Tag Archives: Pregnancy

It’s easier to change than I thought – how I lost 25 pounds

26 Oct

I’ve never been comfortable showing my body off to the world, but here it is! The two pics on the left are my after pics in June 2012. The two on the right are my before pics in Feb 2012. It still floors me!

Weight loss was a long time dream of mine and getting to where I am today was a long process. My weight has yo-yoed through much of my adult life.

Through my 20s, as I rollerbladed, danced salsa, trained for marathons and then competed in triathlons, I stayed lean. I felt fit and great. Maybe I gained a couple of pounds here and there, but then I’d get super active and I’d lose the weight.

Then I met my husband. He’s active, but not like me. After we got married, I gained a couple of pounds. A couple of years later, I started working on my Master’s degree. I stayed active, running and cycling as much as I could manage with my school work. But it wasn’t enough to keep me from gaining weight.

I had thought that the ups and downs of weight gain and loss were normal until reality smacked me in the face; I was at the Pier to Pier ocean swim, a 2 mile swim from Hermosa to Manhattan (in the LA area in California), when I saw “the picture.” It was of me in my competitive swim bikini. The love handles spilling over the edge of the suit made my heart sink in sadness. I was heavier than I thought I was, and I had been in denial about how much weight I had gained over the years.

I had continued to see myself as I was before I got married, denying the reality of my heavier body. When I saw that picture, my heart dropped and it was then that I knew that I needed to make a change.

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Week 40: Coming to Fruition

4 Jun

When we first moved into our still new house in December the neighbor’s orange tree which slightly hangs over our fence was full of bright oranges.  They looked delectable, so I snatched one off the tree, peeled it and proceeded to bite into a not quite ripe but juicy fruit.  I couldn’t believe that something that looked so ready was not, and I hoped that eventually the fruit would sweeten.

The orange tree with the view of our patio, which has also come into its own

Every week or so, I picked another fruit off the tree, checking the ripeness.  Finally in early March, the sweetness had begun to peak and the oranges started to drop off the branches into our yard.  It was satisfying to have waited and wondered about the quality of fruit for so long and then to be happily surprised by the refreshing and sweetness of them.

And so it goes with Baby Blueberry.  Now every day I wonder about this little person inside me.  She’s not particularly crazy in her motions, but she likes to push and stretch a lot.  In fact, I can’t tell whether I’m having Braxton-Hicks contractions (which are a tightening of a small area of the uterus and not an indication of labor) or not because she stretches so much.  She pushes her little butt up against my belly and her feet on the left side.  So what is this little stretcher like?

Unlike the oranges, I don’t have the satisfaction of seeing the outside of the fruit.  All I know is that my belly is a bowling ball.  What do ultrasounds tell you about how the baby looks?  She looks like a little sweet infant at 22 weeks…

My bowling ball belly and our becoming complete patio

Like with the oranges, there’s a lot of uncertainty about what I will encounter.  There are all the bad things to dwell on (which I work hard on avoiding), and then all of the wonderful imaginings about what she’ll look like and how she’ll act.

The suspense grows daily at this point as I near the 40 week mark.  All I know is that I hope for a sweet, juicy, and healthy little Blueberry.  And an easy labor.  Is that too much to ask?

Weeks 38 and 39: Cielle Rose

28 May

My dear sweet Cielle Rose,

Today your daddy and I went to the doctor for our 38th week visit.  My ankles are a little swollen.  I had a headache this week that concerned me, but it hasn’t come back thankfully.  I’m always thinking about how you’re doing.  Every doctor’s appointment brings a little relief to the worries that come along with having a baby.  Each time, I am so happy to find out that your heartbeat is normal and that you seem happy and comfortable.  We are waiting for you to decide when to enter the world now.  It’s your first big decision whether you know it or not!!

Today, your daddy got some bad news.  A friend of his from college died this morning.  Even as I write this, I get tears in my eyes.  It’s not that I knew him so well, but that this happened in the first place that has me upset.   The first wedding your daddy and I went to together was this friend’s wedding.  It was my first Jewish wedding, and it was in New Orleans a couple of years before Hurricane Katrina.  The weather was beautiful…not too hot and humid, just comfortable enough.  The day of their wedding was overcast.

We sat in the synagogue and witnessed the circling of the bride and groom under the chuppah as they vowed their love and devotion to each other.  I remember little else of the small wedding, but their love and respect for one another stood out to me.

On Sunday, we will go and honor this friend’s life at our first funeral together.

I tell you this because it brought to mind how your name came to be, intentionally and unintentionally.   At first, it was that your name was beautiful.  But it has become something more than just beauty.  And the death of this friend made me realize that I want to sit down and write to you about what your name has come to mean to me because the fragility and toughness of life were made clear to me again.

Since my mom died, death and life have been inextricably linked.  Living life to the fullest, or even understanding its richness or appreciating its beauty without having had the experience of losing my mom is not the same.  In all reality, I cannot tell you how I would think of the experience of life without having lost.

When your daddy and I got married, I sewed designs in our chuppah, inspired to create a visual representation of the promises we were about to make.  I chose symbols that expressed the complexity of love and of joining together.  The central symbols in our chuppah are the sun and the ocean to honor the rising and falling of nature and of the currents of life.

In French, ‘ciel’ means sky and heaven.  As we were coming up with names for you together, I was struck by the beauty of the word, but also by the fact that it is fitting that you be called sky or heaven.   I love this name because in our chuppah, the sky has to be inferred.  The sun and the ocean do not exist without the sky.  Neither your dad nor I are hippy enough to call you Sky or Heaven in English, but it works in French.

In some ways, your daddy and I are bonded by the understanding of death’s touch in life; his dad died in 2003.  Though I don’t believe in heaven or hell, I loved the idea of your name honoring the vastness of the universe, of joining with our wedding symbols, of, when paired with your middle name (which was my mom’s middle name), Rose, suggesting the morning or evening, the beginning or end.

Cielle Rose, you are both the sunrise and the sunset, beautiful and vibrant, signaling the beginning and the end of the day and night.  Even I do not fully understand the meaning of your name, and I love it for that reason.  It is for you to love and to hate, to struggle with and to, I hope, appreciate.   I pass on my mom, the grandma you will never know except through the stories my family tells you, to you through this name.  We give you the gift of the power of symbols and hope that it means something to you.

I tell you the story of today to memorialize it for myself.  It marks something significant to me, though I cannot put my finger on it.

I invite you to come now whenever you are ready to begin your life outside of the womb!  We will embrace and love you the best that we can, as our parents did.

In all of life’s fullness, beauty, and love,

Your mom

Weeks 34 and 35: Relationship, Mother. Status: It’s Complicated

3 May

I woke up last Saturday night to do the middle of the night pregnancy pee, and I could not go back to sleep.  This is abnormal for me now, but a long time ago, when my mom was sick, and I couldn’t sleep, I developed a number of strategies to help me eventually relax.  Ironically, my all consuming thoughts that Saturday night had to do with family, and in particular my mom.

Week 34 in Monterey with the bowling ball belly

My mom died when I was 16, though sometimes the story I tell myself is that she died when I was 14.  After spending a couple of years going to doctors to no avail with complaints about ringing in her ears and headaches, my mom had a seizure.  The MRI revealed that she had a brain tumor the size of a baseball, and the doctors recommended immediate surgery.  The MRI results and the surgery happened in such quick succession that it seemed to me to be on the same day.

All I know is that one day, I had my mom, and the next day, I met someone who was an alien form of my mother with six months to live.  My mom never recovered fully from the removal of all that tissue from her brain because of the location of the tumor.  She was always someone strange and distant from the woman I had known all of my life.  That was when I was 14.

One and a half years later, after much anguish, pain, sadness, longing, guilt, and fear on my part and probably on hers too, my mom finally died.

This January, after reading a memoir, The Kids are All Right by Diana, Liz, Dan and Amanda Welch, about how four kids dealt with the death of their mom after the death of their father for a book club, a friend of mine asked me if I felt like I missed my mom more now that I am pregnant.   At the time I wasn’t able to answer.  The question hit too close to home.  Deep down, I knew that the answer was yes, but I didn’t know how to describe it.

Becoming a motherless mother is a lonely and difficult thing.  I’m sure that there are many commonalities between a woman who has an estranged relationship with her mom and a woman who has lost her mom, though I will not try to convey that because I cannot speak to them.   What I can say is that both circumstances are complicated.

At specific milestones, particularly childbirth, “a mother’s absence is painfully obvious.  Either consciously or subconsciously, we once imagined these occasions and expected her to be there…The daughter mourns not only what was lost, but what will never be,” says Hope Edelman in her book Motherless Daughters.  This mourning is a kind of relationship:  A relationship that transforms through the changes in life.  Perhaps this relationship is a dream, a hope, a mirage, but it is there, and it is important.

Now that the birth of my baby is looming closer and closer, I can see how this particular milestone is very significant.  My mom is not here to answer my questions.  I want to know about her birthing experience, about the struggles she faced as she transitioned into motherhood and how she dealt with or wished she dealt with them.  I want her comfort and support.

There is no one else who can fill her shoes.  This is the harshest reality for me.  I have wanted so badly for other women in my life to be able to be my mom.   But no one can tell her stories the way that she could.  No one can tell me how not to make the same mistakes as she did with me or share the joys of what it was like to raise me and my sister.

The kind of relationship I have with my mom is a kind of longing.  In describing her own experience, Edelman says that

I suspect that I’m longing more for a mother than for my mother, for the archetypal woman who                would swoop into my household at exactly the right moment, bearing a scrubber sponge in one hand and a tube of diaper cream in the other.  ‘Go lie down,’ she’d say.  ‘I’ve got everything under control.  And when you wake up, I’ll show you how to do it all.’

I relate deeply to what Edelman says.  Even before my pregnancy, I had experienced this deep desire to have someone take care of me and to ease my burden.  When my mom got sick and then eventually died, I had to start learning to take care of myself differently.  Though my dad and stepmom were there providing support, I had to learn to soothe myself as a mother would.  I have no idea what my relationship with my mom would have been like as a teenager, so I dream.  And now I dream that my mother figure would come and comfort and hold me and tell me it will all be all right.

After having her own children, Hope Edelman wrote Motherless Mothers, a practical guide of sorts for the motherless mom through the experience of having a baby and raising a child.   While I have only read the first couple of chapters, I have been struck at how the content has helped me to handle the fact that I miss my mom, and that I have not fully mourned the loss.  In her first book, Edelman points out that we never fully recover from having lost someone.

Week 35: Goodbye Celica, Hello Baby Friendly Outback

It’s at these milestone moments that we feel the loss the most.  The birth of the first baby, she says, can be the most difficult because “you can’t mourn as a motherless mother until you are a motherless mother.”  In all honesty, this has freed me up to feel the pain of not having my mother here, to recognize that it will be hard and that I will feel alone as I face this new relationship without the support of my mom.

Having said that, I have a lot to look forward to.  Edelman goes on to say that

One of the biggest paradoxes of the long-term mourning process is that when you allow yourself to feel the pain of separation and loss, you often wind up feeling more connected to the lost loved one when you’re done.  That’s one reason why a missing mother can feel so present and so absent at the same time.  Longing for her brings memories spent together into sharper focus, and she’s in the forefront of your consciousness once more.

The bottom line is that if I allow myself to mourn, I will heal and have a deeper connection to my mom though she is not here.  So my relationship with my mom is complicated in one way and simple in another.  And though she is no longer here, she is still with me.

United in Feeding: Can Mommies Bridge the Breastfeeding Divide?

20 Apr

In the educated mommy world, breastfeeding, along with feeding the kids organic food and providing them with phthalate free toys (wood not plastic, please) are the major fads.

I grew up being skeptical of any fads.  This doesn’t mean that I’ve never participated in fads, however.  Skeptical is the key word.  I went to UC Santa Cruz, where the antithesis of the majority of my hometown’s belief system was the norm, only to find out that everyone wore the same hippy outfits and thought the same things.  So I wore my jeans and t-shirts and tried to keep in mind that skepticism was probably healthy.  Nevertheless, you will catch me in some hippy inspired outfit here and there and thinking many UCSC inspired thoughts.

Breastfeeding in particular has caught my attention recently and given me a lot of food for thought.   I am skeptical about the fervent zeal that so many people have behind the practice even though I plan to do it.  My skepticism has inspired a dream of mommies united in feeding rather than divided by the boob.

Right now, if you aren’t breastfeeding, you are outcast in many circles.  Take the story Hanna Rosin tells in her Atlantic article “The Case Against Breastfeeding” for example.  Her moment of bonding with moms in the park was ruined when she let slip that she was contemplating stopping breastfeeding earlier (after a month) with her third child than with her first two children, who she breastfed religiously.  All of the mothers who had been chatty and happy suddenly found reasons to scatter and move away from the conversation shortly after the proclamation of her thought. After this, Rosin experimented with telling other groups of mothers the same story and got the same reaction.

Consider also the episode of The Parent Experiment, “Motherhood rocks if you beatbox”.  Both Lynette Carolla and Teresa Strasser, the talk show hosts, discuss how when they stopped breastfeeding for various reasons, the former because she had twins, and that’s already enough work, the latter because her milk dried up at month four, they had to suffer much more judgment from the mommy world.

Hearing these stories, it is difficult for me to feel that I have the right to judge mothers’ ability to mother or judge the mother at all by whether they breastfeed or not.  There are so many reasons.

There are differing views on the findings of medical literature as it relates to breastfeeding’s overall effect on children.  According to Rosin, popular culture and academic literature differ significantly in what they tell the reader about the facts of breastfeeding.  Much of what moms are reading to prepare themselves for raising children recommends breastfeeding because, amongst many amazing health benefits, it increases I.Q.  Rosin says that medical literature, on the other hand, “shows that breast-feeding is probably, maybe, a little better; but it is far from the stampede of evidence” that shows up in popular literature.

In her article, she details the strengths and weaknesses of the literature and gives some great insight into why moms are at each other’s throats about breastfeeding in the first place.  In her opinion, the small amount of evidence that shows the importance of breastfeeding might be outweighed by the intimacy and emotional benefits it brings to some moms, but not all.

On the other hand, at a recent course I attended, the physician made clear that while she supports all types of feeding, breastfeeding has been shown to have all of the benefits that Rosin claims are minimal.

Another reason that I feel I have very little right to judge is that each mother  who is not breastfeeding has her story about how she ended up in that position.  Many women do try, but end up not following through for many reasons.  It is important to hear the story rather than impose a blanket judgment on a group of people.  But that is a problem we all face.  It is so much easier to generalize and judge rather than take the time to stop and listen, really listen, to the story.

Breastfeeding is not easy, though it is “natural.”  In her blogpost “Breast is Best”, Mrs. Odie 2 describes how if she did not have the kind of support system that she does, she probably would have given up on breastfeeding herself.   And Melissa Bartrick describes how situational issues such as people’s education about labor and delivery and lifestyle choices, make breastfeeding an even greater challenge in her Huffington Post article, “Peaceful Revolution:  Motherhood and the $13 Billion Guilt.”

Finally, it seems to me that breastfeeding is such a personal decision.  It certainly makes people uncomfortable.  My husband, J, and I recently attended a course on what to do once the baby is born.  While the pediatrician was discussing breastfeeding, J asked a potentially controversial question about it.  I don’t remember the question (pregnancy brain), but I remember how the feeling in the room changed.  It went from warm to cold.  People stiffened up in discomfort.  The pediatrician who was leading the course was very careful to choose her language.  And rightfully so.  The choice is personal.

Given all of this, I find it interesting that hospitals and birth centers alike offer breastfeeding support groups, but not feeding support groups.  I realize that breastfeeding has its own challenges that need to be discussed…but still! From people I know who have attended these types of groups, they have made close ties and long lasting friendships.  Wouldn’t it be great if there was a place where it was encouraged to bond with baby through feeding, in whatever way you see fit, and have the opportunity to bond with other moms?

My skepticism on the breastfeeding fad is based in the fact that this fad perpetuates mommy guilt.  There’s enough mommy guilt as it is.  I say it’s time to create spaces where mommies can bridge some of the judgmental divides…and there are plenty!

As a note:  Issues with breastfeeding extend beyond judgment about who does and does not do it, but also who does it for longer than what is socially acceptable, as one reader pointed out.  It’s an important point that I may cover in a later post.

Week 27: Honor the Paradoxes

10 Mar

The last week of my second trimester is upon me, and I have been inspired to pause and look back over the whole of my pregnancy so far.  One thing is really clear.  This is a time of paradox.  Time moves too slowly but too quickly.  I am autonomous and yet tethered.

Time is a strange concept in normal life and even stranger in pregnancy.  The early days of pregnancy seemed to last forever;   Fear of losing the baby, nausea, uncertainty about the health of the fetus, and anticipation for what seems like forever ahead make the beginning of pregnancy move slowly.

Time's flying!

The second trimester has been a mix of slow and fast.  The month long wait between doctor’s appointments and the growth of my belly have seemed to take forever.  And yet, when I think about the last three months, time has flown.  We moved into a new house and adopted a puppy.  Our little puppy is now big.  He used to fit under my legs when they were up on the table.  Now I swear it seems like he could jump over them, but there’s no way he could squeeze under them.  We’ve torn down walls, painted, shelved and furnished our office, received furniture for the rest of the house, built raised beds and dug an 8 inch deep path through our front lawn.   So much has happened!

At this threshold between the second and third trimesters I’m torn.  On one hand, I recognize that in 13 weeks, give or take a couple, I will no longer be able to swim, garden, call friends, or write when I want.  My life will become tethered with that of Blueberry’s.  In her book  Committed:  A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage, Elizabeth Gilbert says that “love limits, almost by definition.  Love narrows.  The great expansion we feel in our hearts when we fall in love is matched only be the great restrictions that will necessarily follow.”  I still struggle with elements of this in my marriage.  I can only imagine what it’s like with a child.

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Week 26: Gratefulness

5 Mar

I have a lot to be grateful for.  It’s something I want to remember, but I so easily forget.  I’m thankful for my husband, my developing baby, my family and friends, the lessons I’ve learned to get to where I am now.

This one's for you Blueberry!

While I was painting shelves and molding for our office, a tedious yet rewarding job if you’ve never done it, I had a lot of time to think.  I have a tendency to have my most enlightening moments while doing tedious things.  Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, amongst many other spiritual writers have expressed how these types of activities can allow for real meditation, a pause to appreciate the world.

Usually I start out ruminating on the things that I’m bothered by.  Sometimes that’s where I stay.  But on Wednesday, a G.K. Chesterton quote I read in The Happiness Project by Gretchen Ruben filtered its way into my head.  “It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light.”  In my case, this led to me thinking about how it is much harder to remember and appreciate the good things, the light things.  It is so much easier to focus on the heavy.

I have been working on using this as my focus all week.  I am having a tough go of it.  I’m happy to say, though, that a little bit of remembering to be grateful goes a long way. Continue reading