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Body Image | Pregnancy

Body image. This is something that I have negatively dealt with for most of my life. In many ways I did not feel comfortable in my own skin. Full disclosure… this photo was not hard for me to post and share with the world. So how is it that I have had this sudden change of heart? Well it definitely wasn’t sudden; this is something I have been working at for years. But the main reason is that I want to empower all women, especially moms-to-be to embrace their bodies in any size or shape.

I remember just over a year ago when I started my health and fitness journey, I was TERRIFIED to post my before and after pictures after completing my first 3 week program. I was in a sports bra and shorts, my belly, thighs and arms exposed. I was about to reveal my body to the world and was horrified at what people would think. I didn’t want people thinking I was seeking attention. I let the pictures sit in my drafts for days. Then I finally posted it… and what a relief it was. The feedback was more than I could have ever hoped for. I had worked my ass off those 3 weeks and lost over 10 lbs. That is something to be proud of and I shouldn’t have felt shame in sharing my accomplishment.

This time around I have no hesitation. I refuse to let this sit in my drafts for days, like I am ashamed of it or something. The truth is I really love every bit of this picture. I feel so good looking at it. This maternity photo shoot allowed me to embrace my body at this beautiful stage of pregnancy and realize that I am confident, powerful and sexy even at 32 weeks pregnant.

Now, I am not saying that watching your body change is easy. Most mother-to-be struggle with their changing figure. Last night I stood in front of the mirror wishing my hips were smaller. Staring at the stretch marks that have made their appearance on my thighs and seeing a rounder face looking back at me. I have bad days too. I have days I struggle with the weight I have put on this pregnancy. I have days where I just can’t wait to “get my body back”. As a person who was so into fitness letting go of that control and seeing your body change before your eyes is hard. I will never deny that, even when I sit here and tell women to embrace and love their pregnant bodies. I look back at the last 32 weeks and think about how I could have been stricter on my diet, how I could have kept up working out in the past few weeks or how I could have done this and that to be more “in shape” during my pregnancy. But, as I looked in the mirror, I also saw a tiny foot move across my belly and as I glanced up, the biggest smile came across my face knowing that in a few week this body of mine would be bringing our baby into this world.

So, while some days are hard I am learning to appreciate them as much as I can. I have learned that the problem isn’t with my body, the problem is what I think of it and what I think of myself. Once I came to that realization everything changed. I have learned to give myself grace. My body is growing a human being. It is going through a lot of change and that is OK. I will forever be amazed at the female body and all that it is capable of. I used to fear getting pregnant for what it would do to my body, but the truth is, getting pregnant is probably the best thing to ever happen to my body. It allowed me to rethink my ideals of beauty, strength and health. It allowed me to focus on myself and my worth outside of my body. It allowed me to really appreciate my body in all stages and come to terms with the fact that I was placed on this earth for more than what my body looked like.

I cannot help but to take a step back and realize that no matter how I emotionally feel about this body in any given moment, I can appreciate all it has gone through. The good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. And appreciate the home I (and my little one) make in this body of mine. This is pregnancy: real, raw and beautiful.

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The Truth About Marrying Your High School Sweetheart

This last week Ben and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary (September 9) and shortly after that … will be our eight-year dating anniversary. At 25 years of age I have shared the last eight years of my life with the same person. Since high school to be exact.

Having known one another since high school we have really gotten to know each other. At that point in our lives we had no idea who we are or what we wanted out of life. But our relationship made it through all of that, which is saying a lot. Together we experienced every immature part of growing up together. We’ve dealt with jealousy, anger, heartbreak, sadness, and every little bit of insecurity one has while growing up. Because of all this we really know each other and on a level I don’t think many other couples do.

We have seen each other through graduating high school and college, moving out of our parents, buying a house, getting married, career changes, loss of family and friends, family drama and more.  We have pretty much shaped who we are together, there is no hiding from each other because we really do know each other.

However, knowing each other, having been through everything together, can be tough to deal with at times. There can be times when it feels like we have nothing new or exciting to talk about. That we’ve done and said it all. It’s something we must constantly work on. To communicate, to share, to try new things. It is all too easy to fall into a rut when you are so comfortable with someone. So, while really knowing each other is something incredibly special, it is also something that comes with a lot of work.

Having been together for so long we have a lot to reminisce on. The memories we have together make up a pretty extensive list and it is fun to be able to look back on a memory from when we first met at 16 years old. It’s a great way to reflect and remind each other of how far we’ve come and why we are still here.

However, while it is always fun to look back on the good times, because we’ve been together for so long, there is also an extensive list of not so good times to remember. For me, I am learning how much the past can still be part of the present. Especially if there are things we haven’t dealt with or healed from. It can be difficult at times, to not only have to remember these bad memories, but also learn to deal with them so many years later.

As high school sweethearts, we’ve made it through some incredibly tough times together. Those critical teen and young adult years where you are trying to figure out who you are and what you want, dealing with the past/childhood, while still trying to plan for the future. We went through all that together which forms a bond that I am pretty sure most couples do not get to experience.

Of course, all couples grow together, but a lot of them don’t make it through those growth spurts. It can be incredibly hard to navigate, especially when one person is growing and the other seems to stay stagnant (we’ve been there). But we had to learn how to deal with the growth at a young age and early on in our relationship. Dealing with it isn’t easy, but it has allowed us to now recognize when we are going through a rough patch. When things get rough for us, it’s probably a good sign that things are starting to shift and that we need to figure out how to go through it once again.

Growth never stops, so this isn’t something you deal with once or twice in a relationship and then move on from it. It’s an ongoing thing and it’s not easy to go through over and over and over again. But when you want something or believe in something hard enough, you figure it out. You learn ways to adapt and love the new person/relationship that has come from the growth.

The one that is destined to spend their life next to you won’t mind your flaws. Your soulmate, your one true love, your person, whatever you want to call it, they won’t be bothered by your imperfections. This person will accept you for who you are. They will fall in love with our wild, untamed side, they will find your silly little quirks cute. Your different opinions and ideas will not be something they’d wish to change. In fact, your difference may inspire them to question and change certain things in life. They will quiet your loudest insecurities and calm down your paranoias. They will not judge you. They will understand the reason why you always overanalyze everything. They will know the reason you do this is because you deeply care for them.  Most importantly, the right person for you will never hurt you, leave you, lie to you or abandon you. They are going to take care of your heart and soul the way they take care of their own.

That is what being married is. But there’s something beautiful about it anyway, about wanting to fight for something commit to building with someone. We are really young, and that’s scary aspect were going to change a lot. I have no doubt that we were meant to end up here. We will no doubt continue to learn about each other, reminisce on all we’ve been through, and grow together.

Birth Story

Hi everyone! I know it has been awhile. I have been taking the last few weeks to really soak in this time as a new Mama and bond with our baby girl. Everyone is doing really well and I have lots of posts ready to share from the last few weeks. Below I have decided to share our Birth Story since I love hearing about others.

My labor and delivery story begins Wednesday December 4 at my 39 week appointment. I had been 3 centimeters dilated and 80% effaced for a week at that point. My OB asked if I wanted to have my membranes sweeped and I was all for it. Even though it doesn’t guarantee anything, I was ready to meet this little baby of ours.

The following day I was off work and had contractions on and off throughout the day. Around 4pm I headed to the gym to walk on the treadmill. I lasted about 20 minutes before the contractions started to increase in intensity and became closer together. By the time I had gotten home the contractions were evident and there was no second guessing that I was in labor.

I started timing the contractions at that point which were between 4 and 5 minutes apart. I had nothing to compare labor contractions to as this was my first pregnancy, but as the contractions started it was too painful to sit, I would have to stand and brace myself against anything next to me until it passed. It became clear after calling my OB that I was having back labor which from what I have heard from a lot of women is even more painful. After a bit of pushing from Ben we decided we should head to the hospital. I was afraid of leaving too early and being sent home.

Once we arrived at 7:30pm I was admitted into triage and was 7 centimeters dilated. I was the admitted into labor and delivery right away. I had been very stubborn going into labor that I wanted to go medication free, and deliver as naturally as possible. I did understand that I may change my mind in the moment or may need interventions and would do whatever was necessary for a safe delivery for myself and baby.

At around 8:30pm my water broke and that’s when contractions really started to pick up, and seriously contractions are no joke! I knew it would be a painful experience but nothing can prepare you for it until you experience it. At around 10pm after little progress dilating further and being exhausted from the contractions I had decided to go ahead with an epidural. You read the books and do the research and think you are prepared. But truth is you don’t know what to expect or how you will react until you are in that moment. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed in myself at first, but looking back it was the best decision for me at the time and most likely was the reason I progressed so quickly thereafter. The epidural was a strange experience and it can be different for each person. I had anticipated not being able to feel anything or move my legs. Neither of those were true for me. I still had feeling and could move my legs, but the pain was nearly absent. I was able to relax and rest for a little while. I wanted to be fully present during labor, particularly when it came time to push. The epidural gave me that and I was able to be fully present and experience all the emotions.

At around 11:45pm I was checked and was told it was time to push. After nearly 30 minutes of pushing we finally met our beautiful and healthy 7lb 4oz baby girl Bristol. We were able to have an hour of skin to skin bonding time before the hospital staff weighed and measured her.

I can’t even begin to describe how amazing the staff was at our hospital and how above and beyond they went caring for us. Looking back the timing could not have been more perfect because my OB was leaving for vacation the following morning. Part of the reason we had decided to do a membrane strip at my 39 week appointment was due to the fact she was leaving and I really wanted her to deliver our baby. She happened to be on call the following night which worked in our favor after all. We joked about it that night saying our plan had worked!

Labor and delivery was the most amazing, exhausting and rewarding experience of my life. God has truly blessed us with one incredible little girl and a wonderful labor experience I will not soon forget.

34 Weeks | The Final Stretch

With only 6 more weeks (give or take) until our little one makes their appearance into this world; I can’t help but want time to slow down whilst wanting it to speed up at the same time… It is a conflicting feeling because I am beyond ready to meet this baby of ours (not to mention my comfort level has long past expired – hello back pain and sore ribs), but I want to savor every last moment I have left of this pregnancy. I feel like time has gone by in the blink of an eye. It feels like yesterday I found out I was expecting, and now we are putting the final touches on the nursery. How is that even possible!? All too often I hear women talk about the last few weeks of pregnancy feeling like an eternity and maybe that will come but as I see it right now, I want it all to slow down.

This pregnancy has been so surreal and special for me. Each morning I have made it a point to wake up saying “Today I am pregnant, and for that I am grateful”. Because I know there are so many women out there that would give anything to experience this type of miracle. Every kick and movement I feel I can’t help but smile. I remember the first few weeks anticipating that first moment and being so unsure if what I was feeling was real or not. Now, there I no mistaking my breath being taken away – because of a foot being shoved into my rib. I can’t complain because this pregnancy has gone as smooth as one could hope for, but I can certainly empathize with many soon to be mothers with the fact that the last few weeks can be a pain – literally. My back, my ribs, my feet and not to mention the whole lack of sleep and having to constantly use the bathroom. But I would do it 10X over.

At 34 weeks I am preparing for what will be one of the biggest events of my life. Hard… like a marathon, or even harder. Emotionally draining. Exhausting. Life-changing. And I don’t know when this event will start. How it will start. Or how long it will last. Or how well I will handle it.

I’ve been preparing, but there is still so much uncertainty. Do I have what it takes? Will the baby cooperate? Will I make the right decisions? Am I strong enough to advocate for myself? How will I handle it if something bad happens to me or our baby? 

It’s a lot of mental overload…gearing up for labor and birth. There’s excitement and joy. There’s CAN THIS BE OVER ALREADY? And there’s that voice that also tells me that I should be enjoying these last few weeks, or at least be grateful for them.

Because it doesn’t stop there. I actually have to bring this baby home. And give myself wholly, fully, and with abandon to them 24/7.

And so, when I feel like I just want to go into labor already because I’m tired of being pregnant, I think of all of this and am overwhelmed and just want to wait a little bit longer. Until the next pang of wanting to meet my baby hit and the cycle starts all over again.

At 34 weeks pregnant, it’s a constant balance – of staying active, yet conserving energy for the marathon and aftermath to come. Of keeping busy enough to get through each day but not being so busy that if I go into labor tonight I’m not depleted of the energy I’ll need to have a baby. Of staying distracted to pass the time, yet focused and centered on the tasks ahead that will demand all of my mental fortitude.

And it’s dealing with all of this in my head, all the time, every moment, day and night.

Because it’s not just like I can forget about it – not when my uterus hardens multiple times an hour, every time I make a sudden movement, or have to pee, or after I pee…which means, pretty much, all the time. And when the baby doesn’t go an hour without moving. No, there is no forgetting. There is no real distraction from the thoughts, the wondering, the questions, the fears, the doubts.

Growing a tiny human is exhausting, but no great love ever came without struggle. I have spent the last 34 weeks preparing to fall in love for a lifetime. Not every day of pregnancy is easy but every day brings me closer to you.

The Fear That Comes With Motherhood

When you become pregnant, it is scary. No matter how prepared you were for your pregnancy, the moment it actually happens, there’s a certain amount of fear. But you know what? That is a good thing! It means you care about the little one that’s growing inside you. Not only that, but you value the relationships in your life and how this little one will affect them.

For as long as I can remember I have been searching for my purpose in this world. What God had intended for me to do with my life, and I am not ashamed to admit that I still have no idea what that is. However, I have always known 2 things. That I wanted to have a family, and be a wife and mother. That has never changed. Now that I am a wife, and mama-to-be I can’t shake this fear that something is missing.

Now, before I get into this, I want to start by saying that I am BEYOND excited to become a Mother. I haven’t had any major fear or anxiety over the fact that not only will I be giving birth to a beautiful baby in 15 weeks, but I will be responsible for that child’s life and well-being. Of course I have had those moments of “Can I do this?” or “Am I prepared?” but the answer is, I don’t think anyone is ever fully 100% prepared to become a parent. I am very much looking forward to this next chapter in me and Ben’s lives and although there is a lot of uncertainty, I know that we will get through whatever life throws at us together, as a family.

What if I fail? What if the picture of what I have in my head of being a parent is not the reality? What if I let my child down, or can’t provide them with everything they need? What if I don’t do enough or do my best? I want to be the best Mother I can be to this child. I want to be able to provide them with everything they need. I want them to have the best opportunity at a great education, financial stability, and sense of security. I want to be a good role model for my child, someone they can look up to and be proud to call their Mom. I do not want to fail my child or fail at this new journey of Motherhood. No Mother is perfect, I realize that. Mistakes are made, things don’t go as planned, and all you can do is accept and learn from the mistakes.

What will happen to my career? I grew up in a family that didn’t have much, but we had everything we needed. I had a roof over my head, food in my belly, and I was loved unconditionally. We didn’t have the newest cars, a cottage on the lake, or the opportunities others around me had growing up. But that is okay. From a young age I learned that if I wanted something, I had to work for it. That is something I am very proud of, and grateful I was taught. I was instilled with a hard work ethic at a young age and this has stuck with me. So, it is a fear of mine now that I will have to choose my career over raising my child. Sure, women do it all the time. There are plenty of mothers who work full time jobs and care for a family – kudos to you women, you are amazing! I had always wanted to work and raise a family, that is until I met my now husband and started considering starting a family and how we wanted to raise our kids. Both of our moms were stay-at-home moms while we were young for a time, and we are very fortunate to have had that. I want to give my child that same opportunity because I truly believe it is so special, however that is not always a reality in many families that rely on 2 incomes. My husband has been very supportive of whatever I want to do whether I want to continue working or stay home. But the pride I have in contributing financially is a hard thing to let go of. I like making money, I like working, and it gives me a sense of purpose, however I want to be there to raise my babies. I want to be fully present and not miss out on anything. I fear I will have to either lose on watching my children grow, or not advance in my career and grow into my full potential professionally.

What will happen to my marriage? When you get married its all about you and your husband. Then your baby comes and all of a sudden everything is about the baby. I fear that I will miss out on spending time with my husband and having alone time with him. Will he feel that all my attention is on the baby and that there is none left for him? How will we make time for one another? How will he feel about my post-baby body? He is my high-school sweetheart, we don’t know loving anyone else other than each other.  Another fear of mine is disagreements. We are not the perfect couple – who is? We have arguments and disagree on a lot. And having a baby will only put more pressure on our marriage as sleepless nights and fatigue sets in. We both have different ideas on how to parent, but for the most part are in agreement – for now at least until we are sleep deprived, exhausted and overwhelmed. Keeping in mind that this is only temporary and that we are in this together will have to be on repeat in both of our minds.

What if I don’t feel fulfilled by being a parent? This one is probably my BIGGEST fear. Like I had said before, I have never had any doubts about wanting to be a Mom and raising a family. I have always wanted this – or so I had thought. But what if I don’t feel fulfilled by being a parent? What is being a parent doesn’t give me purpose? What if it doesn’t meet my expectations and I feel resentment towards my spouse or even worse this little miracle I will soon have in my arms. What if I regret becoming a parent? I am sure few parents have the audacity to admit this out loud, but I’d bet that many of them have felt fleeting tinges of regret. Those times when they locked themselves in the bathroom to cry. Those cancelled plans and forgotten dreams. Those moments when they wondered why the hell they wanted to commit to this whole child-rearing business in the first place. I am sure they have all been there, and they got through it.

What if I lose who I am? What if I lose a piece of myself that I once loved? What if I don’t feel like myself? What if all I ever accomplish in this life is being someone’s wife and mother? Is that good enough? Is that what God intended for me? The truth is I am still discovering who I am. We are ever evolving as humans, which is a beautiful thing. Sure, I do hope that becoming a Mother gives me a sense of purpose and brings out a side of me that I have never known. A side of me that is strong, full of love and patience. I hope that becoming a Mother makes me a better spouse to my Husband. I hope this makes our marriage stronger. I do not want to lose myself through the process of becoming a Mother, rather I hope it brings out the best of me.