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Finn’s Birth Story

**(TRIGGER WARNING: This birth story discusses things related to preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM), an emergency c-section, birth trauma, postpartum depression (PPD), post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). If you believe that reading this will be comprising to your mental health, please feel free to skip this post. Take care of yourself.)**

I’ve been trying to write Finn’s birth story for months. For awhile, I literally couldn’t do it. It was just too painful. But, being that September was NICU awareness month and that Finn was in the NICU, I feel compelled that now is the time to share my story. It’s important for me and my healing, but it’s also important for me to use my platform to help other people know that they are not alone.

To be honest, I’m still having trouble writing it. I have stopped and started many times, taking deep breaths in between. I didn’t go back and edit very much. It’s not going to be perfect. Some of it may be rambling. It’s long. But, all the same, here it is:

Myself, Jack & Sam moments after he was born.

My pregnancy and birth experience with Jack was what I would consider pretty expected. My pregnancy was fairly textbook and uneventful. Even when it was go time for labor my contractions were the typical 45-60 seconds every 4-5 minutes.

I had a hospital birth with Jack and I chose to have an epidural. All around I had a pretty positive experience and we got to go home after a day or two (you can read Jack’s birth story here). And while my birth experience with Jack was what I would consider a good one, I knew when I became pregnant with my second child that I wanted to do things a little differently.

After much discussion about all of our options, my husband Sam and I decided that we wanted to hire a midwife and that we wanted to have a home birth. There was something magical about the thought. No hospital, no doctors, no bright lights…..just us welcoming our baby boy into the world.

I absolutely loved the fact that my midwife came to my home for my prenatal visits. No having to find a babysitter or trying to keep a 2-year-old occupied. We were in the comfort of our own home and Jack was a part of the experience. He really enjoyed putting the ultrasound gel on my pregnant belly and listening to the baby’s heartbeat. My midwife and her student even let Jack listen to his own “baby” after mama had her turn. It was one of the most precious things ever.

It all seemed so perfect. My midwife, Julia, and I agreed that based on my history there really was no foreseeable reason that I shouldn’t be a good candidate for a home birth. I had an uncomplicated vaginal birth with Jack and no serious medical issues to speak of. We should be good to go!

 Of course, I was nervous about contracting and birthing without an epidural. I even briefly talked about the possibility of transport should I change my mind. Even though I knew that I was able and wanted to birth this baby at home, mentally I needed my options.

I had no reason to think that this home birth wouldn’t happen for me and my baby. I was nervous, but I was excited. And the closer his due date got, the more I began looking forward to it.

It was a typical Wednesday night. Sam had just gotten home from work and was getting dinner ready. Jack was “helping” with said dinner. I was sitting in my recliner browsing Pinterest on my phone for home birth décor ideas and essential oil blends that could help with labor. All was well.

Both of my feet were placed on the floor and I decided that I wanted to pick them up to sit crossed legged in my chair, a thing I did regularly.…and that’s when it happened.

All of a sudden my chair was wet. I looked down and my pants were wet as well. At first, I thought maybe it was urine. I had been having bouts of incontinence throughout my pregnancy (which I was seeing a pelvic floor PT for), but this gush seemed so unprovoked. Plus, it was a lot of fluid. A LOT.

“Dang!” I yelled into the kitchen to Sam. “I just peed myself again! I don’t know what happened!” and I rushed to the bathroom.

I sat down on the toilet and the fluid kept coming. I looked. It was clear. It did not smell like urine. I was only 26 weeks pregnant. Did my water actually break? I was terrified.

“Sam! I don’t know what’s happening!”

He came running around the corner from the kitchen to check on me and opened the bathroom door. I was still sitting on the toilet, fluid splashing into the bowl, tears starting to come into my eyes.

“You need to call Julia,” he said, and he went and grabbed my phone.

Still sitting right where I was, fluid continuing to come out, I called Julia on speaker so that Sam could hear. I was now sobbing.

I told her what had happened and she said, very calmly, that I should go to the hospital to get checked out and that she would be there as soon as she could.

Not knowing how long we were going to be there we rushed to grab a few items for Jack’s diaper bag and turned off the stove where dinner was cooking. I grabbed a bath towel and put it between my legs as the fluid continued to come out. Frightened and confused I continued to sob as I grabbed my purse and put on my flip flops. Luckily, the drive to the hospital was a short one.

I cried all the way there, in the elevator on the way up to labor and delivery and at reception. Jack kept saying, “It’s okay, Mama. It’s okay. It’s okay, Mama.” Tara, the receptionist, was a phenomenal presence. She was calm and reassuring as she got me checked in as soon as possible.

I continued to leak and hold my towel in between my legs as we sat and waited for a nurse to come get us. I was so scared. It was too early for this little guy to come. What did this mean for him? What did this mean for the rest of my pregnancy? What did it mean for our home birth plans?

The nurse finally came after what felt like an eternity (although I’m sure it was just a few minutes) and took us back to triage. As I changed into a hospital gown in the bathroom, more fluid came out and splashed on the floor. I was shaking. Sam had to help me tie my gown in the back. Sweet Jack continued to say, “It’s okay, Mama.”

I laid back on the table as the nurse took some preliminary vitals and asked me what had happened. One of the OB hospitalists came in, Dr. Lugenbill, and after her examination she confirmed that my water did in fact break. The medical term is preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM). She assured me that while it was low, there was enough amniotic fluid for baby, that he looked healthy and that they would be giving me medicine to slow and stop progression of labor should it be happening.

“You’re going to be admitted until you deliver,” she said.

Ummmmm……what?!

Unaware that I could cry even more than I already had, I began crying even harder. I was 26 weeks pregnant, and I was going to stay in the hospital 24/7 until I delivered my baby that wasn’t due for another 3 months?

ALL of the things that I would be missing out on flashed through my mind. Mother’s Day. Summer. My birthday. A play that I wanted to go to. My special things that I wanted to do with Jack while it was still just the two of us until his brother arrived. Being at home with my family. Snuggling in bed with Jack in the morning. Sharing a bed with my husband. Our home birth plans. All of it, just like that, was gone.

“As in, I can’t leave until the baby is born?” I asked through my tears.

“That’s right,” she said, as she patted my leg. “I’m sorry. I know that’s not what you want to hear.”

 The whole first night was devoted to making sure that I didn’t go into labor. I was given medications that kept me bound to the bed and that made me a fall risk. They wouldn’t even let me walk to the bathroom. I had to be assisted in using a portable bucket right next to my bed.

Sam stayed with me all of the first night, which wasn’t very restful. The fetal heart monitor was on all night and because the baby was so little, the nursing staff had to keep readjusting the monitor. Not like I was getting a lot of sleep anyway. It was all such a shock.

They say in about 1/3rd of the cases that PPROM is caused by an infection and in the rest of the cases they don’t know why it happened. I was in the “we don’t know why it happened” category. I didn’t appear to have an infection, but they and I would be looking for signs of infection for the rest of my hospital stay.

Throughout the coming days I was assessed and visited by different specialists. A maternal fetal medicine physician told me that if I made it to 34 weeks that the risk of staying pregnant for me went up and for the baby went down, and that it wouldn’t be worth the risk to keep me pregnant. So, if I made it 34 weeks, they would plan to induce labor. I looked at my calendar. That was 7 weeks from the day I was told this. I could potentially be in the hospital for up to 7 weeks.

I hunkered down. I got outside as often as I could. I continued to meet different doctors and specialists. One of the neonatologists came to explain what having a premature baby would look like and mean for us. I got to tour the NICU and ask as many questions as I could think of.

My angel nurse, Shelley, would often check and make sure that I was getting outside and moving around and that I wasn’t just working the whole time. Jack and I made a construction paper advent

calendar that would countdown the number of days until it was until I hit the 34 week mark. But, I didn’t make it that far.

On Friday, May 18, 2018 Sam and I had finally settled on a name for the baby. His name would be Finn, Scottish in heritage, which means warrior. It seemed entirely fitting for the situation that we were in. It turned out that it was a good thing that we had picked out a name.

The next day, Saturday, May 19th. I was 27 weeks 5 days pregnant. Other than my arrival my time at the hospital had been pretty uneventful. I was feeling good, baby was staying healthy and on the inside, everything was seemingly fine. At the last ultrasound I had it showed that Finn was head down and that he had started to make some of his own amniotic fluid. Sam and Jack had come for a visit that afternoon. We took a family walk outside (as we did most days) and had just gotten back to the room. We were talking about ordering dinner.

All of a sudden and out of nowhere I started to feel a little off. A little achy. Then I started having chills. I was starting to see black dots in my vision. I went to the bathroom and didn’t see anything unusual there. It didn’t totally feel like I was getting sick, but I could tell that something was different.

I laid down in my bed and pulled up the covers. Sam and I agreed that I should call the nurse in. When she came in she checked my vitals. All seemed well there. Then she wanted to check Finn’s heartbeat on the monitor. She was having a hard time finding it for awhile, but that wasn’t all that uncommon. He was little and moved around a lot. Many nurses have had trouble finding his heartbeat. She continued to try and with no luck.

She called in another nurse. She tried, and still no luck. They decided to call in Dr. Lugenbill who not only happened to be the doctor that admitted me, but was on the floor that day. Dr. Lugenbill came in and decided that we should do an ultrasound, but rather than making me get up and go to radiology she would bring the machine into the room. While we were having this discussion Finn’s heartbeat finally came up on the monitor.

We were relieved. Jack was starting to get fussy and wanted to go play out in the lobby. Knowing that we had found Finn’s heartbeat and that I was okay, Sam decided to go ahead and take Jack out for a little bit and come back.

That’s when things hit the fan.

Finn’s heart rate was slowing down. The ultrasound showed that he had flipped from head down to transverse. His heart rate wasn’t picking back up the way it usually did. He continued to get a little slower. Dr. Lugenbill said, “We’ve got to take this baby out. Right now.”

I started to cry. Where was my husband? I needed my husband!

She leaned close to me and said, “I know this is hard, but I need you to stop crying to help this baby. He’s saying that it’s time.”

I slowed my breath as much as I could as the silent tears kept spilling. The bed rails were going up. Where was Sam?

“I need my husband. I need him, please.”

As we were beginning to roll out toward the operation room, Sam and Jack were making their way back to the room.

“What’s happening?” Sam said. I could see the fear in his eyes.

“They’re doing a c-section. Call everyone.” I said, still trying to calm myself.

Sam tore himself away from the bed. I could tell how painful it was for him to have to leave me alone. Actually, I could feel it. Because I desperately didn’t want him to go.

They rolled me to the operating room in the NICU. It was so bright. Sterile. The screen went up. Splash. “They’re putting some iodine on you,” said the anesthesiologist. Everybody was talking to each other like I wasn’t there. Roll call. Saying what duties they were assigned to. I was barely being told what was happening as it was happening. It was all going so fast.

The anesthesiologist looked directly into my eyes, “I’m going to put you to sleep now. It’s okay. We’re going to take care of you. We’re going to take care of your baby. Here we go.

Baby Finn: born on 5/19/18 at 8:29 p.m. 2lbs 10.3oz, 14.5″ long

And that’s all I remembered.

Sometime later I woke up in a different room. The recovery room, they called it. There was a nurse to my right. “She’s starting to wake up,” I heard her say.

I remember laying there, not moving. I shifted my gaze from left to right several times. “Where’s my husband?” I could hear myself say. “Can I see my husband, please?” It was definitely my voice speaking but it felt like it was coming from somewhere else.

Sam came into the room and by my side. “He’s okay. He’s stable. I was with him,” he told me right away.

 Finn was in the NICU. It would still be another hour and a half before I could see him.

Finally, after what seemed like a lifetime, they said that they were ready to roll me up to the mother and baby unit. “Can I see him first?” I asked. And they obliged.

They rolled my bed into a hallway and into a dark room. There was my baby. He was tiny. 2 pounds and 10.3 ounces. He had so many tubes, wires and monitors that between all of the medical equipment and my inability to sit up I couldn’t even see his face. It had a little CPAP mask on it. All too quickly, I was taken upstairs.

It would still be another couple of days before I could hold him.

The morning after my surgery Dr. Lugenbill came in to talk to me about my incision. She told me that because of Finn’s size and position that she had to do an inverted T cut, and that if Sam and I planned on having any more children that we should prepare to have another cesarean. More grief washed over me. Not only did I not get to have a home birth, I would probably never have one.

I was in the hospital as a patient for about 4 days. I could have been discharged at 3 days, but I was nervous to have to go home and that I wouldn’t be one floor up from my baby that I opted for as much time as I could get.

The NICU staff told us that the hospital offered “boarding rooms” for NICU parents. What that means is as long as our baby was a patient in the NICU and as long as they had room, we could stay in one of the patient rooms. We took advantage of that for as long as we could, which ended up only being about a week. During that week we were moved from the mother/baby unit to the pediatric unit and were out of the hospital completely after only one night post room change.

I was terrified to go home.

On the drive home everything played backward. Finn in the dark hospital room hooked up to all kinds of things. Me being wheeled in to see him. Me waking up after the surgery. The anesthesiologist looking into my eyes. The cold splash of the iodine. Being wheeled into the bright, cold operating room. The look in Dr. Lugenbill’s eyes when she said that we would be taking the baby out now. Sam taking Jack into the lobby to play. The uneventful days in the hospital before this happened. My first night in the hospital. The triage nurse. Checking in. The drive to the hospital. Holding a towel in between my legs. Picking my feet up to sit crossed legged in my chair. I saw everything.

And every mile, every inch closer that we got home the more shallow my breathing became, the more tears that had started to shed. I was having a full blown panic attack.

I remember being at the bottom of the stairs to our apartment and our landlord coming out to say hi and to talk to us about a lease renewal. “Oh…is this a bad time?”

“Yes,” Sam answered for me. “Sorry, we’ll get back to you on this.”

As soon as I got into our apartment I collapsed on the kitchen floor into heaving sobs. I stayed there for a long time. Sam had to physically pick me up.

 

From that point on everything revolved around Finn’s care times at the hospital. I would go in in the morning and Sam would go in at night. We watched as our sweet boy worked toward breathing on his own, growing and warding off infections. Such a strong boy. Such a warrior.

For 74 days I watched him struggle, overcome challenges and grow. For weeks I went in everyday to see him, to hold him, to do whatever was in my power to help him th

rive. For weeks I listened to and watched those monitors, feeling nervous and helpless. And for weeks I lamented not making it to 34 weeks, staying hospital bound, because at least I could have fought *for* him instead of watching him do it on his own.

For most of those 74 days I stayed in a dark room, alone with my son. Being a NICU parent can be so incredibly lonely. Between Sam’s work schedule and us both coming to see Finn, werarely were together. And we definitely weren’t together as a whole family that often. If it weren’t for the nursing staff in the NICU I might have gone crazy. They have some really amazing people at Salem Health.

I will always remember how incredibly resilient Jack was during this time. How empathetic he was when I checked in to the hospital. How he just rolled with going to the hospital every day for over two months. Seeing the fish and his favorite receptionist were becoming the highlights of his day. I have some pretty amazing boys.

I will always be grateful for how my husband rose to the occasion. How patient he has been with my multiple episodes of falling apart. How, despite all of the things that were going on, he would always attempt to put me first. How he loves and cares for the boys and I. How strong he was even though he must have been terrified. Everyone that came into contact with our family at the hospital told me how lucky I was to have a guy like him. And they are right. I am incredibly lucky.

I will never forget the day that the doctor said, “It looks like Finn can go home tomorrow!” Nervousness and elation flooded my body.

That night we had Jack sleep over with my dad and stepmom and Sam and I spent the night in the hospital with Finn. We rolled up our newborn sleeves and got ready. We got up together at each feeding. We gave him a bath at 5:00 a.m. We did all of the things on the discharge list that there was to do. Sam packed up all of Finn’s things and took them down to the car and came back up. Now we just sat and waited for a nurse to walk us out.

As we walked toward the elevator I thought of each and every nurse and doctor that we came into contact with. I thought of how I would miss certain ones. We had gotten into a routine, but now, it was time for the next phase. We walked outside and into the sunlight. Finn was 2 ½ months old and this was his first time outside. It was incredible to think about.

“Congratulations,” the nurse said. She gave us each a hug and turned to walk away.

Kind of in a daze Sam and I both got into the car. And we both sobbed.

We’ve been dreaming about this day for weeks and it was finally here. We were out of the hospital. No more monitors. No more cords. No more tubes. No more dark rooms. No more having to go through two doors of security to get to our son. No more trying to keep Jack occupied and quiet so that we could spend time together as a family of four in a small hospital room. We were on the outside, with our baby. Our warrior. We could take Finn wherever we pleased.

This experience has changed my family forever. The significance and the impact runs deep. From now on our life experiences will be categorized into two parts: before this happened, and after this happened. It has simultaneously challenged and strengthened my marriage.

I have been struggling with significant postpartum depression and post traumatic stress disorder. I have panic attacks. There are days when the depression runs so deep that I can barely speak or move. There are times my anxiety is so high that I can’t think straight or focus on what I was initially trying to do. I have been in therapy for months and will mostly likely be in therapy for many more.

Writing out this story was really, really hard for me. In some ways, I didn’t want you to know. I didn’t want you to see that I wasn’t handling things all that well. But, in other ways, I knew that writing my story and sharing it with you was one of the most important things that I had to do. You have to know that you’re not alone. You have to know that even though social media is a highlight reel that I’m struggling, too. Sharing this all with you is essential to my healing. It’s a part of the process of letting go.

As for how things are going now I’m in it, not through it. But, I’m through it enough that I feel ready to share this story with you. I feel ready to connect. I hope by sharing my story that you see that nobody is perfect, that everybody struggles and that if you’re struggling with a birth that didn’t go as planned, postpartum depression, anxiety, PTSD, if you have/had a baby or babies in the NICU….I’m here.

And to my fellow c-section moms: having a c-section in no way says that you’re incompetent, that you didn’t “really” give birth, that you took the easy way out, that you’re weak or that you can’t possibly bond with your baby. You’re not less of a woman because you didn’t give birth “naturally.” You are a strong, resilient woman and an amazing mom who did what was best for your child. There’s nothing more primal than that.

Thank you for reading my story. I know it was long. I know it was messy. But, if I touched even just one person by sharing it then it was totally worth it.

Xoxo,

Jill

www.movementduets.com

info@movementduets.com

 

 

 

When I Found Out That I Have Pelvic Organ Prolapse

I started with my core and pelvic floor warm up exercises and then came up to my knees to look at the workout for the day. And then the tears started.

As I sat there with my head in my hands I couldn’t hold it back anymore. I’ve been avoiding this workout for over a week.

For awhile now I have been experiencing some unpleasant symptoms. I feel a bulging in my vagina, especially on the left side. Sometimes when I sit down I feel like I’m sitting on a ball. Sometimes it feels like I have a tampon in even though I don’t. When I squat down to pick up my kids sometimes I feel like I have to poop. Sometimes I’ll go to the bathroom but nothing will happen.

I knew something wasn’t right. And I was pretty certain that I knew what it was. I wanted to deny it and explain it away, trying to line up circumstances with my symptoms. But, when I went to see my pelvic floor physical therapist Shannon at the Pelvic Wellness Center my suspicions had been confirmed: I have pelvic organ prolapse.

If you’re unfamiliar with what pelvic organ prolapse (POP) is, POP is a condition where the muscles and tissues supporting your pelvic organs become weak or loose allowing one or more pelvic organs to descend into or out of the vaginal canal. Signs of POP can include:

  • Feeling a dragging or bulging sensation in your vagina
  • Chronic backache
  • Painful sex
  • Feeling like you have a tampon in when you don’t
  • Trouble keeping tampons in
  • Feeling like you’re sitting on a ball
  • Feeling like things are falling out of your vagina
  • Seeing organs falling out of your vagina
  • Urinary and/or fecal urgency and/or incontinence
  • Constipation

From Manhattan Women’s Health & Wellness

As far as types, there are multiple kinds of prolapse. Types of prolapse include:

  • Rectocele (prolapsed rectum)
  • Enterocele (small bowel prolapse)
  • Cystocele (bladder prolapse)
  • Uterine prolapse (prolapsed uterus)
  • Vaginal vault prolapse (prolapse of the upper portion of the vagina)

In my case, I have rectocele. In other words, my rectum is bulging into the back wall of my vagina and therefore I am not fully eliminating when I use the bathroom.

When my pelvic floor physical therapist gave me this information about my body I felt two ways at once: On the one hand, I was happy to know exactly what was going on with my body and that it wasn’t all in my head. On the other hand, I was devastated about how this would affect my everyday activity and the things that I enjoy.

When I found out that I had POP I didn’t work out for over week. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to face what that meant for my body and my workouts. And when I finally did, I broke down. I identify myself as a lifter. I pride myself in lifting heavy stuff. And now here I was worrying about whether or not doing a step up would make me poop my pants. I felt defeated, humiliated and dehumanized.

As I sat there and cried my 2-year-old son gently placed both of his hands on either side of my face, looked into my eyes and said, “It’s okay, mama.” And I realized that he was right. It was okay. It really was going to be okay.

We used to speak about shifting our focus from what our bodies look like to what they can do, but, what if they’re not doing what we want them to do either? What do I pride myself in then?

I think I pride myself in the effort. Like my very wise, sweet boy said, “It’s okay.” No, I’m not setting personal records right now. But, I am being very mindful of what I’m feeling during exercise, modifying as necessary and working toward healing and recovery. And that’s okay!

My PT said, “It is hard to have some limitations. But with time, healing happens. Focus on the things that you can do, which are many. Just like you would tell your clients.” And dang, she is so right!

For now my exercising needs to be very mindful. I need to avoid things that cause my symptoms to increase. This means leaving out single leg exercises, elevating deadlifts, squatting to high boxes and changing my breathing strategy to whichever way feels most stable and strong. I’ll continue to use my core and pelvic floor breathing in everyday movements with my kids and, of course, will continue to seek pelvic floor physical therapy. This is what I need to do right now, but it doesn’t mean that I’ll be doing this forever.

I want to tell you, too, that POP doesn’t mean that it’s over. You can still do things that you enjoy and with therapy and proper training you can get back some semblance of your normal.

If you suspect that you have pelvic organ prolapse, here are some things that you can do:

Get in to see a pelvic floor physical therapist as soon as possible. Ignoring your symptoms will likely make things worse and healing time that much longer. If you’re in the Salem, Oregon area I highly recommend the Pelvic Wellness Center. If you are in a different area, use this locator tool to find a professional near you.

Be mindful with your training regimen. Avoid anything that creates symptoms or causes symptoms to worsen. Be sure that your personal trainer is familiar with pelvic organ prolapse, your current condition and is working alongside your therapist to help you be successful.

Talk to someone. As a pre/postnatal trainer I not only am familiar with POP and its symptoms, I have clients who have POP and work with them to exercise and manage their symptoms. But, as much as I empathize, I didn’t truly understand the emotional consequences of POP until I became aware of having it myself. It’s okay to have big feelings about this. POP can be really scary! Talk to someone that you trust and/or find a mental health professional who will support you along the way.

If you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to ask. You’ve got this mama. There is hope. And, you’re not alone. 

Jill

www.movementduets.com

info@movementduets.com

P.S. We are committed to being a trusted resource and empowering as many women as we can. That’s why we’re so excited about our upcoming move into our new training space! To get updates and more info, go here =====> MOVEMENT DUETS GYM PROJECT

Goodbye, plans! (And hello new ones)

“I think I want to wait until after Christmas next year to have another baby.”

Photo: Tutu Shots

This was part of a conversation that I was having with my husband over breakfast the morning of December 5th.

I had just received an email that StrongFirst was hosting a SFG 1 Kettlebell certification course in Seattle next September. I’ve been wanting to get this certification for the past 5 years and for one reason or another, the timing was never right. This time, it was right! I was so excited to get serious about training for the course requirements (swing, double clean, press, double front squat, get up and the 5 minute snatch test).

I also was also excited to train for the upcoming Highland Games season again. So, I figured if we waited until after Christmastime to get pregnant that I could compete in the Highland Games in the summer, attend SFG 1 in September and we could go on our family vacation to Southern California that we had been planning since 2016 without being my being pregnant (like I was last time – 8 months!) and without adding an extra family member to our bunch quite yet.

This was the conversation I was having over breakfast with my husband on December 5th. The afternoon of December 6th, I found out that I was pregnant.

Goodbye, plans!

Photo: caitalystmedia

A couple of weeks after I found out that I was pregnant morning sickness hit me like a Mack truck. I mean I was sick All. Of. The. Time. If I wasn’t throwing up I was thinking about it or almost about to. Fatigue and nausea have been really kicking my butt.

My workouts became almost nonexistent. I was averaging maybe one workout a week, sometimes none. I started to feel depressed and I have been feeling more aches and pains this time around. I knew that working out would help alleviate some of these things, but I couldn’t seem to bring myself to increase my frequency.

“I should be working out more,” has come out of my mouth countless times over the past 2 months. And I attributed my lack of activity to how I was feeling. I mean, the first trimester can kind of suck. But, not too long ago, I realized that there was actually more to it than that.

Yes, I’ve been feeling like crap, that’s true. But, I was also really lamenting the loss of my training goals.

I will be 7+ months pregnant when the Highland Games season begins and about a month postpartum if I attended the StrongFirst certification in September. Participating in or training for either of these things at this point is hardly appropriate. But, right before I found out that I was pregnant I felt like I was finally hitting my stride again after having Jack over 2 years ago. I felt strong, capable and was coming off of a high of a recent 275 lb deadlift PR. Getting pregnant felt like starting all over again.

Yes, we were excited to find out that we were pregnant. We always knew that we wanted a second child. But, I also was really bummed that the direction of my training had to change course. And, to be frank, I was feeling a little sorry for myself. “If I can’t do the stuff that I want to do, then why bother?” Kind of sad, right?

They say that you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge. It may have taken me a couple of months to really discover what I wasn’t acknowledging, but I got there. No, I don’t get to train for the “big stuff” like StrongFirst SFG 1 and the Highland Games right now, but I do have something BIG to train for.

Pregnancy and childbirth is also the big stuff! And training for it is really, really important. I want a strong, healthy pregnancy. I want to prepare as best as I can for childbirth. I want to set myself up for a successful postpartum recovery. And focusing in on training for this time in my life is going to set me up to be able to get back to the other big stuff later.

So, I made a 180. It’s time to let go of what I can’t do and focus on what I can. It’s time to train for the big stuff carrying and having a baby!

Jill

P.S. If you’re a coach, trainer or someone who wants to learn more about the ins and outs of training a pregnant and/or postpartum client make sure that you don’t miss the Willamette Trainers and Coaches Summit on March 9th and 10th! Get more event info and register here. (Use the code MCLEAN or TURNQUIST for a discount!)

Too big? Says who?

“You’re too big for him.”

Growing up I never gave much thought to this idea. That I was “too big.” Sure, I had insecurities and struggled with self esteem. I wanted to look pretty, have nice clothes and wished that some things about my body had been different, but I never really considered myself “big.” Not until this moment.

My first serious college boyfriend, his friend and I were hanging out one evening having dinner, and my boyfriend’s friend was studying the two of us closely. “What?” I’d asked. “Why are you staring at me?”

“You’re too big for him,” he blurted out.

Honestly, it was the first time I’d really noticed. My boyfriend at the time was of average height and he was thin. Compared to him, I did look quite a bit bigger. But, I never considered it before. Now it was all I could think about.

In my shock and dismay my boyfriend rushed to my defense and we quickly wrapped up the evening. The car ride home was filled with apologies and “So you’re a little bigger, you’re not fat,” type of statements.

I never saw his friend again (not sad about it). And eventually, my boyfriend and I broke up. But that one statement stuck with me. “You’re too big for him.” You’re too big. And I started to believe it.

The next several years of my life were filled with chasing beauty standards that I would never achieve. I thought that in order to be desirable

At a holiday party. My family was worried about me at this point in my life.

that I needed to be smaller. I started using exercise as punishment. I started starving myself. If I had dessert with friends or a cupcake at a holiday party I went home and did an extra cardio session to work it off. The “fat burning zone” and the “calories burned” counter on the elliptical machine became my guide. When I started to see my spine with more clarity I thought that I was finally beginning to arrive.

Thankfully, I had people in my life who intervened and helped me get back on track with healthy eating and exercise habits (you can read more about that here). And while I never did go back to extreme dieting and 2.5 hour+ training sessions, I thought that all of the head games over my body image was behind me…..until I got pregnant.

The expectations for the expecting woman are intense. Everyone has an idea of how much weight you “should” be gaining per week and how quickly you should be able to “bounce back” after you give birth. And, I’ll be honest…..as a fitness professional, I fell into the trap of putting a lot of pressure on myself to look a certain way postpartum. At first, the weight fell off pretty quickly, but then there was a stall, and I started to worry. “You’re too big.”

But, wait a second…..says who?! The more I thought about it the more I wondered that. Who says that I need to look a certain way? Who says that the postpartum body needs to be erased as if the pregnancy never happened? Who says that I need to weigh a certain amount?

We get to make a choice here. We can either buy what society, media and other people are selling or we get to decide for ourselves what beauty and strength is. Who gets to decide these things for me?

I DO. I get to decide. I get to define my self worth. Not other people. Not the media. Not #fitspiration celebrities. I do.

I’m not “too big.” I’m BIG. I’m powerful. I’m strong. And I have decided to take back what’s always been mine: my esteem, my confidence, my self love and my body.

Jill

P.S. Join our tribe! We’re always look for more women to join us in the quest of gaining strength and confidence on the inside and out. Join our weekly newsletter list or check out our training options here.

3 Ways I De-stress

Things are a little crazy right now.

If you’ve been following Movement Duets for awhile you know that we’re continuing to expand our training options of  in-person and our online group training program Fit Mom Foundations, we’re in the middle of our 2nd annual Making Time for Mom 21-Day Challenge and we’re also preparing to host our workshop, Pregnant to the Core, next month. In addition to all of this, I work part-time at a chiropractic clinic. And to add an interesting twist to the mix, my husband and I share a car and we’re parents to a beautiful, busy 21 month old boy. So….yeah, like I was saying, things are little crazy, haha!

All of this said, even though a lot of it has been good stress, my stress levels have been a little high lately. Now I know that I’m not the first mom to have high stress or a hectic schedule, but living in a frenzied state just isn’t for me (is it for anybody?). So, I’ve had to step up my self care game in order to not let my candle burn at both ends. You know what they say, “If momma ain’t happy……”

Here are three ways that I’m taking action to reduce stress in my life:

  1. Working out. This should come as no surprise. Working out is literally my therapy. When I get in touch with iron I can feel my tension leaving my body. And it’s not just what I feel or what I think, there have been numerous studies showing the benefits of exercise on your mental health.

Almost everybody has heard that exercise helps combat stress by releasing endorphins and other feel good hormones into your body, but more than that, exercise has also been shown to help your brain cope more efficiently with stress. According to an article by the American Psychological Association psychologists believe that “exercise thwarts depression and anxiety by enhancing the body’s ability to respond to stress” by giving the body the opportunity to practice dealing with stress through the imposed demands of physical activity.

So, exercise equals less stress and makes us better at dealing with stress in general….that’s a pretty good deal! And you don’t necessarily have to put in an hour at the gym to get these effects. Simply getting outside and taking a brisk walk can do the same thing!

  1. Prioritizing instead of multitasking. Multitasking has typically been praised as a super skill.  I mean, heck, it’s usually something that people list as a strength in job interviews! And let’s face it, as a mom multitasking is sometimes necessary. But, what I’ve found is that multitasking has been decreasing my quality of life.

I’m constantly placing the demand on my brain to switch gears. I co-own and run a business, I have another part-time job, I’m a wife, mother, friend….I’m answering text messages, emails, writing Facebook posts and breastfeeding the baby, sometimes all at once! I can get so bogged down on trying to be as productive as possible by doing all of these things at once that I feel like I’m not actually being as productive as I thought! And, as is turns out, there’s research to support this:

According to Stanford researchers, “People who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time.” And I’ve definitely found this to be true in my life.

Beyond being less efficient and productive overall, I’ve been finding it increasingly difficult to be present with my husband and son, the two most important people in my life! And as the most important people in my life, they deserve more of me. As I’ve started to prioritize my tasks, completing them one at a time as they’ve needed to be done, I’ve actually felt more productive and therefore less preoccupied during my family time. Plus, I’m seeing more of my family and less of my phone, which feels insanely wonderful.

  1. Getting out of the house on the regular. In the past I’ve had more of a tendency to  hide out when I get stressed out. But, what I had hoped had been the result has more often been the opposite. Don’t get me wrong, I highly value alone time. And especially as a mom that opportunity seldom arises, so to take advantage of it is key. But, I’ve also found great solace and support in leaning in on my friends and family.

And so, I spend regular time with others outside of the house. Sometimes this involves my son and sometimes is doesn’t, but either way, spending time in a different environment with someone who “gets” me always leaves me feeling heard and refreshed.

On the other hand, if I’m feeling stressed and family/friend time is not an option, another way I get out of the house on the regular is just getting outside! Going to the park and going for a walk does wonders for the soul. And even if I don’t actually speak to another person while I stroll, just being connected by nature always does the trick.

Stress is an unavoidable part of life. It’s one of the ways that we grow and develop resilience! But, letting stress take hold of your life in a way that feels constant and defeating can lead to some heavy feelings of anxiety and depression. It can even raise your blood pressure and weaken your immune system!

This is where self care comes in (we’re talking A LOT about this in our Making Time for Mom Challenge)As moms we are constantly doing everything for everyone else and things can become a real grind. I want to challenge you to not be afraid to be a little selfish! Take some time for yourself to exercise, to be in the moment and to spend time outdoors or with others, or to de-stress the way that you know you’ll enjoy! You’re just as worthy of time and attention as everyone else, and I’m certain you’ll thank yourself for it.

Jill

P.S. If exercise is part of your self care game, we’d love to have you come try a training session! Check out our list of services and class schedule here. Or, if you’re not local, check out our online option as well. Ready to get started? Email us at info@movementduets.com.

The Best Exercises For An Amazing Sex Life

Sex is important.

 

It is.

 

Even if you are a mom…ESPECIALLY if you are a mom!

 

Sex can help you stay connected with your partner. It can help you feel a little less like a woman covered in baby spit and yoga pants and more like a woman-hear-me-roar!

 

On a physical level sex can be really beneficial for moms. Sex…more specifically, orgasms, can help strengthen the pelvic floor. A strong pelvic floor is important for avoiding incontinence, something that will affect about 30% of women at some point in their lives. Good sex is like a workout for your pelvic floor muscles. When you have an orgasm, it causes contractions in those muscles, which strengthens them.

 

Sex can also actually boost your immune system! According to sex expert Dr. Yvonne K. Fullbright, people who are sexually active take fewer sick days. Sex boosts antibodies in our body that fight against germs, viruses and other intruders.

 

Sex has also been found to lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease. Sex also can increase libido! The more you have, the more you want. And feeling sexy can be really important to many moms who might be feeling a little like strangers in their changing bodies.

 

Exercise can actually help you have a mind-blowing-health-enhancing sex life. And this is not because exercise will make you thin! It actually has nothing to do with aesthetics. In fact, one study actually found that people who do long bouts of exercise actually have a lower sex drive than people who don’t.

 

So, the type of exercise is really important!

 

Here are the exercises that we recommend to boost your sex drive and your sex life.

 

Leisure Walks

 

Leisure walks, especially walking outside can improve your sex life. Leisure walking has nothing to do with burning calories, but everything to do with balancing your hormones. Leisure walks help lower your stress, which helps to lower the stress hormone cortisol. This not only helps you stay more relaxed, but it also opens the door for more feel good, libido boosting hormones to flood your body.

 

HIIT

 

A recent study showed that short, high intensity workouts can boost your sex drive and improve your sex life. When the intensity is high, remember to keep the duration short. 20 minutes or less is what you are looking for. These workouts should include short bursts of activity, then at least that same amount of rest and recovery. For example, if you sprint up a hill for 30 seconds, you would want to take at least 30 seconds to walk back down the hill slowly to recover.

 

Mobility Exercises

 

Sex is best when we have the option of play. We tend to feel the sexiest when we can do all the things we want to do in the bedroom and out! Sex after baby can be like discovering sex again for the first time. Your body is different. You might have new time constraints. Things that you used to love might not get you going. Or you might want to try new things with your new body!

 

However, many new moms have very tight hips. Postural changes due to pregnancy can contribute to this. Try these three hip mobility exercises to open up your…options in the bedroom.

 

CARs for hips

90/90 PAILS/RAILS

 

 

Shin Box

 Want more information about how to train for a strong body and a healthy sex life? Come see us!

If you’re local to our area, attend one of our pelvic floor workshops! We’re having one at MidValley Birthing Services on March 18th at 10:00 a.m. Get more info about the event and sign up here.

And last, but not least, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it! So often women are too embarrassed to talk about the symptoms that they are experiencing. Let’s normalize talking about the vagina, sex, leaking and whatever else our bodies do so that we can access important information and live our lives with the strength and confidence that we deserve!

 

Why I Care So Much About Your Pelvic Floor

If you were to search our Facebook posts you would probably see the words “pelvic floor” come up about 100 million times. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but we talk about it A LOT. Pelvic floor health is one the most essential and yet often overlooked part of our body’s ability to move efficiently and pain free. Why do I care about your pelvic floor so much?

Because I know too many moms who suffer from chronic low back pain.

Because I am tired of seeing “moms peeing their pants is normal haha” memes (and don’t even get me started on pee pads…..)

Because I know a lot of women who are having painful sex but are too embarrassed to talk about it.

Because I’ve seen the aftermath of high impact exercises performed during pregnancy, and it’s not pretty.

Because I’ve met women who have been suffering from pelvic organ prolapse for 15 years or more that have resigned themselves to just living in discomfort and pain forever.

Because the pelvic floor…..your pelvic floor…..is really, really freakin’ important.

Pause for a moment. If this is your first time learning about the pelvic floor, then it would be neglectful of me not to talk about what it is. If you already know, you can skip this part. If you’re not familiar with it or want to learn more, read on:

Pelvic Floor – What it Is

When people use the term “pelvic floor” what they are generally referring to are the pelvic floor muscles (although the pelvic floor as a whole contains bones and organs as well). The pelvic floor muscles lie between the pubic bone in the front and the tailbone at the back, and form a sling.

The muscles of the pelvic floor function to support the pelvic organs (such as the bladder, urethra, uterus, vagina, small bowel and rectum), assists in urinary and fecal continence, aids in sexual performance, stabilizes connective joints (like the very important sacroiliac joint, or SI joint), and acts as a venous and lymphatic pump for the pelvis.

So, in layman terms, the pelvic floor muscles keep your pelvic organs where they’re supposed to be, they keep you from peeing or pooping when you don’t want to, they help you orgasm, they aid in stabilizing your hips and back and helps circulate blood to your pelvic organs.

So, again, really, really freakin’ important, right?

Why It’s So Important

Julie Wiebe, pelvic floor physical therapist extraordinaire, describes it in the best way I’ve found. I’ll summarize for you what she says:

She likens the pelvis as being the foundation of a house. Sometimes problems with the foundation of the house are really obvious like a crack in the foundation or maybe flooding. But, sometimes, the problem is a little more far removed.

The example Julie Wiebe uses is a leaky window in the attic. The window is leaking and so you go upstairs and try to paint and patch it, but when that doesn’t work the moisture seeps into the wallpaper. And then you have mold in your walls and you end up having to remove part of that wall. And pretty soon a pesky window becomes a whole home renovation project. But, in reality, if you would have taken a look at the foundation first, you may have prevented or fixed that leaky window without all of those extra steps.

So, while there are more obvious signs of a pelvic floor problem like stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse, there are other things that pop up like unexplained low back pain, shoulder pain and even jaw pain.

I’m not necessarily suggesting that every single source of pain is a result of a pelvic floor dysfunction, but with all of its responsibilities and its affect on our body, especially if other treatment modalities haven’t been working, isn’t it worth looking into?

Knowledge is Power

You know that NBC public service announcement jingle “The More You Know?” I feel the same way about your pelvic floor health. When it comes to mamas’ quality of life being interfered with, I care. I care a lot. And that’s why we talk so much about the pelvic floor, how to connect your pelvic floor to your breath and how to incorporate your pelvic floor into your everyday movements so that it, your core, your diaphragm and your multifidus can function the way that they’re supposed to. So that you don’t have to just live with those problems that I mentioned earlier. And it’s my opinion that every mama and mama-to-be should have this information, because you are the ones who have the potential for the most problems.

What to Do

When I was pregnant with Jack I was constantly told that I should expect to pee my pants after childbirth. That leaking when I sneeze, cough, jump, workout, etc. was normal. I refused to believe that this was true. And because of some intentional training and education, I know for a fact that incontinence and other pelvic floor dysfunctions are preventable and they are treatable. Peeing your pants after you have a baby is common, but it’s not  normal.

Here are some things that you can do to help ensure or improve your pelvic floor health:

First of all, I highly recommend if you are planning to become pregnant, are pregnant or have had a baby that you see a pelvic floor physical therapist, especially if you have experienced any of the symptoms that I’ve mentioned throughout this article. Your pelvic floor PT can help you figure out if you have any issues and how to address them. If you’re not sure where to start, use this locator tool to find a pelvic floor physical therapist in your area.

Second, train in the best possible way for your body. One of the first things I did when I got pregnant is I hired a trainer who specializes in pre and postnatal training (I think every good coach should have a coach). How you exercise during and after pregnancy matters, and not to scare you, but exercising in ways that are inappropriate for you changing body can actually be the cause of or contribute to an existing pelvic floor dysfunction and can make diastasis recti worse (to read more about DR, check out this blog). Pre and postnatal exercise is our passion. So, if you want to take the guesswork out of the equation, check out our in-person and online options here.

Third is learn as much as you can about pelvic floor health! Do some research. Read some of Julie Wiebe’s blogs. Check out Diane Lee. And if you’re local to our area, attend one of our pelvic floor workshops! (Follow our Facebook page to be notified of any upcoming events.)

And last, but not least, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it! So often women are too embarrassed to talk about the symptoms that they are experiencing. Let’s normalize talking about the vagina, vulva, sex, leaking and whatever else our bodies do so that we can access important information and live our lives with the strength and confidence that we deserve!

Jill

P.S. If you want more workout tips, recipe ideas, mindset advice and parenting stories be sure to join our free weekly newsletter list! This is where we give out our best information. As a thank you for signing up we’ll send you a free exercise guide for the best core exercises that you can do during pregnancy and after. Not on the list yet? Join now and get your free guide here.

I’m Done with Trying to Be a Perfect Mom

Perfectionism and I go way, WAY back. Certainly way earlier than when I became a mother almost two years ago. I remember moving back home one summer in between semesters of college and getting bent out of shape because my boyfriend at the time had turned a box the “wrong way.” I mean, it was bad.

I’ve made a lot of progress on breaking up with perfectionism over the past couple of years. I’ve stopped beating myself up for making mistakes. I’ve stopped feeling guilty for changing or skipping parts of my workouts. I’ve even relinquished control over how the dishwasher “should” be loaded….which my husband is thankful for.

And if I’ve learned anything in my 22 months of being a mother it’s this: Let go of perfectionism, or you’re going to be one miserable woman.

I’m not just talking about the way that I do things myself, I’m also talking about letting go of being perfect for everyone else, which I’m also an expert at. In my family system I was always “the good one,” and I did it well. I didn’t speak up when I had problems. I hid my mistakes (or at least I think I did. I should ask my mother). I flew under the radar. I tried not to rock the boat in any way that would bring attention to myself. I was always “fine” and I was constantly seeking the approval of others.

And when it comes to motherhood, I can feel my perfectionist tendencies creeping in, too. The first few months of Jack’s life were really tough on me. I had a hard time adjusting to this new life and as much as I love my son, I was seriously depressed. But, it took me weeks to tell anyone or talk about it because I thought that if I admitted it, that that would mean that I wasn’t a good mother or that people would think that I didn’t enjoy being a mother.

Isn’t that seriously ridiculous? Everybody struggles, but for some reason, I was unwilling to admit it. It took bending until I broke and becoming vulnerable enough to allow others in to get the love and support that I needed so desperately.

And while I’ve made some serious progress on letting others in, I still have some work to do when it comes to allowing others’ perception of me to dictate my actions. Awhile back, I went to a baby shower and took Jack with me. We had to park on the street a couple of houses down from where the party was. I thought about just grabbing the blanket I brought, wrapping it around him and taking him inside….but it had been in the 20s, and honestly, I was afraid of being judged for walking in without having a coat on my kid.

So, I grabbed his coat and there we wrestled on the sidewalk for 5 minutes trying to get it on him and to grab his diaper bag, my purse and the present I brought.

Seriously….it would have taken me like 30 seconds to get him inside where it was warm, but, instead we both stood there freezing our butts off for 5 minutes trying to get his coat on.

Why do we do this? Why we do care so much what other people think? I know that if I would have just scooped him up and went inside that he would have been fine, but I was so worried that someone would say, “Where’s his coat?! You didn’t put a coat on him?!” that I went against my better judgement. And you know what? Someone probably would have said something. But, who cares?? As long as I know that he’s safe and taken care of, who cares what anyone else thinks?

Motherhood is already riddled with self imposed insecurities and guilt. Why should I allow other people’s perception or even what I think other people’s perceptions are affect how I live my life? There is no such thing as a perfect mother, and I’m done trying to be. And I’ll do my part by giving other mamas grace and love instead of judgement. And if I don’t think that my son needs a jacket for the 30 second walk from the car to a house, I won’t put one on him, and I won’t feel one ounce of guilt about it.  

Jill

P.S. A judgement-free and supportive environment where you can show up as you are is exactly what Cara and I foster in our tribe. To get weekly workout tips, recipe ideas, mindset advice and parenting stories make sure you get on our newsletter list. This is where we give out our best information. Not on the list yet? You can join the tribe here.

5 Things I Learned From Having a Rainbow Baby

My son Oliver will be one year old in about a week. The time has whooshed by in such a swift (and frankly, unfair) way so fast I can hardly believe it. I am ready to celebrate his life, and as I begin preparations for his party, I am overcome by a petrie dish of emotions…

Ecstasy,

Gratitude.

Sorrow.

Longing.

You see Oliver is my rainbow baby–his birthday is almost the same date as my ectopic pregnancy three years ago and my last miscarriage just a year before his birth. I lost three babies before Oliver was conceived. Their loss, and his survival, has taught me so much about myself.

In early 2014 I was rushed to the hospital, in and out of consciousness with terrible abdominal pain. Within an hour our nurse informed us I had an ectopic pregnancy. My fallopian tube had ruptured, causing rapid internal bleeding. I remember looking into my husband’s eyes as she told us the baby had a heartbeat, and in that moment, I felt the joy and possibility of creating a life with my soulmate at the very instant it was stripped away. Without even speaking, we knew we wanted a baby together.

After I came home from the hospital I mourned the loss. I healed from my wounds. I recovered from the fright of nearly losing my own life. And we started having a lot of sex. In no time at all I was pregnant again.

I was so proud. I walked around like I was carrying a little jewel inside me. I was practically bursting with happiness, so much so that I couldn’t keep it in! I seemingly started telling anyone who even looked in my direction.

Then one morning I started bleeding. I tried not to worry–the doctors told me it was normal. But on Halloween I cried in the dark, trick or treating with my oldest son, bleeding into my witch costume. I just knew. And in just a few days, our baby was gone.

So, again, I healed, rested and recovered. When I felt ready, we tried again, and within a month I was pregnant again. With a bit of trepidation I let the hope and the joy back in. I downloaded an app on my phone to track my baby week by week. I let my mother touch my stomach. But then, once again, after a glorious day hiking with my husband that familiar trickle ran down my leg. Within 12 hours my body was doubled with cramps, forcefully trying to rid itself of my beautiful pregnancy.

I was lost. I sank into devastation. I felt betrayed. When I had my first son everything was so seamless. Besides being a complete surprise (I got pregnant on the pill) the pregnancy was easy. It trucked along without a single complication. It didn’t even occur to me to be worried. So why were these babies that I tried so hard for, that were such a deliberate decision, so elusive?

Once again I rested, I recovered, but I also gave up. No more trying we decided. It was too heartbreaking. We would just love each other hard. We would go on more vacations. We would have a great big life even if it didn’t include a baby. We grieved. We buried our baby in our backyard. And we worked to move on.

Then on the very day when my husband scheduled his vasectomy I thought that I was feeling a little funny. I had an extra pregnancy test squirreled away under the sink in the bathroom. A leftover from what felt like a different life. What the hell? I thought.

And I peed on the stick. And there was Oliver.

This boy. My baby. Our miracle. He arrived just in time.

I only recently heard the term “rainbow baby.” It refers to a child born after miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss. It is a term that holds space for parents to tell their stories of loss and hope.

This last year Oliver has changed my life. Of course all babies change your life! They seriously rock your world! But, there are things that this rainbow baby has taught me that I need to share. This boy who came into this world against all odds has something to share already to make this world a better place!

Gratitude

I simply can’t take Oliver for granted. Each day when he wakes up (and sometimes even in the middle of the night) I think to myself how lucky I am that I have him. I get to see his smile and not just imagine it. I get to feel his snuggles instead of clutching my arms around my own body, visualizing. I get to nibble those tiny fingers and smell that baby hair.

And the realness of it all makes me look around the rest of my life and realize how rich I am in love. I can look around me and feel so lucky every day to have a life so filled with life and love. And feeling gratitude can make you feel really fucking powerful!

Oliver has helped me live in my power. Having him has helped me trust myself to make big, scary life decisions because I know that I’m worth living a BIG FABULOUS life!

Move the Big Rocks

There are days when I can get trapped in the minutia. The house is a mess. I have too many emails to respond to. I forgot to pay a bill. I literally forget that I am supposed to have a BIG FABULOUS life because I feel pulled and distracted by a lot of little things.

But when I look at my sons I realize just how amazing they are. And miracles deserve more than a constant nagging about the small stuff! So, I try not to “sweat it” with them. Instead I try to concentrate on the BIG ROCKS. The big picture.

Maybe I have to remind my oldest constantly to put a coat on before he leaves the house on a cold day. But, he is growing up to be a good person. He is loving and kind and empathetic and creative. He pushes limits in a way that makes me think he will be a champion for good in the world. That he will challenge the status quo in life and force the world to change. And because of his big heart I believe that change will be for the better.

The lessons I want to focus on with my sons are the big ones. The ones about love, compassion, caring, daring and gratitude. Because…at some point…my son will leave the house without a coat, he will be cold, and he won’t do it again, all without my yelling at him!

The Delusion of Control

From before he was even conceived, Oliver was teaching me about control. I simply couldn’t save the babies that I lost. And even when I had decided that I was done trying, there he was snuggled up in my womb. I had special plans for his birth, but he messed those up too! He came on his own terms as a reminder once again that sometimes you have to submit.

Control is really an illusion, especially when it comes to other people. The only thing that we really CAN control is our actions and reactions. So, when Oliver decides in the middle of the night that he is starving or that he just needs some cuddles I submit. I let go. And I choose love and gratitude.

In those dark, quiet moments in the middle of the night, when I am so tired I can barely think straight, I remember that his needs are not under my control. And I settle in, because in those moments, I am the only one who can really show up for him the way that he needs. And I cherish those moments. The smell of him. Those little starfish hands holding my breast. The little humm he makes as he nurses. Letting go and just loving him feels like the most natural thing that I can do in the world.

There Are All Kinds of Mothers

Conception, pregnancy and childbirth are amazing, sacred, womanly experiences. They made me feel incredibly powerful, beautiful and robust. But do you know what feels even more amazing, sacred and womanly?

Mothering.

I am the holder of hurt feelings. The kisser of boo boos. The champion of life lessons. I have the privilege of teaching my two boys about life. I have the privilege of learning FROM my boys about life. And that is powerful.

Holding a baby in my body doesn’t hold a candle to the gift of parenting. And that’s what I grieve when I think of my lost babies. I will never clap when I see them toddle their first steps. I will never hear them sing a song. I will never see the joy on their faces when we hike in the woods. I will never hold them, comfort them, scold them.

Mothers come in all forms. There are mothers who birth their children and raise them. There are mothers who trust others to raise the children that they birth because they know that it is best. There are mothers who never give birth, who adopt and foster. And there are mothers who never get to meet their children, who’s lives are ultimately changed forever by loss. And each of those experiences is big and precious and valid.

Body Image is a Practice and a Journey

When first started to try and conceive after the ectopic I thought I felt pretty good about my body. I had worked really hard to look at my body with love and kindness. To cherish all the amazing things that my body could DO!

But then my body DIDN’T.

My body failed me. It betrayed me. I felt like less of a woman. I was on edge, checking my panties all the time for signs of failure.

As part of my healing process after my miscarriages I had to learn that my relationship with my body is a constant practice. My body is family. I don’t just love it when it does what I want. I love it even in sickness and darkness. Having a rainbow baby helped me realize that I must choose every day to love myself. Some days, like my times of loss, that will be incredibly hard. And others, like when I was pregnant with Oliver, it felt like a daily celebration.

I’m certain that I will teach my sons many things. But I’m also certain that they will teach me just as much. As a verse in the song “Somewhere over the Rainbow” goes,

I hear babies cry and I watch them grow,

They’ll learn much more than we’ll know

And I think to myself

What a wonderful world

5 Tips on How to Exercise During Pregnancy

I remember it very clearly. I was standing in Cara’s bathroom with both hands on the countertop, staring in shock and disbelief at those two pink lines. I hadn’t been feeling any pregnancy symptoms and I was only 1 day late, but Cara encouraged me to take a test. And there it was. I was pregnant.

After my blank stare of shock and doing the happy dance with Cara, we both did 100 kettlebell swings. I know, we’re weirdos. But, working out is how we bonded in the first place and we already had planned on doing this workout together, so….we did it!

But, being pregnant at the same time, we both knew that our workouts were eventually going to have to change. And, I’ll admit, it was fun knowing that we both had to modify what we were doing in order to accommodate our changing bodies.

One of the questions that we get on a regular basis from our mama clients is, “If I wasn’t working out before pregnancy, is now a good time to start?” Our answer, under most circumstances, is a resounding, “YES!” Anytime is a good time to start moving and getting stronger. But, how do you go about it? And, if you already are an avid exerciser, how will pregnancy change your exercise routine?

Don’t worry, girl, I’ve got you covered. Here are 5 tips on how to start exercising during pregnancy:

1. Get medical clearance. Every pregnancy and every woman is different. There may be some special circumstances in which physical activity during pregnancy needs to be restricted or avoided, so be sure to ask your doctor and/or pelvic floor physical therapist to see if any of these considerations apply to you. (Use this locator tool to find a pelvic floor physical therapist in your area.)

2. Be diligent with core and pelvic floor work. During pregnancy, our core and pelvic floor muscles are put through the ultimate test! As your baby grows and your belly expands, a couple of things are going to happen. The connective tissue that runs down the center of your abdomen, the linea alba, will spread and thin, causing those muscles to become lax and your core to become less supported, a condition commonly known as diastasis recti (DR). In addition to DR, the weight of the baby and your uterus will put a lot of downward pressure on your pelvic floor, which will really tax those muscles.

It’s never too early in your pregnancy to start considering the health of your core and pelvic floor. Putting in the time to do core and pelvic floor exercises can help prevent issues like incontinence, low back, hip and/or knee pain and pelvic organ prolapse. They can also help you heal and recover from issues like these and diastasis recti more quickly and efficiently after pregnancy.

We spend time on core and pelvic floor exercises with our online and in-person clients during every workout. They’re an important part of your training program and should be incorporated into every session. (If you’re not sure where to start, you can see a sample warm-up here.)

3. Include exercises that help you have as comfortable of a pregnancy as possible. Throughout your pregnancy, your posture is going to change. As your belly pulls you forward your ribcage will flare up and your pelvis will anteriorly tilt. To prepare for the load, we must do a lot of work to strengthen the backside of the body. In our programs you will see a lot of glute bridges, deadlifts, squats, pulling exercises and core work. You’ll also see variations of body positions with these exercises change over the course of your pregnancy to accommodate your changing body.

4. Don’t push through pain! You’ve probably heard over and over and over again to, “Listen to your body.” While that can be pretty subjective advice, pregnancy seems to be a time that women can more easily learn to tune in to what their body needs. The thing about exercising during pregnancy is that something that feels totally doable one day may be totally not the next…..and that’s completely fine! When this happens we help our clients modify their exercises to be done in a way that feels safe and makes them feel good.

Strength training during pregnancy should feel good and not cause any pain, the exercises should make your core and pelvic floor feel supported and it should make you feel challenged, but not like you got hit by a truck. In other words, if it doesn’t feel right or good, don’t do it!

5. Hire a coach. Yes, Cara and I are personal trainers who specialize in pre and postnatal training, so this may seem like a shameless plug, but honestly, it is something that I truly believe in. Something that you’ll hear me say a lot is that I think every good coach has a coach. When I was about 8 weeks pregnant with my son Jack, I hired a trainer who specializes in pre and postnatal training. I did exercises that were appropriate for each stage of each trimester and I’m happy that I did! Because, as far as all those things that you hear are “normal,” i.e. peeing your pants when you laugh, cough, sneeze, etc. go, I haven’t experienced. Not during pregnancy or after. I also have been able to return to heavy lifting and am making progress past what I was able to accomplish pre-pregnancy. It’s made a world of difference for me in feeling confident on the inside and out. In fact, I’m still with my coach at nearly 16 months postpartum.

If you type in “how to exercise during pregnancy” into your Google search bar, you are going to find A LOT of information. Some of it is good information, some of it is okay and some of it is just flat out harmful to women physically and emotionally. Cara and I were put on this earth to help empower women to have successful and healthy pregnancies, postpartum recoveries and support during the biggest change you will ever face: becoming a mother.

To help you get started, we want to give you a free copy of our exercise guide “The Best Core Exercises for All 4 Trimesters” (the 4th trimester refers to after baby). This guide takes into consideration all of the things mentioned above and will help you navigate this transitional time in your life. You can sign up to receive your free guide here.

And if you’re looking for even more guidance, take advantage of our free one week trial! Get more info and sign up here.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

Jill