Viewing entries tagged
healthy pregnancy

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We Took Pictures This Weekend.

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Mike and I realized we didn't have a lot (or any?) pictures of the two of us together during my pregnancy, especially now that my belly is so prominent. 

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Hiring a photographer was not in the budget, but my parents were nice enough to come over on Saturday and take some quick digital pictures.

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I am a little over 37 weeks pregnant in all of these photos.

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Here is this year's Halloween costume.

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After the quick photo session and some lunch, we stopped in at an eco-friendly baby store. They had this little area set up where they were encouraging customers to take pictures with a pumpkin, so we added some more photos to the day.

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Since we're now considered full-term, our baby in theory could come any time now.

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Yesterday we finished our sixth session of a six-week birth class.

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I'm fine with the baby coming a little early (if that's what the baby wants to do) but Mike and I both really wanted to get through October since it had always been in our minds that we were having a November baby. We just need to get through today and we're there!

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It is also my personal wish to get through the election before the baby is born since there is so much weird election energy in the air. We'll see if the baby agrees.

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We were able to get my parents/ our photographers in front of the camera for this one. Thank you Mom and Dad for helping us document this ninth month of pregnancy!

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Prepping For Baby: Freezing Flautas

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Psst. Check out my Patreon account to see how you can support my writing. 

Our little cupcake has been baking in my oven for over 33 weeks and we are getting more excited every day. We're also getting a little more prepared each day. From setting up the nursery to acquiring a lot of essential items through the generosity of our family and friends, we've been taking a lot of baby steps (see what I did there?) toward getting things ready for our new roommate.

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One of my big projects for this month is prepping and freezing meals that I can then easily heat up once the baby arrives. I typically spend a lot of time during the week cooking. In the first few months especially, I don't anticipate spending a lot of time in the kitchen. However, I do anticipate spending a lot of time hungry. (I've reached the hungry, hungry, HUNGRY phase of third trimester pregnancy and I know it will only increase with breast feeding.) In an attempt to make things a little easier on myself down the road, I'm freezing meals now so I can have quick, healthy options after our baby arrives. 

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The first dish I'm making and freezing is sweet corn and green chili baked flautas. This is a recipe from the original Thug Kitchen cookbook. It's a super simple recipe that only requires the ingredients shown above, so it's a great one for a project like this. It's also easy to double the recipe: one for this week and one to freeze for later. 

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I chose this dish because it's an easy way to squeeze veggies into a super portable meal. Flautas can be picked up easily and I have a feeling that will come in handy on certain days. A lot of the other meals I have planned are more casserole-based, but I needed at least one meal in there that I could easily pick up with my hands. 

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An update on pregnancy itself: Yes, I'm still incredibly tired. That seems to be the hallmark of my pregnancy. In the past few weeks I've also been quite breathless. Standing for even a few minutes can make me feel like I might pass out, but light movement like walking helps. As the little cupcake's apartment gets more cramped, things are getting more uncomfortable for me, too. I feel a lot of pressure on my organs, mostly my bladder and lungs. I like the idea of sharing this space with the baby but I have a feeling we'll both be much more comfortable when we're free to move around a little more. 

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Mike and I have been taking a birth class for the last two weeks. We were so overloaded with information after the first class that we both had trouble sleeping for the next week. Last night's class was better, though we still both woke up an hour before the alarm this morning, unable to get back to sleep. I think the birth classes are solidifying the realness of the impending labor, something I managed to not think about for most of my pregnancy. 

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The thing about childbirth is there's only so much I can actually do to prepare for it. My body will do what my body does, my baby will do what my baby does, and I will do my best to respond accordingly. Although the idea of childbirth is getting more real to me, I still feel distanced from it. I don't think it will be REAL-real until it happens. 

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Meanwhile, my baby is moving more. The issue of baby movement has been a touchy one for me because apparently my placenta is anterior and apparently this makes it more difficult for me to feel movements. It took a long time before I could feel even slight flutters. Now that baby is moving around (possibly doing laps?) in a way I can obviously feel, I am grateful.

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My emotions have surprised me. I do not get weepy over television commercials and I do not cry over nothing like the pregnant women in movies. If anything, I've felt less sensitive during pregnancy than I normally do — but more irritable and more vulnerable. I'm not a fan of strangers getting too close to me. I'm more likely to feel agoraphobic or claustrophobic while out shopping or in group events than I did before. I feel very protective of my body and my space. I feel less inclined to be polite to strangers. When I walked past a man on the sidewalk last week and he yelled out, "Boy or girl?" I just kept walking, ignoring a question I didn't feel like he knew me well enough to ask. Normally I step all over myself to be polite, even when that politeness hasn't been earned. Pregnancy has offered me many moments like this where I surprise myself. 

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Having a pregnancy that coincides nearly perfectly with a presidential election is probably THE most stressful thing to me. The idea that I could bring a baby into a world with a certain leader in charge is too stressful for me to elaborate. 

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By the way, these tin pans came from the Dollar Store and they're perfect for freezing. As an added bonus, we actually have an extra refrigerator and freezer in our garage. It's usually unplugged, but we're going to plug in for the next few months and store big batches of ready-to-go food.

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I think I've reached that point in pregnancy where despite my exhaustion, I have enough worries and emotions coursing through me that I can't easily lie down and take a nap. It feels like all the drama of life should stop and make room for my pregnancy, but that certainly is not the case. I'm still working but it's getting harder to concentrate and unfortunately my job requires nothing but concentration. I'm trying to reach out and be a good friend to people but I'm also trying to spend as much time as I can readying myself before the beautiful storm arrives. It's an overwhelming time but little things like freezing a batch of flautas help me to feel a little more in control. 

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Running By The Numbers

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21 races in the last 21 months

(10 half marathons, 4 10Ks, 1 8K, 6 5Ks)

179.5 total miles

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11 half marathons in the last 3 years

144.21 total miles

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9 half marathons in 9 months

117.99 total miles

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7 half marathons with a baby on board

91.77 total miles

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4 half marathons in the 4-part Oregon Half Marathon series

52.44 total miles

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2 half marathons during my 3rd trimester

26.22 miles

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Pre-pregnancy PR from January: 1:47:06 (3rd place in my age group)

My pace was 8:10 per mile. I never stopped running. 

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Half marathon time today at 30 weeks pregnant: 2:45:43 (40th out of 43 in my age group)

My pace was 12:38 per mile. I walked all the inclines. I walked during all water breaks. I stopped to pee 3 times throughout the course.

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I fell running 3 times over the past 9 years.

I've never had a lasting injury — until my last fall in August, which tweaked my knee in a way that still impacts my running today.

My fastest mile ever: 6:58

My longest run ever: 16 miles

My plan for the next few months before baby arrives: light runs, long walks, lots of rest

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New Cookbook Day: RUN FAST. EAT SLOW.

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I love cookbooks. New recipes, crisp pictures, fun ingredient ideas: a new cookbook opens up a new world. I get excited for cookbooks the way others get excited for clothes or shoes — I see a new one on the market and I simply HAVE TO HAVE IT. For many months I've been getting increasingly excited about the release of a cookbook written by four-time Olympian Shalane Flanagan and chef/food writer/nutrition educator/runner/mother Elyse Kopecky called RUN FAST. EAT SLOW. After all my anticipation, the book was released in August and I finally got my hands on a copy last night during a talk the authors gave at Powell's at Cedar Hill Crossing. 

I'm excited to get cracking on some of the recipes, but before I do I already know I love this book. How do I know this? Shalane and Elyse have a food philosophy that aligns perfectly with my own. They may eat a lot more meat (they are particularly big fans of bison) and their athletic training may be way more elite than mine, but we still share some very similar ideas about food.

Particularly in this country and especially as women, so much of what we're taught about nutrition is bonkers. By focusing so much on avoiding fat, counting calories, and restricting ourselves, food is stripped of both flavor and fun. Restrictive eating leads to hunger which leads to binging which leads to restrictive eating which leads to hunger which leads to binging. Nowhere in that cycle is there room for enjoyment or adequate nutrition. For many years now I've believed — and KNOWN! — that there's a better way. In reading their book, I can see that Shalane and Elyse believe this too.

Their food philosophy is all about "indulgent noursishment." They believe that eating real food and not obsessing over calorie counts or micronutrients leads to optimal body function and satisfaction. We all have the ability to tune into the needs of our own bodies, but some of us have been conditioned for years to participate in diets and other restrictive styles of eating. We've lost sight of the power of our own bodies and minds.

I try hard never to turn food into a moral argument but the fact always remains that I DON'T FEEL GOOD when I eat processed foods or when I skip meals or when I let myself get so hungry that I'm willing to eat whatever is set in front of me. I feel good when I eat whole, real food. I feel nourished. I feel happy. Eating a real meal does not make me want to turn around and eat a bag of potato chips. Eating a bag of potato chips makes me want to turn around and eat a bag of potato chips. Eating real food — the kind that is prepared with fresh ingredients, contains substantial calories, and actually tastes good — is the bridge for everything for me. It's the bridge to a good mood. It's the bridge to a good run. It's the bridge to less stress and higher contentment. There is simply nothing in this world that can or will make me feel better than a healthy, home-cooked meal shared with someone I love. 

In this cookbook, Shalane and Elyse are not messing around. They do not shy away from healthy fats, which are both flavor and nutrient carriers. We've been so conditioned to be so scared of certain types of foods (like foods with real fat) while encouraged to flock to the very foods that will leave us less satisfied and more unhealthy (like low-fat foods pumped with extra sugar). These elite athletes are here to put a stop to this madness and I could not be any more on board.

I'll be trying recipes in the coming weeks and letting you know what I think, but for now I'm just pleased that a book like this even exists. At their talk they said this is the first book geared toward runners that doesn't contain calorie counts, which I find astounding. As someone who refuses to count calories and/or weigh myself* I think this is such a positive step toward establishing healthier food habits for so many people. In my opinion food is meant to be lovingly prepared and happily devoured. When a food relationship is all about trying to look a certain way or be a certain weight, life can get pretty miserable. I have no interest in a miserable life and every interest in loving the food I eat and the body I'm in.

*You don't weigh yourself?! How do you know how much you've gained in your pregnancy? I don't! And I also don't think it's important that I do know. I get weighed at every single doctor's appointment and I know they'll let me know if there's ever an issue. Otherwise, what difference does it make? Keeping active and eating healthfully have been my main goals throughout this pregnancy and as long as I'm sticking to that, I think that's all that matters.

But what about losing the weight after the baby is born?! Before I was pregnant, I thought this would be a concern. The more pregnant I get, the less I care. I want my baby to be healthy and I want to keep myself healthy and the rest just doesn't seem that significant to me. My body will look the way it looks. I will continue to focus on being active and eating healthy and my body can either follow suit or not. I'm much more interested in providing a healthy life for my child. I think the best place for me to start is to introduce healthy food habits early. I don't anticipate my kid caring about how soft my stomach is. I do anticipate my kid caring about whether or not the food I'm serving is delicious and satisfying. 

With Elyse Kopecky and Shalane Flanagan at Powell's in Beaverton

With Elyse Kopecky and Shalane Flanagan at Powell's in Beaverton

Life is crazy enough without making ourselves crazy about food, too. I say: eat real, good food and enjoy every bite. Then get outside for a run (or walk or whatever your preferred mode of activity is) and enjoy that, too. We're humans. We're alive. We're allowed to enjoy ourselves and it's totally possible to do just that while living a healthy life at the same time. 

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Staying Active During Pregnancy (When All You Really Want To Do Is Sleep)

Six months of pregnancy + six half marathons.

Six months of pregnancy + six half marathons.

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Sometimes I think people get the wrong impression of me when they find out I've kept up my running (somewhat and so far) throughout my pregnancy. I've been called everything from badass to hardcore to unstoppable, but none of these descriptors ring true for me. The truth as I see it is that there is one reason and one reason only why I've been able to complete so many half marathons during pregnancy. That reason? I was already regularly completing half marathons before pregnancy. I was already in the physical condition necessary to drag my body over 13.1 miles.

There's nothing I've done during pregnancy to increase my strength or stamina in that regard. Every single week, I've run a little less and a little slower than the week before. During some runs I stop and walk entirely. Other days I skip the run to take a nap instead.

Do I think my routine was pretty badass and hardcore before pregnancy? Absolutely. That's how I was able to break a 1:45 half marathon PR. But since I've been pregnant? I've been in maintenance mode. I have dramatically scaled back the amount of time and effort I devote to running. It may seem impressive to some that I'm still getting out there, but I firmly believe the ONLY reason I'm able to do so is because I worked so hard for an entire year prior to getting pregnant. 

Here are a few things I used to do regularly that I no longer do now: Run fast. Lift weights. Do ab exercises. Do HIIT training. Run on an incline. Go outside and run 10 miles just because I know I can and I like to move my body. I don't do these things anymore. I certainly planned to continue lifting light weights throughout my pregnancy, but I just haven't had the energy. I planned on running more throughout the week, but I don't have it in me. I can complete half marathons still because the muscle memory is there and because I run JUST ENOUGH to not lose my base level of fitness. For the most part, though, I'm not running a lot anymore. 

I'm not saying any of this to disparage myself and try to convince you that running a half marathon while pregnant is nothing. I'm just saying that the reason why I'm still able to carry my pregnant body across finish lines is because I worked my ass off and then some for the year prior to getting pregnant. It's just as simple as that. I worked harder than I've ever worked and thanks to that, I'm still reaping some benefits despite the fact that I've slowed down a lot. 

One of the first things I did when I found out I was pregnant was go out and run 16 miles. My body was in the perfect shape to do it and I knew that wouldn't be the case for long. I wanted a super long run so I could navigate and process all the complex emotions I was going through: I was so excited, so happy, so nervous. Until then my longest run was 15 miles, but I knew I had it in me. I had to take advantage of my body's capabilities while they were still available to me.

Could I go out and run 16 miles today? No way. I can still push myself through 13.1 miles in a race setting but as far as runs I do on my own, the energy level is just not there. To me this is the most interesting thing about people finding out I run half marathons while pregnant: they act like I'm out being superhuman but meanwhile most days, I'm home taking a 4-hour nap. To repeat: most days, I'm home taking a 4-hour nap. There's very little that feels superhuman about that. 

At this point in my pregnancy, I'm no longer a hardcore runner. My runs include walking breaks, pee breaks, food breaks, water breaks, and Let's Cut This One Short Today, I'm Not Feeling It breaks. It's important to me to try and maintain as much of an active lifestyle as possible despite wanting to spend my days napping and snacking, so what do I do? This is what I do.

I walk a lot. 

I take a weekly prenatal yoga class. 

When inspired, I do push-ups against the wall, tricep dips on the coffee table, and squats and lunges in the living room.

I run, but much less frequently. 

I walk up hills. 

I park far away.

I take the stairs.

I walk around the neighborhood. I walk the aisles of grocery stores. I walk up to Mt. Tabor. I walk. 

I have a few gentle prenatal workout videos.

Here's what else I do:

I rest. I sleep. I drink a lot of water. I make sure I'm eating plenty of calories. I listen to my baby and my body and cut workouts short when I don't have the right energy level. I avoid working out outside when the temperatures are too hot. I give myself a break because I'm growing a human and that counts for something. 

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This is why I feel a little strange when people act like the half marathons are some sort of HUGE accomplishment. It's not that I'm not proud of them — I am. I just don't want to give the wrong impression. Guys, I am telling you: when it comes to working out, I truly don't do that much these days. I don't have the energy to carry myself through long workouts. I adore my prenatal yoga class, which challenges my muscles but also feels a bit like a glorified nap. I love strolling around my neighborhood. On the days when I do feel like I have the energy, I love going for short runs. About once a month, I love completing a half marathon. For the most part, though, when it comes to my life day in and day out: I'm resting. I'm sleeping. I'm working. I'm in my robe on the couch. There is nothing badass to see here.

And right now, I think that's totally okay.

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Good Enough For Now

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I have never been a perfectionist.

I spend most of my days makeup-free with my hair in a wet bun.

I prefer candid pictures, even the ones with the weird expression on my face.

I have no problem wearing sweats to the grocery store.

Whether is's a class, skill or recipe, I have no expectations of greatness when I try something new.

I do not get paralyzed with Writer's Block (though I do sometimes get paralyzed with laziness).

I don't think my day of mostly healthy eating is ruined if I eat a few cookies.

I do not spend hours getting ready.

I practically live in my robe.

I've gone to a few adult painting classes and I've found the experience incredibly fun, though I never created a masterpiece.

I've published imperfect essays and lived to tell the tale.

I'm not afraid of self-care the way so many (way too many) women are; I have no problem saying no to a social invite if I know that what I need more is some time to rest.

I'm not overly concerned about what others think of me now that I'm in my thirties.

I'm wearing no makeup and sweating profusely in my last two years worth of Facebook profile photos.

I care about food presentation enough to try and spread out my colors but not enough to try and cut my food in cute shapes, clean up the spills on the side of the plate, or try to make it look restaurant-worthy.

I don't make my income as a model and therefore do not think I need a model's body.

I do not make my income as a photographer and therefore do not think I need to take more than one picture to get it right.

I rarely use filters on Instragram.

If I'm moved to make something delicious and homemade for a potluck I will; if I'm moved to pick up a salad from the deli or a bag of chips and some salsa, I'll do that instead.

I don't feel the need to be perfect and I definitely do not feel the need to present myself as perfect.

I'm not perfect and I'm totally okay with that.

Enter pregnancy. You see, here's the thing about pregnancy (or at least the particular pregnancy I am experiencing): I'm so very tired. My energy level is on par with someone who just smoked a lot of weed and is now binge-watching seven seasons of a TV show. My energy level is on par with some of the residents I used to work with at a retirement center, the ones who would shuffle in their walkers for only a few steps before needing to sit down to catch their breaths. My energy level is nonexistent.

What I'm saying is this. I never made any attempts to be perfect before I was pregnant, but now that I'm here even my super basic way of living feels a little too high-maintenance. I do not want to extend any of my precious energy toward any of the following: making semi-elaborate meals, going grocery shopping, doing chores around the house, getting dressed, chasing after work assignments, or getting everything organized before the baby arrives.

This is what I want to do with the precious amount of energy I do have at my disposal: Sleep and eat. I want to sleep as many hours per day as possible and I want to eat whatever food happens to be most readily available. I want pizzas delivered to my house. I want to wear a mumu. I want to ignore my hair and sometimes skip my shower and I want to do all my work while slightly reclined on the couch (which I'm currently doing)  instead of sitting upright in the office. I want to be fed. I want the laundry and dishes to magically clean themselves. I want to turn on the Food Network and read weird celebrity gossip and eat ice cream sandwiches. 

I've never been a perfectionist but until pregnancy I was always a Good Enough-ist. The kitchen didn't have to be sparkling, but all the dishes would be put away and the counters wiped down. I didn't have to look flawless, but I would put together some semblance of an outfit before going out. I didn't need to be a gourmet chef, but I put effort into making foods with lots of fresh ingredients. I didn't need every post to be uh-mazing, but I did make an effort to consistently post on my blog three times a week. 

Then pregnancy came along. Good Enough has become a thing of my past. Now I'm more about Just Do One Productive Thing Each Day. There are so many days when I feel like that one thing is all I have energy for.  If I get to the grocery store but don't return all my emails, good enough. If I take a shower but never actually get dressed beyond a robe, good enough. If I get my work done but only after pausing for a 3-4 hour nap, good enough. Maybe my standards are low but my energy level is even lower, so I say good enough, good enough, good enough.

I'm so thankful I've never had the desire to be perfect. I've always enjoyed making cupcakes even though I've never learned to frost them in a way that looks anything other than drizzly. I've always enjoyed writing and I don't allow myself to be crippled by the fear of rejection; I just send my work out and see what happens. I've always enjoyed running and it's probably because I'm not measuring myself against anything — I'm just getting out there and enjoying the fresh air and the time to think. 

If I felt like I needed to be perfect — or even great or heck, even good — right now, I think my pregnancy would be miserable. But I'm just not into that. I'm not into torturing myself for the sake of presenting myself well to others. I'm not into feeling like I need to be more than I am. Right now I am tired. Very, very tired. Tired people should rest. Tired people should not spend entire days on their feet, running from one thing to the next. I'm a tired person, not a perfect person. Today I got this blog post done, and today that's good enough for me. 

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Checking In At 27 Weeks

New closet for new baby.

New closet for new baby.

Psst. Check out my Patreon account to see how you can support my writing. 

Today I am 27 weeks pregnant. According to some sources, this means I am entering my third trimester. According to others, I’m a week away. Either way, I’ve made it a significantly far way into this pregnancy. Give or take an early or late arrival, I have 13 weeks to go.

We’ve made a few exciting changes and upgrades these last few weeks. We went from having tiny hole-in-the-wall closets in both our room and the nursery to having normal-sized closets in both. We painted the nursery. (When I say “we” I mean Mike and my mom painted the nursery. My dad and I were in charge of snacks.) Things are starting to feel like they’re coming along. 

As excited as I am about the impending arrival, I’m also finding it impossible not to be stressed about the expenses that keep stacking up. Apparently having a kid costs a lot of money. Who knew? I of course always knew this in an abstract way, but the reality is jarring. For a variety of reasons I’ve had a very dry summer in terms of freelancing, which has coincided perfectly with a pileup of expenses. (One of my main sources of income is for writing that’s used in schools, which during the summer is not in very high demand. I know things will pick up again when September rolls around, but in the meantime my internal voice sounds a little like: Aghhhghggghghghgh!)     

We’ve never been a truly “two income” household because although I’ve always had an income, it’s a paltry income that’s used for specific things like groceries and certain bills. Right now while my paltry income is even less than its normal level of paltry, I’m feeling the burn. As insignificant as it feels to “just” buy groceries, I’m realizing now that it actually is a pretty big help. Freely doing this each week without tapping into our joint account was a beautiful thing. 

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

Today is my parents' 43rd wedding anniversary. I feel very fortunate because throughout my life, I was always shown that you don't need a lot of money to build a happy life. I was raised by a journalist and an artist (my mom's pottery studio was in our basement) who created years upon years of happy memories for themselves and their children. So while I do feel the strain of financial stress heavily right now, I feel confident that everything will work out and equally confident that this huge love I feel is the most important thing I can provide for my baby anyway. 

Financial stress (which will be worked out soon enough anyway) aside, things are starting to feel more real and exciting as we get closer to November. I’m also starting to feel more pregnant than ever. I’ve of course been pregnant all along, but my belly has now reached a point where it feels uncomfortable throughout the day and night. I finally broke down and bought a pregnancy belt that lifts my belly a bit when I run, which in theory keeps some of the pressure off my bladder and stops me from feeling like I have to pee every two seconds. I don’t know if it fully achieves this goal, but it is a slight improvement. 

I’m also still dealing with waning energy, a symptom that never truly went away even during that second trimester so many describe as a magical time in pregnancy. The end of the second trimester is a point in pregnancy when so many women experience a nesting instinct that makes them want to clean and organize everything before the baby arrives. I keep wishing that instinct will kick in for me, but for now my instinct to lie down and take a nap every day is still winning out. 

The most exciting thing that happened recently was that Mike felt the baby move for the first time. It was perfect timing, too: he had just professed his love for the baby and placed his hand on my belly when the little cupcake kicked Mike's hand in response. We’ve been trying for many weeks to get him to feel a kick, so it was an exciting and sweet moment for us. 

This lady is broke and tired and feeling more physically restricted every day. But I’m also full of love for my husband and our baby and our little family. I love the improvements we made to the nursery. I love the possibility of everything that’s to come. We had fun building our registry and thinking about our future life together. The expenses are relentless and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by it all, but we’re healthy and happy and getting ready. The hardest part now is trying to sit still and enjoy the next few months instead of rushing forward to November, even though we’re so excited to get there.

P.S. I’ve always loved this song and it seems especially appropriate now. 

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Super Brain

Baby Brain? Nope. Super Brain!

Baby Brain? Nope. Super Brain!

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I'm a huge fan of the One Bad Mother podcast. Hosts Theresa and Biz are big advocates of taking the judgment out of parenting and instead trying to be supportive of each other. They always make a point of saying "You're doing a great job" to each other and encourage their listeners to extend that message to other parents. When you see a mom dealing with a child's temper tantrum at Target, for example, tell her she's doing a great job. Parenting — and life in general — is difficult enough without dealing with the judgments of the so-called "mommy wars." When we're kind and patient and supportive with each other, things work out better for everyone. 

In an early episode (it was episode 14 if you're interested) of the podcast, Biz and Theresa talk with author Anne Kreamer about what happens to the brain after pregnancy. They discuss how they don't really like any of the terms commonly used to describe the brain shifts that take place with a baby on board. They don't like Mommy Brain, Pregnancy Brain or Baby Brain, all of which have a derogatory edge. They decide to come up with a new way to describe the hormonal, emotional, and chemical shifts. The term they come up with has a much nicer ring: Super Brain. 

"Pregnancy and childbirth actually cause your brain to shrink in size," Kreamer says on the show before noting that it can take up to six months after birth for the brain to go back to its original size.

Theresa points out how absurd it is that "as you're gaining responsibilities and adding more things to your life that you need to be responsible for and take care of and understand, your brain is actually shrinking."

Kreamer goes on to explain that from an evolutionary standpoint, it was never meant to be a mother's role to deal with the demands of a job after childbirth; it was her role to deal with the demands of her child. A child's survival depended on the mother's ability to care for him or her. In our modern world, or course, there is the expectation of parents to return to work as quickly as possible after childbirth and to juggle the roles of the job along with the responsibility of raising a child. 

"It's like going back to work with both hands and your legs tied behind your back," says Kreamer.

The biological responses of parenting are not limited to mothers. Kreamer points out that in men, there is a spike in the nurturing hormone prolactin and a plummet in testosterone. Add in the effects of sleep deprivation (mothers lose an average equivalent of four months of work in lost hours of sleep when they are nursing, Kreamer says) and the result is this: "If 4 million babies on average are born in the States every year, that means that there are 8 million parents at any time in the workplace completely emotionally gaga."

Parenthood changes the brain biologically. These changes start taking place during pregnancy. It's become a big cultural joke to make fun of the way women have a tendency to get emotional or spacey or foggy during pregnancy, but I've found that it's less hilarious when actually living through it. It is a fact that I am not thinking as clearly as a pregnant woman as I did before I was pregnant. One of the very first things I did early in my pregnancy was accidentally shred a check that was sent to me. Since them I've had a series of follies ranging from misplacing my keys to not being able to remember why I walked into a room to straight-up being unable to focus on some of the tasks I used to perform well. Every day when my husband gets home from work, our kitchen is half cleaned. It's like the part of my brain that remembers to finish cleaning the kitchen once I start has just shut down. My whole life has become a series of half-finished errands and projects. I get myself to the store, but then I forget why I'm there. I sit down at my computer to write, but then my brain goes blank. 

One theory I have about this is that parenthood in general and first-time parenthood in particular is so overwhelming that there's absolutely no way I could prepare for it if I was still as focused on all these other aspects of my life. This is the time when we need to be making decisions about the things we need for our baby, the life we'll provide for our baby, the way we'll set up our baby's room, and more. As hard as I try to focus my attention elsewhere (and I realize I'm overstating everything here and of course I have been able to write essays and blog posts and perform tasks and it's not as if my brain has completely stopped working), my focus just isn't there right now.  It is more difficult than ever to pay attention to the topics being discussed at social events or the events going on in the world. 

My brain is being used for such a super-sized task that I agree the only correct way to refer to it right now is Super Brain. I have a Super Brain because, in spite of how distracted and crazy I sometimes feel, I'm still getting some things done. And though the responsibilities we're facing now are nothing compared to what we'll face in a few months, it's true that we are taking on a lot right now. Getting prepared to have a baby has to be one of the most emotionally (not to mention financially) overwhelming things a person can do. We are incredibly excited but we are also like: Whoa. This is a lot.  

I'm giving myself some credit because it IS a lot. The financial cost is a LOT, as any parent can attest. The emotional cost is a lot. We're going to have a whole new person living with us — not just any person, but someone who we want to have the BEST life possible. This baby is going to be our family for the rest of our lives. That is huge. That is monumental. If I get a little overwhelmed thinking about it to the point where I forget about some of my other life responsibilities, I think it's okay. I think it will all balance out somehow.

Whatever you do, don't ask if I have Mommy Brain or Pregnancy Brain or Baby Brian. I have Super Brain, plain and simple. (On an unrelated but possibly slightly related note, I also have a bum knee every since last week's fall. Between my shrinking brain and swollen knee, I'm doing all right for myself.)

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I Fell Today.

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I fell today. This is the third time I've fallen running in a period of nine years. The first was about two weeks before my best friend's wedding, when I was all set to walk down the aisle as a bridesmaid. My twisted ankle was swollen and painful for a long time, but somehow magically felt fine on the big day. The second time I fell was about a week before my own wedding. I scratched myself up but didn't experience any major injuries. You can see a scab on my elbow if you look closely in my wedding photos, but other than that everything was fine. 

Today was my scariest fall because it was the first time I fell with a baby on board. The injuries to my own body are obvious from the picture above: I really scraped up my elbows and hand. The skin is raw and painful and because the knee injuries hit right where my knees bend, walking today has been a bit of a challenge. But obviously I wasn't thinking about any of that when I picked myself up and dusted off. Obviously I was worried about the baby.

In talking to a nurse at my doctor's office, I've learned there are a lot of good signs to my fall. First, the heavy scrapes on my knees and hand mean that I braced myself somewhat and therefore my belly didn't absorb all the impact. Secondly, I haven't experienced any scary symptoms like cramping or bleeding. Finally, I'm still feeling movement from my little one inside my belly. Tracking this movement has been difficult because I've only felt sporadic movements up until this point, but I am very happy to report that since the fall I have felt a few more sporadic movements today. Thanks to a lot of amniotic fluid and the still-small size of my baby at 24 weeks, my nurse (in consultation with my doctor) feels confident that the baby is okay. 

That news is wonderful, but it was still a terrifying experience. The irony is not lost on me that in trying to stay active and do something healthy for my baby, I ultimately put my baby in danger by losing my footing. As much as I try to eat healthy foods and use healthy products, I know I'm still ingesting things in the environment that have the potential to be toxic. There's no such thing as control here. (Side note: I've never considered myself someone who felt like she *had* to be in control, but when it comes to the health and safety of my baby it's true I want to control as much as possible.) But in the end, it doesn't matter how obsessed I am about avoiding certain ingredients or getting regular exercise or trying to put my best foot forward for the little cupcake in my oven. Sometimes my best foot forward trips on gravel and knocks me down in the dust.

I know this is only a preview of what's to come — there will be so many scenarios beyond my control when we're raising a child. But with the child still in my body, I'd like to think I can keep things as healthy and safe as possible. When I can't do that, I feel a little defeated.

But what matters is this: The baby is moving. I am not experiencing any scary symptoms. I think I shook both of us up a little today, but from the outside it seems we're both okay. As for me, I won't be attempting to run again until I'm fully healed. And even then, I think I'll get myself to a park or somewhere with softer trails and take it super easy. I love running and I think the running I've done until this point has benefited my baby, but as always I'll listen to my body and do what seems best for my little running buddy. 

Until then, Baby and I are resting with feet propped, ice pack on, and everything erased from the to-do list for the rest of the day. 

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From Krike's Kitchen: Banza Recipe #4, Spicy Pesto Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes and Nectarines

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Today I'm making another pasta recipe using Banza chickpea pasta. If you haven't been following my previous posts, here's a quick recap: Banza contains two times the protein, four times the fiber, and half the net carbs of traditional pasta. Banza is vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free and egg-free. Banza is made from chickpeas, tapioca, pea protein and xantham gum. Banza is not paying me to speak on their behalf, but they did send me six free boxes of pasta. I have been using this free pasta to experiment with different recipes. In all previous weeks I've followed a recipe, but this week I challenged myself to create my own. I was inspired by recipes I've tried in the past but decided to go completely off-book and create everything from scratch in the moment. The result was a dish that has a creamy pesto sauce with a slight kick mixed with perfectly roasted savory tomatoes and sweet nectarines. 

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To me this dish screams summertime. I ended up using about a third of the tomatoes pictured here, plus two of the nectarines. While the oven preheated to 325, I sliced everything up and placed on a baking sheet covered with tin foil. 

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I sprayed everything with a little spray oil and sprinkled with a touch of sea salt. I baked for 15 minutes on one side, flipped everything over, and baked for 10 more.

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While those roasted, I assembled my pesto ingredients. I used 1 cup of soaked cashews (which I started soaking a few hours prior), 1/4 cup nutritional yeast, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup water, a package of basil, a clove of garlic, a sliced jalapeño, and salt and pepper to taste. If you're sensitive to spice, you could make this with either a deseeded jalapeño or leave the jalapeño out entirely. If you want to kick it up even more, add another jalapeño or choose a hotter style of pepper like habanero. For me, one jalapeño with all the seeds was perfect. 

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There are few things I love more than throwing a bunch of ingredients into a food processor and ending up with something tasty. Making this thick, creamy pesto could not have been simpler.

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From there I boiled a pot of water and threw my pasta in. One thing I love about Banza is that it cooks rapidly. (Did I mention I'm not paid by Banza? I swear I'm not paid by Banza. I just love their pasta.)

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I know I mention this every time I make a recipe with Banza, but I again want to reiterate that it has the taste, texture and appearance of regular pasta. If you're nervous about a pasta made from chickpeas, rest assured there is absolutely no chickpea flavor. This just tastes like straight-up delicious noodles. 

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Look at those beautiful shells, all drained and rinsed. (Do not skip rinsing. If you do, you'll notice a real starchiness and stickiness.)

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I loved the hint of green that came out when I folded the pesto into the pasta, but I couldn't wait for the bold pop of color I knew was coming with the next step. 

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I've been obsessed with roasted tomatoes all summer, but I think the real showstopper in this dish is the nectarines. A little sweetness in each bite makes this pasta refreshing and memorable. 

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The whole recipe took about 20 minutes to make. It is packed with healthy fruits and veggies but does not taste like "health food." This dish got the seal of approval from my husband, who I don't think immediately realized that I hadn't followed a recipe to make it. For a quick, light summertime meal, I think this pasta is perfect.

FROM KRIKE'S KITCHEN: BANZA RECIPE #4, SPICY PESTO PASTA WITH ROASTED TOMATOES AND NECTARINES

INGREDIENTS:
1 box Banza pasta
1/2-1 cup cherry and grape tomatoes
2 nectarines
1 cup soaked cashews
1 handful basil
1 jalapeno
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water
Sea salt
Pepper
Spray oil

DIRECTIONS:
See above.

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Banza Recipe #2: Mediterranean Pasta

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Today I made my second recipe using Banza chickpea pasta and just like last week, I tried to keep things super simple to show how easy it is to throw a few ingredients together and create a healthy pasta meal. If you missed my first post last week, here is a quick refresher: Banza does not sponsor me or pay me, but they did send me six complimentary boxes of their chickpea pasta. The ingredients in Banza are chickpeas, tapioca, pea protein and xantham gum. Banza is vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free and egg-free. Banza contains two times the protein, four times the fiber, and half the net carbs of regular pasta. To find out more, including where it's sold and how to order, visit eatbanza.com.

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This week I went for penne, which I thought would blend with the ingredients nicely. You may recall that last week I forgot to rinse the pasta after I drained it and it had some gumminess. This week I remembered and it was perfect. 

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Since getting pregnant, I've been using a lot of new resources for recipes. One of my favorite resources is the Ovuline pregnancy app, which is where I found this recipe for Healthy Mediterranean Pasta. It's a super simple recipe and easily adaptable (I used vegan butter instead of regular, kalamata olives instead of green, and I subbed in garlic powder since I ran out of garlic. I also used veggie broth instead of wine and added a little bit of the juice from the olives to up the flavor). 

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Fun fact: When I was a kid, I hated cooked mushrooms. The only way I ever ate mushrooms was raw and dipped in A-1 sauce. These days, cooked mushrooms are one of my favorite things. 

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I again cannot emphasize enough how much this chickpea pasta looks, tastes and feels like regular pasta. 

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Remembering to actually rinse the pasta this time made ALL The difference. 

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You'll notice there aren't any artichoke hearts in this picture. The artichoke heart jar turned out to be the bane of my existence. After trying to open it for what felt like hours, I finally had to throw up a white flag and wait for Mike to come home and help me. This was a low point for me as a feminist. 

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Damn you, artichoke hearts!

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All put together — rascally artichoke hearts and all — this dish is just as delicious as it is pretty. Minus the artichoke heart fiasco it took probably 20 minutes to make, tops. For a quick weeknight dinner that somehow tastes both decadent and light, this really hit the spot. 

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Cupcake in the Oven

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My darling husband Mike and I are so excited to be adding a new member to our family in November. We can't wait to meet our little cupcake and in the meantime, we've been learning a lot about pregnancy. If there's one thing I know for sure, it's that the way I envisioned my pregnancy and the way it's actually playing out are unbelievably different. If there's two things I know for sure, it's that this is okay.

I could not have anticipated how tired I would feel. I had this vision of pregnancy as this time when I would be motivated to sit down and write a book and attack my household chores and prep healthy meals and be full of endless excitement and energy all day, every day. It was like that, just like that, for a few weeks. But then the fatigue hit. Then the nausea followed. Then I realized there would be days when the single most productive thing I'd do all day was finish a writing assignment for work while reclined on the couch in between naps. I realized there would be days when I'd never change out of my robe. There would be days when I wouldn't make it out of the house. There would be days when I'd settle onto the couch to take "a 20-minute nap" only to wake up from a dead sleep five hours later. There would be days when I wouldn't write at all. There would be days when I would not work out. There would be days when I would not make it to the store or muster up the energy to fix a healthy meal. There would be days when I would eat chips and days when I would eat ice cream and days when I would go back to bed after my husband left for work and not wake up again until the afternoon. There would be days when a walk around the block was all I could handle. There would be days when I'd say, "Pizza? Absolutely. No way I'm cooking tonight." There would be days when I would throw up my breakfast and days when, no matter how exciting the prospect of our impending little one was, I simply could not work up the energy to feel joyful.

There were other days, too. Days when I did get dressed. When I did get more than just the bare minimum of work requirements done. Days when I ran half marathons. Days when I put together healthy feasts and cleaned the house and ran errands and felt like a productive member of society. I feel like what I've experienced in pregnancy is such a small preview of what's to come with my child: there are going to be such good days and such bad days and so, so many days in between. 

I'm not having a picture-perfect pregnancy, but I've seen enough turbulent and even life-threatening pregnancies to know I'm lucky. Am I enjoying every second of it? No, and anyone who says that didn't experience nausea or exhaustion. But I'm enjoying most of it. And though it's taken me awhile to get here, I'm finally to the point where I'm excited to share my experience. 

As a longtime vegetarian, one fear I had was that I'd crave meat during pregnancy. For the record, if this had happened, I would have eaten meat. I'm not depriving my baby of anything. Instead, the opposite happened. During most of my first trimester, my aversion to eggs and dairy products was so strong I had to avoid them almost entirely. This is how I found myself becoming a Mostly Vegan. On the rare days when the thought of eggs or cheese didn't make me want to throw up, I absolutely took advantage and got myself an omelette or grilled cheese. Most days, though, my body just wasn't having it. So I listened. 

The egg/dairy aversion lifted in my second trimester and I've been incorporating (small amounts of) eggs and dairy back into my diet. I've realized that I actually do like to limit my intake because the difference in how I feel when I eat a lot of it versus none is substantial. Most days I have either a small amount or none. Some days (I'm looking at you, Saturday) I have pizza AND nachos AND an ice cream sandwich. And then I wake up the next day and remember why Iife is more fun for me when I don't eat like that. In the end, it all balances out.

The first eight or so weeks of my pregnancy were somewhat breezy. I was tired but I didn't have any nausea and I had enough energy to more or less keep up with my regular workouts. Weeks 9 - 14 or so were more hellish. This was when I discovered that those cute late-night ice cream cravings pregnant women are always having in movies and commercials are B.S. A pregnancy craving is not "Oh my gosh, I just have to have some ice cream RIGHT NOW and I'll send my husband out to get some even though it's 3 a.m. because it just sounds SO GOOD!" A pregnancy craving is "There is literally one food and one food only that I can think about and not want to throw up, so I will do whatever it takes to get that food." For me that food was always something super salty like sour cream and onion chips or Wheat Thins, which was super bizarre for me because before pregnancy, I rarely used even a pinch of salt when cooking. Salt was just not my thing. In pregnancy, salt is SO my thing.

Before I was pregnant, I was running 150 miles a month, six days a week, at a sub-8-minute mile. Now I'm running about 55 miles a month, 2-3 days a week, and I'm creeping up on a 12-minute mile. I knew I'd be running slower and less, but I didn't expect things to decrease this much. What I discovered is that there were a lot of days when my energy level was simply too low to fathom going for a run. On those days I tried to walk instead, but even then there were some days I just had to skip and let myself nap instead. I've long been a proponent of listening to my body and giving it what it needs, but it is only in pregnancy that I've learned just how easy I need to go on myself sometimes. I am simply not willing to push myself for the sake of pushing myself when ever fiber of my being is telling me to rest, rest, rest. I know my body is responding to the needs of my baby — so if my baby needs me to rest, I'm going to rest.

I've been working very hard to supply my baby with an extremely nutritious and balanced diet. Once the nutrient quota for the day is hit, I allow myself treats. I do this often. Why? Because I'm HUNGRY and my baby is hungry and we already ate all the things we're supposed to eat, so now we're going to finish the day with an ice cream sandwich and not feel bad about it. Before I was pregnant, I so rarely ate the kinds of snacks I'm eating now. In the first trimester it was all about chips, crackers, toast, popcorn, and whatever salty morsels I could find. Lately I've been drifting back toward my natural sweet tooth, which means that first and foremost I've been eating a lot of fruit, and beyond that I've been having sweet treats of the ice cream and cookie variety. I try to make my own when I can and stick to cleaner brands when I can't — or occasionally I just go for it with the processed crap. I do. I thought I wouldn't get that stuff anywhere near my baby, but every once in awhile it sounds so good I incorporate a handful and move on with my life. Last night I had frosted animal cookies after eating a vegetable-heavy dinner. Balance, balance, balance.

So far the changes in my body have been both subtle and extraordinary. Pregnancy has a way of making you feel hideous by causing a slew of physical effects simultaneously. It's not just that you're gaining weight. It's that you're gaining weight at the same time your face is breaking out and the same time your hair is getting super dry and the same time your nose won't stop running and the same time your feet and legs are swelling up and the same time you have no energy to do anything, much less put on a cute outfit or do your hair or wear makeup. Huge kudos to the women who say they felt/ feel most beautiful when they're pregnant because that's been a difficult costume for me to wear. I'm not glowing; I'm sweating. My weight gain isn't going exclusively toward an adorable baby bump; my butt and legs and arms are getting bigger, too. I don't feel radiant; I feel tired.

That said, do I get what "they" say about being amazed by your body's capabilities during pregnancy? Yes. I've felt so much of my vanity float away during this process, partly because I'm too damn tired to give that much thought to how I look and partly because I recognize there's something truly magical about what's happening to my body. There is a human growing inside of me! Some nights I catch myself complaining to my husband about how big everything is getting and the fact that I keep breaking out along my jawline and the weird way a lot of clothes look on me right now. He always reminds me that underneath all that surface bullshit, our baby is living and growing inside of me. So maybe I don't feel my cutest right now, but maybe feeling cute is so beside the point anyway.

Would I trade this body for anything? No. There's a little cupcake baking in this oven and the bigger that cupcake gets, the less I care about the state of the kitchen. Let there be flour on the counters and batter on the floor. I can clean things up after this cupcake is born. Or I can not clean things up, and focus my energy elsewhere. Either way, there will be time. Right now I have more important things to worry about. 

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