Tag Archives: prenatal

Yoga after Baby/Postpartum Recovery

I like to say “I’ve done yoga on and off for 5 years.” This is sort of true, though it’s more like 4.5 years and mostly off instead of on. I spent the past 2 years despising yoga for personal reasons. I had always intended to do prenatal yoga, but I didn’t have a regular practice before I got pregnant + first trimester was really rough = by the time I felt good in my pregnancy, I had zero motivation to do any kind of yoga (or exercise in general).

The first few weeks postpartum were very difficult and I was sure breastfeeding was going to be the end of me. I felt surprisingly good physically for someone who had a 2nd degree episiotomy and so was bustling about at home from 24 hours after giving birth. In my first week home I climbed in and out of the backseat of my husband’s 2 door car to sit with the baby on our way to 3 pediatric and 1 midwifery appointment. I squatted, vacuumed with a Shop Vac, and climbed stairs. Battling breastfeeding issues, jaundice, incontinence, major body swelling, sleep deprivation and just total exhaustion from my 2 day induction was so stressful that I felt I had to do ANYTHING to feel normal again… and so I acted normally, without resting or recovering like my body needed.

So now, fast forward to a couple of months postpartum. Jaundice is a thing of the past, and breastfeeding is easy and natural, even though the right breast is still a tricky one sometimes. Due to my overdoing it, my perineum took forever to heal, requiring silver nitrate to speed the healing process. I also got an awesome infection at around 3 weeks which required antibiotics which worried me to no end because I was afraid of getting thrush and adding yet another breastfeeding challenge to the mix. Then, the granulation tissue that just would not (and still won’t) go away.

At around 7ish weeks I began to feel physically normal again. My scar tissue was getting softer every day, my days of dull pain in my perineum that spread out to my thighs came around less and less. My spotting was lessening every few days. Breastfeeding was one of my favorite daily activities. Baby was growing big and strong and I didn’t have the worries about her growth and development that I had in the early days. I was healed downstairs and was cleared for exercise. Emotionally, though, I began to feel a bit off kilter. For the first time in over a year I was getting moody and very cranky. My poor husband received the brunt of “my moods” and I only wanted to be with the baby night and day. I was a little bit depressed about the lack of support I had in my life in different areas, a usual bout of sadness that has come around every few months since I was a girl. (I spoke to my midwife about it right after it started and also my general practitioner- I was taking NO chances with postpartum depression! PPD can begin at any time during the postpartum period, and right out of the blue- learn more here and please speak to your doctor/midwife/partner/ANYONE should you begin to feel “off” after the birth of your baby). I was also struggling with my postpartum body- I gained 46 lbs in pregnancy and had lost 24 within 3 weeks, and then actually started gaining again.

Being winter, daily walks outside with the baby weren’t happening. I could go once my husband gets home from work, but walking in total darkness in my weird town with the threat of icy patches most days isn’t my idea of a good time. I tried using the XBox kinect, figuring I could  work out while playing games but, oh right! I have a newborn! And she doesn’t really like to nap most days. It was clear I was going to have to find something out of the house.

This is when I started looking into yoga again. I wanted something low-impact but effective, and something to help with my mental/emotional state as well as physically. I wanted something that would get me out of my head for a while and that could be done in about an hour. I don’t run, martial arts was appealing but not meditative enough. There’s no tai chi around here. Gyms bore me. So yoga it was. I luckily found a studio pretty local to me that offers night classes AND had a Groupon for super inexpensive unlimited classes for a month. I’ve been going regularly when Steve’s schedule allows, and on days when I don’t go to the studio I –try to- practice at home when the baby actually naps.

Here are some observations from yoga in the postpartum:

  • You can go at your own pace

There’s a range of modifications for every pose, so your practice can grow with you. Also, if you ever get tired during class, you’re free to take child’s pose for however long you want to regroup and rest.

  • More flexibility from pregnancy hormones doesn’t mean you should push your limits

The relaxin hormone (the one that spreads your hips and makes your feet “grow” in pregnancy) can affect the body for five months after birth, meaning I’m slightly more flexible now than I was before I got pregnant. It’s very tempting for me to test my limits but…

  • The first 3 months postpartum should be considered to be The Fourth Trimester

Now is not the time to be pushing myself. As in pregnancy, this is an opportunity to, as my instructor said in class last night, “let go and let be.” Instead of pushing my physical limits, I’m actually enjoying trying new modifications and just ‘being in my body.’ I’m enjoying yoga in a different way now than back in the day simply because I’ve taken off of myself the pressure to perform and am starting to

  • Take the ego out of yoga

I look forward to classes and cherish the hour and a half that I’m out of the house without a tiny furnace clinging to me. I MISS THAT BABY SO MUCH during class, but getting an hour or two to myself a few times a week has been, dare I say, magical. I cherish my limited spare time now instead of wasting it, and so now there’s no time for ego in yoga. I no longer care about what the person in front of me is doing, or worry about how I look to other people. I don’t have time or energy to care about these things anymore, and that has really been a blessing because I feel free to be.

  • Take what you need and throw away the rest

One of the reasons I stayed away from yoga for so long was because, to be honest, I know a few phony yogis. The overuse of flowery language and phrasings that make no sense (how am I supposed to be breathe into my big toe? I can be aware of my big toe, I can focus on my big toe, but I cannot breathe into it) really irked me. The “always zen” persona also got to me, and because of these things I deemed all of yoga to be a disingenuous waste of time. This was a huge mistake- now when I go to class I still sometimes can’t connect to everything or everyone and hear phrases that I can’t get into, but having a baby forces me to choose my battles wisely now. I take what I need from class and throw away the rest. Practicing yoga regularly also severely chills me out and makes me less anxious and therefore less prone to quick judgement and uptightness. After class I am ZONKED (in a good way) and have nothing but love left in me.

  • You don’t need a lot of time to practice something yoga-ish every day

I’m not attending class tonight and I don’t know if I’ll have time for a full home yoga session, so I’ve been incorporating yoga throughout my morning. While I was waiting for my Keurig to make coffee, I did 2 quick sets of sun salutations in the kitchen. It woke me up and warmed me up so much I had to take off my fuzzy bathrobe. Later on today if I get in some downward dogs or a forward fold or two, I’ll consider today’s yoga-ing a great success.

  • Just as in pregnancy, now is the time to listen to your body and meet its needs as best you can

As a new mom, what do you need? I need sleep, food, and hydration. Twists feel really good to me lately, and my lower back needs gentle massage. I don’t always get sleep (and even when I do, I’m always playing catch up so it’s never truly enough), so I focus on the things I can give myself. Eating, especially eating well, is a major challenge nowadays, so I do the best I can. My breastmilk supply drops immediately when I don’t get enough to eat, so I eat well when I can, and just try and eat something every few hours. Sometimes that means cereal or a granola bar, or leftover chili for breakfast, but whatever. Drinking water is a must, and I’ve started the annoying habit of leaving glasses of water all over the house- one in the kitchen, one next to the bed, one next to the couch, to ensure there’s water wherever I might be and wherever I may find myself breastfeeding. I found through yoga that my lower back is screwed up and very tender, so at least once every day I take (sometimes just a literal minute) time to massage it/release it through seated twists or gently rolling my lower back while lying on the floor. Going to yoga gives me a full HOUR of checking in with my body and finding areas that need extra attention, which is wonderful.

 

Before I become pregnant again- a time MANY YEARS INTO THE FUTURE- I want to become as healthy as possible. I need to stay energized and healthy for my daughter, and want to do whatever I can to try and avoid being high-risk next time around (though, as we know, there are no guarantees when it comes to pregnancy). I’ve already seen a MARKED improvement with my blood pressure since starting up yoga again, and have begun to lose some of the pregnancy weight. I feel stronger and calmer, and going to class gives Steve some one-on-one time with the baby. I really look forward to practicing every day in some way, and next pregnancy I am DEFINITELY practicing prenatal yoga. I have struggled seriously with incontinence and pelvic floor pain these past couple of months and know that prenatal yoga would have strengthened those muscles I worked the most when carrying and pushing out the little one.

So yeah, I’ve boarded the yoga bus. Namaste, ya’ll!

 

If you and your care provider feel that yoga is a healthy addition to your pregnancy or postpartum, you may want to check out these online classes/resources:

Do Yoga With Me : FREE streaming online, full-length classes. I love this site!

My Yoga Online : You can pay monthly for online classes, or just use their free resources, like detailed videos and descriptions of most asanas. This is especially useful if you want to learn about poses for specific ailments or issues like lower back pain, sciatica, hip opening, etc.

Article: Yoga for Moms-to-Be by YogaJournal : Learn more about yoga poses for each trimester.

The Yoga Studio in Rancocas Woods : If you’re in the Burlington County, NJ area, you’re going to want to practice yoga with Majah. She’s the real deal, and one of the most compassionate, kind, authentic people I’ve ever met.

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22 Weeks & Craving Community

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I feel much more myself this week than last week– I feel calmer and just more able to deal with what’s thrown at me (to a limited extent, apparently… just cried into my Raisin Bran for no apparent reason. One day at a time, right?). A weekend spent with Steve and family helped, as did my prenatal visit yesterday with our midwife.  I absolutely LOVE her and cannot imagine anyone else as my health care provider. We have a very strong connection, open and nonjudgemental communication and dialogue, and total trust. She is the perfect provider for Steve and I, and my monthly visits with her are a sweet reminder that I am special and worth being taken care of.

Yesterday’s visit was extra special because I got to stick around afterward for my very good friend’s postpartum visit, after which the two of us (and baby!) went to a pub and enjoyed some delicious and much-needed food and hydration. Throughout my visit with our midwife, the postpartum visit, and while relaxing afterwards, there was much talk about community, and “finding our tribes.’ For me, entering into 22 weeks has really cemented for me that although I’m pretty private and introverted, I need to build a community for myself, for Babby, and for our little family.

Building a birth and family community is, to me, as important as building your birth team. Every member of my birth team was chosen with much care and consideration. We are picky anyway when it comes to those with whom we choose to spend our time, and obviously when it came to pregnancy and birth, safety for myself and the baby was top priority. We are very lucky that we found our midwife and doula, and that they are as compassionate, capable, and sincere as we had hoped they would be.

When it comes to building our community, I admit that I feel very challenged. For me, it is important that my community has open arms and an open mind, and welcomes mothers and partners from all walks of life. I need racial, spiritual, ethnic, and economic diversity. Even if my personal preferences of choices like breastfeeding, babywearing, cloth diapering and gentle parenting aren’t the group’s norm, I want to be welcomed without judgement, just as I would welcome parents of various backgrounds and styles. I crave a community of women and men who want to learn and share and grow together as we celebrate our differences. I want to live more of a life of service, and meet others who are service-driven.

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Though I crave connection, I cannot connect without genuine authenticity. I crave real women who feel real feelings, without false pretenses and condescension. I crave families who have struggled, who know hardship, and who persevere. I crave a community where it is safe to realize my challenges and strengths, and where both the good and bad are allowed to comprise who I am and the journey I’m on.

I’m lucky to have an incredible birth team and a small handful of women I truly call friends. Wanting to expand my circle, I’ve been looking online for local and internet-based communities that feel right to me. Here’s what I’ve explored so far:

During my googling I also came across these two sites that I really like:

This blog has actually begun to build a little community for me, and I thank everyone who has commented and shared their stories, struggles and happy moments in the past few weeks. This is only the beginning of our rollercoaster ride, and it is vital for our health and sanity that we continue to share the good, the ugly, and the real challenges and joys that come with pregnancy birth, and parenting.

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9 Things to Do Before You Get Pregnant

Hey you guys: None of this should be misconstrued as medical advice- always discuss lifestyle changes with your care provider and use your best judgement before, during, and after pregnancy!

 

I make mistakes so you don’t have to. Here, from personal experience, are some things I truly wish I had done (and some things I’m so glad I did!) BEFORE I got pregnant.

 

  • Clean out your car.

Like most things on this list, I didn’t realize what an important concept this was until after I got pregnant. Now, I’m sure most people keep their car pretty clean and aren’t total slobs. If you’re like me, however, yours may may need some serious work. As a doula, I pretty much live out of my car. With a thorough search one might find some bottles of essential oil, breastfeeding magazines, pillows, my infant massage instruction doll, socks filled with rice, gallon-size ziploc bags (for placentas, of course), a stuffed uterus… you get the idea. There are also snack wrappers, empty water bottles, a massage table, cds, a step stool, some bolsters, and a wide variety of books in there, among other miscellaneous items. If my car ever got broken into, thieves would be epically disappointed.

The whole inside needs to be cleaned out and reorganized, and now that I am on hiatus from birthwork until after our daughter arrives, this needs to be done during pregnancy. That nesting urge you hear so much about is a real thing, and just the thought of my car in its current state makes me crazy. It’s also now about 1000 degrees out, which means I’ll be out there in the heat of the day, in my hot car, making trips back and forth from the car to the house. There’s also, you know, no room for a car seat in there, which will sort of be an issue in the coming months unless I get this situation taken care of.

So do yourself a favor, and if your car needs a cleaning, just do it now. Your car will have plenty of time to be a mess once you have a child, so enjoy the so fresh and so clean opportunity while you still have it!

 

  • Take selfies.
Instagram has enough selfies- keep yours for yourself!
I used to hate having my picture taken. I don’t like the attention, I don’t photograph well, and I much prefer to be behind the camera. Now that I’m pregnant though, I so wish I had more pictures of myself, and of my husband and I. I’ve reached a point in my pregnancy where I’ve realized that my body is not solely mine anymore and I honestly don’t know how it will look and feel after our daughter is born. Some things will go back to normal, sure, but other things will never quite be the same (which is OKAY!). Now that I have lots of nifty belly shots, I realize I don’t have anything to compare them to from Life Before Child.

So if you’re comfortable with the idea, take some pictures now. They don’t have to be for anyone’s eyes but your own, and hopefully looking back on them will be a lovely nostalgic experience. And take pictures with your partner as well, as your child will someday love to laugh at how young and weird her parents were back in the day.

 

  • Start a self-fertility massage practice.

Whether or not you have ever struggled with fertility challenges, self-fertility massage can be an amazing way to learn more about your body, tune in to your personal monthly rhythms, and develop stronger body literacy. Not only can a regular practice help clear blockages, help with cysts and fibroids, promote egg health, and help relieve the intensity of painful ovulation and periods, it can be a relaxing and holistic way to just relax and take time for yourself. Self-fertility massage can be a great addition to your regular self-care.

Practicing good self-care in all forms is as vital before pregnancy as it is during, and while healing during the postpartum. Self-care may look a little different for everyone, and can be anything from monthly acupuncture, to weekly dinners with family, to saying “NO” a little more often. During pregnancy you’ll find that you and your growing baby physically and emotionally need the best care, more rest, better food, proper hydration. Self-fertility massage before getting pregnant (not to be performed during menstruation, or if you are or think you might be pregnant) is a relaxing, non-invasive, and holistic way to take better care of yourself while learning more about your body and creating a healthy womb for your baby to get cozy in when he or she is created.

Certified Fertility Massage Therapists, such as myself, and Mayan Abdominal Therapists can not only perform massage on your upper and lower abdomen, but also teach you how to perform the techniques yourself. If you are interested, I highly recommend booking an appointment with a qualified therapist- our abdomens never get any attention in our daily lives or during a typical massage, and you will walk away from your session feeling happier, lighter, and peaceful (and smarter!).

 

  • Incorporate a low-impact exercise into your daily/weekly routine.

I know, you’ve probably heard this a lot. It’s very cliche, but something I absolutely wish I had done pre-pregnancy. I say “low-impact” because you want to choose something that you can safely do in every trimester. In your first trimester, you may not have the energy to do a damned thing, and this I understand on a personal level. I also know there were many days during those first few months that I did have a few spare moments of no nausea, and I wish I had chosen to use those moments for taking a walk in the sunshine, or floating around in a pool.

I’m in NO WAY an exercise expert. The most I like to do is hike, swim, kayak, and the occasional kundalini yoga video with Gurmukh. I’m realizing now that my body has these things called limits, and that due to my lack of… shall we say, fitness? my body is a bit more weary than it should for someone who is approaching 30.

Before I got pregnant I would tell Steve, “When I get pregnant, I’m going to swim 3 times a week, and walk every day.” And he said, “No you won’t- you don’t do that now.” And he was right. Start habits now, so that when you’re pregnant they are second-nature, and your body is already used to your routine. Trust me. I walked only 3 miles at a quick pace for a Mark Mulcahy concert last night, and I can count on two hands where it hurts.

Talk with your care provider about enjoying a more fit pregnancy, and follow your body’s cues. I don’t feel pregnancy is a time to push your limits by any means, but a short walk after dinner each night can do wonders for your body, your sleep, and your racing mind. Remember that labor is a marathon, and no one enters a marathon without a bit of training! Your training should involve eating well and moving your body every day in some way, to prepare for the greatest event of your life.

 

  • Make friends with coupons.

couponsSeriously. This goes along with “starting good habits now.” I never realized before I got pregnant how much my appetite would increase. I mean, wow. We go food shopping twice as often as pre-pregnancy, and even that is not enough. I crave different forms of takeout once a week, and that plus the extra shopping has almost tripled our grocery expenses. Steve and I are excellent shoppers and love a good deal, so that helps, but coupons have helped us immensely.

I encourage you to start perusing the websites of your favorite brands (NOTE: these might become your least favorite brands after you become pregnant… but there’s no way of telling!) and signing up for their mailing lists. Companies often send out special coupons and deals, and even have printable coupons on their sites every so often. This is especially true of specialty brands that can be pricey. Websites like coupons.com and common kindness (for crunchy folks), offer a pretty simple way to find, print, and clip your own coupons, and most grocery stores have weekly “deals.”

Become a smarter shopper now so that you’re not pummeled when your appetite kicks in and there’s no turning back. Pregnancy hunger is different from any type of hunger I’ve experienced before- it is INSANE.

 

  • Take your vitamins and Omega 3’s.

I didn’t do this. I wish I had, because now, my skin has never looked better! Also, lots of benefits for overall health and setting the stage for a healthier pregnancy and wee one. If nothing else, taking prenatals pre-conception will give you time to find one that works well with your unique body. I tried 8 different prenatals of varying qualities, prescription and plant-based before finally finding one that doesn’t make me sick, gives me energy, and that I don’t dread taking (Nature’s Bounty Prenatal + Melaleuca Omega-3).

Prenatals come in all different forms- some are giant with DHA included, and others are smaller and you may want to take your Omega 3’s separately. Some vitamins even come in gummy form… which is really tempting, but I haven’t been brave enough to try. Some pills you have to take twice a day, some only once. Get into the habit of taking your vitamins every day to get your body on the right track and to find what makes you feel great before entering pregnancy.

 

  • Go to therapy.

Last year, when Steve and I were discussing a timeline as to when we wanted to start tempting fate and then seriously trying to conceive, I realized that I needed to go to therapy. I, like most people, had/have a bunch of baggage, and knew that I wanted to work out as many of my issues as possible before bringing a child into the world. This was especially important as most of my “stuff” involved mothers, childhood, and parenting. I knew that I didn’t want any of my negative history to affect my future hypothetical offspring. I also knew I couldn’t afford typical therapy, and so began to research early last fall.

I luckily came across an organization within walking distance of our home, that accepted clients on a sliding scale. I was partnered with a fantastic therapist and was able to make good progress in a short amount of time. I still go to therapy, and feel that this was single-handedly THE most important thing I could have ever done as a parent-to-be. Now that I am pregnant, I already have an established relationship with my therapist and life is just sweeter than it used to be.

It’s amazing what can come up in therapy, and how just talking and being listened to can make such a difference in how you feel about yourself, your life, and all that comes with it. Even if you feel like talk therapy might not be your cup of tea, you might want to just give it a shot and see how you feel about it. If it’s not for you, there you go, but if you have benefited from it, your future child and family will, too.

 

  • Research doulas and care providers.

doula_3.234101330_stdOnce you’re pregnant, you have a million new things to think about. One thing to consider early on is who you want your birth team to be. This doesn’t mean you have to choose everything right off the bat, but by researching doulas in your area before you get pregnant, you can get an idea of what sort of services they provide and what their fee ranges are. Doulas are a WILDLY valuable investment for women and families, and pre-conception is a great time to start putting a small bit of money away each week if possible, as part of a doula fund.

For us, pregnancy has been… expensive. As I mentioned earlier, food costs have nearly tripled. My car is no longer in working order, which was an expense we hadn’t planned for. We’re also having a home birth, which is has consumed every last dollar we received from our wedding. (TOTALLY WORTH IT. I can’t wait to share our experiences with our midwife with you!) Luckily everyone is healthy, none of the cats need veterinary attention, etc. But yeah, pregnancy has been more expensive than we ever thought it would be, and that is with the luxury of health insurance.

While you’re dreaming of pregnancy, start looking into your birth options- do the hospitals by you have midwives? Do you feel comfortable with your current OB/GYN? Do you have a free-standing birth center by you? What do you know about homebirth? Yes, pregnancy comes with a lot of options, and sometimes having so many choices can feel overwhelming! Maybe check out The Business of Being Born on Netflix, or rent the movie Doula! from your library- you’ll get to see some beautiful births and learn more about labor and birthing options while relaxing and being entertained.

Out of all of the myriad choices you’ll have to make during pregnancy, choosing your birth team is, in my opinion, the most important one you can make. Being informed and knowing your options is half the battle! And it can make life in pregnancy much easier by learning what and who is available early on.

 

  • Talk to your partner.

This might seem like a no-brainer, but really, talk to your guy or gal. Dream a bit together, and learn what he or she thinks of when imagining a life with a child. You may find that the two of you have completely different scenarios in mind- and that’s okay. During pregnancy, it’s easy to fall into a routine of every conversation and activity revolving around your baby. Sometimes weeks can go by without talking about stuff other than money, or cravings, or diapers, or the registry. It’s so important to keep the lines of communication open now (again, a healthy habit), so that everyone is on the same page. Pregnancy can also slow down physical intimacy, so you’re going to want a way to stay connected outside of the bedroom.

 

What are some things you wish you’d done before you got pregnant/ had children?

 

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