Wednesday, May 18, 2016

To blog or not to blog? + High Protein Post Workout Snacks!

I’m starting to see a pattern here. Blog for a few months, leave for a year, return and blog again…it’s funny how life works; how we switch through interests based on time and top priorities. As life has slowly begun to balance out, my interest in blogging has been slowly creeping back into existence. Time, however, seems to be an ongoing issue, along with many others. However, I know I can’t allow time or fear get in my way so I have decided to test the waters to see, is blogging still for me?

Recently I was approached and asked to write a post on post-workout high protein snacks. As a work-from-home mom, you’d be quite surprised at how hard it is to get a workout in. Between caring for a toddler, working a full-time job, cooking, cleaning, etc, there’s very little time to take care of me! But recently I have started working on finding balance and taking care of me has finally become a priority. On top of my “Me List”? Working out!
I love to run, bike, do full body workouts, and HIIT routines (great for busy mommas!), but my absolute favorite activity is yoga. It gives me the opportunity to relax my mind, focus on my breathing and move my body! Whether it’s a quick 15 minute fat burning session or an hour outdoors, my body always feels great afterwards and depending on the time of day, it’s also ready to be refueled.
I love to make my own protein snacks, but sometimes you just need to grab and go! So I will share with you some snacks you can make on your own to refuel after a workout as well as some products that are great for eating on the go.

Date Balls or Protein Balls

PB Chocolate yumm!
If you have never ever made date or protein balls, then I strongly encourage you to go make some ASAP! These little bit sized gems can be chock full of nutrients; protein, healthy fats, carbs and superfoods if you choose to add them. These are perfect for refueling the body post workout. They are easy to store, easy to bring with you, mess free, and super filling. I make some sort of protein balls every week for easy snacking!
My favorite ones to make are the Date Energy Balls or the Raw Brownie Bites from Detoxinista, depending on my mood. The Date Energy Balls are super easy to make, sweet and deliciously coconutty. The Raw Brownie bites are rich, sweet and the perfect solution to your chocolate cravings. There are many more out there made with different nuts and dried fruits. The possibilities are really endless!

If you’re not into dates, then try a recipe like this one for Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Bites! This recipe uses nut butter instead of whole nuts and honey as the sweetener. It’s full of fiber, long lasting carbs as well as superfoods thanks to the oats, flax and chia. For this recipe, I modify it a bit; I add some coconut oil to help smooth out the peanut butter and honey, and reduce the flax and add hemp seeds in its place.
In a rush? Grab an original Larabar! They are made with the same simple ingredients of dates, nuts and spices. Try my favorite, the Cashew Cookie Bar!

Trail Mix
Trail mix is one of the easiest high protein snacks to make and there are literally hundreds of different combinations! My daughter made her own this week for her snack for school. She added cashews, almonds, dried cranberries and raisins, sunflower seeds, allergy-free chocolate chips, and some store bought organic granola.

Trail mix is great as a post-workout or midday snack. The healthy fats and protein will keep you feeling full and sustained while the natural carbs from the dried fruit will keep your energy flowing.

If you’re in need of nuts to stock up, check out for a list of raw or roasted nuts. They even have yummy flavored ones! All of these would be great to add in to your trail mix! Just be easy on the sugar ;)

In a rush? There are several wonderful companies out there who make healthy trail mix. sells a Wild Berry Sprouted Trail Mix that sounds amazing! Living Intentions also sells several different varieties, Mango Goji Fire, being my absolute fave!

Protein Shakes
When I was pregnant, I found this awesome recipe for a hemp protein chocolate milk shake. Hemp seeds are a wonderful source of plant-based protein and essential fatty acids that are easy to digest. I love sprinkling them on top of my salads, adding a few tablespoon into my smoothies or just eating them out of the jar. This recipe is sweet, rich, filling and super great for you! Think post-workout milkshake!

In a rush? I highly recommend Vega’s Post Workout Performance Protein Powder. Throw it into your shaker bottle with some homemade almond milk and you have a yummy protein shake right there! I personally like to blend mine with ice and maybe some nut butter or even greens to mellow out the sweetness.
Other snacks.

There are several other fabulous high protein snacks you can make or grab for post workout munchies. To add to the above:
  • Plain Greek yogurt with a drizzle of honey (or make protein pops with Greek yogurt and your favorite fruit! My kiddos love Greek yogurt, bananas, strawberries and a splash of OJ)
  • For my meat eaters, homemade jerky is super easy to make and a wonderful chewy snack that is really high in protein
  • Quinoa. For those who intend to eat a meal after lunch, incorporate some quinoa into your meal. Quinoa is not only another wonderful source of plant-based protein, but it’s a complete protein meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids.  I love using quinoa on top of my salad or in a veggie bowl. It satisfies my “grain” cravings and rounds out my meal, keeping me full longer. Here’s a wonderful recipe for a quinoa wrap!!

Looking for more information? Check out registered dietitian Megan Roosevelt as she talks about healthy snacking tips! You’ll also find some pretty awesome high protein recipes and snacks on's site as well.
Well that wasn’t too bad. Maybe I do have time again to blog!
What do you think? Interested in hearing more about healthy eating, aromatherapy and living the working mom life? Let me know!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Tower Garden Set-Up

Four days after I placed my order at DC's Green Festival, the Tower Garden arrived.  I was impressed with the timeliness of delivery!  It came in 3 boxes:  1 containing the tower, 1 containing the cage, and 1 containing the grow lights.  When opening up the boxes, be sure to locate all the papers and put them in a safe place.  In addition, open the plastic label container outside the tomato cage or grow light kit box- it contains extra seeds!

I spread a trash bag on the floor where I planned to set up the tower garden, to protect the floor.

Assembly of the tower was straightforward.  Directions were easy to follow.  Denise had sent me helpful online instructions as well, and I had watched the online tutorials.  
One important thing to note:  when filling the base with water/plant food use half strength Tower Tonic A and B.  This is noted in both online and paper instructions, but would be easy to miss.  I used 1/2 gallon mason jars and used filtered water.  I added the first 10 gallons, then added Tower Tonic A, then added 5 more gallons, then Tower Tonic B, then added the last 5 gallons of water.  The intial pH was 5.5.

I had ordered the seedlings from Living Towers and True Garden the same day I purchased the Tower Garden, and they arrived at the same time as the Tower Garden: four days later!  Both companies sent seedlings with strong shoots.
Living Towers Seedlings: Swiss Chard, Peppermint, Tarragon, Basil, Chives, Dill, Cucumbers, Green Beans, Squash, Sugar Snap Peas.
Overall, the seedlings from Living Towers were in excellent condition.  Most were young, fresh shoots.  The mint did have one leaf that with brown discoloration.  The cilantro looked fragile, but we'll see how it transplants.  The worst thing about the Living Towers shipment was the difficulty of removing the seedlings.  You have to remove wooden chopsticks from the sides before the seedlings can be removed, and it is very difficult to get the seedlings out without lifting the shoots themselves.  I ended up using the chopsticks to lift them out, but the process was not simple.
True Garden: Spinach, Green Onion, Rosemary, Eggplant, Thyme, Parsley, Sage, and Tomatoes
It was much easier to remove the plants from True Garden's packaging.  In addition, the company specifically states that many of the seedlings are grown organically.  Unfortunately, the plants were packaged in non-biodegradable plastic packing peanuts.  In addition, if you look carefully at the image above, you will see the sage, thyme and rosemary have leaves that are browning.  The leaves on the spinach are yellowing.  Still, most of these plants should flourish.  Some just required heavy pruning.
Eggplant + Tarragon
I placed 2 plants in some net pots.  I haven't found any other blogs where people have tried this, so it will be an experiment!  The tarragon came with 4 shoots, so I split it 2 and 2, and put one half with the eggplant and the other with sugar peas.  I chose pairings based on an online search of companion planting.  I ended up changing some of the parings from my initial plan due to the strength of certain seedlings.
Eggplant + Tarragon
Somehow I lost the instructions for assembling the cage.  Thankfully, Peggy Sheridan has posted them on a youtube video: Installing the Tomato Cage on the Tower Garden.

Setting up the timers was not intuitive.  Jill Jacoby has a helpful youtube video:  Tower Garden Timer.  The light timer is set up in the same way as the watering timer.  One thing to note:  you want the watering timer on "timer mode" so it will be on 15 min and off 45 min when inside.  The total process took 3 hours to complete.  I am still awaiting the organic seeds and the strawberry plants, so more posts to come when those arrive!  Below is a short video of the final set-up.


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Tower Garden Planning

Showing off my Green America temporary tattoo at Greenfest
While at DC's Green Festival last weekend, I was introduced to Tower Gardens, a vertical aeroponics planting system.  The basic concepts follow:
  1. Seeds are started in rockwool (not soil).  Rockwool is commonly used in hydroponics systems and is made of basalt rock and chalk.
  2. Seeds are transplanted into a cylindrical tower and the roots grow into the center of the tower.  Tower dimensions are 30"x30" for the base and 62" height for the basic model.
  3. Seeds are watered regularly by water that circulates through the system at regular intervals.  The water tank holds 20 gallons.
  4. Trellis and grow lights can be purchased for indoor growing.

Advantages of having a home indoor garden include:
  • Environmental:  Disposable packing materials are reduced and fuel for transporting food is avoided
  • Nutritional:  Having immediately available fruits and vegetables increases likelihood of including them in the diet
  • Flavor:  Fresh, fruits and vegetables can be grown through winter and taste better than those picked while unripe and allowed to ripen during transit
  • Convenience:  Grocery store visits can be reduced.  Tower Garden requires very little maintenance (pruning and starting plants, checking pH weekly, and cleaning pump monthly- one video blogger estimated an hour per week).
  • Cost:  While the initial cost is steep, the money saved by a decreased grocery bill should pay for the Tower Garden in less than a year (depending on how much is usually spent on organic fruits and vegetables).

So I bought a Tower Garden!  I've read every post and watched every video I could find on others' progress with indoor gardening to help me plan.  I thought I could also post my successes and failures here, so others can learn from my mistakes.  While waiting for the Tower Garden to arrive, I've done plenty of research, which I will summarize below:

The first step is picking what plants to grow.

Per the Tower Garden website, for indoor gardening, non-fruiting plants tend to thrive better than fruiting plants indoors.  Stevec on TowerTalk summarized the reasons well
  1. Leaves tend to grow with blue spectrum lights around 6,000 kelvin (Tower Gardens grow lights are in the 6,500 kelvin range), while fruits tend to grow with red spectrum lights in the 3,00 kelvin range.  The comments section of this post links to a red spectrum light that can be purchased from an outside website.  I purchased 2, total cost $23.05.
  2. Fruiting plants require pollination, which will not occur naturally via honeybees while plants are indoors.  Plenty of self pollination tutorials exist online, including this one.
Self Pollination:

Basically, in order for fruiting plants to thrive, they will require self-pollination and may benefit from time with a red light during the fruiting phase.  I definitely want fruiting plants.  Several video-bloggers have documented successful growth of fruiting plants indoors with or without use of red spectrum lights:

I decided to go with the following plants:
  • Herbs:  Parsley, Cilantro, Basil, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Tarragon, Dill, Chives, Peppermint
  • Vegetables:  Eggplant, Zucchini, Cucumber, Tomatoes, Green Onions, Green Beans, Sugar Snap Peas
  • Fruit:  Watermelon, Cantaloupe, Strawberries
  • If I end up purchasing the Extension Kit, which supplies 8 additional growing sites, I will also plant Leeks, Kale, Lettuce, Savory, Hot Peppes and others (we'll see).
I don't anticipate that all of them will thrive.  It is likely I will ultimately have to limit large plants with vines to the 4 bottom slots as the root systems will probably all compete for space.  If 6 large vines do take off, I plan on pruning them away from the base and directing the plant away from the tower toward additional grow lights.  In addition, I am planning on planting 2 plants in a single slot, which may result in smaller plants as the roots compete for space, or only 1 of the 2 plants surviving.  I decided which plants to pair based on Wikipedia's Companion Planting List.

The second step is deciding where to place each plant in the tower garden.  My plan is to put most of the fruiting plants in 2 columns so I can eventually change the 2 blue lights to 2 red lights.  

1. Blue Light2. Blue/Red Light3. Blue/Red light4. Blue Light

The third step is to buy seeds or seedlings.  I wanted less hassle and quicker results for my initial planting so I started mostly with seedlings.  Tower Garden lists several vendors that supply seedlings started in rockwool, specifically for the Tower Garden system.  
  • From Living Tower Seedlings, I purchased seedlings: Swiss Chard, Peppermint, Tarragon, Basil, Chives, Dill, Cucumbers, Green Beans, Squash, Sugar Snap Peas.  Total price with shipping: $28.75.
  • From True Garden, I purchased seedlings: Spinach, Green Onion, Rosemary, Eggplant, Thyme, Parsley, Sage, and Tomatoes.  Total price with shipping: $28.50.
  • From Backyard Berry Plants, I ordered 4 Strawberry plants: Cardinal, Sonata, Yellow Wonder Alpine, and Vanilla Yellow/White Alpine.  Total Cost: $41.  Of note, strawberries from seeds can take over a year to fruit.
  • From High Mowing Seeds, I ordered seeds: Sugar Baby Watermelon, Orange Sherbet F1 Melon, Chinook F1 Leek, Vates Kale, and Summer Savory.  Total Cost $18.95.

Tower Gardens are sold as a part of a multilevel marketing plan.  My rep is Denise Pesavento, who has kept in close touch with me and has offered to stop by and personally help if I have questions regarding maintenance or setup!  Other hydroponic systems exist.  Many are noted in this blog post.  There are many DIY posts for aeroponics/hydroponics systems available as well.  The Tower Garden seems the most efficient and easy to maintain out of the ones I have viewed.

My Tower Garden should arrive within a week.  I'll post pictures once I have it up and running!


Friday, February 20, 2015

Baby Callie's Birth Story

Every birth story is unique and well, Callie’s is of no exception. It all started a few days prior to Callie’s actual birth date. I began noticing that her daily movements were slowly decreasing; a sign that baby girl was conserving energy for her upcoming big day. During those few days I also noticed an increase in Braxton Hicks contraction, a burst of energy as well as an up in my appetite. With all these changes I knew that labor day was right around the corner. But exactly when was the question.
Would you have asked me what day I assumed baby girl would arrive, I would have told you January 13th, aka her due date. My first daughter was born on her due date, January 11th, so I thought Callie would be just like her sister: exactly on time. But she had other plans.
It was Amerie’s birthday weekend. She was turning 8 years-old and was feeling a bit blue because we had to skip her birthday party plans in anticipation for her baby sister’s arrival. She was threatening to be mad should her sister arrive on her birth date, leaving the pressure on me to hold out until the 13th. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
On Sunday, January 11th, I woke up at 8:30am from some much needed rest. My husband had offered to take the 6:00am puppy shift leaving me with the flexibility to sleep in for as long as I felt I needed. I had gotten a well night’s rest despite the back cramps that woke me up a few times that night. I thought nothing of them considering I had been suffering from the same back cramps for the past few nights. I proceeded to complete my morning routine of freshening up and getting dressed when IT hit me - was that a contraction? It definitely wasn’t a Braxton Hicks and it actually HURT. Instead of the tightening I normally felt directly in the center of my tummy, I felt little tightening and more of a mild pain radiating from my lower abdomen to my lower back. 
My Birthday Girls
I finished getting ready and headed downstairs to see my family. I wished my daughter a happy birthday, then another contraction hit. I paused, breathing through it as I had learned from my home hypnobirthing CD. When the wave was over I looked at my husband and said, “I think this is it”. We both smiled, excited that the day had finally arrived, when, as usual, he cracks a joke, “Aww Amerie mommy is having your baby sister on your birthday! That is just wrong!”.  Thanks. Way to make me feel guilty. Five minutes later another wave hit and my husband finally realized that I was serious.
As my husband began cleaning the house, I started tracking my contractions. They were very inconsistent, averaging around 5 minutes apart and 30 seconds to 1 minute long.  Since the pain was manageable, I decided to get the one thing I desperately needed to get done that day: grocery shopping.

I’d like to note that at this point I was in early labor as pointed out by my husband due to my happy mood. I was laughing and very much able to work through each contraction. That natural birthing class  taught him well.

Before we left, I notified my midwife of the current situation. While she was willing to head towards my house right there and then, I told her to hold off since I wasn’t 100% sure whether or not this was the real deal. Having not been in labor before, I wasn’t sure what to expect and I didn’t want to inconvenience my birthing team should my labor be false, or worse, slow.
We arrived at the store and as I shopped my husband continued to track my contractions. Throughout our trip, the pain started getting more intense, with some waves more intense than others. These surges required me to stop, focus and breath. Unfortunately, the distraction led to an incomplete shopping trip. I completely forgot to pick up food for my birthing team and missed out on some much needed pantry essentials. At least I got it done because I was finally able to rest, relax and focus.
Once groceries were put away, I got dressed into my oh so comfy home dress my mom brought home from the Philippines and attempted to take a nap. My contractions were still 4-5 minutes apart on average and still 30 seconds to 1 minute in length. The pain was getting stronger, but it was still manageable. As I laid down to rest I noticed the waves fading, with the interval time increasing to 7-10 minutes apart. I panicked thinking that I had halted labor, but at the same time I was grateful for the ability to rest. After about 30 minutes I decided to get back up. I was feeling restless and felt the need to move upstairs where I would be laboring and delivering.
Before settling upstairs, I headed to the restroom to find brown discharge in my undies (sorry, TMI!?).  In the past, brown discharge signaled something was wrong so naturally I freaked out. I texted my midwife who reassured me that everything was normal. Apparently the stretching of the cervix can cause capillaries to rupture resulting in some light bleeding. Mid text I was still on the royal throne when during a contraction I passed what looked like an odd colored blood clot. My midwife told me it must have been mucus plug. Not sure why, but I totally assumed it would be clear, hence the reason why it’s called a bloody show. Dope. Passing my mucus plug meant progress! It also meant things were about to get serious.
I settled upstairs next to my birthing pool. I had a blanket to keep me warm, a rice sock for comfort, oils for strength and relaxation, my yoga ball to lean on and my phone on the charger, playing my hypnobirthing CD. My wonderful neighbor had just taken Amerie for a fun day with her friends, leaving me with peace and quiet. My husband had also settled with me upstairs, watching football as he provided me with whatever support I needed.
At around 2:00pm, active labor hit. My contractions were 3 minutes apart and 45 seconds to over 1 minute in length. The beginning, peak and end of each wave was more distinct and with each surge I had to stop, focus and really breath. The pain was strong, yet bearable, yet enough to destroy my appetite and induce nausea and mild vomiting. I felt most of it in my lower abdomen and some in my lower back. It felt like a super strong menstrual cramp combined with a little burn – no doubt a result of my hips opening up. I tried several different coping methods but nothing worked. The heated rice sock made the pain worse; the oils I gave up on quickly; movement was uncomfortable; and counter pressure/massaging did little for me. What did work was visualization.
When I felt a surge coming on I would immediately pause, close my eyes, place my hands near my abdomen and visualize numbing light waves radiating from my hands into my abdomen and around my back (yes, Piper was my favorite Charmed character! Ha!). While chanting the word “numb”, this numbing light would continue to circulate until the wave faded away.  While it didn’t completely stop the discomfort, it did provide me a few seconds of pain free bliss. Like a break in the midst of a storm. It was nice and it gave me something to concentrate on. Sadly, this didn’t last for too long. As soon as things progressed, my focused shifted to breathing through the pain and less on trying to numb it.
At a little before 3:00pm, I texted my midwife to provide her an update on my progress. After chatting a bit about how I felt things were moving along, she offered to head my way to hang out, palpate the baby’s position and check me vaginally IF I so desired to know how much I had dilated. Although I was hesitant to say yes, thinking things were still moving slowly, my husband pushed me to agree. Having her nearby would put both of our minds at ease knowing she’s there should things speed up. Plus, honestly I wanted to know baby’s position. I wanted to be mentally prepared to push out a breeched baby if she shifted.
While waiting for my midwife to arrive, things slowly progressed. My contractions were getting closer together, being 3 minutes apart on average and 1 minute in length. The nausea worsened and unfortunately, I was throwing up. I attempted to stay hydrated and nibbled on crackers when I could. It helped. Sort of.
At a little before 5:00pm, my midwife arrived followed by my doula. At this point my spirits were still high. I was feeling a bit tired but I was still happy and smiling. I was super excited to see them both as it meant, for me anyways, that I would soon be seeing this baby. It was also nice to have additional support for both my husband and I. My midwife visited me briefly to check on how I was doing and then proceeded to put a plan of action into place. In about an hour she would palpate baby’s position and check me vaginally to see how far I was dilated and go from there. She figured with my team there now, my labor will no doubt progress and boy did it! That was one very long hour! The contractions picked up and were getting harder to manage. The pain had moved more towards my hips and felt more like a burning sensation than a cramp. My husband offered to squeeze my hips but I found little relief with the counter pressure. Not sure why nothing worked. I realized later that the way I cope with pain is staying still and focusing. Weird.
Sometime around 6:00pm my midwife checked the baby’s position as well my cervix for dilation. Baby was head down (wohoo!!!!) and I was 9 centimeters dilated!! I couldn’t believe it! I was further along than I thought! I was in transitional labor! My cervix was stretchy and things were progressing beautifully. Hearing that I was so close gave me a boost of confidence and energy. If I’ve made it this far, then I can totally finish.
With me being so close, my midwife and doula suggested my husband get the pool ready. During the hour it took to fill up the pool, my doula continued to provide me with physical and verbal support with each wave. When my face was tense, she told me to relax it. When I started breathing heavily, she slowed my breath down. The support helped me to mentally sink deeper into my body and work with it versus against it. It’s amazing how much easier it is to get through each contraction when you relax, surrender and allow your body to do its thing.  At this point I was exhausted; so much so that I would doze off or sleep in between contractions to conserve the little bit of energy I had left. I was feeling drowsy and oddly cold.
After about an hour, the pool was ready. In between surges, my husband helped me into the pool. He asked me if I wanted my bathing suit top, but without a word, I stripped my dress off and headed towards the pool. I can hear him laugh and say, “okay then. I guess you’re going in naked”. This made me chuckle. Modesty really does go out the window when you’re in hard labor. I mean what’s a pair of boobs!? Might as well be comfortable right? As soon as I stepped in I felt immediate relief! The warm water provided just enough support to take off some of the pressure from the baby and the contractions.
Within minutes of getting into the pool the contractions started picking up. The peak of each wave was so intense that it took everything in me to make it through, including some low moaning.  My hips were burning and baby girl was consistently moving which, can I say, was way worse than the burning hips. I could feel every single little wiggle and kick and it tickled every sensitive nerve. If there was a moment I felt like Ripley from Aliens, it was when Callie was moving in my stomach during a contraction. Cringe. It was during this phase when I needed and used the most support from my husband and birthing team.
I was in transitional labor, moving to the pushing stage, and at my wits end. I started freaking out, thinking that I couldn’t do anymore. At some point I even stated that having a home birth was a horrible idea. (Sorry!) Multiple times I told my husband that I couldn’t do it anymore because I had no energy left and the pain seemed almost unbearable. Of course, thanks to the class, his response was a reminder that the moment I felt like that, it meant it was almost time to push. He held my hands through each contraction and helped me regulate my breathing during times when I would freak out and work against the surge. My birthing team reminded me often to keep my face relaxed and breathed with me as well. They helped me stay focus. I needed them and they were there for me. Without them I could have easily lost it. Besides mental support, they also helped me stay hydrated and cool since I was finally getting heated due to the warm water and the increase in physical work.
I don’t recall much of what was happening around me. I was so drained, drowsy and in the zone that my surroundings barely existed. I do recall our midwife in training arriving just in time and someone stating that it was 7 something in the evening.
After several minutes of seriously intense contractions, I started to feel the pressure to push at the peak of each wave. At first I thought it was me wanting to push but I quickly realized it was my body doing the pushing.  I found it pretty cool how distinct the beginning, peak and end of each wave felt. At the start of a contraction, I could feel the pain creeping up. It was my signal to prepare and start breathing. After several seconds of creeping pain, it would peak and my body would start pushing. After 3-4 pushes, the pressure and discomfort would dissipate and I would dwell in the moment of pain free bliss. Oh how much I appreciated each break, even if it was for only a minute! Pushing was the best part of labor. It felt so good to finally work WITH my surges instead of just THROUGH them.
In between a set of surges, my midwife checked for progress and could feel my baby’s head still surrounded by a bubble of amniotic fluid. Yep, baby was still in her sac! Of course, I wanted to feel and so I did. It was the most incredible thing to feel my baby’s head still surrounded by her temporary home. It was in that moment that I thanked God for our little miracle and praised him for his creativity. When you look at the stars or feel a baby’s head in sac you can’t help but think about how ingenious God truly is. Still feeling baby in sac had my birthing team pretty excited, hoping that maybe, just maybe baby would be born en cal. It would be a pretty cool thing to see! So fingers crossed we did.
After several minutes of pushing, little progress was made. My water had yet to break and I could still feel baby’s head about an inch or so in. I had been in the same kneeling position since I had gotten into the pool so it was time to move around. My midwife asked me to lift one leg up and keep it there during my next contraction. I knew doing so would not only open my hips to allow baby to move down but I also knew it would hurt like hell. Even though I didn’t want to move, an opinion I clearly voiced to my midwife (haha!), I did it anyways knowing it would help. And it did…hurt worse, but that just meant it was doing something. Of course, seeing progression encouraged my midwife to suggest more movement and additional position changes.
During the next few contractions I moved from kneeling on my left leg, with my right leg up to kneeling on my right, with my left up to squatting while leaning back on my husband. I ended up staying in the back lean for the remainder of my delivery as things seemed to quickly progress in that position. With each surge I breathed my baby down as my body gently pushed. Soon I felt my baby’s head slowly beginning to emerge.
Despite what I learned in class the crowning phase did not last through only one contraction. For multiple contractions, baby’s head would slowly crown, and then retract with each rest. I really thought each and everytime that I would push that sucker fully out, but I was greeted with disappointment each time the surge would end. It was then I actually wished the contractions would last longer so I could push her out faster. Of course, my midwife reminded me slow and steady meant less chance of damage or tear, which now I’m thankful for. After a few peek-a-book surges, it was finally time to push baby girl all the way out
Right before I delivered, I was pushing through a surge when I felt an odd pop. I exclaimed to my birthing team that I felt a pop and was sure my water just broke. My midwife was a bit surprised and a bit doubtful that my water had broke considering that she didn’t see anything when it happened. Of course, it didn’t matter because it was then when I could really feel the pressure of baby’s head coming down.
It took two contractions to push baby girl out. With the first contraction, I pushed her head half-way out before my wave ended. Yes, I rested with half a baby’s head out. The pressure was intense, the ring of fire “pain”, not so much. I can no doubt thank the water for the lack of fire. Naturally, I panicked a bit due to the pressure, asking my midwife what to do. She calmly told me to wait and, in the meantime, distracted me by showing me via the mirror my baby’s head. She encouraged me to touch my baby’s sweet head but unfortunately I was holding myself up and felt too weak to move. I was afraid if I moved, my butt would plop right onto the floor of the pool and squish my poor baby’s noggin. So I watched and waited.
Seeing her precious little head brought on this weird wave of energy and awareness. Instead of feeling tired and in the zone, I automatically “woke up”, excited and ready to push.
With the next contraction, I pushed with all my might and her head finally came out! Oh the relief! Her head emerged mid-surge so naturally my body was still pushing. I told my midwife I still needed to push, so with a little wiggle help from my midwife, I used the last bit of energy from the end of my surge and pushed her little body out. My midwife caught her and called for my husband to grab her as he had planned. Unfortunately, the man was in such a daze that it took her a few calls of his name to finally get his attention. Once he realized what was going on, he reached down, grabbed baby Callie out of the water and placed her on my chest. Immediately she cried and so did I.
This is the only photo I have. My plans to take pics went out the window.
Later on I learned that baby girl’s head was pointing straight down towards the floor of the pool hence the reason for my midwife’s assistance. The wiggle was to help get baby girl unstuck. After a brief discussion over Callie's ultrasounds we noticed she always had a hand near her face. My midwife stated that Callie most likely had her hand under her chin, therefore explaining why it took longer than expected to push her out and also why my midwife felt the need to do a little shimmy during my final push. When she wiggled her I could definitely feel as if something was being unstuck or pulled. No doubt she was trying to emerge head and hand first.
In that moment a flood of emotions hit me: relief, excitement, euphoria, love, empowerment. I did it. I really did it! Baby girl was finally here, her tiny little naked body nuzzled in my arms. I couldn’t believe it. I cried, proud of my accomplishment, of the work I did and the reward that followed. I sat there in a new zone, completely smitten by my beautiful, miracle baby. That was until I realized I hadn’t checked the sex yet. I opened my baby’s little legs and sure enough it was a girl! Whew! I could finally wash everything!
As I sat there, cuddling my new baby, my midwife and birthing team started prepping to move me from pool to bed. As my doula recorded some info about my recent delivery, I heard her mention the timing of Callie’s birth at 9:24pm. I looked at her shocked that it was past 9:00pm! I couldn’t believe that I had been in the pool for at over two hours, pushing for at least an hour. I honestly thought I had been in there for a shorter amount of time. It’s amazing how time becomes non-existent during those last couple of hours of labor.
In the meantime my husband had decided to FaceTime my family of six to tell them the good news and to show off baby Callie who was still in the pool with me, as butt naked as I was. Thankfully I was too exhausted and too infatuated to realize what he was doing. If I was all there I’m sure her would have gotten fussed at for exposing me!  At the same time though, I’m sure I would have laughed as I fell in love with his excitement. There’s nothing more sweet than to see your husband’s eyes light up over the birth of his new baby. That night I fell in love with him all over again.
Disclaimer: before I proceed I have to warn that things do get a bit gory. While natural, some may find the following events hard to stomach. Fair warning.
After a few moments of cuddling, it was time to move me from pool to bed. My entire team helped me as I stood up and stepped out of the pool with my still attached to the cord baby in hand. Things were going great, so it was quite a shock to see, as soon as I stood up, a huge gush of blood hit the floor. Everyone jumped in surprise then immediately got right into action, swiftly moving me to the bed so I could lie down and stop the increase of the giant mess I was causing. I was embarrassed, of course, but not surprised. The same thing happened to me when I delivered my first daughter in the hospital and I was given pitocin to help.
Once I was on the bed, my birthing team got into action. While my husband and student midwife jumped right in to cleaning, my midwife and doula focused on me. Since my iron was running low during my pregnancy, the massive amount of blood loss was a bit of concern for my midwife since it could lead to hemorrhaging. Even after the delivery of the placenta, the bleeding continued. Being proactive, my midwife instructed to give me a dose of shepherds purse tincture as well as a piece of fresh placenta to hold in between my cheek and teeth to prevent hemorrhaging while my doula started tracking my vitals every 10 minutes or so to make sure everything remained stable. I was also asked to drink as much coconut water as I possibly could and to eat some food even though I had no desire to do either. Things were looking a bit shaky at first, but after an hour or so, my bleeding slowed down and my vitals leveled out. The power of the placenta!
During this time, my midwife allowed my husband to cut the cord which was still attached to my baby and placenta. During my pre-natal visits, she suggested, and I agreed, that we would wait until the placenta was delivered and until the cord turned white and stopped pulsating, to cut it. This would ensure that my baby received all of the nutrient, stem cell dense blood from her cord and placenta. After they were detached, Callie’s little nub was sealed while my placenta was given to my doula to encapsulate.
She also checked my vagina for any tears, which, unfortunately, I did have one. Surprisingly, it wasn’t at the same site where I was given an episiotomy during my delivery with Amerie. Instead it was at an angle. My midwife concluded that Callie indeed emerged hand and head first. What I felt being unstuck during my delivery was most likely her little arm or elbow, thus resulting in the tear. Thankfully it wasn’t too bad to need stitches! 
With a sigh of relief that everything was finally looking positive for me, my midwife and doula proceeded to care for my newborn who was currently latched on and nursing beautifully. My husband weighed her in at 6lbs, 15 ounces and she measured at 21.5 inches long – a huge difference from my 8lb first born. They also checked her body as well as her reflexes to make sure everything looked normal. Of course, she passed. She was perfect!
My midwife and husband weighing baby Callie
 After a few snuggles, my birthing team closed up shop and headed out around 12:30am. If my body didn’t make such a spectacle, they probably would have made it out sooner - something I feel so bad about, especially since they never got a chance to really eat anything due to my lack of awareness. However, I have to believe that everything happens for a reason; even if it results in me being completely embarrassed! The important thing though, was that baby and I were aye okay.

Say hello to baby Callie
 As soon as they left, the three of us crashed for the night. It took a moment for the adrenaline from just giving birth to finally subside before I could fall asleep. I was happy, extremely proud of my accomplishments, and overly smitten with my little bundle of joy. Our long wait was over. Our little miracle had finally entered this world and I was not ready to take my eyes off of her. As I lied in bed next to her, examining every detail of her, I smiled and thanked God for our little gift. He gave us her. It was at that moment that I finally felt at peace, ready to finally close my eyes and rest. A new journey had just begun for our family and I couldn’t wait to see what sort of adventures we would have together. <3

My squishy little baby not even a day old!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Week 39 and 40: The Final Weeks (Late Posts Capturing Final Thoughts Before Delivery)

NOTE: Yes, this post is late, but I wanted to share my thoughts from weeks 39 and 40.

Week 39 (December 26, 2014 – January 2, 2015): Is it REALLY a GIRL!?

I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays! I know we did! I have to say that after visiting family this week, I’m sort of second guessing the sex of my baby. While the ultrasounds clearly show a girl (or the non-existence of necessary male part), my body shows otherwise.
This week several people have pointed out that my body looks as if it’s carrying a boy. Instead of high, and all around, I’m carrying low and out. From the back I barely look pregnant. While I find it flattering, the constant comments are causing anxiety to set in. What if it IS a boy!? What if the ultrasound technicians “missed” something? What do I do with all this girly stuff (since no one sells gender neutral products nowadays)? Could multiple ultrasounds really be wrong!? Then I think about all the symptoms I’ve had throughout this pregnancy, specifically those that point to “girl”, and I know I must be having a girl.
For starters, right before I found I was pregnant, I suffered from serious back acne; a symptom I contribute to the change in hormones. I also became extremely emotional and I still am today. I cry so easily unlike before and my emotions can be all over the place at times. I highly doubt testosterone would make me this sappy. But the most obvious symptom that screams high estrogen production aka girl baby is the lack of hair on my legs and armpits. In the beginning, my belly grew so much dark, thick hair, I looked like I had a very manly beer gut. Now, the hair on my belly is barely visible and the hair on my legs and armpits grow thinly at a very, very slow rate. I have gone weeks without shaving because my legs still feel and look smooth. Only the increased hormones from a baby girl can do that, right!?
Either way, I’m still holding off on washing clothes and opening products until after baby is born. You would think my natural instincts would tell me boy or girl, but I was so sure I was having a boy until the ultrasounds showed a girl. That moment killed all my confidence. I could no longer trust my own instincts which is why I’m here now confused as crap. Ahhh!
Oh well. On another note, this week’s appointment was sort of disappointing. I went in hoping for good news that the baby was head down and engaged but instead we discovered a baby who was still floating freely…so freely that she seemed to have flipped back to breech! While I was a bit disappointed, my midwife and birthing team reminded me that having enough room for baby to move was a good thing. They also reminded me that I flipped her once I can flip her again, so home I went to study more on Inversions and daily belly mapping will be on my daily to-do list until I either go into labor or until my next appointment. Here’s to hoping I can flip baby back to the head down position, get this little booger engaged and labor started before 41 weeks!
The rest of my appointment went well. We did draw my blood to test my iron levels. Fingers crossed that my levels have significantly improved. (THEY DID!! Thank you liver and Floradix!)
My Stats:
  • Urine: Good!
  • Blood Pressure: 110/68
  • Weight: 155lbs
  • Measuring: 37cm – this is most likely due to the change in her position
  • Baby’s Position: Breeched Posterior?? Boo!
  • Baby’s HR: Strong!
For the remainder of the week, I spent my time nesting and food prepping for labor day. Yes, I said food prepping! It’s important to nourish your body and stay hydrated during labor and after delivery. A couple of popular recipes to have on hand include labor aid, a yummy sweet drink that helps restore electrolytes and provide an important nutrient, calcium magnesium, that helps the muscles function – muscles that will be used during labor and delivery! Another awesome recipe to have on hand: groaning muffins. These delicious muffins are sweet, fragrant, and nutrient and calorie dense. They are perfect for pregnancy, labor, postpartum and while nursing. I’m slowly making multiple batches to freeze for during and after labor. So good!
Other foods to have pre-prepped and on hand include ice chips made with coconut water or red raspberry leaf tea, a hearty meal to heat up and enjoy right after delivery and most importantly, food for your birthing team! They gotta eat too ya know J
Groaning Muffins for the Win!
Now that everything’s prepped all I have left to do is wait; and well continue hypnobirthing, massaging my perineum and keeping the house cleaned!

Week 40….or is it 39? (January 2 – January 11, 2015): The FINAL Week!

Well, my due date has passed and still no baby yet. I was so sure she would be born on her due date considering my first daughter was born on hers. I guess she will come on her own time. She has shown to have a mind of her own. Lord help me. Ha!
This week’s appointment was very similar to my last. We checked my blood pressure, urine, weight and of course the baby’s position. To our surprise baby girl had engaged! However, WHAT was engaged was still to be decided. Every time my midwife and assistant tried to check her position, baby girl would wiggle and move all over. My midwife guessed it was her head that was engaged and not her buttocks considering most breeched babies do not engage until labor begins, but with this baby, nothing was impossible. Again, she has a mind of her own.
My midwife finally received my records and after noticing that I had an ultrasound at 7 weeks has decided to go with the OB’s due date of January 13th. This gives me 10 extra days til I’m truly considered full term.  This also means we still have a due date that can be met. Maybe she’ll be born on the 13th! Wouldn’t that be crazy! I guess we’ll have to wait and see!
My Stats:
  • Urine: Good! Still producing antibodies which I have come to find out is associated with my consumption of gluten which can be found in my groaning muffins. Who knew!
  • Blood Pressure: 105/66
  • Weight: 156lbs
  • Measuring: 39 cm
  • Baby’s HR: 140’s
  • Position: ROP and engaged

I left my appointment happy and excited. Being engaged only meant baby was coming soon! My nerves began to set in as I realized I could go into labor at any moment. Am I physically and mentally prepared for this? Yes and no. But at this point there’s NO turning back. It’s now or never. I didn’t come all this way to back out now. I have a good reason to be anxious and nervous considering I’ve never been in real labor, but that’s why this experience is going to be worth it. I finally get to experience the true strength, will power and endurance God has given me as a woman. Plus, I have a few people to prove wrong….haha!! ;)
Well, here’s to hoping baby girl arrives before the 13th. While being pregnant has been such a fun, amazing and dare I say quite comfortable ride, I’m totally ready to see this baby!!! Bring on the labor!
As for my diet, exercise and symptoms:


I'm obsessed with cuties aka clementines. So juicy, sweet, slightly tart and refreshing. Plus they're super easy to grab when in a rush. I've also been craving smoothies again. My fave combo right now includes 2 frozen bananas, 1 cup frozen mango, almond milk, 3 Tbsp of hemp seeds and a handful of greens! Nom nommy! For lunch and dinner, it's always a warm meal. Mushrooms and peas with quinoa, cooked greens, pan seared tempeh are just a few of my faves.


Still walking my pup! He's gotten so big!!


Besides Braxton Hicks contractions, my main issue has been back pain. My lower back is always sore and achy. My midwife and doula recommend a chiro for an adjustment. I think they're right. :)

Monday, December 29, 2014

Weeks 36-38: And now we wait….

It’s hard to believe that we’ve made it to full term! Although the journey was quite crazy, I am so excited to finally bring this miracle baby into the world. As we patiently wait for nature to take its course, my husband and I have been working hard preparing for both birth and baby. We’re both excited and nervous for this whole new experience, but we’re also confident that it’ll be an amazing one. Can’t wait!


The past few weeks have been quite busy when it comes to prepping for baby. During week 36 we attended an AMAZING natural birth class by doula and childbirth educator, Elizabeth Schwartz. The class was both informative and entertaining; so much so that my husband could not stop saying on the way home how awesome the class was and how excited he was for our birth. Yes, the class was THAT good! We learned so much about prenatal care, the stages of labor, comfort measures to help deal with the discomfort as well as a few breastfeeding tips. Best of all, my hubby learned how HE could help! We both walked out excited, with a better understanding on what to expect when labor day comes and feeling more prepared and ready to go. Best class ever!? I think so!
Week 36 also marked the start of my weekly prenatal visits. My wonderful birth team decided to visit me at home for this week, allowing my husband and I time to get to know them all and how they work together. All I have to say is, I have a wonderful team by my side. Add in my husband and I have a feeling I am going to be well taken care of….and also thoroughly entertained.

During my appointment we did the normal check-up routine PLUS an iron test. What we discovered from the results of my iron test completely shocked me. My iron was low. REALLY LOW. As you may have recalled at the beginning of my pregnancy, my iron levels were great; something I contributed to my beautiful, plant-based diet. However, I guess the lack of interest in green smoothies and juices throughout this pregnancy led to a serious iron deficiency. It made sense too. The low iron explained why I was so tired all the time and why I exhausted so easily. Naturally, this concerned us all and so we discussed my plan of action: take desiccated grass-fed beef liver along with Vitamin C and Floradix Iron and Herbs. Then, in a week or two, we would draw my blood and check my levels again.
It worried me that my levels were so low, so I was determined to bring them up. I started consuming daily 3 tablets or 2,000mg of desiccated liver along with Vitamin C, 20ml of Floradix and my multi-vitamin. The results? I felt better. WAY better! I had energy again. Too much actually! It was crazy how quickly I began to feel more lively and energetic and my midwife even stated my overall look improved. I have to admit, I was in denial that I could be deficient in iron – especially on a plant based diet – but when your blood volume doubles and you have to provide iron for you AND another human being, it’s silly NOT to think that a deficiency is possible. Lesson learned for sure.

As for my other results:
  • Urine: Okay. Some proteins, but overall good.
  • Weight: 150 lbs
  • Baby’s Position: ROA or Rt Occiput Position (YEAH!!! An improved position for sure!)
  • Measuring: 36 cm (Perfect since I was 36 wks, 4 days)

We also discussed the multiple procedures that are performed on babies in the hospital and the options I had for each. My midwife provided us with a binder filled with information on each procedure, including the risks and benefits for each option, and encouraged us to read it prior to making our decisions. While I already knew which option I would choose, I still read each and every article. I was surprised by how much I DIDN’T know about each procedure. While my decisions ultimately remained the same, I feel way more informed, able to back up my decision should anyone question it.

The procedures in question included:
  1. Vitamin K shot
  2. Eye Ointment
  3. Hepatitis B Vaccine

While I opted to NOT have all three done, it’s important that all expecting parents become informed of the benefits and risks of having and not having the procedure done. An informed decision is a confident decision.

Last but not least we received and went over our birthing supply list. While we had most of the items already lying around the house, it was important that we had them all prepped and ready to be used. We purchased any items we didn’t have lying around the house (such as depends, haha!) and put together our birthing supply basket. Now, when the day arrives, everything will be available and easily accessible.

Before my team left, they dropped off one last item, the one thing I would need most for birth day: the birthing pool! The moment my hubby and I saw it, we realized this was it! Baby could be coming any day now! All of sudden, we both were in preparation mode. The nesting stage had finally hit.



During week 37, my husband and I did some major baby shopping and continued prepping for birth day and baby’s arrival. That week my birthing kit had also arrived, full of everything my midwife would need to help me through labor, delivery and post-partum. Since it was the week before Christmas and the week before my last day in the office at work, I didn’t focus too much on baby; which was fine because it made the week fly by pretty fast!
My 37 week appointment was pretty routine and simple. Baby was still in the right position and my vitals were looking good. My midwife was pleased to see that instead of looking ghostly and tired I was looking lively and rosy cheeked; a sign that my iron levels must have significantly improved. Overall things were looking great and we were all excited that I had finally reached 37 weeks because it meant my midwife was legally allowed to deliver my baby at home. Any earlier and I would have had to go to a hospital. Whew.

During this appointment we tested for GBS aka Group B Strep, a  bacterial colonization that can be found in a pregnant woman’s vagina and rectum. Women who test positive for GBS may possibly pass the infection on to their baby, which can cause a variety of complications if not quickly treated. Most physicians recommend antibiotics during delivery to prevent baby from contracting an infection however, there are alternatives to getting rid of GBS prior to delivery. The Wellness Mama wrote a great article on GBS and the protocol she used to get rid of it and to prevent it in future pregnancies. Thankfully, a few days after my appointment, my midwife delivered the good news that my results came back negative. Thank you kombucha, raw garlic and coconut oil!

As for my vitals:
  • Urine: Still detecting trace proteins
  • Weight: 151 lbs
  • Blood Pressure: 119/75
  • Heart Rate: 62
  • Measured: 37cm
  • Baby’s HR: Strong
  • Baby’s Position: Head down :D



During week 38 the need to nest hit me with full force. I spent the entire weekend cleaning the house from top to bottom and getting baby’s room ready. I cleaned every single baby item that I could and put them all away. My husband and I prepared the birthing room aka the upstairs foyer with seating, blankets, my birthing ball, birthing kit, supplies, pool, etc as well as our room with baskets filled with baby essentials waiting to be used once baby arrives.  I had such a need to get things done that my husband struggled to get me to sit down and watch a movie. I finally obliged to watching one movie with my family, but as soon as it was done I was back to cleaning and organizing. By the time the weekend was over, I had everything in its perfect place. Now all I had left to do was wait; and play with my new 100% covered by insurance, Medela breast pump. Wohoo! Finally, my insurance is good for something!

My week 38 appointment was again, routine. Nothing new to discuss or report.
  • Urine: Trace proteins....still. I give up.
  • Weight: 155lbs (Wowzers! Four pounds in one week!)
  • Blood Pressure: 109/74
  • Measured: 37cm (I gain 4lbs but still measure 37cm!? Weird)
  • Baby’s HR: Strong
  • Baby’s Position: ROA

Week 38 also marked the beginning of my pre-maternity leave leave. Thanks to my fabulous boss and co-workers, I started working from home full-time, giving me more time to relax, rest and prepare. In my opinion, the weeks leading up to birthing day are just as important as the 6 weeks post-partum. During those final weeks mom-to-be should find every way possible to disconnect with work and the obligations of everyday life and begin to rest, relax and connect with baby and body as she preps for labor and delivery. I know it’s not always possible for everyone to work from home or to avoid every duty required by mom-to-be especially if she has other children, but if she can find any way to make her day just a little bit less stressful than I have no doubts birthing day will go a lot smoother.

With the birthing room prepped, baby room organized, and everything in its place, all I can do now is rest, relax and wait for baby and body to begin their labor dance. I have a feeling someone is going to be like her sister and wait til her exact due dated to arrive. We shall see…

As for the other parts of my pregnancy:


My diet has been all over the place the past few weeks. Some days I have no appetite; others I can’t get enough to eat. I’ve been enjoying lots of fruits, specifically berries, bananas and oranges for breakfast along with coconut yogurt and oatmeal. For lunch, quinoa salads are still a staple. As for dinner, cooked greens, curried veggies with quinoa, and other cooked veggies are always a go to. For snacks, hummus, Mary’s Gone Crackers Pretzels, veggie sticks, fruit, dates and almond butter just to name a few. To drink, lots of water, NORA tea, kombucha and Natural Calm for magnesium. Nom nom!

Cravings: Chocolate, greens, lemon, and seafood.



Walking lot a boss! I walk once or twice a day for at least 30 minutes with my pup. I also chase him around a bit every morning. In the evening, I try and stretch as much as I can to ease some of the pelvic pain and leg cramps.


In the past few weeks, my belly has grown quite a lot. The extra weight has caused a lot of pressure on my back, hips and legs leading to more aches and pains. The worst part is, the aches and pain come mostly at night when I’m lying down resulting in a night of tossing, turning and no sleep. Some nights are better than others. It seems to all depend on how active I am during the day. The more active I am, the more nighttime aches and pains. I’ve tried stretching, pillow support, supplements, nothing works. Relief just comes as it pleases. Ugh. The joys of pregnancy! Other symptoms have included constant hunger, stronger Braxton hicks contractions and of course, the urge to nest which usually comes with a nice energy boost. Can’t complain about that! J

38 weeks down 2 more to go! At least I hope I only have 2 weeks left! But hey, can’t rush perfection right ;)