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My First Time Mom Birth Story

I welcomed my first child on July 29, 2020. This is the story of how she entered the world! If you prefer video, I shared her story on IGTV (linked below). If reading is more your thing, scroll on!

Stella’s Birth Plan

First things first: what was our birth plan? There are mixed opinions about having one. Some will say “kids will do what they want to do, so what’s the point”? But, as a first time mom, I wanted to go into the situation feeling informed and empowered, so I opted to make a loose “birth plan”.

My plan/hope was to have an unmedicated birth: spontaneous labor, no pain meds, and a vaginal delivery. This was for a few reasons:

  • I don’t take much medication (prenatals and the occasional allergy tab)
  • Women have been giving birth since the dawn of time, and no one has been pregnant forever – I was confident the baby would try to come out on her own
  • I don’t like being numbed or feeling out of control
  • I wanted the experience to feel empowering

I knew there was a chance that birth would not go the way I had “planned” but after doing my research and putting thought into it, this was the experience I was hoping for.

Induction Plans Leading Up to Stella’s Birth

Stella was due July 20, 2020. When I first got pregnant and was given my due date, the Doctor told me they don’t let patients enter a 42nd week of pregnancy, and they would want an induction scheduled by 41.5 weeks. Fast forward to my due date and Stella did not arrive. Since I didn’t want to induce if at all possible, I scheduled an appointment for 4 days after my due date, where I would get an ultrasound to check on her development and my amniotic fluid levels. She still hadn’t come by then, so I went to my appointment. The midwife I saw told me everything looked good, but they still recommended induction at the 41 week mark. This meant I had a few less days than I expected (as the Doctor had said 41.5 weeks). She asked that I come in 2 days later for cervical ripening, which would be followed by labor induction the following day (at exactly 41 weeks).

I was so surprised by this suggestion since I had just been told that everything looked good for me to continue on with my pregnancy. But since a medical professional gave the recommendation, I went with it and scheduled an induction. Long story short, as soon as I left the office I didn’t feel right about it and called back to push back the induction date 2 more days. We then got to my induction date (July 28) and I still didn’t feel quite right about moving forward with induction, so I again called to switch my appointment. I scheduled a non-stress test on July 29 to determine if I could continue with pregnancy rather than an induction. It may sound like a lot of back and forth, but I was proud of myself for advocating for what I wanted. I was trying to give Stella every opportunity to come on her own.

Mind you, I was very ready to be done being pregnant – just not enough to compromise the hopes/plans that I had in place. This means I spent a lot of time trying every natural labor induction technique out there. Eating dates and pineapple, drinking red raspberry leaf tea, walking (5+ miles/day), sex, nipple stimulation (I used my breast pump). Since none of these things were too taxing to do, I had no problem doing them daily, though I can say from experience that none of them worked 🙂

Laboring at Home

Anyway, after all of the induction drama, on the night of July 28, around 7PM my contractions started (seems like Stella had heard that her induction was scheduled to start on July 28 at 8PM and she waited until the last minute to make sure she tried to exit on her time!). The contractions started off pain-free, but felt like a consistent tightening in my stomach about every 10 minutes, so I started timing them (if you are in your 3rd trimester I highly recommend downloading a contraction timing app). By 9PM, they were getting closer together and became uncomfortable, so I started laboring on my birthing ball. My husband knew we could be in for a long haul, so he suggested we go to bed and try to get some sleep. We headed upstairs to our bedroom, and I called my OBGYN to ask if trying to sleep would slow down labor. They said I could try to sleep but recommended a warm bath and taking tylenol first. I took the bath then laid down and realized the contractions had become far too uncomfortable, there was no way I could sleep through them. When I called the OB, they also said I should call back when my contractions were coming every 6 minutes for more than 2 hours. From 10PM-12AM, I had painful contractions every 6 minutes or less, so I called back and they told me to head to the hospital.

Labor at the Hospital

When we got to the hospital, things moved pretty slowly due to the pandemic. We usually would have had valet service so we could get straight up to our room, but Colin had to drop me off, then find parking and come back into the hospital. We also had to have our temperatures checked and fill out paperwork sharing that we did not show symptoms. This all took quite some time, so I didn’t get up to labor and delivery until 1AM and my contractions were getting worse and worse.

When we got up to labor and delivery, Colin was sent to the family waiting area and I was sent to triage where to get checked for dilation. It took about 15 minutes for the nurse to come check on me in triage, in which time I was by myself and starting to get EXTREMELY uncomfortable. The contractions had reached a 9/10 on a pain scale and were coming every 2-3ish minutes. I was having very uncomfortable bowel movements (and had been since I was at home), and I was exhausted as I neared 24 hours without sleep.

When the triage nurse arrived to check me, she found that I was 4cm dilated and asked if I wanted an epidural. I said no, but also told her I was potentially reconsidering given the level of pain I was in and knowing that at only 4cm dilated and running on empty, this was becoming really challenging. There is no “estimated time” to get from 4cm to the full 10cm of dilation (where you have to be in order to start pushing). Knowing this and knowing the pain wasn’t likely to get any better, I opted to take the epidural, even though it wasn’t in my original plan. I was surprised to make the decision because the pain outweighed my fear of being numbed, but in the end, I know I made the right decision for me at the time.

Once I agreed to the epidural, I was moved to my own labor and delivery room and Colin joined me there. The anesthesiologist came to administer the epidural (closer to around 2AM). As soon as the epidural started working, I no longer knew I was having contractions, which was helpful so I could try to rest. They were being monitored using a strap around my stomach, so we could see when they were coming, I could just no longer feel them. Stella’s heart rate was also being monitored using a strap around my stomach.

A few minutes after I was given the epidural and got settled in bed, the room suddenly flooded with people. I didn’t know it at the time, but Stella’s heart rate was dropping during some of my contractions (from about 160/170 bpm to 60ish bpm). The nurses flipped me onto my side to see if her heart rate would pick back up, and it did for a bit. The thought was that maybe the umbilical cord was getting pressure in the position I was in, and moving me would relieve that pressure allow her heart rate to come back up. Unfortunately, her heart rate continued to drop during later contractions. About an hour into this happening, the Doctor came in, broke my water and placed a monitor on her head to see if we could get a better read on her heart rate. She explained that if this dip in heart rate continued, she would need to call for a c-section. I understood, but was hopeful that if we continued to shift my position everything would be fine. Around 4AM, the doctor came back and made the call for a c-section, as her heart rate continued to drop without an identifiable reason and I was not at 10cm dilated so was not cleared to start pushing her out.

It was considered an “urgent” c-section, but not an emergency, so my husband was able to be in the room with me. It was also a blessing in disguise that I got the epidural, because this meant that I could receive additional numbing medication rather than getting knocked out for the surgery. We had a curtain up so I couldn’t see anything, but cutting her out was a very quick process. She was taken, checked and cleaned by the nurse, and I was told there was nothing identifiable wrong. We don’t know why her heart rate was dipping. Then she was given to Colin and me as I was getting sewn back up. Seeing her for the first time was a mixed bag of emotions: nerve-wracking, exciting, beautiful.. and so much more.

As sad as I was to have the experience stray so far from what I was hoping for, it was more important to me that my baby was healthy and in my arms. It was still traumatic and has taken a lot of processing on my end, but it helps to remember that birth is one small part of having a baby, and I have a lifetime of happy memories to make with this girl!

What was your birth experience?

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Stella’s Nursery Reveal

Stella’s nursery isn’t 100% complete (we still need curtains and more wall decor) but getting this far was one of the most rewarding feelings! Even if it’s not “done” it is ready for her arrival, which meant many hours of putting together furniture, washing all those cute little baby clothes, and unpacking shower gifts as they arrived in the mail.

One of the more unfortunate ways the COVID-19 pandemic impacted my family was the postponing of Stella’s baby shower. On the list of hardships people faced, this is a small one, but it means that most people did not get to see what we received or experience the joy of seeing someone appreciate the gift you have given. I didn’t call out specific gifters in the video (for the most part) but you can see where your gifts ended up and how it all came together.

Some of my most exciting gifts (like the jogging stroller I got from my best friend Maggie!) aren’t in the nursery, but you can see those here if you’re looking for baby registry inspo:

Harry Potter Themed Nursery

The theme of the nursery is mostly Harry Potter + night sky (kind of like the great hall in Harry Potter) but in light colors, with most of the room being white and grey. I’ve included links below to the brands I referenced throughout, but please feel free to reach out with any questions when it comes to specifics!

Baby Registry Must-Haves

From the video:
6 Drawer Wayfair Dresser
Keekaroo Peanut Changer
Ubbi Weighted Diaper Wipes Dispenser
Charlie Banana All-In-One Cloth Diaper
Ubbi Diaper Pail
Babyletto Hudson 3-in-1 Convertible Crib with Toddler Bed Conversion Kit
Owlet Cam Baby Monitor
Pottery Barn Star Ceiling Mobile
Nursing Chair
Hatch Sound Machine
Boppy Nursing Pillow
Boppy Newborn Lounger
Aden + Anais Harry Potter Swaddles

Not included in the video:
Graco Jogging Stroller
Graco Pack N Play with Bassinet and Changer

What was your nursery theme? What were your baby registry must-haves?

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5+ Ways To Feel Better During Pregnancy

If you’ve ever spoken to a pregnant woman, you’ve likely heard a lot of woes and discomforts (and rightfully so). As exciting as pregnancy is, there are a lot of symptoms and ailments throughout the course of 9-10 months and most of them are not fun. Below, I pulled a list from mayoclinic about what to expect by trimester, paired it with the symptoms listed in “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” and included anecdotes for how I got through any of the symptoms that I experienced. If I didn’t experience a symptom, I left it blank!

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First Trimester Pregnancy Symptoms

This trimester was the most difficult for me, I was hit with almost every symptom and spent 6-8 weeks not feeling like myself. My best overall advice is: know that it does get better. It felt endless at times and I wondered if I would ever feel like myself again, and I definitely do!

  • Tender, swollen breasts. This is not a difficult symptom to deal with, just something I noticed. It was my first indication that I should buy a pregnancy test!
  • Nausea with or without vomiting. I never vomited, but felt nauseous all day, every day from weeks 6-12. I found that eating bland foods, in small amounts, but often, was what helped me get through this. Unfortunately it took a few weeks of serious struggle for me to get that advice and take it (since the last thing you want to do when you’re nauseous is eat something). I also had to start eating something small first thing in the morning (prior to my workout, which I did not usually do and have since stopped doing). Preggie pop drops (a sour flavored hard candy) were also super helpful throughout the day.
  • Increased urination. This was only an irritating factor at night when I would wake up repeatedly to use the bathroom. I didn’t find a solution for this, it just subsided into the second trimester before coming back again in the third!
  • Fatigue. Every day from weeks 6-12 felt like a drag to get through. I had to lower my active calorie goal on my apple watch because I found it so hard to get up and move outside of my morning workout! I did find that the more active I was, the better I felt, but again, it took some time to come to this realization. If there’s ever a next time, I will remind myself that getting up to walk does wonders for my energy level and laying on the couch keeps me feeling lethargic.
  • Food cravings and aversions. This was the most shocking and challenging symptom for me. I went from prepping salads to bring to work every day to being repulsed by raw veggies. I could also not stomach black coffee, I had to get my caffeine in the form of frappuccinos and lattes. During this time period, I moved into pretty much an all-carb diet, and the best advice I have is to just eat what sounds good. This was extremely frustrating for my husband who likes to plan meals and eat healthy, but you truly have to take it as it is and just eat what you can, when you can.
  • Constipation. My usual solutions for constipation would be eating more fiber and drinking coffee to get things moving. With both of those not being an option, this was, again, something I just had to get through. Constipation comes in waves throughout pregnancy as your insides are all shifting around – some people use stool softeners, but I never found it to be so bad that I needed to resort to medication.
  • Heartburn.

Second Trimester Pregnancy Physical Symptoms

The second trimester is known as a bit of a honeymoon phase: most of the first trimester symptoms have passed, and the baby hasn’t grown enough yet for you to be very uncomfortable. I found this to be the easiest trimester where I felt the most like myself.

  • Growing belly and breasts. While it took awhile for me to really start showing,  I did find that I needed new bras right away and that my old bikini tops needed the padding removed or I looked a little ridiculous! This is one of those symptoms that you know is coming and just have to accept – it is both reassuring (the little one is growing!) and frustrating (I don’t know what to wear). This was the time of pregnancy where I struggled with body image the most, because while my body was changing, I had not yet “popped” so I looked different, but not pregnant. Now that I am in my third trimester it is very obvious there is a baby on board.
  • Leg cramps. I didn’t have cramps, per se, but restless leg syndrome kicked in. Yoga, stretching, and epsom salt baths helped alleviate this.
  • Vaginal discharge. Again, this is not a symptom you can mitigate, just something you should know is normal!
  • Skin changes. I had a slight linea nigra form below my belly button. There is nothing you can “do” about this, but again, know that it is normal and most skin changes are temporary.
  • Braxton Hicks contractions. 
  • Nasal problems. 
  • Dental issues. 
  • Dizziness. 
  • Urinary tract infections. 

Third Trimester Pregnancy Physical Symptoms

The third trimester has felt very similar to the second, except with more aggressive fetal movement (Stella loves to dance around when I try to sleep) and difficulty sleeping (likely due to said dance moves, and an increased level of anxiety knowing the baby is COMING SOON!).

  • Difficulty sleeping. As stated above, this has happened on and off in the third trimester due to frequent urination, nerves about the baby coming, restless leg syndrome, and fetal movement making it hard to relax. I’ve found that the less I think about it, the easier it is to sleep. I’ve also used epsom salt baths, stretching and meditation before bed. I have a pregnancy pillow and find that sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn’t. If all else fails, I’ve tried the occasional unisom sleep tab (since it is safe for pregnancy).
  • Frequent urination. Due to baby’s position, there’s a frequent feeling of NEEDING to urinate, not actually frequent urination. When the feeling hits, I think about how much water I’ve drank recently and when the last time was that I used the restroom. If I haven’t drank much and it hasn’t been long, it’s likely just baby’s position and I won’t feel any relief from a trip to the restroom, so I wait it out. Not sure if that’s the best advice, but the difficulty of even a bathroom trip cannot be underestimated at this stage, so the less useless trips I take the better!
  • Backaches. I had sciatica come on early in my third trimester, and it was so sharp that I sought chiropractic care. Within a week of the prescribed exercises and regular adjustments, the pain had subsided! I continued to see the chiropractor with less frequency for the rest of my pregnancy, and I can’t recommend it enough. It made a big difference in my level of comfort and is partially what allowed me to remain active throughout my pregnancy.
  • Shortness of breath. Even with my activity levels, I find myself getting out of breath doing everyday tasks (likely because baby is putting pressure on my lungs). There’s nothing you can really “do” about this, but it is funny to be asked “are you feeling any shortness of breath?” when you try to go out in public during the COVID-19 pandemic. I want to respond “yes, of course I am look at the child I’m carrying!” but know that isn’t the answer they’re looking for, so I say no and move along.
  • Heartburn. I have only had a couple bouts of heartburn and find it pops up when I haven’t eaten for a long period of time. I ordered these papaya enzymes from amazon and found that they work well for the mild heartburn I experience.
  • Protruding navel. My innie has started to become a partial outie – again, nothing I can “do” about it but it is funny to see and experience.
  • Braxton Hicks contractions.
  • Spider veins, varicose veins and hemorrhoids. 
  • Achiness in the lower abdomen or along the sides.
  • Occasional lightheadedness/dizziness
  • Mild swelling of the ankles and feet.
  • Itchy belly.

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Easing Pregnancy Symptoms

While I’ve addressed specific pregnancy symptoms and how I found relief when I could, there are a few things that helped me feel better all-around during pregnancy.

  • Staying active. Going on walks, maintaining my morning workout routine, and doing yoga all helped improve my energy levels and overall comfort.
  • Seeing a chiropractor. Regular adjustments helped me feel refreshed and reduced any little aches and pains that could crop up as my body grew.
  • Epsom salt baths. These helped me relax, reduce aches and pains, and fall asleep easier.
  • Prioritizing fruits + veggies. I have tried to keep my eating during pregnancy fairly similar to how I ate prior to pregnancy. Most of the same principles apply: fruits and veggies priority, and healthy fats are encouraged. If you feel overwhelmed about how to eat to best take care of baby, I suggest reading “Real Food For Pregnancy“.
  • Meditation/yoga/journaling. I used meditation, yoga and journaling to take care of my mental health during pregnancy. Stress hormones pass to baby through the placenta, so stress management is extra important. I also found that getting out in nature and doing affirmations were helpful.

Above all else, remember that pregnancy is temporary, everyone’s journey is unique, and everything is what you make of it. Doing the little things to take care of your health and your mindset can go a long way.

How was your pregnancy? Did you experience any of these symptoms? How did you find relief?

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Third Trimester: My Week in Pregnancy Workouts

Prior to getting pregnant, I thought my activity level would take a drastic hit. I expected motivation would be harder than usual to find, and movement would be uncomfortable, especially in the third trimester. Now that I’m just about 3 weeks from my due date, I can say: my assumptions were wrong.

Pregnancy and Workout Motivation

I thought getting bigger would be what made things harder (which didn’t really happen for me until toward the end of the second trimester), but the hardest trimester for me to find motivation and movement was actually the first trimester. The increased blood volume meant I had to slow down from the start (cardio became hard), the fatigue made getting up for my morning workouts hard, and the morning sickness made it hard to ever get up and move. This was also mentally tough, as this is the trimester when no one knows you’re pregnant, and I work out in a group setting–I felt like I looked like a slacker!

I stuck with it more out of routine than anything, and I noticed I felt SO much better post-workout (as long as I was eating frequently enough). This was a lesson I learned very early on: while the motivation was lacking and it felt like an uphill battle to get moving, once I did get up and move, I felt much more like myself. Now, I’ve kept that mentality in mind throughout my pregnancy! But before we dive into what my training has looked like during pregnancy, let’s touch on how much your baseline level of activity pre-pregnancy matters.

Pre-Pregnancy Workouts and Training

Once you get pregnant, it is not generally recommended that you start a fitness program other than light walking. That’s why, if you’d like to have an active pregnancy, it’s important to establish a good baseline prior to pregnancy, so that you have something to maintain and eventually cut back from as your pregnancy progresses.

Prior to getting pregnant, my training looked like:
Monday: CrossFit, run 2 miles
Tuesday: CrossFit, accessory work
Wednesday: CrossFit, run 2 miles
Thursday: Mobility workout
Friday: CrossFit
Saturday: F45/HIIT + running
Sunday: walk 3 miles

The type and frequency of workouts that you do should be tailored to what you enjoy and can commit to, but if you’re looking for training specifics that will make pregnancy “easier”, I would recommend building a strong core and glutes leading up to your pregnancy. A strong core will help hold everything in a little tighter and keep you more comfortable as your pregnancy progresses. A strong posterior chain/glutes will help counterbalance your growing stomach, leading to less back pain and movement imbalances as your pregnancy progresses.

Third Trimester Workout Schedule

For the first trimester and into my second, I maintained the above workout schedule. Then due to COVID and pregnancy progression, I changed up my format. For my third trimester, my workout schedule has been as follows:
Monday: lower body strength (squat focused) + HIIT/metcon
Tuesday: upper body strength
Wednesday: lower body strength (deadlift focused) + HIIT/metcon
Thursday: light cardio + mobility work
Friday: long metcon/HIIT
Saturday: accessory strength (glute work with resistance bands) + run (~3 miles, sometimes walking is required)
Sunday: 3 mile walk with my husband.
I also make sure to walk daily (preferably outside), using 10,000 steps/day as a guideline (even though this is not based in science, I find it useful to follow).

Pregnancy Workouts

I linked examples of each type of workout above, but if you’d prefer not to click out, see below for examples of each day:
Strength: 5×5 Bulgarian split squats (each leg)
400m run
30 kettlebell swings
30 kettlebell sumo deadlifts
400m run
30 dumbbell squats
30 dumbbell lunges
400m run
30 med ball slams
30 med ball cleans
400m run

5 x 150 ft farmers carry (45# db in each hand)
5 x 6 bent over row (25# db in each hand)
5 x 8 chest press (25# db in each hand)
5 x 6 bicep curl (20# db in each hand)

Strength: 5×5 single leg deadlifts each leg
Metcon: 3 rounds
400m run
30 med ball squat and toss (as close to wall balls as I can get from home)
30 single arm alt db snatch

.75 mile jog
3 rounds:
20 cossack squats
20 runners lunge to hurdler stretch (dynamic)
20 windmills
.75 mile jog

400m run
50 alt db snatch
50 hang clean and jerk
400m run
50 single arm bent over row
50 squats
400m run
50 single arm push press
50 lunges
400m run
Followed by speed ladder drills + bird dogs 

Saturday: 5×10 single leg hip thrusts each leg, 5×5 sumo squats, 3 mile run

Sunday: 3 mile walk (bonus: make it a hike or pick a nearby park to explore!)

Exercise Movements I’m Avoiding During Pregnancy

Even though I’ve been active throughout my pregnancy, I have still been careful to stick with movements that feel good. While there are a lot of “pregnancy safe” exercise lists out there, what’s “safe” for you is truly individual and depends a lot on what you were doing prior to pregnancy. Any adjustments I’ve made are due to my own activity level, personal experience, and conversations with my Doctor. Here are the moves I removed during each trimester:

First Trimester:
– muscle ups
– handstand pushups
note that these are two of my favorite movements, but I cut them out without trying them, I figured the risk wasn’t worth the reward (and they sounded terrible due to morning sickness!)

Second Trimester:
– ab movements that involved crunching my core (ex: toes to bar, sit-ups. I still kept up with dynamic planks, etc)
– heavy barbell work (started to lighten the weights I was using)
– burpees + pushups (cut these out when my stomach started to get in the way)

Third Trimester:
– jumping movements (box jumps, squat thrusts, etc)
– planks and plank variations (I am now only doing bird dogs as a “core-specific” movement as I notice coning with anything else!)
– running (reduced distance, did not cut out)

These were all the result of listening to my body and watching for abdominal coning. If a movement doesn’t feel right, I stop performing it. If I notice my abs peaking in the middle, I also stop. Every pregnancy is individual, and listening to your body is the most important thing you can do.

So, there you have it! Who else has found that activity during pregnancy helps you feel better than inactivity?

Disclaimer: I know these aren’t options for everyone, some pregnancies are higher risk, doctors prescribe bedrest, etc, but given my low risk factors and per conversations with my doctor, this has worked very well for me. That said, while I hold multiple training certifications and am an experienced fitness instructor, I do not know the intricacies of your pregnancy and you should consult your Doctor about activity levels!