Second Trimester, Weeklies

Twenty Weeks (and a couple days) Pregnant

I hit 20 weeks on Saturday, which is officially halfway through pregnancy. That said, it doesn’t really feel like halfway because I’ve really only known I’m pregnant for 16 weeks, plus, I wasn’t really pregnant until about two weeks in. But still, technically I’m officially halfway through. This update is a little late because, as I mentioned last time, I was in Barcelona last week and then came home and flew out to a conference in New England the next day. So I’m writing this from beautiful, sunny Maine.

How I’m feeling:

I’m still a little jet-lagged, but the worst thing is that I’ve caught my first cold while pregnant. Last night, while sitting in a conference session, I realized that my scratchy throat and headache wasn’t just travel stress or dehydration from dry plane air. I woke up this morning with full-on congestion, sniffles, headache, and sore throat. And of course, I’m at a resort up a mountain, so there’s not a whole lot I can do other than drink plenty of water, blow my nose, and wash my hands regularly while I’m supposed to be networking.

Thankfully, as far as pregnancy symptoms go, I’m feeling pretty good. My nausea seems to have completely disappeared over the week in Barcelona, and I think all the walking has helped my bloating. I’ll do a full post about how I handled traveling while pregnant, but I feel pretty good right now. The one thing I’m noticing now is that my belly is decidedly big and I need to figure out how to support it while laying down.

I’m also feeling baby movements every day at least sometimes, especially if I’m laying down right after a meal, and at night. Some of the movements are even so strong that they can be felt from the outside. My husband felt a movement for the first time the other night because I put his hand on my belly while the baby was particularly active. It was a sweet moment.

For now, I just need to get through this week, hopefully kick this cold in a day or two, and then get home for my anatomy scan next Monday. It’s basically the last big step where we could find out something is really wrong, so my nerves are starting to get bad. But hopefully by next Monday, I’ll feel that much better when it goes well!

Current Cravings: I adored all the amazing food in Barcelona, but for some reason, all I wanted was a bowl of oatmeal the whole week.

Exercise: 5.6 average miles/day walking

Fruit Comparison: Banana

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Second Trimester, Weeklies

Nineteen Weeks Pregnant

Done with week 19! I’m almost at the halfway point, and today we’re going on our “babymoon,” which is to say, we’re going away for a week. So I won’t be keeping up with the mid-week posts, and next week’s 20-week update might be a bit sparse. But anyway, this week. It started much stronger than last week. I managed to be thoroughly productive over the weekend without injuring myself, which was already an improvement over early last week. I’m also showing a lot more. I got my first seat offer on Metro this week, which was nice after last week when multiple people actually pushed me out of the way to get to a seat I was trying to get to.

I’ve continued to keep up my walking, barre, and yoga. I managed to forget to do my yoga during the day on Thursday, but I woke up really early on Friday morning and decided to just do yoga then, which was actually really nice and invigorating first thing in the morning. Although I probably won’t be making a habit of waking up at 5:15 to do yoga, if I can help it. And I’m feeling more movement this week!

How I’m Feeling:

Like I said, I’m feeling better, and more energetic. My nausea is less and less and, as I said to my acupuncturist, I’m starting to think of it as having bad days (but mostly feeling normal) instead of having good days (but mostly feeling terrible). One thing I’ve noticed is that my indigestion has gotten a little more pronounced and I tend to burp a lot. I also notice that I have to eat more earlier in the day because I fill up quickly and sometimes even feel a little ill at night when I eat what I consider a normal amount for dinner. So I’ve been trying to increase my healthy snacking in the morning and early afternoon. I’m finding it even easier this week to drink water and I’m actually thirsty a lot of the time.

This week, I noticed that I feel the baby moving at least a little bit pretty much every day now. It tends to happen mostly when I’m sitting quietly, either on the couch or in a chair, especially right after eating or drinking something. I had some waffles for breakfast one morning and noticed tons of movement after that! So I guess baby likes waffles as much as I do. I also noticed some movement during my acupuncture session this week. I will say, it definitely does help me feel a little less anxious about the pregnancy to be able to feel movement. I just need to remind myself that I’m not far enough along to be able to predict when exactly I’ll feel it.

I’m starting to notice that I’m having trouble sleeping again a little. I’ve almost completely switched to sleeping on my side (I normally sleep on my back) and it’s sometimes hard to get or stay comfortable. I generally have to switch sides a couples times per night because my hips get sore. I guess my preference for firm mattresses only works when I sleep on my back. I think I’m going to have to bring back my Snoogle pillow soon, but that can wait until after I get back from my trips. I also find myself waking up early and not being able to go back to sleep (hence yoga at 5:30 a.m.). I’m trying to combat that by going to bed earlier, but I might need to start finding time to nap while I’m on vacation so I don’t use up too much energy.

Exercise: 3.4 average miles per day walking, barre three times, yoga twice

Current Cravings: Waffles, eggs, avocado

Fruit Comparison: Mango

Recipes

Pregnancy Cravings: Delicious Sorta-Healthy Belgian Waffles

Last week, I posted about my craving for waffles. Now, I anticipated this craving and stocked my freezer with some toaster waffles. And then I promptly forgot I had them when in the midst of a craving. I woke up one morning, decided I needed to make Belgian waffles. I told my husband I wanted waffles for breakfast and wandered downstairs while he was showering. When he came down, he saw that I’d taken up pretty much every available surface in the kitchen with my culinary endeavor. He stopped, momentarily struck speechless by how quickly I’d spread out, and then said “You had toaster waffles. Why did you make so many dishes?” I shrugged and said I wanted “real” waffles, but really, I’d completely forgotten about the waffles in the freezer.

The good news is that now I have “real” waffles in the freezer because I made an entire batch of Belgian waffles so that I could eat one for breakfast (and maybe one an hour or so later when I was hungry again because pregnancy). So for the next couple of cravings, I can probably just heat up a waffle I made previously instead of making more dishes again. Assuming I remember I have them.

Now, if I was going to make waffles from scratch, I decided I wanted them to be sorta-healthy. So I pulled out my trusty Alton Brown waffle recipe, which uses a half-and-half mixture of whole wheat and white flours to increase the nutrition level a bit. Then, I used sprouted wheat flour as the wheat flour and high-extraction einkorn flour for the white flour because supposedly their healthier. Also, I have them in the pantry because I used them in a muffin recipe recently and actually they’re probably the freshest flours I own right now. Anyway, what resulted were delicious, light and crispy waffles. Here’s how I made them:

Sorta-Healthy Belgian Waffles

Ingredients:

1 cup sprouted spelt flour
1 cup einkorn all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 6-oz. container plain, whole-milk yogurt, mixed with enough almond milk to make 2 cups total (see note)
3 eggs
1/2 stick of butter, melted

  1. Mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  2. In another container, mix the yogurt, almond milk, eggs, and butter.
  3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix together.
  4. Heat your waffle iron and spoon the batter into the iron, cooking according to the manufacturer’s directions.
  5. Keep waffles warm in a 200F oven while you cook them all, or cool them on a wire rack and freeze leftovers.
  6. Serve with butter and syrup, or fruit and whipped cream, or whatever your heart desires.

Makes about 4-5 Belgian-sized waffles.

Note: I used New Barn Original Almond Milk, which is higher in fat than other brands of almond milk, and is lightly sweetened with maple syrup. If you use unsweetened almond milk, you may want to add a teaspoon or so of maple syrup to your batter.

Exercise

A Changing Body: How Pregnancy Has Taught Me More About Yoga

I started practicing yoga over twenty years ago when I found a copy of B. K. S. Iyengar’s book Light on Yoga on a sale cart at a local bookstore. I’ve been practicing, at various levels of commitment and in various styles, since then. In fact, when Dan and I first became friends, one of the first things we did together was to start going to a yoga class together on the weekend (he fell over in downward dog during that first class!). So I’ve been practicing yoga for more than half my life now, and through my practice I’ve not only gained flexibility and strength, but also a deep understanding of my own body.

As I’ve aged, I’ve noticed my body going through changes. I’ve lost some flexibility. As I’ve grown softer with age, certain postures have changed, and I’ve found myself more willing to embrace props and assistance. I’ve also noticed changes in yoga culture in the States (why does no one do hands-on adjustments anymore?). But pregnancy has given me even more to ponder as I learn about my rapidly-changing body. It is an odd paradox that pregnancy simultaneously makes certain parts of your body more flexible, while restricting your mobility in other ways. For example, I’m very careful when I do side stretches these days but I can’t do as deep a forward fold as my growing belly gets in the way.

That said, I’ve found that yoga has been one of the best ways to keep me feeling good during my pregnancy. Even when my nausea was bad, I would modify my way through the weekly class a colleague of mine teaches at my office because I knew I’d feel better afterwards than when I started. And since my nausea has abated and my energy has increased, I’ve started looking at ways to modify my own home practice for pregnancy. While I typically do a blend of Ashtanga and Iyengar yoga that I’ve developed for myself over the years, I no longer feel the desire to do strenuous vinyasas or standing poses, in addition to the general prenatal yoga guidelines of avoiding closed twists and positions that compress the belly. So I’ve started looking around for guidance on prenatal sequences.

That was when I found this sequence from a blogger I follow. Apart from the graphic just being adorable (I have a poster print of it to hang in my yoga room), the sequence is a lovely blend of restorative, but still effective. I already walk a fair amount and have even started up my barre classes again, so I don’t rely on yoga for aerobic exercise, or even rigorous strength-building, but the suppleness and mobility is key for both keeping my body limber as it changes, and preparing me for labor. Of course, I can never leave well enough alone, so I don’t just do this sequence.

The first time I did Tris’ sequence, I realized two things: one was that I did not focus as much on warming up in my yoga practice as this sequence allows, and the other is that I would prefer to do things in a slightly different order. Plus, I missed lunges. So I tweaked the sequence a bit to arrive at my own prenatal sequence:

  1. Hanging forward fold
  2. Neck release (Right & Left)
  3. Arm cross (R & L)
  4. Squat
  5. Cat/Cow (10 rounds)
  6. Melting heart
  7. Low lunge (R & L)
  8. Lizard pose (R & L)
  9. Half monkey stretch (R & L)
  10. Downward Dog
  11. Side stretch (R & L)
  12. Reverse side stretch (R & L)
  13. Downward dog
  14. Seal
  15. Squat
  16. Half butterfly (R & L)
  17. Straddle
  18. Butterfly
  19. Ankle stretch
  20. Cat pulling tail (R & L)
  21. Swan (R & L)
  22. Child’s pose

I hold each pose (on each side, if indicated) for ten deep breaths, which takes me about a half an hour or so. I generally use a couple blocks as props, especially for the lunging sequence (I do low lunge, lizard pose, and half monkey stretch as a sequence on each side before switching to the other). The sequence requires very little space to do and I can even roll out a mat in my office and do this sequence during my lunch break when I feel creaky. If I have the time, I like to set up my bolsters and prop up into a supported reclined bound angle pose for five minutes at the end in lieu of Savasana. If not, I just hold Child’s Pose for as long as I need to close my practice.

I think the best thing I’ve learned from pregnancy is echoed in this sequence: I’ve learned to listen to my body and back off when I need to. I don’t always need to push and excel and sweat to feel like I’ve done something good for myself. Sometimes I just need to gently stretch my body and then have a nice cup of tea and a rest.

NB: I am not a certified yoga instructor and cannot give advice on your yoga practice. This post is intended as a description of my personal practice, which you can use to build your own practice, but if you’re unsure or new to yoga, please talk to a qualified teacher first.

Second Trimester, Weeklies

Eighteen Weeks Pregnant

I’m eighteen weeks pregnant today! It’s been an interesting week, starting with some lovely cooler weather, but also the return of some of my nausea. I think I got a bit cavalier and paid for it at the beginning of the week. It’s also the first week that I feel like I’m starting to really look pregnant (or, as my gym buddy said, “You look pregnant, not just bloated.” Thanks.). I even had my first “spotting” in the wild when the woman who was doing my eyebrows noticed my belly when I needed to sit up for a minute in the middle.

I’ve started talking about things even more at work and am finding out all sorts of people in my life are also expecting, or have advice. So far, I’ve only gotten advice from people who aren’t annoying about it, which is a plus, and I’m enjoying the sense of “tribe” more than I thought I would, since I’m a bit of an introvert. I’m also working on prepping for our babymoon coming up in a week, and we finally started working on cleaning out the space that we’re going to use as a nursery! Plus, I treated myself to a manicure along with my eyebrow wax, so my perpetually-dry hands are a bit softer and my nails look nice.

How I’m Feeling:

Like I mentioned, I had some more nausea and even a little more early this week. Monday was rough with nausea and Tuesday night I ended up losing my dinner, which made Wednesday start off a bit low because I just felt empty. And as the week went on, I noticed that, while I’m hungry and feel good early in the day, the feeling of not wanting to eat later in the day has gotten worse. So I’ve had to work on getting more food earlier in the day while I’m hungry rather than waiting to eat my largest meal of the day for dinner, like we usually do. I did have a serious craving for waffles the day I worked from home, so I was glad I got to indulge that. I ate two homemade Belgian waffles for breakfast that day and felt amazing afterwards. But dinners are a little dicier and I’ve actually been skipping my evening bowl of Coconut Bliss because I find I feel too full for it.

My belly has definitely popped, and with that, I’ve noticed more lower back pain and pain in my ligaments connecting to my pelvis. The latter are especially noticeable when I’ve been walking for a while, like when I’m walking from the metro station to work. The doctor suggested that this soreness might actually get better later on, as the uterus builds up a better support system, so I’m hoping I won’t have to modify my commute anytime soon. I do still feel like regular movement and exercise helps my energy levels and just general feelings of well being. I’ve been doing my prenatal yoga routine, which I’ll probably talk about in more detail in a post next week, and I definitely think it helps. Last weekend I ended up overdoing it while cleaning the bedroom and my upper back and shoulder were killing me for a couple nights, but yoga and relaxing seems to have worked that out.

This is the first week that I definitely think I’m feeling movement! And it happens most days at various points throughout the day, rather than maybe feeling something one day and then not feeling anything for a few days. At first, it felt like a fish flopping over in my lower abdomen. I get a few of the “bubbles popping” or “muscle twitch” type of movements, but mostly it feels like flipping and flopping. When I’m quiet at my desk, I’ll often feel something, especially if I’ve just had some water, and I also tend to get some movement when I’m sitting in bed reading before turning out the light at night. It’s pretty exciting. Obviously, there’s nothing that can be felt from the outside, yet, but Dan has taken to putting his ear on my belly and “listening to the baby” in the evenings, which is adorable, even if he is mostly hearing my digestive system.

Emotionally, I’m definitely noticing that having more concrete, outward signs of pregnancy is helping me feel more confident about the pregnancy. I’m looking forward to things. I probably won’t feel totally secure until after our anatomy scan next month, but I’m feeling better and better every day.

Exercise: 3.5 average miles per day walking, barre three times, yoga twice

Current Cravings: waffles, avocados, eggs, beef (cheesesteaks and burgers)

Fruit Comparison: Sweet potato (also not a fruit)

Reviews, Trying to Conceive

Review: Circle + Bloom Natural Cycle Fertility Meditation Program

I’ve mentioned before that I used this meditation program while we were trying to conceive after my miscarriage last fall, but I’ve never sat down and written out my thoughts on the program. I thought I’d share that here.

I first started my meditation practice in college, over ten years ago, when a course I was in led me to join a local Zen Buddhist group. I maintained a semi-regular zazen practice from that time on, even meeting up with a couple Zen groups in the DC area after I left college and moved back for grad school. As a practitioner of zazen, I always kind of looked down on guided meditations, but when we first started trying to conceive, I found I was having trouble sleeping and turned to guided meditations on the Insight Timer app to help.

After my miscarriage, we spent a couple months trying in a more casual way, but after a few disappointing months, I was starting to find myself in an odd mental space. So I started looking into ways I could feel like I was taking control of the process. I started tracking fertility signs again, I found an acupuncturist, and I decided to try the Circle + Bloom meditation program. The program is normally $59 through the Circle + Bloom website, but I found it through this site for $34. It’s 29 recordings, one meditation per day for a 28-day cycle, plus one extra for right around ovulation. The Circle + Bloom website also offers a free fertility relaxation meditation so you can see the approximate format and quality of the meditations before paying for any of them. The free meditation is about a half an hour long, while the program meditations are 15-20 minutes each.

Each meditation starts with a guided relaxation. One of my favorite things about this program is that the guided relaxation was different each time. Throughout the 28-day program, it seemed like they cycled through about half a dozen different guided relaxation visualizations. One of my favorites was the visualization of a screen passing through your body, filtering out things that weren’t serving you, whether mental or physical. But I mostly enjoyed that I didn’t get too “used” to any one relaxation visualization as it was a different one each time. The relaxation was my favorite part of each meditation, as I really did feel totally relaxed. I tended to either lie down to listen to the meditation, or else recline in a comfortable chair or on the sofa. I usually covered myself with a blanket, at least loosely, especially if I was on the sofa and wanted to make sure my cat didn’t try to steal my earbud wires while I was meditating.

From there, each meditation is distinct, focusing on a new process in the body as you progress through the month. At the beginning, when you start out on Day 1, the program focuses on the hormones that are being produced in your brain to regulate your menstrual cycle, and later signal ovulation and other processes. I really liked these visualizations, as they gave me something concrete and even scientific to focus on each day, rather than some vague affirmation about my body. As the 28-day program goes on, you learn about how the different hormones effect different physical changes in the body, which I found fascinating.

Each meditation closes with a mental component of addressing something that could be affecting your emotional or mental health as you go through the month. These include general anxiety about the process of trying to conceive to feelings of closeness with your partner. It’s a nice way to close each meditation and left me feeling relaxed and hopeful. I found that I always felt better ending the meditation than I did before I started, and even found that the level of relaxation could help get rid of a mild headache or even mimic the effects of a nap when I was feeling tired that day. I didn’t always have time to do my meditation first thing in the morning, so it was nice to have the break in the middle of my work day, or even in the evening between work and rehearsal.

One thing to note about this program is that it is very obviously intended for people with no known health problems. It was great for me because the meditations encouraged you to think of your body and strong and capable, without any physical impediment to conception, but this seems like it could be a problem for anyone who knows they have a physical issue with fertility. They do offer separate meditation programs for people with PCOS or people using assisted reproductive technology, so perhaps those programs are more considerate of the fact that the “my body knows what to do” affirmation may not work for everyone.

Finally, the one thing I cannot speak to is how the program would work if I hadn’t conceived right away. I happened to conceive the first month I used the program, though I doubt it was because of the program. I don’t know how I would have felt to have gone through the visualizations of conception and implantation if I had ended up getting my period that month. I do know that the meditation helped me not obsess over conception during my two-week wait that month because it gave me a set time to meditate on my fertility, and then I was more easily able to let it go for the rest of my day. If you’ve tried this program and not conceived right away, I’d definitely welcome any comments about how you felt in the months when you didn’t conceive. I do feel like the program meditations are good at providing empowering visualizations without being judgmental about your body, so I don’t think I would have felt like I’d “failed” to visualize things well enough if it “hadn’t worked.”

All-in-all, I found this a thoroughly worthwhile purchase, even just for the one month. I considered purchasing the meditation program for pregnancy, but my inherent fear of another miscarriage made me nervous about buying anything for my pregnancy before I felt like I was “safe” and at this point, I’m nearly halfway through and it almost seems like a waste. But I do really enjoy Circle + Bloom’s meditation programs and would recommend them to someone thinking about a mindfulness program for fertility or general health.

NB: I am not affiliated in any way with Circle + Bloom and have not been provided with any incentive to give this review. The program was purchase out of my own pocket and all thoughts are my own.

Food and Drink

How I Stay Hydrated in Pregnancy

Before I got pregnant, I was an obsessively hydrated person. For health reasons, I found that I functioned optimally when I get about 100 fl. oz. of plain water daily, not including any other beverages (mostly tea, if we’re being self-aware). But all that changed when I got pregnant. All of a sudden, my first-trimester nausea meant that plain water tasted bad and I had trouble getting down enough. So I thought I’d share some of the things that I found helpful to keep myself hydrated without fighting my body.

My first step was to step back and see how I could be gentler to myself. First, I realized that I wasn’t keeping up my normal level of activity while I was feeling sick, so I made the conscious decision to change my water-tracking app settings from “Active” to “Regular” to account for the fact that some of my lower intake was probably self-regulation because I needed less water. I kept an eye on myself and made sure I didn’t notice any adverse effects, but this has been a pretty solid choice for me. Then, I decided to start counting fluids other than plain water as “water” in my app. I found that I could drink flavored liquids much faster and in greater quantities than plain water, so I started counting all non-caffeinated liquids in my intake. Eventually I started sometimes including a cup of tea in that total, though I would be conservative and call an 8-oz. cup of tea 6 oz. of water in my totals.

The next thing I did sprang from this, as I learned what I did and did not want to drink quickly and in quantity. I learned that a small amount of juice added to a large glass of water was enough to make it taste good enough to drink quickly. I realize this is something that a lot of people do to make themselves drink water, but it had never been an issue for me. I started out with just a little orange juice that I bought with my breakfast sandwich and added about 4 oz. of juice to my 16-oz. jar of water that I keep on my desk throughout the day. Eventually, I switched to other juices, especially Honest Kids drinks, and Lakewood lemonade, both of which are only sweetened with fruit juices. I still like to add an inch of lemonade to the bottom of a glass of water when I need to drink a few more glasses for the day and don’t feel like forcing down plain water.

One final thing I’ve found helps me drink more fluid faster is to drink cold liquids through a straw. I have a glass straw for my jar at work and a set of steel straws at home. I used to only use them when I needed to drink while sheet masking, but lately, I find that drinking through a straw helps me get through a glass of water faster than drinking it without a straw. And since I’m adding acidic juices to flavor my water sometimes, it has the extra benefit of helping keep the acid off my teeth.

So, yes, I am consuming more sugar than I would be if I stuck to plain water and unsweetened tea. But I’m getting more hydration than when I was forcing myself to stick an ideology that my body didn’t want to support. At this point, I have no reason to believe that a little extra sugar is going to be a problem for me, and it’s more important to stay hydrated, especially as I gain weight and my water needs increase (also since it’s getting hot around here and I need more water just from my normal walk to work). So if any other pregnant ladies are having trouble staying hydrated, I’d suggest you consider flavoring your water and even letting yourself count that can of soda as a glass of water every once in a while when you’re having a really hard day. Be easy on yourself and work with your body to keep things good.