkin poblano chili (one recipe with 1/2 amount meat + kidney beans, another as written. Just used chili powder though)

Snacks
paleo muffins (double batch, paleo)
spinach quinoa muffins (double batch, without sweetener)
chocolate muffins (double batch. I don’t like these very much, though!)
pumpkin peanut butter bars (as balls, double batch)
groaning cake (1.5 batches)
coconut bars (paleo, double batch)
Red raspberry leaf tea concentrate ice cubes
Coconut oil chocolate

The hardest part was not eating it all before the baby was born!

Ellie

A few days ago we welcomed baby Ellie to our family! We are praising God for a safe and fast delivery, and that both my friend Hannah and Ezra were able to be at the birth, and so far recovery and adjusting to life with two (or life as not-the-only-child, for S) has been pretty smooth. I hope to have the birth story written relatively soon and keep blogging regularly, but we will just have to see! 🙂

Bump 2.0: Third Trimester

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33 weeks

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This was the day I went to buy our double stroller. And it really isn’t the most flattering shirt while pregnant but I was feeling pretty pregnant and still got the “I didn’t even notice you were pregnant.”

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36/37 weeks!

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33 week comparison

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37 week comparison

I don’t really have much to say about the third trimester this time… I’m still pretty comfortable and happy for baby to stay in for a few more weeks. I have been a bit jumpy because I really want her to wait until Hannah gets here, so I really don’t want to go into labor so sometimes freak out at little things that mean nothing (I think my water breaks probably about 3 times a day). It’s hard to believe this pregnancy is almost over… and may be over by the time this publishes, I don’t know! 🙂

I have had no extra energy to exercise, but am trying to make sure we take the long way when going to the park, etc. so I still get some activity in. I’m up and down a lot with S anyway!

HypnoBirthing: Comparing other methods

Whenever I read a book about birth, I often find myself thinking “that’s just like in the Bradley Method” or “Ina May says the same thing!” There often are a lot of similarities in natural birth books. Much of this has to do with the influence of people like Ina May Gaskin, as well as Dr. Grantly Dick-Read, who influenced Ina May, Marie Mongan, and Dr. Robert Bradley. His book is “Childbirth Without Fear,” which I read while pregnant with S. It was geared more towards birth providers, but was still very interesting and focused mostly on the fear  tension  pain connection.

HypnoBirthing, Bradley Method, and Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth all center on the fear/pain connection, with part of that including being informed about birth and your options and what is actually medically necessary, as well as building a positive birth culture. TV and movies most often portray birth as dangerous, frightening, and painful, which influences people’s view of it, although the media portrayal of birth was influenced by the medicalization of birth.
I was surprised the first time I read about how our culture views birth, since my mother had four natural births and didn’t talk negatively about them or about pregnancy, and that mindset was further solidified for me by my mother-in-law, sister, and sister-in-law before S was born.
But it brings up a good point – why don’t we teach our daughters and talk to our friends positively about birth? The opinion of friends and mothers are huge in how a pregnant woman looks ahead to birth, both things that are said in passing and the often lack of any sort of mentoring and teaching in that area.

Some more similarities: a focus on learning to relax your body, visualization, finding good positions to labor and deliver in, and pre-birth exercises to prepare your body. They also talk about pain and how our expectation of what labor will be like greatly affects it (because I had learned through Bradley method to really assess pain and think about whether or not something was painful or just uncomfortable, the only time I would say I was in pain during labor with S was the second half of pushing). All hold that our bodies are designed to birth, and one thing that is not always clear but implied in all is that birth pain doesn’t say flee, but relax, and with that, to remember that the pain of contractions is not BAD but is GOOD and is your body working to get the baby out!
Some of the differences:
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth is not a method like HypnoBirthing and Bradley are. It is a collection of birth stories – not picture-perfect or all the same, but very truthful and raw yet still positive, and then chapters on birthing naturally. There is a lot in there to help you prepare and be informed, but not a lot towards practically practicing for labor.

HypnoBirthing was covered in detail above so I won’t go into it more here. The biggest difference is that HypnoBirthing is less physical and more mental, and that they don’t have you actively push.

Bradley Method goes into the physical processes more than HypnoBirthing, and the visualization in Bradley Method is also more physical – imagining what your body is doing rather than imagery of a flower opening, etc. I couldn’t stand the side-lying/lateral position recommended for labor, and after labor felt like we didn’t really use the method in general, but everything on pregnancy, preparing your body for birth, the husband’s role, and the physical side of what is actually happening in labor were all SO helpful to us, as were the emotional road map (the only way we had any idea I was in transition), and the Six Needs of a Laboring Woman (since then I’ve read numerous articles that support this, especially the darkness part).
My personal preference would be Bradley Method, but would want more info on different labor positions, emphasis on the power of reminding yourself of truth, and breathing the baby out instead of pushing.

However, they all fall short regarding spiritual preparation for birth.
I read “Redeeming Childbirth” during both pregnancies, and while there is a lot I really don’t like about the book, the overall message of viewing difficulties in pregnancy and birth as a time to grow in your relationships, particularly with God, and worship Him is very true and important. I re-read it after reading HypnoBirthing, hoping it would be the “renewing your mind” part I was looking for, but I found that aside from the big-picture ideas, it was even less helpful to me than it was when I read it while pregnant with S.
But I think that learning how to focus on God in birth or any other painful or difficult circumstance is not something that can be taught like a birthing method, as it is so much more individual, and applies in whatever kind of birth you’re having.
Some things that can be helpful to encourage that mindset:
– having a birth playlist of Christian music (I didn’t use this in labor with S, but it was so helpful with minor complications afterwards and also for struggling with postpartum depression)
– verses or phrases up where you will be laboring or for your labor partner to remind you of
– Praying and journaling through fears and worries, and then having truth to remind yourself of when those fears come on, in or out of labor.
In many ways, I feel like this is the “Christian HypnoBirthing” – renewing your mind, by submitting the whole person to the truth in prayer, reading the word, and meditating on truth. And if you’re going for a natural birth, it can easily be paired with techniques found in HypnoBirthing or Bradley Method.

Ultimately, our goal should not be a natural or painless birth, but to birth in a way that turns to God for our help and strength, no matter what our circumstances are.