Willa’s Birth Story

WillaRose

On Friday, April 13, at 8:30 a.m. our family officially became a foursome with the birth of little Willa Rose. I haven’t had much time to devote to the blog (because newborn + two-year-old), but I did want to document her birth story while it’s fairly fresh in my mind (much like her brother’s here), mostly in case she wants to look back on it later.

But first – while we’re on the topic of birth – I wanted to take the opportunity to talk for a second about birth plans.

Can we all just agree that these add a lot of unwarranted pressure on moms? I’m not sure exactly when birth planning became a thing (aside from, “Let’s make a baby!” and “Let’s keep it alive outside of Mom’s belly”), but somehow we’ve come to a place where there’s now a big emphasis on them. So much so that there are all these new pressures, expectations and emotions surrounding the whole birthing “experience.”

Maybe it’s a fear thing; we want to have some semblance of control in a situation that cannot really be planned? Maybe it’s a societal (read: social media) thing; we want to wear some kind of warrior-woman-Earth-goddess status as a badge of honor? Or maybe it’s a gender thing; like all we needed was yet another way for women to feel like they had to measure up?

Whatever the reason, it’s time celebrate and appreciate birth in ALL its forms. Go, us, for growing and bringing a new life into the world!

I bring this up because I, too, got sucked into the hype the first time around – but found that during my second pregnancy (with more perspective or…less patience?) it became annoying more than anything.

I originally hoped to go the unmedicated, vaginal route with Wyatt…but as the saying goes, “man plans, and God laughs.”

As a breech baby, he dictated the plan in the end. And when it was Willa’s turn, my body ended up ultimately calling the shots, as you’ll see below.

So despite my best intentions, both births were out of my control. I fought against the first one and felt feelings of guilt, loss and even frustration afterward. But the second time around I ultimately found peace and rolled with the punches.

I’d even go as far as to say that this most recent experience was amazing – and cathartic. So, lesson learned, and I hope other mamas and mamas-to-be can benefit from reading this!

Now, let’s get to the good stuff – the story of Willa:

Just as with Wyatt, we decided early on not to find out the sex of the baby until delivery day. It was such a memorable experience last time that we wanted the same anticipation and excitement around the arrival of baby number two.

With the exception of added fatigue (hello, toddler), my second pregnancy was, thankfully, fairly uneventful and very similar to my first. Willa’s time in utero was remarkably low-key, marked by swift kicks to my right ribs and nightly hiccups.

Most notable was that she seemed to be following in the footsteps of her big brother by hanging out in a breech position. Up until week 33 or 34 I had resigned myself to the fact that we were headed for another scheduled c-section (I had been hoping for a VBAC but knew it wasn’t a guarantee).

Unlike her brother, however, a third trimester growth scan revealed that baby had flipped into the head-down position. This was also about the time she also started pressing on my sciatic nerve. Any exercise – or even walking, for that matter – came to a grinding halt, which was interesting because right up until that point running actually felt great!

With a few weeks left, I was thrilled to make a game plan for a VBAC attempt. I say “attempt” because they call it a “trial of labor” in the hospital consent form. Regardless, it was exciting because I was really hoping to avoid another c-section – mainly because A) I didn’t like feeling so drugged up after the first one, and B) I was worried about a more complex recovery with a toddler at home (you’re not supposed to lift anything heavier than baby for the first few weeks).

But as soon as I re-packed my hospital bags and wrapped my head around a new kind of birth, my body decided to throw us for a loop in the form of rapidly rising blood pressure – aka gestational hypertension – around week 37.

So fast forward to week 38. and my c-section-turned-VBAC “birth plan” changed once again. After testing for pre-eclampsia (negative) and spending in Labor & Delivery being monitored (her heartbeat dipped on the doppler during a routine visit, but it turned out she was fine), I was given a deadline by my OB: baby needed to come in the next week.

Now all that was left to do was make a game plan for getting her out safely.

Option one was to induce, but since I had a previous c-section we were limited in the range of drugs we could use (basically just Pitocin to stimulate contractions). But since I wasn’t dilated yet and we couldn’t use any medicine to soften my cervix, my OB calculated pretty low odds of success. Option two was to schedule a repeat c-section.

When I pressed (pleaded!) for a third option – buying more time for baby to come on his/her own – my OB cautioned strongly against it.

After plenty of tears (hello, hormones!) and time spent processing the situation, I decided that the best decision for me and baby would be to opt for a repeat c-section.

It wasn’t an easy decision by any means, and I won’t lie and say I wasn’t disappointed after getting my hopes up for a VBAC…but in the end, it just made sense to prioritize both my and my baby’s immediate health over being able to say I attempted a vaginal delivery.

Once that was settled, I felt as if a huge weight was lifted. We could start planning for the big day (Friday the 13th was wide open in the surgery schedule – go figure!). So once again I re-packed that hospital bag and hoped for the best.

Surgery was scheduled for 7:30 am, so Ben and I arrived at the hospital by 5:30 am to get prepped. Driving in the car that morning, we were still going through baby names; the girl name we were pretty much settled on, but we were still going back and forth between several for boys.

Walking into Labor & Delivery, the nurses greeted us with a warm, “Hey, you’re here to have a baby!” which felt as surreal as the first time we were there…since I wasn’t actually in labor. But once I was in our hospital room with my gown on, things got real – really quickly.

My IV was probably the most painful part of this whole process! It took my poor nurse four or five attempts, apparently because the high blood pressure was making my veins “squiggly.” Each time she inserted the needle and catheter, I felt a strong nerve-y ache (and the resulting bruises took as long to heal as my incision).

Once that was done, the anesthesiologist stopped in to talk about the epidural (side note: I had a spinal the first time, but apparently there’s a shortage of that medicine and/or they’re switching to epidurals for c-sections anyway…at least at my hospital). I was nervous because this was all new to me, but he walked through the process and answered my questions patiently.

Getting the actual epidural was interesting – I don’t know how you ladies do it while in labor! They raised the bed up high and had Ben sit in front of me and hold my arms as I hunched over a pillow and held still. Neither the numbing needle nor the catheter were painful, but I felt a weird twinge in one hip at a point – nothing unbearable, though.

It was neat being able to compare my previous spinal to the epidural, too. The spinal was one quick shot and took effect almost immediately (feels like your legs are warm and falling asleep), while the epidural was a much longer process – both in how long it took to set up and take effect. They did a test to see if it was working before wheeling me into the operating room – and then it was go time!

I’m not sure if it was a difference in drugs or just knowing what to expect (I was nervous both times; it IS major surgery, after all), but I felt much more coherent in the OR this time around.

The anesthesiologist cranked up my epidural, the nurses did their final prep and my doctor got to work almost immediately behind the drape. Ben got to come into the room a few minutes later and sit by my head.

With Wyatt, I remember more tugging and my body being rocked back and forth, but absolutely no pain; with Willa there was a lot less movement, but greater pressure as they pushed her out – maybe because the babies were in different positions?

There was also a point where I could start feeling sensations of some of the tools in my abdomen. I had a moment of panic, alerting the anesthesiologist, and he adjusted my medication quickly.

We also opted again for the clear drape during surgery. I’d definitely recommend this if you’re having a c-section! Don’t worry – you won’t see any actual surgery, but they’ll drop it when the baby comes out so you’ll get to see him or her immediately through a clear plastic window, which is wonderful.

In a matter of minutes, Willa was on her way out; my doctor held her up to the drape for Ben to call out the sex. A short pause later he said, “It’s a little…girl? IT’S A GIRL!”

After wiping her down, checking her vitals and swaddling her, we got to get in a few minutes of cuddle time as I was being put back together and sewn up. Those first few moments with a new baby never cease to leave me in awe of the miracle of life.

Once my doctor was done, we rolled over to recovery for about an hour and a half for monitoring. The best part of this was uninterrupted skin-to-skin; those fresh-out-of-the-womb snuggles are second to none – the drugs didn’t knock me on my butt this time, thank goodness, but I was definitely riding a ‘mom high!’

Once we were back in our room, Ben and I spent the next few days getting to know Willa, re-learning how to care for a newborn (thank you, L&D nurses!) and introducing her to family (big brother, most importantly!).

Recovery from surgery went so smoothly that they gave us the option of being discharged a day early, although we opted to stay in for an extra night to make sure I was back on my feet (plus Willa was fighting through some jaundice). But before we knew it, we were packing up to head home to begin our life as a family of four.

Since then, it’s been an adventure, but Mama is slowly but surely learning the ropes handling two while Dad’s at work!

It’s easier with your second in that you know generally what to expect – and that babies are more resilient than we give them credit for. But it’s also tougher in that there are few breaks between toggling back and forth between a newborn and toddler – basically two “babies.”

The only way I can describe the first month home with two kids two-and-under is pure chaos. But we survived, thanks to family for pinch-hitting with babysitting and friends who brought meals, and each week it gets a little bit less intimidating being at home and outnumbered.

Fortunately, Willa’s a very mellow baby, too – we have been blessed with a good eater and sleeper this time around – so she’s very forgiving when Wyatt needs some special attention from Mama.

And while it’s tough to carve out much time for myself, I’ve been focused less on how quickly I can return to working out and more on how to do so safely. Which means that nearly three months out I have yet to do much beyond walking, but I’ve been doing plenty of rehab work with my PT, as well as other post-natal health and fitness experts.

If you’re a new mom (or any mom, for that matter), I can’t stress enough the importance of re-building a strong foundation before you jump back into training. More on that soon because this topic deserves its own post, but if you have any questions in the meantime please feel free to reach out and I can answer based on my personal experience or direct you to someone who can help!

Because there’s one truth that’s constant regardless of how many kids you do (or don’t) have: if you don’t take good care of yourself, how are you going to help care for anyone else?!

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Baby Registry Regrets: Getting the Scoop from Seasoned Mamas

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I still remember how overwhelming it felt registering for baby number one. When you don’t know what you don’t know…it can feel almost paralyzing trying to make decisions.

Like…how do I choose from literally three gazillion types of baby bottles? What’s up with all the different breast pumps, let alone all their accessories? And are the more expensive car seats and strollers actually better – i.e. will they keep my baby safer?!

Ultimately, I avoided big box stores like the plague and went straight to a local boutique here in Portland that helped me streamline “needs” from “wants” and cut out most “totally unnecessary crap” (i.e. a wipe warmer – don’t waste your time or money).

That strategy helped, yes, but now that we’re prepping for numero dos (and especially since s/he is coming a mere two years later), there are still some things I wish I would’ve known – like to buy a stroller and a monitor with the capability of converting for two.

Hindsight may be 20/20, and it’s true that each family and baby is different (so there will always be some tweaking)…but I thought it’d be fun to ask some seasoned mom friends (with two to four kiddos each!) for their regrets, wish lists and best advice when it comes to gearing up for that little person who’s about to enter your life…

First up, moms share their “woulda-shoulda-couldas” learned along the way. 

REGISTRY REGRETS

Feeding Time

“I would have held off on buying baby bottles and borrowed some to try. We ended up going through six types of bottles before we found one baby would take. Now I have a lot of extra bottles.”

Bottles! Each baby is different. You may need one bottle of a few kinds to try out before something really kicks in.”

“I wouldn’t bother with a bottle warmer. It’s better they don’t get used to warm milk so they are more likely to take milk cooler when you’re on the go.”

“Most of my registry “regrets” come from preparing for things that ultimately didn’t happen. I prepared for vaginal births and breastfeeding…I had two c-sections and boobs that didn’t work. I had ALL the breastfeeding/pumping supplies and didn’t need anything. ”

Breastfeeding stuff. I think that is good to have nourishing cream, pads, etc…but it ultimately it’s hard to buy all the stuff only to realize you can’t.”

“The one thing I regret not registering for was baby formula. I was not able to produce milk, and we had to go to formula sooner than planned. We did not know how expensive formula was before we had to get it. If people put it on their registries and end up getting some and not using it, they can always donate it!”

Catching Some ZZZ’s

“I wouldn’t have invested in a convertible crib. With two kids two years apart, we didn’t want to buy two cribs. So instead of being able to use the toddler bed, we ended up just moving our two-year-old into her big girl bed by the time baby came.”

“I wish I would have registered for the Baby Bijorn Travel Crib – two kids in, and I still wish I would gotten that!”

“We ended up needing a camera I can access from my phone. I love that I can see her at work, plus if the monitor is in the other room, I can just check my phone.”

“A camera monitor! With multiple cameras! I thought I would always be by his side.”

Keeping Warm & Cozy

Clothes. That’s the fun thing for people to go off-registry for, but it’s impossible to know what will fit when (my four kids ranged in weight at birth from 6#8oz to 9#11oz and grow at remarkably different paces).”

“Fancy swaddles. I didn’t realize I had a child that would only be lightly swaddled for two weeks before moving to a sleep sack.”

“Please NO more blankets. I have about three favorites and two huge bins full of them!”

On the Move

“I wish I would have bought a stroller that converted to a double from the beginning. We knew we wanted at least two, but it never dawned on me to have a stroller that accommodated both of them.”

“I didn’t even know that they made convertible strollers… that would have been good to know!”

“I don’t suggest a double Bob. They’re huge, and running with two in tow is actually a challenge.”

“I would get a different car seat – one with more easily adjustable straps!”

“I wish I hadn’t registered for a pee pad for/under the car seat. When I had the baby car seat safety class in the hospital they scared me into not wanting to use them.”

Next up, moms weigh in on what they found to be the most lifesaving products when it comes to keeping baby happy. 

NEWER MUST-HAVES

Items Getting Rave Reviews 

“I would definitely get a Dock-a-tot! I co-slept way more then I expected (aka I said I would NEVER do it…ummm yeah that lasted like two hours).”

“I literally put my son in a short basket in the middle of the bed. It had a tight sheet on it and was like $10 on Amazon.”

Dock-a-tot! I am obsessed with ours and tell all of my friends about to be moms to invest in one.”

“I wouldn’t have been able to live without our Nest camera for a monitor – easy to access from my phone from anywhere, and we pack it with us whenever we sleep somewhere overnight.”

“Definitely a Rock-n-Play…we have two one upstairs and one down. And a white noise machine…for keeping #1 asleep at night when #2 is fussy!”

And finally, moms get real with what helps the most when it comes to transitioning into parenthood.

FROM THE MOUTHS OF MAMAS

Most-Appreciated Items

“Consider neutral colors of items like seats, sleep sacks, Boppys, etc. that work for both girls and boys.”

“My recommendation would be to lock in as many hand-me-downs from co-workers/family/friends BEFORE setting up a registry to know what things might be available.”

“While all the frou frou stuff is undoubtedly appreciated, money is the best gift ever. I ended up not needing most, if not a lot, of what I received as gifts…and the toys we got were destroyed within the week if not ever played with again out of boredom.”

Target and Amazon gift cards were the most appreciated gifts because I was able to chose things myself when I needed them.”

Gift cards to restaurants were great because I couldn’t cook since I had a c-section. It was hard to move, and my recovery was long!”

Starbucks gift cards were awesome since I needed help staying awake to take care of big brother while the little one slept.”

Gift certificates to Buy Buy Baby or your favorite local baby store go a long way.”

“It would have been nice to have more bed sheets because my kids always threw up or soiled our sheets while we were co-sleeping. I never had enough!”

“The best registry gifts are when several people go in on an expensive item, like a dream stroller (note: those HUGE strollers are great in the city…suburbia so heavy to get in the car), a nice car seat or a nice high chair.”

“It’s worth it to acknowledge that the first few months are full of emergency Amazon orders so gift cards are a great idea!”

“I am almost certain that I’ve made a purchase from Amazon every day since my daughter was born. So, gift cards!”

“A baby nanny. I see celebrities have them, but give the baby nannys to us common folk!”

“You don’t need as much STUFF as you think you do. Get gift cards and diapers, the rest will work itself out!”

First-time mamas and repeat mamas-to-be, hopefully you’ve been able to glean some good information from the wisdom of these seasoned pros! 

Do you have any registry regrets that didn’t make the list? What about newer products you can’t live without? Or advice for mamas who are navigating their registries for the first time?

 

 

Recipe: Power Smoothie…for Pregnancy & Beyond

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Whether you’re an athlete or pregnant woman (or both…or neither!), iron is essential to optimal health. In fact, it’s a critical component in helping our bodies make oxygen-carrying red blood cells.

Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiency in the U.S., with almost 10 percent of women being considered iron deficient.

But did you know that eating foods high in Vitamin C can help you absorb more iron? That’s why this recipe is a great option for anyone who is looking for a nutrient-dense snack to fuel their day.

Plus, just a handful of ingredients provides the following:

  • Peaches = Vitamins A and C, calcium, potassium & magnesium
  • Spinach = iron, Vitamins A, C and K, folate, manganese & potassium
  • Dates = good source of energy, natural sugar & fiber
  • Chia seeds = fiber, protein & Omega-3’s
  • Hemp seeds = protein, fatty acids (Omega 3, 6, 9 & GLA), & all essential amino acids
  • Greek yogurt = protein, calcium & probiotics
  • OJ = Vitamin C & folate
  • Almond milk = protein, fiber & Vitamin E

So, without further ado, I present to you the…

Power Smoothie…for Pregnancy & Beyond!

Ingredients:

  • 1c frozen peach slices
  • 2c loosely packed fresh spinach
  • 1 Tbsp Bard Valley Natural Delights Medjool date paste (directions here)
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 Tbsp hemp seed hearts
  • 1/2c Greek yogurt
  • 1c orange juice
  • 1/2c unsweetened almond milk

Directions:

  1. Measure all ingredients into blender.
  2. Cover, blend & enjoy!

Note: If this isn’t up your alley, ingredient-wise, but you still want to whip up your own custom smoothie that’s a perfect fit for your fitness goals, my friends over at Natural Delights made a nifty smoothie builder that allows you to create your own concoction – complete with all the nutritional info.

Happy blending and healthy living, friends!

This post is sponsored by Bard Valley Natural Delights Medjool Dates, but the recipe and opinions expressed therein are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that partner with KineticFix.com!

What You Don’t Know CAN Hurt You: Outdated Guidelines for Pregnancy & Exercise

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Disclaimer: This post does not constitute medical advice. If you’re pregnant – and especially if either you or your pregnancy are considered high-risk – always check with your health care provider for exercise recommendations before starting new a fitness routine. 

In a recent physical therapy appointment, my PT asked about how workouts were going now that pregnancy has progressed to the “oh-she’s-definitely-pregnant-not-just-overindulging-during-the-holidays” stage.

For the most part, great, I told her. Although no training’s happening at the moment, I put myself on a loose schedule of cardio, strength training, PT exercises and workout classes throughout the week to keep moving.

The major difference between this and my first pregnancy? I’m feeling larger and dealing with the usual minor discomforts earlier this time around.

And the biggest similarity? Oddly enough, how other people are reacting to my current state – particularly when it comes to fitness: instead of addressing the obvious and offering advice/adjustments, it feels like most instructors simply opt for avoidance.

Yes, there are potential ramifications and legal complications for trainers giving pre- and post-natal fitness advice when they’re not qualified to do so. But given the fact that the average pregnant women isn’t sure what she should (or shouldn’t) be doing, some general guidance would be helpful.

Literally, I have to bite my tongue every time I see another pregnant woman past her first trimester doing sit-ups. 

And what’s even crazier is that some doctors still adhere to dated exercise principles (aka the heart rate one below). This is not to say you should ever go against your doctor’s advice, but rather that you should shop around and find someone who is up on the latest research if you’re wanting to work out at a certain level with baby on board.

So today we’re tackling a few of my biggest pregnancy pet peeves (outdated exercise guidelines and common myths!), as well as some common-sense do’s and don’ts for a happy, healthy pregnancy for both you and baby:

Myth #1: Keep your heart rate below 140 bpm. 

This is perhaps the most common preggo urban legend, but did you know that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynocologists (ACOG) actually removed this recommendation from their guidelines back in 1994?

It’s still a prevalent piece of advice, however – in fact,  a 2010 study of 93 practicing physicians and midwives found that 64 percent of all respondents believed that maternal exercise heart rate should not exceed 140 beats per minute.

Your best bet? Again, check with your doctor for specific metrics, but also consider using breathlessness and perceived exertion to keep yourself in check during workouts.

Myth #2: Don’t lift more than 25 pounds. 

This is actually an arbitrary number, meaning there are no studies that show that lifting more than 25 pounds has an effect on birth weight or premature labor.

It is true that a woman’s capacity to safely lift a load decreases throughout pregnancy, but this has more to do with a change in center of gravity affecting balance, as well as hormones causing connective tissue, ligaments and tendons to soften in preparation for labor.

The safest game plan? Gradually reduce your maximum load as pregnancy progresses, and pay special attention to keeping proper form to avoid unnecessary injury.

Myth #3: Vigorous exercise will overheat the baby. 

You’ve heard the term “bun in the oven” but no woman wants to inadvertently cook her poor fetus!

Interestingly enough, pregnant bodies have a few mechanisms in place to prevent this, however: First, increased blood volume and a lower sweat threshold make it easier to get rid of excess heat. And, second, mama’s weight gain means more tissue that needs to be kept warm.

Of course, use common sense and don’t run in the heat of the sun at the warmest time of day. But as long as you hydrate, hydrate, hydrate and keep cool with sweat-wicking fabrics and proper ventilation, etc., you should be good to go.

Myth #4: Ab workouts are off limits. 

Yes, doing crunches, sit-ups and other ab exercises on your back are a major no-no after the first trimester because they put you at an increased risk for diastasis recti. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore your core!

Depending on the state of your stomach (check with your doctor or a physical therapist first), things like planks may even be off-limits. So modify, as needed, and monitor for “coning” to help avoid separation of your abs.

What else can you do? My best advice here is to see a physical therapist who specializes in pre- and post-natal work to develop a personalized program to keep your core strong – yet safe – during pregnancy.

Myth #5: If you weren’t active before, now is not the time to start. 

You can use your pregnancy to get off the hook when it comes to a lot of stuff, but never – I repeat NEVER – is it an excuse to be totally inactive (unless you’re on doctor-prescribed bed rest, of course).

The exercise benefits to both mama and baby are so great that it’s worth the time and energy investment throughout your pregnancy – just (again) use common sense and stay away from activities that increase your risk of falling. Be mindful of the belly!

If you’ve been active, perfect – simply stick to your usual routine, dialing it back to adapt to your changing body. And if you’re new to working out, even better – now’s the best time to start a wonderful habit with lasting positive effects on both mama and baby for years to come.

Again, it’s worth repeating: Always clear any kind of activity and/or exercise with your doctor. S/he knows your unique situation and can give the best advice.

And, above all else, listen to your own body. You’d be surprised at how mama intuition kicks in when you leave expectations and ego at the door and simply appreciate what your body is able to do!

The Essential Gift Guide for Expecting Mamas

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Stumped on what to buy the pregnant lady in your life this season? Or maybe you’re the one who’s knocked up and just in need of a little pick-me-up?

I’ve got you covered: Starting clockwise from the upper left corner, here’s a handy list of gifts to make any mama-to-be’s life a little easier.

Earth Mama Angel Baby Organic Mama-To-Be Tea Sampler: Because when you can’t have a cocktail, you turn toward these four herbal remedies for nausea, heartburn, anxiety and labor prep, respectively.

Leachco Back ‘N Belly Contoured Body Pillow: Support in just the right places to help you sleep like a baby…even if baby is doing his or her best to keep you awake at all hours with those karate kicks.

Serola Sacroiliac Belt: Recommended by my PT and vouched for by me, this keeps cranky SI joints and other pelvic problems (thanks to relaxin hormones) in check so you can keep moving with less discomfort.

Simple Wishes SuperMom All-in-One Nursing and Pumping Bra: I sang the praises of this brand’s pumping bra last time around, and for baby number two I’ve upgraded to their three-in-one version for maternity, pumping and nursing. Loving it so far!

Prenatal Physical Therapy: Either I’m ‘older and wiser’ or maybe just older and accepting that the concept of ‘bouncing back’ doesn’t really apply. In any case, it’s a smart investment to not only ward off aches and pains, but also prepare for labor and set your body up for success when it comes to healing after.

The Spoiled Mama Tummy Butter for Stretch Marks: It glides on, isn’t super sticky and smells like orange-chocolate, which is basically the stuff pregnant women’s dreams are made of, right?

Move Your Bump Workout: After following fit mom and health Nancy Anderson on Instagram, I was so inspired (do it for baby, she says!) that I pre-ordered her pregnancy workout program, which will be released December 20.

Expecting More®: The 4th Trimester Workout: Another Instagram fit mom, Sara Haley is a former Reebok Global Master Trainer, as well as a pre- and post-natal exercise specialist. Her 4th tri workout includes modifications for diastasis recti and c-sections, and is how I plan on easing back into fitness post-baby.

Ingrid & Isabel Active Legging with Crossover Panel: One of the few maternity workout pants I’ve found that is versatile (wear panel over belly or folded down), stays put, provides support and flatters blossoming curves.

How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids: Required reading (don’t let the title scare you away) with practical marriage advice and insight into successful conflict resolution that’ll come in handy when the going gets tough – which isn’t ‘if’ but ‘when’ as your relationship dynamic changes overnight.

Prenatal Massage: Another pregnancy non-negotiable. There are so many benefits, for both mama and baby, but the best part is lying for an hour on your stomach thanks to that glorious cushion with the belly and boob holes.

True Botanicals Basics Duo: Billed as “pregnancy-safe skincare that works,” this liquid gold isn’t cheap but is worth it when it comes to peace of mind for mamas who want results without toxins that may be harmful to developing babies.

Mamas, do you have any other faves to add to the list? Please share!

Recipe: (un)Candied Walnuts + Impress Guests with this Quick Holiday App

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Nothing rings in the holiday season quite like visits from family and friends, all kinds of comfort food, and the smell of something cinnamon wafting from the oven.

This recipe just happens to combine all of that; plus, I was curious to see if I could mimic my favorite candied nuts without the use of added sugar.

While these walnuts don’t have quite the same candy-like taste, they do have all of the flavor, making them perfect for snacking by the handful or adding to dishes where you don’t want to get smacked in the face with sweetness.

And the ingredients are easy enough to have on hand; so whenever you’ve got guests at your door, you’ll know bellies will be happy and folks will be filled with holiday cheer.

Havarti-Date Bread Bites with (un)Candied Walnuts

Ingredients: 

  • 1 c walnuts
  • 1/2 c Bard Valley Natural Delights Medjool date paste (directions here)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp hot water
  • 1 baguette
  • 1 package pre-sliced Havarti cheese
  • Extra 1/4 c date paste for spreading on bread

Directions for the (un)Candied Walnuts: 

  1. To make candied walnuts, preheat oven to 350ºF and mix nuts, 1/2 c of the date paste, cinnamon, salt, vanilla and hot water in a bowl until nuts are evenly coated.
  2. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread nuts on it in a single layer. Bake about 10-15 minutes, watching very carefully, and remove as soon as the nuts look dry – they will burn if left in too long!

Directions for the Havarti-Date Bread Bites: 

  1. While nuts are cooling, cut baguette on an angle into inch-thick slices and arrange on another baking sheet.
  2. Spread a thin layer of date paste on bread slices and cover with a piece of Havarti cheese.
  3. Bake in oven for 5 minutes or until cheese melts. Remove, top with a candied walnut and serve immediately.

StitchFix (Maternity!) Shipment No. 15 Review

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Well hey, StitchFix, it’s been a while! But with baby on board these past few months, I’ve been waiting until now to update my maternity wardrobe.

I kept all the items from my last fix (read about it here), so I tried to be just as specific this time around with my requests – namely, a pair of fun jeans and a dainty-yet-unique necklace, plus a few tops and sweaters to use as the bump grows.

New to StitchFix? Read all about how it works here

Now let’s take a peek at what showed up in this month’s box…

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First up was the Just Black Maternity Andrea Released Hem Skinny Jean ($88).

At this point (17 weeks along) forgiving waistbands are essential, so these immediately caught my eye.

I’ve got a few pairs of standard blue and black denim from last round, but this time I’m all about color – especially as we enter the dreary Portland winter months.

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Next was the Romolo Munroe Feather Pendant Necklace ($28).

Pretty basic, yes. But I like the beaded detail on the chain, it’s a perfect length and it’ll add some interest to outfits without overwhelming them.

Plus, I’m not a fan of A) much or B) big jewelry, so this will be a great staple for accessorizing.

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Third was the Skies are Blue Olivina Hooded Slub Knit Cardigan ($58).

It’s got a classic color and shape, plus the open design is good for all stages of pregnancy and beyond.

The sleeve detail on the bottom threw me a bit, though – it’s a spandex-type material that goes maybe a quarter of the way up your arm – but maybe it’s good for keeping sleeves pushed up?

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After that was the Kensie Lona Zipper Sleeve Pullover ($68).

To be honest, this was the only piece that didn’t thrill me straight out of the package, but I withheld judgment because you never know until you try it on.

The color is mix of gray, taupe and green, which is kind of ‘meh,’ though, plus the shape is a little boxy for my taste…but we’ll see.

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And last but not least was the Loveappella Maternity Jillyen Roll Cuff Knit Top ($48).

As soon as I pulled this top out of the box, I knew it was my style – casual and sporty.

The material looked a tad see-through, however, so I definitely wanted to see how it looked on before deciding.

So what did I end up keeping?

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Once again…everything!

Here’s my reasoning: The jeans and short-sleeved top were no-brainers. I don’t currently have anything like the hooded sweater (which is great for fall layering!) or the necklace.

And the sweater I was so-so about? Factor in the 25 percent discount if you purchase all five items, and it made sense to keep the whole box.

Well played, StitchFix, well played!

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Disclosure: This is *not* a sponsored post; I pay for StitchFix on my own, and since I love the service, it’s fun to share my experience. If you sign up using my referral link, I’ll get a credit…so thanks in advance for fueling the next fix!