"You're Different."

“You’re different.”  These words from my husband cut through me like a knife.  We were out to dinner after my son’s two-month checkup. I was swallowing the concern about him sleeping soundly after his shots, out in public at the height of flu season, trying to be cool and normal for my husband, and even more for myself.  I’m not different, I thought...screamed... In my head.  I’m still me!!  Please don’t say that. I’m just living in a completely alternate universe, with a lot more housework to do, and a tiny baby whose quietest sounds can wake me up from the depths of the kind of sleep coma you can only fall into if you’ve been deprived of sleep. In another room. Because I’m his Mom.

In the first week or two after bringing my son home, just before waking up, in some sort of strange dream state, my son’s face would zoom into my sight and I’d wake up with a startle, my heart beating out of my chest, and gasping for air.  One time, my husband was trying to wake me very softly, but in my sleepy haze, I envisioned him putting the baby in my face and snapped out loud “don’t ever wake me up like that again.” My eyes opened and I could see the confusion and a little hurt in his face.  He was trying to be gentle. He didn’t know what I had seen. It wasn’t his fault my brain waves and emotions were firing all over the place.

Sometimes I would wake up and, panicked, wonder where the baby was.  As if someone had taken him somewhere or he’d disappear into thin air while I was sleeping.  He, of course, was peacefully asleep right where I’d left him with my husband keeping an eye on him.

I was unsettled and anxious and feeling guilty.  SO VERY guilty. All the time. Guilty for not leaving the house.  Guilty for taking him out of the house. Guilty for not knowing what he needed.  Guilty for not having gone to the infant care class. Guilty for not being able to produce enough milk.  Guilty for not knowing how to entertain him. (I now know you can’t really “entertain” a newborn. He just needs to learn how to eat and sleep.)  

GUILTY FOR SLEEPING. (Really.)  Guilty that my husband thinks I’m different.  Guilty for feeling lonely all day while my sweet baby that I prayed for and longed for and begged for was right there beside me. Guilty for not feeling like dressing him in every cute outfit and taking pictures of him and posting them on Facebook. Guilty for the 20 unanswered text messages and phone calls waiting on my phone.  Guilty for not being on a schedule. Guilty for not being able to get control of my irrational feelings.

I didn’t fully understand the changes my brain was undergoing at the time.  This article, Motherhood brings the most dramatic brain changes of a woman’s life by Chelsea Conaboy in the Boston Globe recently brought it all into the light. I was aware as I must have heard about it in passing.  However, in my new mom haze, it didn’t really cross my mind or provide me any comfort.

This article is a MUST READ if you are trying to become pregnant, are expecting, or have had a baby in the last two years - or ever.

Perhaps with more information, I too, like Conaboy states, would have felt less guilty, or perhaps, at least less guilty about feeling guilty. Perhaps my husband would have been less confused. Perhaps I would have been less panicked about my weird visions.

Maybe I am different.  I certainly am feeling out of alignment lately. Is it all because I’m a new mom?  Is it that “simple” of an explanation? It appears the research is not yet done on this one. 

This expert from the article, quoting pediatrician and child development expert T. Berry Brazelton, does give me reassuring perspective:

“You’re frightened and you don’t feel adequate and you’re working very hard to pull yourself together, to start facing this child that you’ve fallen desperately in love with for the first time in your life, and you realize what a major responsibility that is and what a turning point in your life it is. . . . I see getting disorganized and thrown into a frenzy like that as a major opportunity to reorganize yourself and pull yourself back together and become the new person that you want to be.

Brazelton said that had been his philosophy since he began practicing in Cambridge in 1951. “At that point, everything that went wrong with the child was blamed on the parents. And the parent was already feeling inadequate and guilty, so it re-enhanced the feeling of failure. It seemed to me that was the opposite of what we ought to be doing. We ought to be building up a mother’s self-esteem, so she can pass that on to her child.”

What's incredible and uplifting is the idea that new motherhood is an opportunity to reorganize ourselves and become the new person we want to be. What an exciting time! How different our lives would be if we were prepared for such a major change in this way. When all the newborn dust and the hormones and brain changes start settling, who do you want to be?  THIS is a conversation I’m incorporating into my coaching programs immediately. 

But first, moms-to-be and new moms, please know you are not crazy.  Please do not get down on yourself for the flood of confusing emotions you feel. According to Jodi Pawluski, a researcher at University of Rennes 1 in France, who is quoted in the article, you’re going through  “one of the most significant biological events...you would have in your life.”

And to all the partners out there, if I can offer you one single piece of relationship-saving advice it is this:  tell Mom she’s doing a good job. Repeat it until you’re blue in the face. You’re welcome. ;)

Are you an expecting Mom or a new mom?  Has anyone discussed with you the changes that happen in a woman's brain from birthing a child?  And how about that #momguilt and anxiety?  Please share in the comments below!


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Mother’s Day: Brand New… Or Is It?

It’s five days before Mother’s Day - my “first” Mother’s Day.  I’m perusing through Target pushing a stroller. I catch the wheels on a rack as I turn the corner, again, and it’s clear this is still a little new for me.  I look down and the most adorable little face I’ve ever laid eyes on looks back at me with big, round, blue eyes. Eyes that remind me of my own, with lashes for days like his Daddy.  My heart skips a beat - bursting with love and amazement - I coo at him and continue to look for infant-sized sunglasses.

I notice a happy song is playing the background.  At first it registers simply as familiar, then I come to recognize it.  Then comes the pit in my stomach, my heart skips a beat, my throat chokes and tears spring into my eyes.  It’s “Brand New” by Ben Rector. It’s the song I played at full volume and sang to my baby I never got to meet.  My second pregnancy. My second loss. That baby took hold of my heart from the moment I saw the positive symbol on the pregnancy test. That was “our” song. When I hear it, my heart hurts. My soul hurts. I already knew this, but it is reaffirmed that the love I felt for him was real.

I quickly check myself and bring myself back to the present moment. This moment, this day, this week, this year has been filled with blessings and love and absolute wonderment thanks to baby Lucas and my incredible little family.  Everything I prayed for. But even still, in that same moment, I’m acutely aware that I carry those two losses before him with me along with my joy.

No single experience in life defines us.  A doctor of mine once gave me a powerful analogy to a chess board that has stuck with me.  We are the chess board - steady and constant. Each game piece is a life experience. Some are good and some are bad.  They move around and sometimes the good are in the lead, sometimes the bad are in the lead. Each piece is critical to the game, but the board does not change.  The board - we - always stay the same no matter where the pieces go. The pieces, our experiences, do not define us.

I’ve learned that the good and the bad can, and do, co-exist.  It’s entirely possible, and ok, to feel joy and sadness at the same time. To be grateful beyond belief and have grief pop up all at once. Especially in the case of motherhood.

I have said it before - Motherhood begins the day you decide you want to become pregnant.

And so, as I approach my first Mother’s Day since my son was born, I have already had three Mother’s Days along my motherhood journey.  On this special day, I will celebrate my son and my family with a very special appreciation. My heart is overflowing with love and gratitude. Lucas and I will dance to our song, “No Such Thing As A Broken Heart” by Old Dominion as loud as the volume will allow. He is my best bud, my love, my little miracle. I will also inevitably remember the babies I never met but who remain in my heart forever.

To those of you reading who have lost a pregnancy, I know Mother’s Day has meaning for you as well. If this day is difficult for you, that is perfectly ok. Talk about it. Acknowledge it. Seek support. Know that you do not have to push through it alone. Also know that it’s ok to find joy on this day wherever you can and feel it along with your sadness. Your experiences do not define you, and the good will inevitably be in the lead again.

What feelings and emotions are coming up for you this Mother's Day?  I welcome you to share with me in the comments below, or send me an email at ashley@feelfireflow.com .


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The Season of Hope

Hope says, ‘I make a difference.’
— Jon Vroman

2018 Winter Survival Wellness Challenge 6

Congratulations!  The calendar tells us that winter has ended and spring has begun. Though it is simply a change in season, it somehow feels like a personal accomplishment to make it through the winter and put it behind us.  Our days ahead will offer us more light and warmth. The light and warmth of spring can also lighten and brighten your energy level and mood.  As we transition to a new season, it is important to take a moment to reflect on the last 10 weeks.  

Contemplate these few questions:

  • Has your relationship with your body or environment changed at all?  
  • How has this winter compared to winters of the past?  
  • Have you created any new habits you’d like to continue?

It is said that spring is the season of hope. After a pregnancy loss or when struggling to conceive, hope can feel like a dangerous concept. Yet, it is exactly hope that keeps us moving forward and trying again. It creeps in despite the grief, the frustration, and the disappointment. Hope pushes us to get up again. Hope is the universe reminding us our story is not yet over.

Over the last several weeks, I have helped you in your resolve to tune into yourself and take time to care for yourself amidst life’s daily tasks; to help you recharge and nurture yourself throughout the winter.  I encourage you to continue to do so because a well body and soul are your foundation for accomplishing everything you want and deserve out of life.  

Now as we look ahead, with hope, I have one final challenge for you: Can you bring a little hope to someone else’s day?  

The Dalai Lama said, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”  There is a science to the relationship between performing acts of kindness and an increase in serotonin in our bodies.  I have wonderful news - being generous is healthy!

Over the next couple of weeks, think about how you can unexpectedly infuse a little goodness into someone’s day and go for it!  It could be a stranger, coworker, friend, family member or your partner.  Consider how you can make someone feel appreciated, worthy, and noticed.  Here are some small ideas to get your wheels turning:

  • Smile.
  • Offer a compliment.
  • Give someone a small, unexpected gift, like their favorite snack or a single flower.
  • Leave a nice note to brighten someone’s day.
  • Call or text someone you haven’t connected with in a long time.
  • Express gratitude for the little things others do that make your life a bit easier.
  • Take someone for a coffee date and make a point to listen with curiosity more than you speak.

We simply do not know what weight others may be carrying and what a difference a kind gesture can make. You can be the one to make that difference, and it sure will feel good!

  

Do you have an idea for how to infuse a little hope into someone else’s day?  How do you feel after making someone else smile?  Share it in the comments below!

Take A Breath Of Fresh Air

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.
— Lao Tzu

2018 Winter Survival Wellness Challenge 5

March has arrived! While winter is not quite done with us, mother nature has teased us with a few warmer and sunny day.  I don't know about you but as the daylight lingers a little longer each day and temperatures creep up, I'm feeling energized and excited about what spring could bring.  Guess what that means for our survival challenge: It means it's about time to get your blood flowing and noticing just how good fresh air in your lungs feels.  It’s time to get outside and move your body!

This week’s challenge is to enjoy an outdoor activity - which, depending on the weather, could be the most challenging challenge yet! Stay with me, though.  It is true that winter naturally makes us want to spend more time indoors and that our energy levels are lower but we are still creatures of nature, after all. Being in nature and moving our bodies is both healthy and therapeutic, and that does not change no matter what the season.

If this idea makes you want to crawl under the covers, I don’t blame you, but you will feel so refreshed by fresh air in your lungs and getting your blood flowing that it will be worth it!

The first step is to gear up for the weather.  Wearing appropriate clothing is half the battle so bundle up if it’s chilly.  Wear a hat, dry socks, proper footwear and keep your chest warm.

One of the easiest ways to enjoy the outdoors is to simply go for an enjoyable walk - such as around your neighborhood, an outdoor mall, or around the city. Make it fun by adding a destination with a treat for yourself, such as grabbing a steamed almond milk at a local cafe, or asking a friend or loved one to join you. Have a dog? Grab your furry friend and visit a new park! 

With any luck, this activity will get your blood flowing and your energy up.  Consider what your daily physical activity level is like when you are feeling your best.  Are you honoring what your body has told you it needs? Could it be time to explore a new way to get some movement in, or perhaps return to a tried-and-true fitness routine?

Now that you've gotten a taste of fresh air, I'll bet you're craving more. How can you let more fresh air in this time of year?  

  • Crack open those car and home windows for a moment and let the air cleanse your space.  
  • Bring nature inside with you by decorating with fresh flowers, greens, or wood accents.  
  • If you commute by foot, take a moment to notice and appreciate how good it feels to take some mindful deep breaths along your way.

Soon enough, the temperatures will be warmer, the sun will shine a little brighter, and you’ll get much more of it!

What outdoor activity do you enjoy this time of year? How will you get yourself outside and moving over the next couple of weeks?  Please share in the comments section below!

Do Something You Truly Love

Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.
— Unknown

2018 Winter Survival Wellness Challenge 4

Great news friends - we’re one month away from the first day of spring, and even closer to springing those clocks ahead! More daylight is on its way. Hopefully some of the self care you’ve been implementing is making this winter more nurturing and enjoyable than usual. Given that February and March can feel a little… long (ahem, dark and cold and mundane)… it’s a perfect time to heat things up!

This week I ask you - what sets you on fire?  

Have you ever wondered where the “Ignite Your Fire” in Feel.Fire.Flow. comes from?  I got the inspiration from a quote that found its way to me at a time when I needed it most: “Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.”  

What does that mean exactly? Well, when was the last time you focused and made a conscious effort to do more things that bring you joy? I’m not talking about splurging on that cupcake because it tastes so good. I’m talking about making time for specifically chosen activities because they make you feel alive and at home at the same time. The kind of activities that make you feel connected to your most authentic self and energize you on a higher level.

There are several beneficial outcomes that make it so important, or even critical, to implement doing things that truly bring joy into your daily life:

  • Builds confidence
  • Reminds you who you are
  • Refreshes your values
  • Nurtures a more positive outlook
  • Reduces inflammation-building cortisol
  • Induces stress balancing “rest & digest” response
  • Brings awareness to the present moment
  • Tells the universe what you want more of in your life
  • Gives you energy to apply to all areas of life - including work, relationships, and self-love
  • Helps you gain insight on what your passion and purpose is

All of that simply from doing the things you like to do!

I’d like to challenge you to think about and identify something that sets you on fire and to find a way to incorporate it into your life over the next two weeks.  See how you feel and if you can incorporate more of it, and other things that make you feel that way, going forward.

Think big or small.  Perhaps it’s taking a class, such as dance or cooking, going to a concert or the theater, or even booking a weekend getaway or vacation. These are simply suggestions - only you know deep down what sets you on fire because they are things that are natural and authentic to you.  

Now go have fun - I dare you!

Share what sets you on fire and how you’re going to treat yourself to an experience below!

Indulge In Warming Foods

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.
— Hippocrates

2018 Winter Survival Self Care Challenge 3

Are you feeling cold, sluggish, and slow?  I have great news - it’s not you, it’s winter. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, winter is a yin season, meaning it is cool, dark, and damp.  It is also a naturally slower time meant for turning inward and storing energy.  Our bodies are programmed to have less energy to exert so as to conserve it for the warmer, drier season and to want to spend more time at home and indoors.

You can let yourself off the hook for feeling the way you do.  That of course doesn’t necessarily mean life slows down to accommodate this natural rhythm, unfortunately. So, how can we energize ourselves naturally?  By eating in harmony with the yin season. Foods that naturally grow during this season, that are slow cooked and warming help get our blood circulating and counteract the cold, wet and sluggish feelings. Keeping our body in balance and our blood circulating this way is important for our immune system, hormone balance, and fertility.  

This week I challenge you to try some new warming foods and notice how you feel before and after consuming them.  Do they seem to help?  Give you energy?  Lift your mood?

Here are some warming foods, flavors and recipes to try over the next couple of weeks:

EAT

  • Winter squashes
  • Root vegetables (carrots, yams, beets, kohlrabi, parsnips, onion, ginger)
  • Winter greens (chard, kale, collards)
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Citrus fruit
  • Animal proteins
  • Whole slow grains (quinoa, amaranth, millet, brown rice)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Beans
  • Mushrooms
  • Turmeric
  • Cinnamon
  • Cardamom

HOW

  • Soups, stews and broths
  • Roasted vegetables and meats
  • Quinoa and rice bowls
  • Tea, hot water with lemon, steamed almond milk

RECIPES

BREAKFAST

Sweet Potato Apple Breakfast Bake from 40 Aprons

Breakfast Egg Muffins that are perfect for on the go! 

WINTER DETOX ORANGE GINGER TURMERIC SMOOTHIE from The Endless Meal

HEALTHY PEAR GINGER CHIA SMOOTHIE from Yay! For Food

LUNCHES AND DINNERS

Slow Cooker Quinoa Vegetable Soup from Eating Bird Food

One Pan Sweet Potato Broccoli Chicken Bake from The Real Food Dieticians

Slow-Cooker Beef Stew from Lexis Clean Kitchen

Paleo Meatloaf from The Lean Green Bean

LIQUID GOODNESS

Look for this smooth Ginger Tea at your local grocery store.

Warm Spiced Almond Milk from Simple Green Smoothies

 

Three down, three to go!!  We are halfway through the Winter Survival Wellness Challenge - how have you been doing with implementing more self care into your lifestyle? Have you noticed any changes in your mood or mindset? Any challenges? 

Share in the comments below!

Level Up Your Cozy

You are the only person you are guaranteed to spend the rest of your life with. Love yourself and make yourself proud.

2018 Winter Survival Wellness Challenge 2

Welcome back to the Winter Survival Self Care Challenge Series! I hope you’ve found a way to make a gratitude practice work for you and are feeling the benefits of it already.

This week, I challenge you to Level Up Your Cozy.  What does that mean? It’s time to focus on your environment and indulge in all things soft and cozy. How fun is that?!  

My guess is you’re spending a lot more time indoors these days so it’s important to make your surroundings feel warm, comfortable, and nurturing. There’s a reason that whole hygge movement was a big deal - because it feels good.

WRAP YOURSELF IN COZY.  You know that feeling when you put on your favorite sweater or curl up in a cozy blanket? We want more of THAT.  Treat yourself to soft, warm blankets, sweaters, slippers, scarves, gloves, anything that gives you that warm fuzzy feeling while you’re wearing it. Need something new? All of these items are on sale at various stores at this time - splurge on a small treat for yourself, because you deserve it.

MAKE SPACE.  Is there clutter around your desk at work, or piling up at home? Designate some time to tidying up. Make it a point to create visual organization in the spaces you spend the most time in and let go of items that are no longer serving you. These items can fall into three categories: 1) storage, 2) donate, or 3) trash.  By clearing out clutter and feeling organized, you can create tangible space in your life for new things to enter, while making your surroundings more visually calming.

USE TEXTURES.  Incorporate wool, chunky knits, and faux fur. Not just in your wardrobe but also in your home with blankets, pillows, seasonal rugs and more.  

CREATE YOUR AMBIANCE.  Use candles and lamps to soften the lighting you’re in at work and at home and use aromatherapy to stimulate your senses. Scents like cinnamon, sage, pine, sandlewood or frankincense are all warming and comforting for winter. Also remember to let natural sunlight in as much as possible during the day.

BATHROOM "SPA" TIME.  If you have a bathtub, nothing says cozy and pampering like a warm, aromatherapy bath. If not, there are plenty of ways to designate shower time as wellness time. For either option, light the room with candles (aromatherapy scented for the shower) and turn on some enjoyable music. Practice mindfulness by bringing your attention to how the water feels on your skin, the scents in the room, the noises you hear. Add some relaxing essential oils and a scoop of coconut oil to your bathwater and use the time to meditate. Guided meditation apps like Insight Timer are great for this! Afterwards, moisturize purposefully by massaging lotion or oil into your skin and acknowledging each body part for all that it does for you with gratitude as you do.

Can you Up Level Your Cozy this week?  Share one thing you can treat yourself to in the comments below!

Start A Gratitude Practice

What you pay attention to grows. Pay attention to your loveliness, your magnificent self. Begin now.
— Geneen Roth

2018 Winter Survival Wellness Challenge 1

Happy New Year!  It’s that time again...the feeling of a fresh start, new resolutions, and renewed hope.  It’s also the dead of winter, hooray!  Winter has its charms - a crisp, clean, sunny morning that sparkles with new snow after a storm, Starbucks’ Gingerbread (almond milk) lattes, skiing and sledding, and if you live with me - the Super Bowl, to name a few.  

Winter also comes with its challenges.  It can have a way of trying to spotlight sadness, insecurities and inconveniences.  But if we embrace this season and appreciate it for what it is meant to be, it can definitely work for us.

Winter is a natural time to go inward, slow down the pace, and take comfort. If we think of it as time for reflection and recharging, as Mother Nature intended, then we can use it to our advantage.

I hope you’ll accept my challenge to implement new self care habits as the New Year kicks off and we look ahead to the next few months of winter.  Every two weeks I’ll be issuing a new “challenge” to help keep your spirits and energy up, connect with and tune into yourself, and feel good.  You’ll have plenty of time over the course of two weeks to give each challenge a try and make it work for you!  

Start A Gratitude Practice

What can a gratitude practice do for you?  Daily reflection of what IS working for you in your life is a great tool for building emotional and mental strength.  So often we hear “focus on the positive” and “if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”  These are fantastic affirmations and small reminders - but how do you actually DO them, especially during a time when everything seems difficult and unfair, such as after a miscarriage, loss, or when battling infertility?

A gratitude practice is exactly how.  All it takes is writing down three things you are grateful for every day.  Try to find something new and different each day.  

Two suggestions for implementing this daily are:  

  1. You can start your day off with this little exercise by incorporating it into a morning routine.  Simply keep a notebook by your bedside and write down three things you’re grateful for that you’re looking forward to or that happened the day before.

  2. Before going to bed, write down three things you are grateful that happened during your day.

This seems so simple that it’s easy to question its impact but when done regularly, you will begin to feel more positive.  At the same time, what you give your attention to is what grows, so by giving positive energy to the things that you do want in your life, you will begin to attract more of those things to yourself.  Who doesn’t want that!?

Let’s start now!  Share something you are grateful for today in the comments below, and see if you can keep the momentum going as part of your daily routine over the next couple of weeks!  

Feel.Fire.Flow. Announcement: The 2018 Winter Survival Wellness Challenge

Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.
— Yoko Ono

Your journey of motherhood begins the day you decide you want to become pregnant. You realize a genuine level of selflessness and attention that goes into trying to become pregnant.  As the road unfolds, that energy never softens.

You understand that, suddenly, your body serves an entirely new purpose and it’s easy to become disconnected from it - especially when it does not work the way you want it to.  First, there is the amount mental energy and space that is consumed by tracking your periods, paying attention to what you’re eating and drinking, how you’re exercising, wondering... worrying. There is also time dedicated to appointments with your doctors and “appointments” with your partner.  

The moment you get that positive pregnancy test result, much more of your physical, mental, and emotional energy automatically goes to the new life growing inside you - half of which is out of your control due to your natural hormone changes. Losing that life feels incredibly unnatural and unfair, and is painful in a way that only those who have experienced it can comprehend.

In a natural way, all of this attention, energy and emotion is for that new life you’re aching to create and bring into this world, for your family and for your future. At the same time, you're forgetting the most important element in this process, which is to nurture the spirit that is you.  It’s understandable that while juggling trying to have a baby, your career, your relationships and the rest of everyday life, you may just forget how important YOU are and how important it is to relish in what makes you feel good inside and out. To remember your essence.

As the new year gets closer and hope for a fresh start is renewed, I would like to challenge you to consider a different kind of resolution.  You may be feeling like you have nothing left in your reserve tank and that what is there is only enough to go to all things- except yourself.  Resolve to nurture yourself.  I would like to help you in your resolve. Together, lets make this season one that includes self care and ways to motivate you to nurture yourself and enjoy life a bit more, in spite of winter’s cold temperatures and life’s most difficult tests.

And with that, I’m excited to announce the 2018 Winter Survival Wellness Challenge!  Starting January 8, I’ll be issuing a new “challenge” every two weeks to help keep your spirits and energy up, connect with and tune in to yourself, and feel good.  You’ll have plenty of time over the course of two weeks to give each challenge a try and make it work for you! 

Want to partake in the 2018 Winter Survival Wellness Challenge?  Subscribe today to receive each challenge directly in your inbox!  

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Holiday Survival: The Perfect Answer to “When Are You Going To Have Kids?”

It’s Thanksgiving Week!  I hope you are looking forward to a little break from work, great food, good drinks and loving company.  But what if you’re not… exactly?  It is possible to look forward to spending time with family and friends and dread it at the same time.  If you’ve recently experienced a miscarriage or pregnancy loss, ended a very much wanted pregnancy, or are having difficulty conceiving, the holidays can sometimes have a way of sparking loneliness, sadness and longing, despite our best efforts.

It can be painful to spend time among families with babies or to hear all about an old friend or family member’s pregnancy or birth.  And I know just how much you’re looking forward to getting the influx of holiday cards with pregnancy announcements or all those new, tiny humans’ faces looking back at you from the inside of a stocking or gift box under the Christmas tree.

Among the worst of triggers is the inevitable question from a well-meaning family member or old friend, “when are you going to have kids?” or “when are you guys going to have number two!?”  The thing is, those who have been out of the fertility game for years or whose journey was different than yours often do not realize how painful these simple questions can be - or how complex the truth really is.

So how do you get through the holidays without drinking a bottle of wine and crying yourself to sleep at night?  There are some tools to get you through:

1. PREPARE. People will ask. The cards will come.  It’s inevitable and uncontrollable.  What you can control is knowing these things are coming your way and deciding ahead of time how you’re going to deal with them, mentally and emotionally.

2. BE COMPASSIONATE WITH YOURSELF. Is it painful?  Yes.  Do you wish things were different?  Wholeheartedly. And the best you can do is talk to and treat yourself as you would anyone else who was experiencing what you are.  Do not beat yourself up.  For every negative thought you have, make sure to think another one of love and acceptance towards yourself. 

3. TRY NOT TO COMPARE. Comparing your journey to someone else’s is the kiss of death. Notice when you find yourself comparing and distract your thoughts with again, self compassion.  Remind yourself that you deserve happiness just as much as anyone else, and while your path may be different, you will get there.

 Photo by  sydney zentz  on  Unsplash

As the questions about your intent to have a baby come, you essentially have three options as to how to answer.  Options being the keyword here.  You are in control of and can choose how you want to react, what you want to share, and who you want to share with.  You can either be honest, lie, or throw a bit of a curve ball.  Let’s explore these options:

1. BE HONEST. This can take on whatever form you are comfortable with but you do have the option to share your truth, to whatever extent you want.  You can explain that you’ve actually recently experienced a loss or that you are in fact trying IVF.  Often times when this information is shared, you learn more about the person that you’re sharing with than you would expect.  Fertility issues are so incredibly common that it only takes one person to open up to get others to share what they’ve been through.  You could be that person.  Also, it can feel good to be open about such a big part of your life and not feel like you have to “fake it.”

2. LIE.  Yes, here is permission to lie - but there are stipulations.  You don’t have to share anything at all.  You can easily dodge the conversation with the wave of a hand, say “we’re not ready yet,” and ask a question of the person you’re speaking with that will turn the topic on to them.  If you choose to keep your journey personal, that is your right and completely understandable.  But - do it because it is your right and it is personal, and not because you feel embarrassed, are disappointed in yourself or where you’re at, or are worried others will be uncomfortable.  Here is where the self compassion comes in again.  You are doing the very best you can every day.  You are stronger than you know.  This is your story to own.  How others feel about it is their business.  What matters is doing and saying what will help you.

3. “WHEN (Life/God/the Universe) FEELS WE ARE READY.”  (Use whatever higher power speaks to you.)  

It’s out there, right?  Hear me out.  It’s deep enough to end the conversation with those who can’t understand it, and yet for those who can understand it, it says everything.  In one sentence, it sums up that you do want a baby.  In fact, if you had complete control you’d have one in your arms right now, but it isn’t nearly that simple.

I’ve actually tried this one a few times and I can attest that it does either shut down the conversation, or elicit a knowing and compassionate nod.  In that case, either not much else needs to be said or it leads to support and inspiration from some of the people you’d least expect.  

In the end, your journey is an incredibly personal one and you must do what you are most comfortable with.  However you prepare and decide to handle these tricky interactions - make sure that, above all else, it feels right for you and that you make your choice and go forward with confidence.   

What’s the most awkward question you’ve received and how did you handle it?  

Share your story below!

Three Secrets To Maintaining A Morning Routine

Mornings are undeniably the most challenging time of the day for many.  There is inevitably the inner battle that begins when the alarm goes off - why ever leave that warm, comfortable, safe place called bed?  Yet, studies have proven that the most productive, centered, and successful people are early to rise and make the most of this time by implementing some self-care, both mentally and physically.  

Having a morning routine can help establish your mindset for the day by grounding and centering you so you are ready for whatever the day brings. It can also help tremendously in beating the morning blues - those days you wake up feeling melancholy, which can be especially common when recovering a pregnancy loss or when you’re battling fertility issues.

The secrets to maintaining a morning routine are:

  1. Make the decision to implement and stick to a morning routine that works for you. Commit.
  2. Keep it simple.
  3. Above all else - Eliminate Thinking.
 Photo by  Kinga Cichewicz  on  Unsplash

Finding a series of activities that meet your needs and doing them on autopilot daily is the best way to ensure that you will stick to the routine and get the most out of it.  

First, decide how you want to feel during and after your morning routine.  Do you need to ease into your day in a comforting and nourishing way? Or do you jump out of bed with energy, ready to go?  The idea is to start you off in the best way possible so you are armed and ready for whatever the day brings.

When I created my morning routine, my primary goal was to fit in a daily meditation practice.  My secondary goal was to incorporate a warm lemon water ritual to support my digestion, balance my pH, and give me a daily vitamin C boost.  

Years ago, after much trial and error, I established that I need to get my exercise done in the morning. Power yoga is my ideal form of regular physical activity. I had a loose routine - wake up, drink water, put on clothes, go to class. Shower, dress, commute.  Not bad, but rushed and lacking a couple of things I knew deep down I needed.

When I made the decision to implement a morning routine that involved as little thinking as possible,, I broke it down to six activities I felt would meet my personal needs.

After the alarm, just about every morning goes like this:

  1. Hydrate:  I drink the glass of water I put at my bedside each night.  Our bodies dehydrate overnight and it’s important to get hydration in right way.

  2. Make my bed: Because I feel calmer when things are visually in their place and it gets my body moving around.

  3. Warm water with lemon: I go downstairs, heat up water + a few shakes of turmeric on the stove, and squeeze half of a lemon into a mug. (I add the turmeric because it is an incredible anti-inflammatory tool as well as an immune booster.)

  4. Smoothie: While I wait for the water to heat, I make my husband and I a smoothie.  This involves me sleepily throwing a combination of handfuls of leafy greens, frozen fruit, and almond milk in a blender, pushing the “liquify” button, and pouring the result into travel cups that go in the refrigerator for us to grab & go on our way. Sometimes they are great.  Sometimes they taste weird.  Either way, they are mood boosting coffee alternatives and are a great way to get in servings of vegetables and fruit on the go for fiber and nutrients.  Fruit is also easiest to digest on an empty stomach.

  5. Meditate: My lemon water and I go back upstairs and I do a 5 - 10 minute meditation, usually using one of the many guided meditation apps available, such as Insight Timer, Calm, Simple Habit, Headspace, or the website Fragrantheart.com.

  6. Move: Go to a yoga or barre class or practice yoga at home.

This may seem like a lot but the first five activities require only 25 or so minutes more added to my morning.  I do not think much as I do any of it, in fact, I couldn’t if I wanted to because my brain doesn’t start working until about an hour and a half after I wake up.

Sleep is critical but 25 minutes of snoozing the alarm has never resulted in the calmness I feel when I stick to the routine.

The few things I do the night before are:

  • Occasionally think about the smoothie I want to make or look up recipes to get ideas.
  • Always, always, bring that glass of water to bed with me so I can hydrate upon waking up.
  • Sign up for the yoga or barre class to commit myself to going.

What would you like to start treating yourself to in the morning, before the world needs you?  

How can you implement it in a simple way that requires little to no thinking at all?

Cranberry Mimosas & Pumpkin Pie, Oh My!

Local and Seasonal Food Series Part 5

 Photo by  Bekir Dönmez  on  Unsplash

Photo by Bekir Dönmez on Unsplash

This is quite a week on the calendar as we celebrate Halloween, welcome November, and turn the clocks back on Sunday.  While the holiday season is gearing up, it’s easy to start feeling a mixture of excitement, wistfulness, and overwhelm all at the same time.  I encourage you to remember to prioritize your wellbeing and make sure you’re giving yourself plenty of time to rest and recharge throughout this highly social season.  

Food plays an integral role in festivities over the next few months, which is equally part of the joy and the stress of the season for many.  There are still plenty of nutritious, local and seasonal options to take advantage of even as the colder temperatures settle in.  Some of the most beloved and traditional flavors of the holidays come from right here in our New England backyard!  

This week we join pumpkin mania as we look at the incredible benefits real pumpkin has to offer us, as well as the amazing antioxidant benefits cranberries have to offer.  Both of these seasonal favorites are great for keeping up your energy and warding off colds.  These two flavors also go great together in a variety of recipes!

Pumpkin

Available September, October, and November in the Northeast.  

WE LOVE PUMPKINS BECAUSE THEY ARE:

  • Loaded with beta-carotene - Vitamin A - which helps keep skin and eyes healthy, supports the immune system and neutralizes free radicals.  
  • A great source of fiber and digestion support.
  • High in immune boosting vitamin C.
  • Rich in potassium, which is helpful with fluid & electrolyte balance.
  • High in iron, calcium and protein.

Almost better than the pumpkin’s meat are the seeds (aka pepitas)!  They are super high in iron, manganese and a number of other key minerals; they also contain large amounts of Vitamin K and protein.  Remember, iron is necessary for cell production and growth, and circulating oxygen throughout the body.  This is important for us and even more important for fertility.  

You can feel very good about snacking away on pumpkin seeds and adding them to your favorite salads for an appetite controlling, nutrient dense, energizing crunch.

WAYS TO ENJOY PUMPKIN AND PUMPKIN SEEDS:

Tip: When it comes to cooking, the heavier the pumpkin the better.  Avoid broken skin and black or mushy spots.

 ROASTED PUMPKIN, KALE, AND QUINOA SALAD BY FRAICHE NUTRITION

ROASTED PUMPKIN, KALE, AND QUINOA SALAD BY FRAICHE NUTRITION

How To Roast A Pumpkin and Its Seeds by Greatist.com

Check out this handy pumpkin seed recipe resource from Delish that provides 16 different ways to mix them up.

Thanks to this chia seed pudding recipe from Greatist, you can combine the hottest flavor of the season with your omega-rich chia seed pudding to enjoy for breakfast or a snack!  It calls for canned pumpkin, which is certainly easier than roasting your own and necessary when pumpkins are not in season.  Just be sure you’re buying organic canned pumpkin and look for it in a BPA free can.

This beautiful Roasted Pumpkin, Kale, and Quinoa Salad by Fraiche Nutrition is not only flavorful, but is also packed with nutrients, uses both the seeds and the pumpkin meat, and includes another local and seasonal favorite - cranberries.

It wouldn’t be November without a Pumpkin Pie recipe, would it?!  This flavor-rich, low sugar, dairy and gluten free pumpkin pie recipe from the Roasted Root will satisfy any Thanksgiving tradition.

Cranberries

Available September - December in the Northeast.  

 Photo by  Jennifer Pallian  on  Unsplash

Cranberries are a bit of a big deal and have a rich history here in New England, their home of origin.  The Cape Cod Cranberry Growers' Association reports that Native Americans “have enjoyed the annual harvest of sasumuneash - wild cranberries - for 12,000 years.”  

If you’re in the Massachusetts area, you can make a day of visiting a cranberry bog this time of year!

WE LOVE CRANBERRIES BECAUSE THEY ARE:

  • One of the highest sources of antioxidants over any other fruit, which protects us from cancer causing free-radical damage, inflammation and are great for heart health.
  • High in immune boosting vitamin C.
  • A good source of dietary fiber, vitamin E, vitamin K, copper and pantothenic acid.
  • An internal cleanser due to their anti-septic and diuretic effect.

WAYS TO ENJOY CRANBERRIES:

Tip: The more red in color, the higher the antioxidant content

Let’s get right to the good stuff.  If you’re going to be celebrating the holidays, you may as well get your antioxidants while you do it!  Use fresh, organic, no sugar added cranberry juice in this Cranberry Mimosa recipe from Lexi’s Clean Kitchen:

 Photo by  Brooke Lark  on  Unsplash

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Ingredients:

Sparkling wine

½ cup of fresh cranberry juice (no added sugars!)

3 pieces of fresh cranberries

Directions:

First, add cranberry juice in a wine glass. Then, pour sparkling wine to top. Finish with cranberry garnishing.

 

 

 

If you’re looking for a good hors d'oeuvre to bring to a party, this Cranberry Salsa from Dr. Axe is a creative alternative to your typical tomato salsa.  It also combines pumpkin seeds and cranberries for a super-food double punch.  

Try this incredibly easy Healthy Paleo Cranberry Coffee Cake from Paleo Gluten Free Eats for a sweet brunch treat!

Start your day off right by working cranberries into your smoothie rotation with this Festive Spice Holiday Smoothie recipe from Kimberly Snyder.

~

How do you feel about the approaching holiday season?  Does it trigger any emotions for you or perhaps provide a welcome distraction?  Let me know in the comments section below!

A Different Kind Of Pregnancy Announcement

It was Easter morning, April 16, 2017 and day 29 of my cycle. My period had not come yet. This was the first cycle in the two years of trying to conceive that I did not test early. (Yes, I’m that girl.)

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Three months before, I had gone through the most traumatic event of my life, saying goodbye to my angel baby at 15 weeks, who I had fallen head over heels in love with in that very short period of time. Alas, he was not meant for me, a concept I struggle to understand to this day. He was my second pregnancy, the first ending early on at 8 weeks. At the time, my first loss rocked me to the core.  But it turned out that it was the second goodbye that changed my soul forever.

So on this Easter Sunday morning and with only three months of recovery under my belt, I really didn't think it was possible that I would get pregnant so quickly.  Sure, I had been taking care of myself, praying daily, and making space - literally and figuratively - in my life for a baby that I hoped would come to us sooner rather than later. However, I just didn't feel pregnant.

I was apprehensive as I took out that dreaded stick and took the test.  My hands shook as the three minute timer went off.  There was the "+" sign. I fell to my knees. Every emotion ran through me. "Thank you," I repeated over and over, now shaking all over my body. "Calm down" was the next thought that ran through my head. "You have to calm down."

I was getting ready to go to my in-law's for Easter celebrations and my husband was feverishly studying for his upcoming CFP exam downstairs. Do I wait to tell him?  Give it a few days? A week? Spare him if this time is not real, again?  Nope, I can't do this on my own - and I don't have to. One of the greatest lessons I've learned along my journey.  I went downstairs, forced his attention and showed him the positive test. "We get another chance," I said.

It was an interesting day, as the day you get that positive result always is... Trying to carry on as normal, having to let the wine hit your lips and secretly passing the glass off to your husband to drink. Thoughts running wild in your head. So many thoughts. I thought about the two cocktails I'd had the night before - no don't think about that!  Took stock of the last month. Wondered if I was healed enough for this. I was not even letting myself get excited, but summoning gratitude. That's all I could do.

 This magnificent rainbow appeared over the Mass Turnpike on May 7, 2017, 21 days after finding out I was pregnant. I chose to see it as a sign.

This magnificent rainbow appeared over the Mass Turnpike on May 7, 2017, 21 days after finding out I was pregnant. I chose to see it as a sign.

An uneventful week or so later we did the math. The baby would be due on Christmas Eve (later to moved by the doctor to December 18). Having found out on Easter and due at Christmas my husband joked, "Well, we are having the next coming of Christ!" Ever the optimist. Optimism continues to turn into reality and here we are, 31 weeks pregnant with our baby boy. 

Being pregnant after a difficult journey is both torture and a miracle. Melissa Rauch describes the experience so well in this piece that I wanted to jump through the computer and hug her. As we know, there is never a point where the story ends, there is no completely "safe" zone.  I cross off each week that passes on a calendar, say a little prayer of gratitude and ask for protection and health for this baby.

Being pregnant after realizing my purpose is to help women who have experienced a pregnancy loss or are going through fertility issues is not without its challenges. I'm all too aware of the pain that my pregnancy can cause women who are aching for the same, because I’ve been told and, mostly, because I have been there. For a time after my last loss, I avoided so many people I love because their pregnancies were a trigger for me. It wasn't healthy for me at the time to be exposed to that. Luckily, I’m surrounded by amazingly understanding people in my life. Still, we chose not to do a social media announcement and you will never see our sonogram photos or me showing my bump online.

I also hear all of the stories. From multiple early losses, to a year(s) of trying without success, to failed IVF attempts, to 30 week stillborns, and deaths of day old infants.  I've had to study all the stats and I hear from groups formed by women of late pregnancy losses trying to help others as well. It is painful, it is terrifying, and it is a constant reminder that each day is a blessing and nothing is guaranteed. Above all else, it inspires and motivates me every day to focus on my work and help the women going through this difficult battle.

The combination of the knowledge of reality and my past losses tries to seep in and get the better of me, and it did especially in the first half of this pregnancy.  On a particularly anxiety-mixed-with-grief filled day, my husband offered me some beautiful advice.  He said, “It’s not really fair to this baby to think he’s anything less than strong and healthy or to hold on to what happened last time.”  

There was freedom in those words, and truth.  This new baby could either hold a new joy and fresh start for us, or I could allow myself to be stuck in my loss and fear of it happening again. That would not be fair to the little soul I am now responsible for.  And so, I adopted a new attitude.  Whenever the past starts creeping in, I do whatever is necessary to shift my focus to what’s real, here and now. I focus on how grateful I am and what a miracle every day that I get to be pregnant is.  I make sure to enjoy every symptom and I’m pretty sure the receptionists at the doctor’s office think I’m insane as I call with every little question.  (Whatever it takes to keep peace of mind, right?!)  I allow myself to get excited and online shop for baby clothes and nursery decorations. I look at all the photos of others' smiling babies as a reminder that the miracle of a healthy baby does happen every day - more often than not.  Because if not, what do I have? The past cannot have power over this moment and cannot take anything away from this baby's experience.

Above all else, there is love.  A new kind of love - a careful, appreciative love - for this child that I know so well yet haven’t met yet. A special kind of love I never would have known to give if it weren’t for what I’ve learned from my past.

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What I really want people to know is that if you’ve experienced a loss, or have been trying for so long you think it might break you, pregnancy will not be easy at first, or maybe ever, but it will be what you make of it. You must believe in yourself, in your strength, and above all else, in your baby; knowing that whatever happens, you will deal with it (a mantra we took on in our household this year). Know that with every passing day, there is hope, gratitude and excitement that grows and overtime, gets louder than the fears.

 

Lastly, you and I know life isn’t always fair and it doesn’t always make sense, but we forge on, motivated by love.

The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief – But the pain of grief is only a shadow when compared with the pain of never risking love.
— Hilary Stanton Zunin

Have you had a healthy baby after a battle with fertility?  How did you get through the fear and challenges?  Please share in the comments below!

Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month

Pregnancy Loss & Infant Awareness Month

In all of the stories I listen to of losses of every kind - miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, ending a pregnancy "incompatible with life", stillbirth - what is most amazing is the ability for a woman to be in all-consuming heartache and physical pain and to rise with unbelievable resilience at the same exact time.

This month and ALWAYS, here's to all the warrior women out there and to the pieces of our soul that watch over us from heaven. 

Share your story and support for others in the comments below!

Welcome October with Fall Transitions, Sage Smudging &, Of Course, Food!

Welcome October with Fall Transitions, Sage Smudging &, Of Course, Food!

We are just a few days in and October has already made itself known with cooler temperatures and leaves beginning to change to the colors of the season.  Be sure to take in the beauty of the transition and relish in the mix of greens, oranges, reds and yellows!  What transition do you feel happening in yourself right now?

The sunny days and fresh air this week make it a great time to open all the windows and fill your home with fresh air.  To literally “clear the air” in your home, consider this quick sage smudging practice - an ancient ritual used to cleanse and realign your space and/or self.  Smudging is a great thing to do to get rid of lingering negative energy from a pregnancy loss, an unsuccessful IVF attempt, tension in the home, an illness, or major life event.  It is symbolic of a fresh start.

How To Help A Friend In Pain

How To Help A Friend In Pain

As the rate of fertility issues remains high and awareness grows, we are learning of more and more stories of loss, frustration and battles with fertility from everyone from the people closest to us to distant friends to public figures and celebrities.

The openness about these life changing events is fairly new, while the struggle is not new at all. Women who choose to share their experiences more often than not discover people they never dreamed of have gone through a similar heartache of their own, including family members, coworkers and dear friends.

Whether you’ve experienced a miscarriage or infertility yourself, or not, I know that learning of someone’s heartache is always a careful situation.  It is natural to not want to say the wrong thing and the truth is, there is nothing that can be said that can make the situation better - unless you’re a stork delivering a healthy pregnancy and baby.  So, not likely, sorry.

Is It Summer Or Fall? It Doesn't Matter If The Food Is Good!

Is It Summer Or Fall?  It Doesn't Matter If The Food Is Good!

Early fall is an especially fun time to take advantage of whole foods that are available locally because there is an abundance of fruits and vegetables produced by the warm summer months available now.

The website Local Harvest is great resource for finding your local farms that offer farm stands, CSA programs, and pick your own produce, as well as searching for restaurants sourcing ingredients locally and more. Use the search tools at the top of the page, either by using the drop-down menu or typing in what you’re looking for, and entering your location to see what is available to you!

Now it’s time to explore peppers and raspberries in part 3 of our local and seasonal food series. These are two hydrating and satisfying foods appropriate for the unseasonably warm weather this week.  

‘Tis the season for… Green Beans? Hell Yes!

‘Tis the season for… Green Beans? Hell Yes!

Have you ever noticed how you crave and enjoy certain types of food depending on what season it is?  For example, you may have been enjoying salads, fruit, grilled chicken and fish quite a bit recently as the weather is warm and we’re drawn to the sun outdoors.  But in a few short weeks pumpkin mania will take over, the temperature outdoors will cool and you’ll be searching for a warm apple crisp and soup.  If I tried to serve you hot beef stew on a 90 degree day in July, you not only wouldn’t want it but would be left feeling sweaty, heavy and slow (gross!).  These tendencies are more than seasonal fun - they’re also the work of your body telling you what it needs to stay balanced - a concept called food energetics.