Many of you have set goals, “resolutions”, for the new year, only to have already found them feeling hopelessly lost less than 1/12 into 2022. You may have had illness run through your family, unexpected injuries come up, cold spells having you feeling unmotivated, and the general busy-ness of life getting in the way.
The good news is that 1/1/22 was just a day on the calendar. It was not a deadline to start. There is no competition with others to be a better you outside of with yourself, yesterday. You get a new chance every day to keep striving for your goals. Consistency is key, and the decisions you consciously make each day matter. Sometimes we need to take a break to rest when ill, feeling mental overload, or in a busy season of life. However, you can still move forward-it may just involve pivoting a bit. Here are a few simple steps, a blueprint, to help you get back on track and keep on track throughout the inevitable ups and downs that make life the ride that it is.
First, sit down and ask yourself what your goals are. Align this exercise with a check in on your values. What are you looking to accomplish to improve your life in a way that matters to YOU? Setting your goals in line with your values and your WHY in life helps give you clarity and motivation to keep going. Try to avoid external motivators such as the approval or validation of others and rather look inward. Maybe you want more energy to be able to better keep up with your grandkids, or to feel better mental clarity so you are a more patient dad. Maybe you want to enjoy a comfortable pregnancy while simultaneously keeping up with your toddler. Maybe you want to reach one year of breastfeeding your baby. Maybe you want to lessen the frequency of chronic headaches that plague your days. Maybe you have a goal of feeling the accomplishment of running your first 5K. Find your “why” to create worthwhile goals.
Next, think about all the good habits that you already have in place, consistent or not. These are the things that add to our health and improve upon it-whether it is your physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual health. What are you already doing well or having been working on making a positive change? Add in the habits that you’d like to help you further reach your goal. Now, pick three habits, no matter how big or small, that you can do on a regular, consistent basis to get yourself closer to your goals. Some examples include aiming to get in 30 minutes of exercise 5 days per week, getting an adjustment every 2-4 weeks on a wellness basis, eating 3 servings of vegetables each day, drinking half of your body weight in ounces of water each day, sleeping at least 7-8 hours 5 nights each week, starting a daily gratitude journal, listening to an uplifting podcast each week, etc.
The next exercise is a little more negative but valuable nevertheless. Our bodies are amazing and resilient, able to heal and grow despite us not always being the kindest to them. With this in mind, can you identify any habits that you regularly take part in that negatively impact your body and your health? Do you have any habits that may be hindering your body’s ability to heal and grow? Are there any toxic substances or unhealthy foods that you may regularly use? Do you regularly cut out sleep or exercise to get more work done? Do you work to maintain any unnecessary toxic relationships that impact your mental health in a poor manner? Now, pick 3 of these unhealthy habits that you can consciously work on reducing or cutting out of your life to get you closer to where you want to be.
Lastly, regularly evaluate your progress and edit your plan as needed. Are you making the progress you’d hoped? If not, don’t give up. Maybe you need to look at where you are making choices working against your progress. Maybe you need to tweak your three habits that you are performing on a regular basis, upping them when you find you can consistently match them or switching them with more realistic goals if they are discouraging you by not keeping up with them.
As always, we are here for you. We are here to help you make plans to reach your goals, accomplish them by helping your body function at its best and adapt to the challenges of life, and to cheer you on. You’ve got this!
It can be daunting starting training for something new, or even getting back into an old routine again after taking an extended break. Add in a BIG life change, and many of us may go years before getting back after it, or may “retire” for good.
I recently trained for and ran a half marathon. It was not my first ever, but was my first postpartum half marathon after baby #2 and taking a break from running for nearly a year. Though I’m not breaking world records by any means, I’ve felt very confident in getting back into my groove and even improving upon where I personally had been before having kiddos and taking some time off. Here is what I found worked well for me.
Time. I waited until about 12 weeks postpartum to start running again. After growing and birthing a baby, our bodies need time to heal-especially before getting back into literally pounding the pavement.
Strength training. In the interim, I worked through a strength training guide targeted specifically towards the postpartum period, progressing appropriately and highlighting core and pelvic floor exercises in addition to the upper/lower/full body strength training exercises three times weekly. These are mostly body weight and some light weight or resistant band exercises that may be done at home. I enjoyed and recommend the Expecting and Empowered program. (see link below)
Well balanced running program. A friend introduced me to Hal Higdon’s half marathon training guide which I’ve used during the past few long races I’ve run, helping me feel the best prepared. Typically I run 3-4 days per week with a medium length run, interval/speed run, short/easy run, and long run, all progressing as you get closer to race day. It is a 12 week program. I strategically only look at signing up for races when I can do most of my training in the spring or fall when the weather is more moderate.
Regular chiropractic adjustments. Getting adjusted weekly helps keep my body aligned and functioning at its best. I often have Dr. Zak adjust me a day or two prior to my long runs, which is so vital in helping keep my gait feeling smooth and my recovery easier, as well as preventing or minimizing any potential injuries.
Support. Big shout out to Dr. Zak on this one, also. As a parent, especially of young kids, unless you always train with the jogging stroller (I find this less enjoyable the further you’re running), it is key to have a support person that allows you to pop out on your runs. We both enjoy exercising in the mornings and work together to coordinate our workouts.
Solid nutrition, hydration, and rest. These are all extremely important, even more so if you are nursing your baby while training-both for keeping up your supply and your own energy. Aim for frequent, nutrient dense snacks throughout the day (a few faves-energy balls-see our recent blog post for the recipe, almonds + chocolate chips, or peanut butter paired with a fruit or veggie), half of your body weight in ounces of water (we also love Dynamic Hydrate after a workout), and as many hours of sleep as the kids let you get (I aim for 7-8 nightly).
(*All of this advice may be applied to any sort of distance if a 5K is more of your goal, walking or running.)
Being active after having kids isn’t only good for your own health, but sets a good example for them to see as they grow up. (And, helps you more easily keep up with them.)
Wishing you the best in your endeavors! We are always here for you as your chiropractors and fellow parents cheering you on. You’ve got this.
These are a favorite in our house! Great when wanting a quick energy dense snack to “grab-n-go”. Also very easy to have littles help make and enjoy. : )
(*Follow age-appropriate recommendations, such as not consuming raw honey until at least one year of age.)
Peanut Butter & Chocolate
1 c dry oatmeal
1/2 c peanut butter
1/2 c mini chocolate chips
1 tbsp chia seeds
1/2 c ground flax
1/3 c honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 c toasted coconut flakes (optional)
Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl until thoroughly mixed. Cover and let chill in the fridge for half an hour.
Once chilled, roll into balls about 1″ in diameter. Store in airtight container and keep refrigerated up to 1 week.
1/4 c nut butter
1/4 c maple syrup or honey
1-1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp salt
3 c oats
1/4 c pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 c pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 c dried cranberries
Heat the nut butter, coconut oil, and maple syrup in a large saucepan over medium heat and whisk until smooth.
Stir in the pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla until combined. Fold in the oats, cranberries, and pumpkin seeds.
Wet hands slightly and form dough tightly into 1″ to 1.5″ balls. Or, if the dough doesn’t stick together, place dough in fridge for 30 minutes prior to forming dough balls so it’s easier to handle. Press additional cranberries evenly around the dough if desired.
Store in airtight container in fridge or freezer until ready to enjoy.
“There is a secret in our culture and it’s not that birth is painful. It’s that women are strong.” -Laura Stavoe Harm
On a Saturday, November 14th, about a week and a half before my estimated “due date”, I was feeling different all day-a little crampy and a little more tired, suspicious we may be meeting our little one soon. We took it easy, spending all day together as a family of 3 for my husband, Zak’s, birthday, knowing it may be the last time we got one on one time with our three year old before his little sibling arrived. My original due date had been the Thursday several days prior then was pushed back two weeks, so we expected that we may meet our baby in that time frame. Having passed the 37 week mark necessary to be eligible for our planned homebirth, we’d had our midwives visit our house the week prior for my most recent prenatal check-up and to make sure we had everything we needed. We were prepared and as ready as we could be for he or she to make their appearance.
The next day, a Sunday, November 15th, I woke up around 2 am feeling very consistent contractions for about 30 seconds, 7-8 minutes apart. It set the tone for what would be an intense and quicker/more productive labor than my first had been. Our 3 year old woke up around 3:30 am. I helped him back to bed and laid down with him as I always do while he fell back asleep. I cried snuggling with him in grieving with the fact he wouldn’t be my only baby anymore. I wasn’t very comfortable in his twin bed, though, and my contractions kept steady so I headed back into my own bed once he fell back asleep. I got fragmented sleep, keeping one eye on the clock to time my contractions, until waking my husband after 5 am, letting him know I was pretty certain I was in labor.
I texted one of my midwives around 6 am to give her a heads up as they would have nearly an hour and a half drive to get to our house once things picked up. My husband got up and started getting things ready around our house while I hung out and labored in the living room, mostly using the exercise ball to lean my upper body forward while on my knees to get more comfortable. Our 3 year old acted as my doula in between episodes of Clifford and Llama Llama until my in-laws arrived to pick him up around 10 am. I’d been tracking my contractions and they’d picked up to about one minute long every 5 minutes or so for about an hour by 8:30/9 am, which is the point when my midwives hadsaid they’d head our way. My in-laws and midwives arrived around the same time, with the change causing my contractions to slow a bit temporarily and become less frequent and shorter in duration. Once our son left it was time to work on progressing things actively now that our birth crew was present. I chatted with them casually and worried I’d had them come too soon with the initial slow down, but Zak assured me he thought I was at least as far along as I’d been when we’d headed to the hospital with our first birth. It was suggested that I use our basement stairs to help open up my pelvis and get things moving so off and on over the next hour or two I’d alternate between hanging out on the ball and navigating the stairs sideways, taking them two at a time and alternating directions each way. Our midwives regularly monitored my vitals and baby’s each 45 minutes upon their arrival moving forward to ensure we were both in good shape, checking my pulse, blood pressure, and baby’s heartbeat. Contractions were continuing to pick up in intensity, especially when I was up and moving, but still working on regaining their regularity. Zak applied counterpressure along my lower back and sacrum with each wave which was super helpful and used some acupuncture to help keep my labor moving. (One of many perks of being married to a chiropractor-Zak excels at being a wonderful birth partner!) He placed a few needles on one of my ears so I could still lie down on my side if I wanted and left them in for most of my labor, stimulating (lightly turning them) them periodically. Everyone kept reminding me to stay hydrated and nourished with water, red raspberry leaf tea, and nutrient dense snacks (almonds, energy balls, full fat yogurt with fruit) throughout the day to keep my energy levels up.
Our midwives left around 1 pm to grab lunch nearby with instructions for us to let them know if anything changed drastically before they came back. While they were away, Zak worked on filling up our birth pool in our bedroom in between helping me through contractions. I moved to spend more time in our bedroom at this point, which was a very calming environment with the soft glow of white lights strung up surrounding us, affirmations to encourage me written by friends, and a relaxing Pandora station playing. I finally lost my mucous plug and also was able to go to the bathroom, allowing me to be much more (relatively) comfortable as baby dropped further and labor progressed. Contractions were coming more frequently and more intense yet, and when our birth team arrived back, the tub was nearly ready for me to get in. I was a little anxious about getting in the water initially as at my first birth it was during the transition stage and I equated it with the most difficult part of labor. However, the warm water felt so good when I got in this time and helped me relax more. From here, between the soothing water and Zak helping apply counter pressure, I never felt my contractions get more intense or uncomfortable, just more frequent. The water was a little too warm at first-they allowed me to stay in with my and baby’s vitals still good, but worked on cooling it and my temp down and gave me a cool washcloth for my face.
After an hour or hour and a half I was feeling “pushy” and my water broke shortly after. Within just a handful of intense pushes/contractions after that, I was able to deliver our healthy baby in the water at 4:07 pm with minimal tearing, no stitches deemed necessary. We heard a loud, clear cry immediately and pulled baby right up to my chest to get them on my skin and snuggled up under a towel. After a few minutes Zak anxiously asked us to check if we had a little boy or girl. We peeked under the towel and discovered that we had another precious little boy! After 5-10 minutes in the water they got Lincoln and I out of the tub and dried off in bed. The cord was still attached and pulsing, as we’d wanted to delay the cord clamping. Once pulsing stopped, the cord was clamped and detached and Zak took Lincoln skin to skin to keep him warm while a midwife took me to the bathroom to pee and encourage my placenta to be delivered. She helped ease it out and I took a shower then went back to bed with Zak to cuddle Lincoln skin to skin and rest. My vitals and Lincoln’s were checked numerous times before leaving. I had minimal bleeding and felt good being up with no lightheadedness or dizziness, giving lots of credit to staying hydrated and fed all day (along with a healthy dose of adrenaline) to my good energy levels. Lincoln had a good latch almost immediately and nursed well from the start, a big relief as the first go around it was a big struggle initially.
Our midwives took care of cleanup and left with our house looking clean and cozy for the three of us to rest and bond in the comfort of our own bedroom within 3 hours of his birth. Our 3 year old was able to meet his new baby brother briefly that night before he left to spend a few days with his Nana and Papa while we rested with Lincoln.
Though a homebirth may not be for everyone, having a low risk pregnancy and uncomplicated health history, we were easily able to choose this as what we felt was best for our family with our second pregnancy. We’d been interested in having a homebirth to begin with, and the uncertainty of 2020 and the rules and regulations ever changing in hospitals helped lead us further to do what we felt would help us have the pregnancy and birth experience that we desired on our own terms. We received care unmatched by our previous hospital experience, with great time taken during my prenatal visits in paying attention to the steps I was taking to support my body and pregnancy in a healthy way. I was thoroughly examined each visit in a non-invasive way and our 3 year old was able to tag along to my visits, logistically making things much smoother and adding the joy of including him in learning about his growing baby sibling. We were well supported and cared for by the team we had grown to know and become familiar with throughout labor, delivery, and post partum with ease of communication whenever we needed anything in between. We are so happy with our decision to have our son at home under the care of midwives Bethany, Anna, and student Louise with Shiphrah Birth Services, and would highly recommend them to anyone looking for a caring, empowering birth team.
2020 has thrown an abundance of added stress at many people in one form or another. It’s really important to get a good handle on managing the stress thrown at us in life as it can negatively impact our physical and mental health when it is unchecked. Stress is not inherently a bad thing, as it may bring upon growth and development, but when it comes at us on a chronic basis or at a higher level than we are able to work through, it can bring us down in the form of depression, chronic fatigue, sickness, etc. In a year when the focus is on our ability to avoid illness, it is best to support our bodies to adapt to the stresses it faces and prevent added vulnerability.
Too much stress is certainly an issue, but what about how we are handling it in the first place? Often times our problem is not simply that we have stress, but rather that we have an inability to adapt to it. If you are not able to adapt to the stress thrown at you, any efforts to reduce it will not be as effective.
One big problem with handling stress is that many ways we cope are further enablers of the stress we face, whether it is smoking cigarettes, consuming large amounts of alcohol, relying on caffeine to get us through the day, binging on unhealthy foods, or indulging in toxic relationships.
What can we do to more effectively manage the stress in our lives, especially when it seems to come in waves right after one another in years such as this?
–Reduce stress as we are able. Avoid toxic environments and relationships as often as you are able to. Be mindful of what you are saying “yes” to and don’t be afraid to say “no” to projects or undertakings that are unnecessary and do not spark joy in your life. Ask for help when you need it, and be willing to receive it when appropriate. This may be in accepting material items or donations, moral support from a friend or family member, or seeking out a therapist to work through more serious matters. In her book, Do Less, author Kate Northrup addresses time and energy management strategies in those who are ambitious but want to avoid burnout, aimed towards women and moms but with principles applicable to everyone.
–Improve your body’s ability to adapt to stress.Chiropractic is focused on removing interference to the spine and nervous system, ultimately allowing our body to better adapt to the stresses it faces. When regularly utilized, one may notice they are more easily able to adapt to the stresses they face on a regular basis, or at a moment in time when they are under more duress may be able to better navigate through without significant setbacks. Diet plays a role in our body’s ability to adapt as well. When we are eating a cleaner diet (think whole, real foods), our body is under less stress processing our intake, supported by the nutrients received, and able to better function on a daily basis whether it is facing regular challenges or an abnormal load. On the contrary, our diet may be a source of chronic stress in itself if we tend to eat a more inflammatory diet, creating its own problems. It is one potential stressor that we are able to control-choose wisely. Getting adequate sleep allows us to better adapt to daily stressors as well, as we are able to think more clearly and function properly when well rested. Several other ways to improve our body’s function and ability to navigate daily stressors is to maintain adequate water intake (aim for half your body weight in ounces daily) and to regularly move our bodies. This may mean walking, running, hiking, biking, yoga, exercise class, or something else that you enjoy doing. Whatever you are doing, try to get at least 30 minutes or more of activity in daily.
Be mindful of how you are coping with stress in your life currently, and consider if it is bringing you closer or further from where you want to be.
2020 has been a different kind of year. In many ways, there has been added stress placed on everyone-parents and kids alike. Many things are being placed on “pause” while the world gets a handle on things, but no matter what, our kids will continue to grow and develop whether we have anything to say about it or not. As there’s an old saying, it’s not about what happens, but rather how you respond to it. With some mindfulness, we can not only help our kids navigate relatively unscathed through the rest of this year, but we can help promote healthy neurological development during this crucial period of growth in their lives.
In listening to a recent podcast highlighting child development, Professor Adele Diamond highlighted the importance of promoting executive function skills in kids during times of compromised education. By saying “compromised education”, she is referring to events out of teachers’ control in last spring’s sudden end to traditional in-class schooling for many kids and the birth of online “virtual” learning. For some, this will continue on through fall or is anticipated to potentially make a resurgence at some point. Whether you homeschool, are choosing to attend school “virtually” from the get-go, or have your kids planning to return to in-person classes in the coming weeks, these concepts can help set your child up for better success no matter what the setting.
As described by the Child Mind Institute, executive functions are cognitive skills we all use to analyze tasks, break them into steps, and keep them in mind until we get things done. These skills allow us to manage our time effectively, memorize facts, understand what we read, solve multi-step problems, and organize our thoughts in writing. Professor Diamond refers to the core executive function as the “mental toolkit for success”. The three core executive functions include:
-inhibitory control (self control, discipline, and selective attention)
-working memory (translating instructions, forming action plans)
-cognitive flexibility (ability to think outside of the box, reframing)
Many children learn these skills in a school setting. In years such as this when this constant is taken away from the majority of kids who are enrolled in a traditional school setting, there are many different ways to get creative and work on developing these skills at home. It’s always been ideal to learn as much as possible at home in addition to school, but even more important when home becomes the sole place of learning for all kids. Here are some simple tasks that you can encourage at home (and may already be doing) to help promote and engage executive function skills.
-Have your kids perform chores around the home if they are not already. This helps develop focus and concentration, among other skills. They can start helping out with age-appropriate chores as a toddler and advance as appropriate.
-Set up a daily schedule. Keep a white board schedule for your family if available. What will the day look like? What needs to be done? What is the menu for meals? In times of less structure, we all can struggle. Giving kids more structure at home can help create a greater sense of stability for them.
-Perform mindfulness exercises. Have your kids take a few moments each day to slow down and take some deep breaths. This will benefit you as well to take a moment to settle down.
-Implement exercise breaks. Every 45 minutes take a 15 minute break to get up and move around.
-Have your child do something they love (as in THEY must be in to it, not necessarily you) that challenges their executive function. This means that it pushes them to get better and challenges them at a higher level. Use your best judgement as to what activities or hobbies this may include. Some examples: playing an instrument, martial arts, sports, art, etc.
Lastly, to the parents: Take the time to address your own needs and stresses. By getting in tune with how you’re feeling, and how this may be affecting those around you, you will benefit your whole family by allowing yourself to be a better parent.
In good health,
Working on building our toddler’s executive function skills at home from an early age with having him help with simple tasks. He loves to be a helper and is learning along the way-win-win!
For those of you who are parents, teachers, coaches, or any adult who influences kids, it is a well-known idea that our kids will look at us and our habits and often learn their own habits and ideas from us. Sure, as they get older their social circles and the media will impact them as well, but there’s little doubt that we are pretty influential on them. Not to mention, we can only control so much, so we want our influence to be as positive as it can. With that said, many parents may pay attention to their language and any detrimental behaviors that they may view as a negative impact on their kids. Those are certainly good things to keep in mind, but what about our other habits and ideas?
How do you approach your own body image? I was recently listening to an interview by a young woman about a pivotal time in her life. When she was middle school aged, she’d been called “fat” by some boys on the bus. It certainly upset her, but because of positive interactions with her mother, who had always been confident in her own body image in front of her daughter, and her track coach, she was able to get past it and overcome what she feels would have been a very different mental state in her life. She is currently a healthy, confident woman, author, and trainer, aware of the danger of negative body image but grateful to the positive influences in her life when she needed them the most.
Body image, by definition, is the subjective picture or mental image of one’s own body. By being a “subjective” idea of one’s body, it is based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions. Recent studies by the Mental Health Foundation show that poor body image can affect all ages and may trigger reactions from anxiety and self-disgust to suicidal thoughts. As we grow older it is very common for us to judge our bodies and to highlight any physical imperfections we may have. It is not only important to address any concerns we have and to take good care of ourselves, but it is important that we do it in a healthy way. Our kids absorb so much more from us than the things we want them to learn-colors, shapes, numbers. They absorb our ideas and habits. They are watching, and they can absorb ideas about us that may impact how they view their own bodies as they get older. Girls in particular are especially sensitive to ideas about their body image and feedback from others, but no one is immune. Puberty tends to be the time we think of individuals being most sensitive, but it’s also important to be kind to ourselves and others during other more sensitive times such as pregnancy, menopause, receding hairlines, or growing older and needing to rely on aids such as canes and walkers.
What do we do? Please seek help in this area if needed to work on your own body image, whether you feel you need a professional’s help or a trusted friend to talk to. As a rule to strive for, do not say something to yourself that you would not say to your child, because they are more likely to pick up the habits you are instilling in them and have the same issues down the road. More directly, how do you speak to your children about their own bodies, and what kind of health habits are you setting them up with in caring for themselves and their bodies? When it comes to your health, rather than chasing the latest diet trend, adopt healthier habits for life, those that can be sustained and are attainable for the whole family. It is often said that many chronic health issues are genetic. Some really are, but most have what is known as a genetic predisposition. A genetic predisposition is a genetic characteristic which influences the possible development of an individual under the influence of environmental conditions. Genetics may “load the gun”, but the environment “pulls the trigger”. Many trends seen throughout generations are from repeated exposure to the same environment-diet choices, movement habits or lack thereof, and ideas of what health really is.
There are no shortcuts to a healthy life, but it doesn’t have to be hard. Healthy choices today pay off in your own life and generations to come, both physically and mentally. Please be kind to yourself, and in turn kinder to the next generation. They are counting on us.
“You have been assigned this mountain to show others it can be moved.”
According to the National Institute of Health website, Congenital Myasthenic Syndrome is a group of conditions characterized by muscle weakness (myasthenia) that worsens with physical exertion. The muscle weakness typically begins in early childhood but can also appear in adolescence or adulthood. Facial muscles, including muscles that control the eyelids, muscles that move the eyes, and muscles used for chewing and swallowing, are most commonly affected. However, any of the muscles used for movement (skeletal muscles) can be affected. Due to muscle weakness, affected infants may have feeding difficulties. Development of motor skills such as crawling or walking may be delayed. The severity of the myasthenia varies greatly, with some people experiencing minor weakness and others having such severe weakness that they are unable to walk.
I have been blessed to know many inspirational people in my life, but none are closer to me than my younger sister, Laura. From birth, Laura has faced challenges that many of us take for granted-fundamental things such as properly functioning transmission of signals from nerve cells to muscles, and practical things such as being able to participate in track and field or basketball. Laura did not walk until she was nearly 2 years old and although we found her “scoot” to be endearing, had difficulty crawling as babies are expected to for proper development. She had drooping of her eye lids when younger and still worries about her appearance at times when she is fatigued as an adult. Over time she grew to reluctantly embrace help, such as piggy back rides when hiking from one of her brothers or using a wheelchair while traveling or taking in an event requiring lots of walking such as Summerfest (although it did score her a great view of Maroon 5 one summer). Laura has had to sit in the crowd and on the sidelines watching her siblings and friends compete in sporting events her whole life, but she has been able to overcome the challenges she’s faced so that she will not let her “condition” keep her sidelined in pursuing her dreams as a young adult. This fall, Laura began graduate school to become a Physician Assistant so that she may become a healthcare provider able to help others. I brag partly as a proud sister, and partly as a healthcare provider myself who recognizes all that she has done to improve her “situation”, taking control of her life and improving the trajectory of the quality of her life despite any physical challenges she may face. She did not meet one big “goal”, but rather makes choices and effort on a daily basis so that she is not defined by a diagnosis. She has chosen to work with her body to fuel it as best as she can. And, she chooses to do so with an optimistic outlook on life that I feel is key to her success.
Laura was blessed to grow up in a family that embraced a healthy lifestyle, both in prioritizing being active and in eating real, whole foods. She has received chiropractic adjustments throughout her life to aid in improving her body’s communication when it is working a little less efficiently. She makes choices on a regular basis to eat good foods and keep active knowing that when she does these things she can feel and perform at her best, which truthfully is likely better than many who are not facing the challenges she is up against. She has been to numerous support groups as she’s gotten older and often comments to us that she feels very fortunate when meeting others who have been given similar diagnoses. She has traveled across and out of the country, been employed in fast paced working environments, and lived on her own independently, not factors to be assumed when one is facing challenges involving the function of their nervous and musculoskeletal systems. Above all, she has done all of these things with a smile on her face and an optimistic outlook on life. Do you know that person who is always lifting up their friends or even strangers? Making light when an inconvenience arises? That’s Laura.
I do not simply write this to brag about my sister (though I do enjoy to raise her up as I have long admired her strength and determination). I write this to give an example of someone who does not let a challenge, one that they are born with, hold them back from achieving big things in life. At times I find myself frustrated for others when they hold themselves back in life, mistaken that they cannot do anything to overcome their own obstacles. I also write this to illustrate how by making conscious choices on a daily basis over time can lead to a healthier lifestyle and improved quality of life. Do not let a diagnosis define you, but rather let your actions and daily choices to better yourself speak louder.
What perceived challenges do you face, and what are you doing to overcome them? Laura teaches us all a lesson in perseverance and making the best of your life, and I am so fortunate that she is my sister and ever present role model to look up to in my life. We only get one life, so what are you doing to make the most of it, whether it is your daily choices in bettering your health or your outlook you choose to have each day? Choose how you care for your body and mind wisely, no matter what challenges you face-your life and the impact you get to make on the world depend on it.
My “due date” was scheduled for September 25. Getting towards the tail end of a very smooth, healthy, uneventful pregnancy, I still hadn’t felt what I’d consider to be any sort of Braxton- Hicks, or “practice” contractions. I’d stopped running once I was about 38 weeks pregnant but still kept active, getting a daily walk in by Pine Lake and continuing to work in my physical job as a chiropractor up until the day prior to going into labor. On the evening of the 23rd, a Saturday, I was mostly by myself as my husband and in-laws were working across town from our apartment on getting our recently purchased home ready to move into. I attended evening mass and picked up a spaghetti dinner to go from the youth group fundraiser. After eating about half of the meal I found myself to be exhausted and laid down to take a very deep 1-2 hour nap. I woke up feeling out of it but well rested. Later that night while talking to my in laws before bed around 11 pm, I felt uncomfortable in my GI area. Not thinking much of it, I got ready for bed and went to sleep. Around 3:30 am I woke up to use the bathroom, nothing out of the ordinary for me in my third trimester of pregnancy. However, I was feeling uncomfortable in my GI region again with mild cramping. My little sister, who was out with her friends that night and had sent me a late night text, was the first one I filled in on the fact that I may be in the early stages of labor.
I continued to get up every 20-30 minutes to use the bathroom and began to realize that I was having the cramping feelings for more sustained periods and at more regular intervals. Could this be it?! I was expecting to have our baby well after the due date with first pregnancies tending to be longer on average and the lack of Braxton Hicks up until this point, but began to think I may be in labor since it was the day before my due date. I waited until 5 am to wake up my sleeping and unaware to this point husband. His parents and brother were staying at our apartment for the weekend as they were helping work on our recently purchased home. My husband suggested they go to put our car seat in the car as it may need to be used soon. After installing it in the car they headed to our house to work more and leave us alone. Zak suggested we go for a walk, so mid-morning we headed to the lake to go for a walk. It was short, as contractions periodically made it quite uncomfortable. We turned around after a half mile or so and came back home. My contractions were coming on at somewhat regular intervals but then would have larger gaps of 12-20 minutes. This continued off and on until mid-afternoon. I showered and we watched football while I spent time during contractions on my hands and knees leaning on the exercise ball. I attempted to nap several times but found lying on my side strengthened contractions. I ate some oatmeal to give myself some energy but otherwise was not too hungry. When contractions got to be about 4-5 minutes apart for a consistent span, we first called our Bradley teacher, Erin. We did not reach her so I left a message and called Covenant, where I was planning to deliver our baby with the midwives there in the hospital. They suggested we come in with our impending 50 minute drive and if I was not far enough along I could walk to speed things up. I was apprehensive, as I was nervous about what could come up with traveling to Waterloo and transferring from the comfort of our home to the hospital. We packed and left, headed to Waterloo around 4 pm. Erin called back on the way and suggested I follow my gut. Zak and I arrived in Waterloo and decided to head to a nearby park and walk a bit more before heading in to triage. We walked for about 10-15 minutes, again finding myself to be too uncomfortable during contractions to go much further. Crouching down seemed to help when they came on.
We then went to the hospital and checked in to triage. They checked me for the first time during my pregnancy and determined me to be about 7 cm dilated. We were there to stay. Mine and the baby’s vitals were found to be good, and we were escorted to our room that we would not leave for the next few days. Upon entering the room, I was hooked up to IV antibiotics via a heplock as I’d been tested to be GBS positive around 37 weeks. It did not limit me or bother me physically as I’d imagined it would, but mentally I was apprehensive, concerned about my first time being administered them while in labor. Again, I found myself to be least uncomfortable when kneeling and supporting myself while leaning forward onto the exercise ball. We first watched the Packers beat the Bengals in overtime. : ) I then continued to labor on the ball. My legs and feet were sore from maintaining the same position for so long, and my lower back muscles were growing sore from tensing up in a flexed position. Luckily, my chiropractor husband was able to apply proper counter pressure to my lower back to help me feel more comfortable. My midwife and nurses suggested I get into the tub, as my water had not yet broken. They started the bath for me and I got in. Upon getting in, my contractions were getting much more intense, so I was not able to relax and enjoy it as much as I’d imagined. The more I tried to “relax”, the more intense and more quickly the contractions seemed to come on. Kim, my midwife, “set the mood” to make things more relaxing, turning the lights down and setting up tea lights. How romantic! ; ) Eventually while in the tub my water “broke”, feeling much different than I’d anticipated and more uncomfortable. It felt like an intense pop, happening quickly and very obviously. Shortly after, I got out of the tub to go back to the room to see if I would be able to start pushing soon. I was run on another round of antibiotics as it’d been long enough since my last round. I was cold getting up and out of bed, so they wrapped me up in numerous blankets. I then got quite hot as I later began pushing. I was lying on my back, angled 30-45 degrees to my left. It was not the position that I would have chosen or envisioned, but I did not want to move once settled as I was nervous I’d lose the progress I’d made. Pushing was a lot more work than I’d expected it to be and took longer, at least an hour or so. With the encouragement of Zak, my midwife, and the nurses, I was able to eventually muster up the strength to deliver our perfect little boy at 11:58 pm on September 24th, 2 minutes before his official due date. Everett John weighed 7 lbs, 13.4 oz and was 19 ¾ inches long. The placenta was delivered very shortly after, within several minutes. I am not sure about the cord pulsation and timing of cutting it with the quick delivery of the placenta. It was suggested I get Pitocin to slow the bleeding after delivery. We asked for time to wait if it wasn’t too threatening, and ended up not needing it after all. Zak was able to catch baby Everett and to cut the cord. I did not need an episiotomy, as our midwife applied a warm compress while delivering our little boy. I ended up needing about 5 stitches that required local anesthetic, otherwise successfully completing our goal of a natural childbirth without pain medication. I really enjoyed working with Kim and the nurses on staff during delivery, as they respected our birth plan and me as much as I could’ve hoped. I highly recommend working with her and her team.
Looking back on Everett’s birth, I remember feeling exhausted, worn out, and overwhelmed, not sure I wanted to add a sibling for him any time soon. I also remember feeling more accomplished than ever before and proud of myself for enduring such a challenge, starting off motherhood in a state of empowerment, in awe and excited to begin this next stage of life with our new baby cuddled in my arms.
“There is a secret in our culture and it’s not that birth is painful. It’s that women are strong.” -Laura Stavoe Harm
“You cannot pour from an empty cup. You must fill your cup first.”
Self-Care. “The practice of taking action to preserve one’s own health.” Among no population is this more important than mothers. Among no population is this more difficult to set aside time and energy to work on than motherhood.
Similarly to the concept explained to us each time we step foot on an airplane, we must put on our own oxygen mask prior to helping others. We must secure and preserve our own health so that we can survive ourselves, and allowing us to help others. This includes keeping ourselves physically in good condition, so that we can work at maintaining adequate supply when nursing and physically pick up and carry our babies, or get down on the floor and play with them. This also means allowing our bodies to heal postpartum so that we can maintain healthy function moving forward (because no one likes to pee when they giggle), potentially in preparing ourselves to do it all again in furthering the growth of our families. This includes being mentally and emotionally fit, so that we can better raise secure children who have a confident mother as a role model.
One key component of self-care is that it is something we deliberately do to take care of our mental, physical, and emotional health. It is not something we should feel forced to do. It is not a selfish act, either. It should be something that refuels us, rather than taking away from us.
But how do we do all the things while raising the next generation at the same time? Break down several key areas to focus on and start little bits at a time. Here are a few ideas to get started on some key areas for moms to focus on:
1. Movement. This can be tough, especially early on when you have a little one. One hack that I found to be helpful was doing body weight + baby exercises, where I would hold my son while doing squats and lunges (being conscious of good form yet). He loved getting held while getting to do something new and I got some resistance training in-everyone wins. One great piece of equipment to invest in (or register for) is a quality jogging stroller. Everyone feels better with a little fresh air, and often times baby will get a little nap in. Earlier on I worked through a focused program on restoring core strength and proper pelvic floor function. Further along in my postpartum journey I began training for a half marathon (we’re talking 9 months down the road), which gave me something to strive for and some “me” time when I got up a little earlier to run on my own. Furthermore, check out if your area offers any “baby and me” yoga or other fitness classes where little ones are not only welcomed but encouraged to come.
2. Diet. Your body is not only recovering from a significant “athletic event” with the recent labor and delivery of your child, but you are also currently needing to have enough energy to care for and raise this child, plus potentially any older children you may have, as well as maybe nursing your new baby and being their primary source of nutrition. Whew. You need to fuel your own body with strong building blocks to keep yourself and your dependent(s) going. Focus on easy to grab, healthy, nutrient-dense food. No bake energy bites are great to grab as a snack. Eat hearty, nutritious meals. Crockpots are great for preparing soups and stews that can be saved for leftovers depending on the size of the tribe you’re feeding. Limit refined sugars and processed foods. Not only are these lacking in nutritional value but as a mother it’s time to think about the habits your children are learning from the environment around them.
3. Rest. For all of the reasons above, including recovery while simultaneously supporting your growing family, it is so important that you rest and allow your body to heal. Our body and minds need time to rest not only so that we can heal but so that we can be our best, most present selves for our families. This may be difficult, especially in the early days (speaking from experience), but with some support and prioritizing it can be worked on. Nap when help is present to care for your baby. Nap when your little one(s) nap if you’re able. This section is purposely entitled “rest” rather than “sleep”, as it is meant to take the pressure off of feeling like you need to be sleeping through the night right away (or for the first few years…). I felt so much better about my sleep when at a follow up visit several weeks after the birth of my son my midwife asked how much sleep I was getting. I was unsure and hesitant at first, but she made me feel more “normal” asking if I was getting at least 5 hours of “interrupted sleep” throughout the day and night rather than my comparison to the usual/”recommended” 8 hours. The more the merrier as far as sleep goes, but knowing I was at or slightly above “normal” for a new mom made me feel more energized and empowered in itself. Furthermore, human milk is designed to match its species, in that its composition accounts for human babies and moms being meant to be “attached” (more dependent on) or closer together when young, compared to other animals that may have different fat content levels and are designed to be more independent earlier on, requiring less frequent feedings (cows, for example). Research safe co-sleeping. Not all co-sleeping is equal-it can range from dangerous locations such as on a couch or with other risk factors (obesity, smoking, alcohol consumption, etc) to the very safe room-sharing. When done properly it is not only safe but studies have shown other benefits including increased sleep for Mom and baby, a better breastfeeding relationship, and reduced risk of SIDS. For more on breastfed babies and sleep, check out this La Leche League article.
4. Take time to do what you love. Along a similar theme to being your best self for your family, taking a break to do what you love helps allow you to be more present when you’re with your family. Whether alone, with friends, your spouse, or even with kids in tow, carve out time to partake in your own hobbies. This could mean attending a fitness class or going on a hike or run, ladies’ night out, date night, or simply enjoying your beverage of choice while reading a good book.
5. Stop comparing. Technology and social media are great tools to help us keep in contact with friends and family, especially those who live elsewhere. However, please recognize when you get caught comparing yourself to others, whether it’s your cousin who has the perfect looking family, your college sorority sister who has bounced back from each pregnancy looking better than ever, or your high school acquaintance who’s traveled the world since graduation. Most people generally don’t share their struggles with the world, so remember that you’re only getting their highlight reel. We all have struggles in life, and comparing ourselves to others to the point it gets into our heads is not healthy. If you find yourself feeling worse after scrolling the old newsfeed, unfollow those who may evoke those feelings, or better yet, cut back the amount of time you spend on social media in general.
This list is not comprehensive, as there are many other ways to “fill your cup” (and avoid emptying it) as a mom, whether you’re newly expecting or transitioning to life as an empty nester. Feel free to reach out if you are looking for further ways to take care of yourself or more resources. When we are better versions of ourselves, we are better moms and better role models for our littles.
Hang in there, mama. This season will not last. Remember that the days and nights can be long, but the years oh so short.