Here are 5 things I wished I packed in my hospital bag the first time I gave birth. Now that I'm packing my hospital bag for my second birth, I am definitely packing these 5 things that are going to make my life a little easier (and more comfortable!).
Whether you have been pregnant or are planning to become pregnant, most women fear how their body will change during and after carrying a child. It’s a monumental life-changing event in so many ways. Naturally, most women will look different post-baby (after all, the body is bringing a new life into this world!). Our society has done a great job of feeding the message that pregnancy “ruins” a woman’s body. There’s an obsession with celebs (and even regular folk) who’ve “bounced back” to their pre-pregnancy bodies and look like they haven’t had kids at all. Gossip magazines used to be the worst offenders, and now our Instagram feeds are joining the fun.
I didn’t realize just how much society’s idea of perfection was affecting me until my first pregnancy, two years ago. In my childhood and adolescent years, I had subconsciously learned to find love and acceptance by looking a certain way and keeping up with the expectations of others. When I became pregnant, these old image demands re-surfaced, and all the unknowns of pregnancy shook me. Would I gain weight that I would then spend my whole life trying to lose? Would I have stretch marks? Acne? Varicose veins? I dreaded the process of getting bigger. All the subliminal messages about women no longer being attractive after having babies started to morph into fears about my husband not liking my look and then altogether not being beautiful. I began acting irrationally in my marriage (convinced he no longer loved me) and I wasn’t enjoying the miracle of being pregnant and becoming a mother.
A few weeks into my second trimester, I had to be honest with the fears I hadn’t addressed in the first stage of my pregnancy. By not facing my issues, they were robbing me of joy and eroding the trust and love that once defined my marriage. I had to make a stand and defend the self-worth for which I had spent so many years fighting. I prayed and journaled. I spent time reflecting on the honor it was to grow life inside of me. I stopped watching shows on husbands cheating on their wives because that fed my fear that my husband would no longer find me attractive. I chose to put down the magazines and books that portrayed pregnant women as unattractive or spoke of them as if they were half the women they were before having children. I deleted Instagram accounts that made me feel inferior because I didn’t have the same body type. I meditated on affirmations about my inherent worth. I learned to accept my husband’s unconditional love for me and not conjure up scenarios in my head. I surrounded myself with positive images of powerful pregnant women who are confident and radiant in their skin, even with baby weight and stretch marks. I read about those who were happy and secure after having babies. I dare say, women who felt even more beautiful.
Maybe for you, it’s not the process of pregnancy but something else that’s made you realize society has wreaked havoc on your body image. Perhaps enough is enough, and you’re done dealing with the pressure of living up to the “perfect” body. Whatever it may be, I encourage you to sit and be real with those feelings and have a look at what’s feeding the fear and insecurity. Is it your Instagram feed? Is it that friend or boyfriend that comments about your weight? Is it certain TV shows or magazines that place an expectation on you to look a set way? Is it something more profound like a childhood experience or a relationship that tied your worth to your appearance?
As hard and as painful as it was, I’m so grateful I got a chance to confront my feelings so I could be at peace with who I am, pregnant or not. It didn’t happen overnight, but I started to love carrying a child and how I looked. I embraced the journey instead of resisting it, and the fear of the unknown began to have less of a hold on me. Now, two years later, I am pregnant again with our second child. I can honestly say that I am happier and more confident about my body than I ever have been. Sure, it’s not exactly the same as it was before I had my son, but the great thing is, I’m 100% at peace with that. I don’t feel the pressure that I once put on myself to look a certain way.
I’ve found a deep love for my body, and it’s the most liberating feeling to value it for its strength, tenacity, and ability to bring life into this world. Its worth doesn’t come from being a certain size or weight or whether it has stretch marks or not. Despite what society tells me, that’s not what brings me true happiness at all.
Written for Iridescent Women: https://iridescentwomen.com/2018/08/28/how-pregnancy-improved-my-body-image/
Did you know that what you put on your skin is absorbed into your blood stream in less than 27 seconds? That means the ingredients in your skincare products are absorbed into your blood stream at a faster rate than what you eat!
Paraben-free. Sulfate-free. No mineral oil.
You might’ve seen these buzz words scattered over your skincare products. More and more people are becoming aware that these synthetic ingredients could be toxic (and potentially harmful to a developing baby).
Scientific studies are still under way but ingredients like parabens have been linked to some cancers and have been found in breast tumors. Sulfates have a degenerative effect on your body (they break down cell membranes) and have been found in heart, brain and lung tissue. Mineral oil deposits have also been found deep inside the body, and have even been found in the milk samples of nursing mothers. Their link to cancer is still being investigated.
To be honest, I didn’t care too much about what was going on my skin until my first pregnancy. Suddenly, I became aware that everything I ate or drank, everything I put on my skin and everything that I inhaled or surrounded myself with, was somehow being passed onto my baby to some degree.
That’s when I started reading the ingredients on my skincare products and found a cocktail of petrochemicals and parabens I didn’t want to be absorbing.
Why does it matter?
A human being will grow at his or her fastest rate inside the womb. Over 1 million new cells are formed every 4 minutes. All it takes during this phase is an excessive dose of a harmful chemical or toxin and your baby’s development could be at risk.
This is definitely not written to alarm you but to encourage you to be mindful about the products you put on your skin over the 9 months that you are pregnant.
The troubling thing with the beauty industry is that skincare companies aren’t lawfully obligated to list certain chemicals they put their products. In fact, sometimes they don’t even need to list all the ingredients they use. For example, the word “fragrance” on a bottle could mean up 5000 different concoctions including synthetic, preservative, or allergy-provoking substances that you might want to know about.
Plus, some companies intentionally use fragrance to mask the smell of certain chemicals they use so the consumer has no idea just how toxic it really is.
What do I use?
Now, in my second pregnancy, I've discovered fantastic products that are free from synthetic ingredients that could harm my baby’s development. One brand that I’ve discovered is True Botanicals. I love their stuff because they deliver real results and they use only pregnancy-safe ingredients.
In fact, True Botanicals is the first company I’ve come across that has the pregnant woman in mind. They've designed a special range (called the Hydrate collection) and they don’t use anything that pregnant women can’t put onto their skin.
The icing on the cake is that their products actually work. My skin feels softer and has more of an even skin tone in the last 6 weeks that I’ve been using their products. Despite having acne-prone skin and being worried I would break out during this pregnancy, I haven’t had one pimple.
My next concern was anti-ageing and they’ve proved themselves there. Fine lines on my forehead have disappeared in the recent weeks that I’ve used their face oil and serum. My skin feels hydrated and well-nourished. Just this morning, I was told that I look ten years younger than my actual age (I’m not sure how I feel about that) – but hey, I’ll take it!
What can you do?
First up, have a read of the ingredients in your cleansers, toners, serums and moisturizers. Have a look for key words that mean parabens, sulfates and petrochemicals have been used. To make it easier, there’s a quick list below.
Next up, I’d encourage you to look for safer options in whatever products that have more of the synthetic ingredients you don’t want. If price is an issue, swap out one product at a time. Natural skincare is becoming more mainstream so it’s becoming more and more affordable to the average woman. Drug store brands I love include Aveeno and the Nutragena Naturals line.
Try before you buy. If you’re not convinced that natural skincare will work for you, I encourage you to be open minded and try it out first. Some brands like True Botanicals sell samples of their products which you can try out for a few days to see for yourself.
I'd love to hear from you. What are some natural skincare products that you've tried and loved? Feel free to email me or comment below! x
About 9 in 10 women develop stretch marks during pregnancy. Despite all the stretch mark creams available on the market today, experts agree that the determining factor on whether a person gets stretch marks is genetics.
Although genetics play a major role, holistic health practitioners will also say that nutrition can be the determining factor. I have to agree. It would explain the fact that I got faint stretch marks on my hips from a growth spurt during high school but I didn’t get any stretch marks during my first pregnancy with a collagen-rich diet (and I’m working on preventing any during this pregnancy).
How can food help prevent stretch marks?
First up, your skin is an organ that needs specific nutrients to function at its best. Your skin is your body’s largest organ so just like your heart or liver, it needs nutrients to thrive.
The key nutrient for healthy-looking skin is collagen.
Collagen is the main structural protein found in skin and other connective tissue such as bones, joints and ligaments. Without collagen, our skin would be inelastic, i.e., it wouldn’t be able to stretch. That’s why the beauty industry has long-used collagen in anti-ageing serums and moisturizers. Collagen improves our skin elasticity and without it, our skin is prone to wrinkles, sagging and stretch marks.
Improving skin elasticity from the inside out
I’m all about health from the inside out. Healthy skin is a reflection of a healthy diet and lifestyle. By eating more collagen-rich foods we can improve skin elasticity from the inside out. After all, stretch marks are a sign that the skin is not as elastic (or cannot stretch) at the rate it’s being asked to.
As a side note, I still use stretch mark prevention creams, along with good nutrition, to prevent stretch marks. Since your skin is your largest organ (and everything you put on your skin is absorbed into your blood stream within 27 seconds), I've been on the hunt for natural stretch mark creams that actually work. I love ThinkBaby's Best Stretch Mark Creams for Pre and Post-Pregnancy list for natural creams that have been tried and tested on moms who've either used these creams and haven't got stretch marks - or moms who've seen stretch marks fade and disappear after using these creams.
The richest source of collagen is from bone broth. Beef, chicken and fish broth contain collagen from the bones it was cooked from. By slow cooking these bones, collagen is released into the broth. I personally love the taste of broth, so I drink a small bowl of it almost every day. There are a few places around New York you can get broth, but I’ve found that cooking my own is so simple and inexpensive, that I make a batch in the slow cooker almost every weekend.
Broths are also a great base for home-made chicken and noodle or minestrone soups. This is how I sneaked broth into my diet during my first trimester when the thought of broth by itself made me feel ill!
What if you can’t stomach bone broth?
If the thought of drinking bone broth makes you want to gag, try collagen powder. You can add a spoonful in to your sauces, your soups, your smoothies or smoothie bowls for a collagen-boost. Vital Proteins and Dr. Axe have high-quality collagen powders you can order online that are rather taste-neutral and easy to mix into soups, smoothies or even juice or water.
If you can drink bone broth, check out my easy chicken broth recipe that takes only a few minutes to prep and you'll have enough broth to last you a week. In my humble opinion, it’s totally worth the many benefits it can give to your skin and your body (not to mention your baby’s development too).
1. Missed period
If your period is late, it’s worth taking a pregnancy test. The best time to take a pregnancy test is first thing in the morning, using your first pee of the day. That’s because the test will be looking for elevated hCG hormone levels and the concentration of hCG is highest first-thing in the morning.
2. Sore boobs
Just like your boobs may get sore before your period, hormonal changes may make them sore in the earlier half of pregnancy. With my first pregnancy, I discovered that I was pregnant because my boobs were so sore, I felt like I needed to wear two bras to get the support I needed!
Hormones, again, are responsible for the crippling fatigue most pregnant women experience in the first trimester. The hormone, progesterone, soars to up to 100 times its normal amount in a pregnant woman’s body. Progesterone relaxes the uterus and protects the growing baby, but it also acts as a sedative and makes the pregnant woman more tired. If you feel like you can’t get through the day without a nap, or an earlier bedtime, it could be a sign that you’re pregnant.
Despite the name “morning sickness”, nausea and vomiting can strike any time of day and can last the whole day for some women. With my second pregnancy, my nausea and vomiting was worse in the afternoon until bedtime, so keep this in mind if you expectantly experience nausea and vomiting and it’s not food poisoning or a gastro bug.
5. Light spotting
Light spotting happens for some women when the fertilized egg implants itself in the uterus wall, where it will make its home and grow into a fetus from there. Light spotting happens around the time you would normally get your period. The only difference is that the bleeding won’t be heavy enough to fill a pad or tampon.
Just like light spotting, some women experience cramps when the fertilized egg implants itself onto the uterus wall. These cramps feel very similar to your usual period cramps. With my second pregnancy, I experienced these cramps and thought my period was on the way. However, it didn’t come and sure enough, I was pregnant!
7. Change in your cervical mucus
If you’ve been tracking changes in your cervical mucus for ovulation and fertility, you’d be familiar with how your cervical mucus changes around the time you’re ovulating. It’s thicker, almost the consistency of runny egg white. This mucus will change to become clear and thin, almost disappearing before your period comes. However, if you’re pregnant, your mucus will stay thick and white. That’s because this mucus is part of your body’s way of protecting the growing fetus from bacteria and microbes that could otherwise enter through the vagina.
8. Food aversions
Just like nausea, food aversions are a common early pregnancy sign. If you experience a sudden dislike for a food (or smell) you’ve always loved, and you can’t explain the dislike, it could be a sign that you’re pregnant. One of the tell-tales signs for me in my first pregnancy, was my sudden dislike for the smell and taste of bacon (which I ate a few times a week prior to pregnancy!).
9. Cold-like symptoms
During the earlier half of pregnancy, a woman’s immune system is naturally lowered to protect the baby from being rejected by the mother’s body. Pregnant women are more susceptible to colds and flu and it’s not uncommon to wake up with a stuffy nose or a sore throat or to have cold symptoms like a runny nose and sneezing throughout the day.
10. More emotional
The hormonal rollercoaster is real. Just like hormonal changes can bring on PMS before your period, hormonal changes during pregnancy can you more emotional or irritable, especially during the first few weeks of pregnancy where hormone levels are escalating each day. It’s not uncommon for pregnant women to be more teary and emotional... I know I certainly am during pregnancy!
An interview with Meray Froese: personal trainer, business-owner and mom-to-be.
There are so many benefits to exercise during pregnancy. However, to some people the biggest challenge might not be working out in itself but instead, learning how to find balance and listen to our bodies, especially if we’ve held ourselves to strict pre-pregnancy fitness regimes.
One woman who knows this better than anyone else, is Meray Froese. Meray is a personal trainer and business-owner on the forefront of the fitness industry in Vancouver, Canada. More than that, she’s a wife and mom-to-be of a baby girl due in May.
I’ve long-admired Meray’s honesty when it comes to the ups and downs of pregnancy, including her miscarriage with her first baby girl in 2017. Meray has also been open about body image during pregnancy, which is something we will be exploring more of here on the BML. Let’s face it, what woman doesn’t walk into pregnancy without fears or hang ups about body image?
I can especially relate to how Meray’s relationship with fitness changed during pregnancy. Meray speaks about having to learn how to listen to her body and rest when she needs to.
Just like Meray, fitness was a still a big part of my life during pregnancy but I found that pregnancy was a time to undo some of the strict expectations I held myself to. Instead of high-intensity classes and 10-mile runs, I opted for more moderate forms of exercise. I still worked out 3-4 times per week during my pregnancy but I went to barre and yoga classes and did about 20 minutes of cardio on the elliptical twice a week.
I can really relate to how Meray had to learn how to listen to her body and know when it was time to rest.
Here’s a peak into Meray’s life and her views on pregnancy and fitness.
What has your pregnancy journey taught you about health and looking after your body?
Pregnancy has taught me to listen to my body. When I wasn’t pregnant, it was mind over matter. If I was exhausted, I’d go to the gym and work out anyway. If I was hungry at night and it was after a certain time, I wouldn’t eat. For me, what I’ve learnt during this pregnancy, is not to care about what anyone else thinks. I want to listen to my body. Sometimes that means saying no to an event that all my friends are going to because I’m too tired. Sometimes it means eating in the middle of the night because I’m hungry, and sometimes it means skipping a workout because I’m exhausted and I need to rest. All of these things have been huge adjustments for me because they’re so different from my pre-pregnancy self. I’m so used to doing whatever I’ve scheduled in for myself.
How has your fitness routine changed now that you're pregnant? And what has been the hardest or the best thing about that change?
It’s a day and night change between my pregnancy and pre-pregnancy routine. Before I was pregnant I worked out about 5 times a week. My routine included a lot of heaving lifting, high intensity, explosive jumping and sprints. I would be drenched in sweat, exhausted after each workout. Now it’s the polar opposite.
I was so sick in my first trimester that I hardly worked out. As much I wanted to work out, I couldn’t. I vomited every day. After that, I got into a routine of working out 4 times per week. I would do 20 minutes of cardio – the stair climber or the elliptical – and then do some weight training afterwards. I wear an Apple watch so I can check my heart rate. I take rests between sets and I listen to my body. I feel like I don’t overdo it but I’ve had to adjust my mindset. I’m so used to pushing myself, and now I have to be content with what I can do.
How has your pregnancy journey taught you to love and appreciate your body in a different way
Pregnancy can be a challenging time if you’re typically used to exercise and weight management. It’s been a huge adjustment for me and for a lot of women I’ve spoken to. It’s difficult when no-one else can notice your ‘bump’ yet but you’re getting larger. That can really mess with your mind if you allow it to.
For me, I’ve had to really let go of that type of thinking. I felt like I was finally getting into shape again after gaining some weight with previous miscarriages and the trauma my body went through.
I constantly remind myself (and my husband is really good at reminding me too), that the purpose of my body right now is to grow and nurture this baby. That’s the priority right now. And it’s actually quite freeing when you allow that to happen because it gives you permission to take care of yourself and rest.
What does it look like to be a healthy mother to you and what's one thing you want to pass onto your daughter?
Self-care is an important thing I want to model for my daughter. It’s really important for me to keep taking care of myself after I have my baby. I want to eat well and nurture my body and manage stress and anxiety by still pursuing the things that I love.
Ultimately, I want my daughter to be the kindest person, but having a daughter, I’m aware that body image will be an issue she’ll be confronted with at some stage. I want to model a healthy relationship with body image. Even though I’m in the fitness industry, I don’t want to be talking about dieting and exercise all of the time. Instead, I want to be healthy eating and an active lifestyle to be part of our everyday life. I believe that you don’t have to do talk about it, you can just live it and children will see your values that way.
For more information on Meray, check out her inspiring blog.
I believe that taking care of your baby begins with taking care of yourself.
I love the “oxygen mask” example where you can only be helpful to others, once you’ve put on your oxygen mask and you’re breathing first.
I know that as women, and as mothers, we so often get consumed with the needs of all those around us before we even check to see that we’re breathing first. Maybe you, yourself, are feeling over-worked, over-stressed or stuck in bad habits that you can’t seem to break?
Take heart, it’s never too late to get into a routine of healthy self-care.
No matter where you’re at, I encourage you to start getting into a routine of self-care during your pregnancy so that those routines will ground you throughout motherhood, especially when things get crazy and unpredictable.
What does self-care look like to me?
For me, it’s looking after my body with nourishing foods. It’s taken me years to learn it, but I know I know I feel my best when I’m eating well and looking after my body in that way. I like to indulge in a treat every now and then, but choosing healthier options most of the time, makes me feel better and happier too.
To achieve this, I know it means taking the time to buy real, fresh food and preparing healthy meals that will nourish my body. I try to meal prep as best as I can, so I have simple meals ready to go when I’m tired or busy. I know I can’t have junk food in the house because it’s too tempting for me, especially when I’m tired or bored.
When I used to work in an office, I learnt that I couldn’t keep chocolate or chips in my office drawer. It would be too tempting to me, and I’d always choose junk over a healthier option because it was just there!
Nowadays, when I do feel like something indulgent, I have to make a healthier version of it myself. Or I have healthier options like my trail mix ready to eat when I feel like a sweet treat.
Self-care also means being intentional on what I feed my mind with. For me, it means unfollowing the social media accounts that don’t make me feel good about myself or the life that I live. Maybe you can relate?
When I was pregnant, this was extremely important. I went through a time when I was convinced that my husband would no longer find me attractive because I was pregnant. Even though this couldn’t have been further from the truth, I had to be intentional about what I fed my mind, not just my body, during my pregnancy.
I focused on filling my mind with positive affirmations about pregnancy, the power of motherhood and the beauty of bringing life into this world. I found that, just like our bodies, our minds respond to what we feed them...
What does self-care look like to you?
It honestly could look like anything that’s going to look after your mind or your body.
Maybe it’s time spent doing something what you love to do but you don’t get to do often, like a relaxing bath, a foot massage or a night to "unplug" and just Netflix and chill?
Perhaps, it’s breaking not-so-healthy eating habits, like replacing soda with unsweetened seltzer water or switching out white bread for whole-wheat?
What’s one thing that you can start doing during your pregnancy to look after you?
I encourage you to start getting into a routine of healthy self-care. It may seem unnatural at first but if you start by doing one kind thing for yourself today, and then another tomorrow and another the next day… before you know it, it will be second nature and both you and everyone around you will be breathing just fine ;)