Motherhood & Career & Another Baby

I’ve been really quiet (as in, almost silent) in this space over the past few months. Partly because I don’t have the time to write like I used to, but mainly because I don’t really feel inspired to write. And between motherhood and working a couple days a week as an NP, I just don’t have the time. And my brain feels really muddled and mushy and the antithesis of creative.

Since Cal’s birth 16 months ago, I’ve been in this funky space of figuring out what motherhood + career looks like. But even more than that, in a space of discerning what my heart is leading me towards versus what the world is telling me to do. And discerning that has been really hard. I’m an emotional decision maker, which can make navigating these murky waters even more difficult. I really enjoy clinical work – collaborating with the providers I work alongside, being challenged intellectually and the overall non-creative nature of clinical work. I love research, physical exam, interpreting labs/tests and patient education. But if I’m honest, it kills me to be away from Cal those 2 days I’m in clinic. I’ve been surprised with how much I genuinely enjoy motherhood and being at home. I know I sit in the minority here as many women are mentally & emotionally healthier and their families/marriages are healthier when they work out of the home to some extent. So I share this solely as my experience as I know motherhood & career is such tender territory.

As I’ve sat pondering what this feeling is, I can’t put my finger on guilt. We have a wonderful nanny, Cal is so loved and I know that he can be loved and cared for by other people than just me. I think rather, what I feel is an unsettledness. I feel like my heart & soul are more at peace when I’m at home, but also in healthcare, you can’t just completely leave the profession and expect to effortlessly come back years later. I’ve read it’s harder to do that than be a new grad. Yikes. So I’m sitting in this place of allowing myself the opportunity to work. To have an open mind & heart. And to see what path God leads me down. Sitting in uncertainty is hard.

Along with that uncertainty, I have also started to put my finger on why I’m feeling so uninspired here. For almost 7 years I wrote about intuitive eating, body image, women’s health and eating disorders. And then I had Caleb, became a mama and my entire life and identity shifted. A messy, yet beautiful transformation of sorts. And with that came a new wave of professional interest. In my heart, I knew it was time to step away from eating disorder work which I wrote about here. And that has been really good for me. Not because I didn’t love and enjoy the work, but it was time to see that chapter close. But now, I find myself in this space of wanting to write and share about motherhood, pregnancy, postpartum, breastfeeding, fertility, etc – which I do some because I continue to love women’s health – but feel like I “can’t” because “this is an intuitive eating, eating disorder, body image, women’s health” space. I feel like I can’t move away from that because my audience (which I am so grateful for – seriously, thank you for being here!) has come to find that content most valuable.

As I pondered this, I realized if I gave myself permission to write more about what I want to write about versus what I think I should write about I would actually write more. Shocker. We all go through huge life changes that transform us and shape the next season of our lives, career, and relationships. I think that’s what I’m currently trying to navigate. My desire isn’t for this to be a personal diary or lifestyle blog. I enjoy sharing my thoughts and tidbits here and there, but I don’t desire to share much of our personal lives. That’s just what feels right for me. But I do desire to share more relatable posts on motherhood and all the things that come along with making, growing, nourishing and raising tiny humans.

So that’s a longwinded way to share that you might see a shift in content here. I still want to write about women’s health (PCOS, fertility, periods, endometriosis, etc) but I also want to write more about these things on my heart & mind. I know for some of you that will be disappointing (that held me back for so long, but I realize I cannot be everything for everyone) and that I will lose people along the way. But I also know many of you have been asking for more of this content and there will be new faces to enjoy the shift in content too. Wherever you stand, thank you for reading and for being so supportive over the years. The internet can be a pretty cool place!

Other Big Changes Around Here

Baby boy #2 is due to arrive sometime in mid July. We are so grateful! The past 5 months have encompassed the biggest transition of my life which has resulted in lots of tears mingled with joy. We found out I was pregnant two days before we moved to Charlottesville. The move was a huge transition after living in big cities for six years. Then I started a new job and we had to find childcare for the first time for Cal (I was per diem while we lived in Boston so did mostly nights and weekends) and on top of that I physically, well….awful. Pregnancy is such a gift, that will never be lost on me, but it was a challenging end to 2019. I was an emotional ROLLER COASTER.

These are all positive changes, but the combination of it all really threw me for a loop. I knew the shift from city to small town would be drastic, but I think I underestimated it since I tend to be a “it’s all gonna be great!” kind of person, but that isn’t always tethered to reality. I felt so unlike myself. So lost. So doubtful of the decision to move and go back to work more than per diem because I was so anxious about being away from Cal. I felt like a crap mom because my energy to care for a 10/11/12 month old was at zero. There were days I would lay on our couch and just watch him play all over the living room. Pregnancy + infant/toddlerhood is no joke! But then January came and I emerged from the first trimester and was settling into work and we were settling into the slower pace here, found a church + community group, started a supper club with friends and the fog started to lift. Moving through that season taught me so much.

Conceiving

Fertility and pregnancy are fragile ground. With Cal now in this world, I can understand more (but certainly not fully) the intense grief that can surround pregnancy and babies for many women. Although infertility is not part of my story yet, please know I am thinking of you. I have close family & friends walking this hard road now, know you’re not alone. If you’re waiting for a baby, I see you. And I’m praying for you and sending you so much love. My hope for the content I do share about pregnancy here is that is empowers and educates other women. If pregnancy content is triggering for you, know that it’s okay to skip over the rest of this post and do what you need to do to care for yourself.

I had my first postpartum period at the end of September when Cal was 9 1/2 months. I want to write a longer post on breastfeeding & conceiving after doing a good bit of research and expand on this, but in order for me to get my period back while still breastfeeding day and night I first cut out any and all exercise. I was doing a couple 30 minute barre3 videos a week and then a long bike ride or light jog on the weekend so it didn’t seem like too much, but to make sure I was doing everything I could I stopped. I also stopped pumping at night before I went to bed and just fed Cal on demand. With my 10 year history of hypothalamic amenorrhea I knew my chances of nursing & simultaneously menstruating, according to the research, weren’t high (around 20%) but I was willing to do anything because 1) we wanted our kids close in age and 2) neither me or Cal were ready for nursing to be over.

In addition to stopping exercise and pumping, I tried to be extra intentional about responding to and staying on top of hunger cues – something that wasn’t an issue before motherhood, but then a little person’s needs start to take precedence over your own. I made all these changes and within maybe a month or so my period returned. I was shocked. But also so overwhelmed with appreciation for my body. With a long history of missing periods, the past 4-5 years have been so healing for me and seeing my body menstruate and at the same time breastfeed was another layer of healing. I am not a woman who can exercise and breastfeed and get a period. I know some women get their periods back within a few months postpartum and are exclusively nursing. We all have different thresholds. This was mine. We were able to get pregnant my next cycle in October. I’ll share more of the research and what I’ve learned in a future post if that sounds helpful for you.

BREASTFEEDING

I am still nursing Caleb at 16 months old. I scoured the internet for information on nursing while pregnant and also read LLL’s, Adventures in Tandem Nursing in like 2 days. I am thankful for my breastfeeding journey so far. It’s had some bumps, but overall has been very positive. I think some huge factors for me (that are actually in my control because genetics, anatomy, etc are often not) have been not working full time (I think the burden of pumping and working FT has to be so hard!) eating a lot of food and drinking a lot of water, and saying no to more intense exercise (like running longer distances) that I truly enjoy.

Pregnancy changes the taste of your milk – it becomes less sweet and more salty due to a decrease in lactose and increase in sodium. Cal didn’t seem to mind lol. And my supply kept up until the 13/14 week mark, but after that there was no amount of food, rest, hydration, pumping, frequency of nursing etc that would keep it up. Pregnancy hormones work against milk supply in pregnancy. I know for some mamas, their supply never changes, but for most it does. When my supply initially dropped, he had just turned one so that was relieving to me that we had reached that milestone and he didn’t necessarily need breastmilk.

I would love to nurse him until age 2. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until age 2 and beyond, but I feel like I get asked all the time when I’m going to wean him, which isn’t my favorite question. Now at 27 weeks pregnant, I’m not producing much (like maybe he gets a few ounces a day?) and a lot of his nursing is comfort nursing. It was sad for me to see my milk supply dwindle, but I’m just glad he’s still on the boob! And hoping my colostrum comes in soon (it came in around week 30/31 last time) and he’s into the taste of that lol. For me and him, breastfeeding is still working. If at any point it stops working for either of us, I think weaning would take place. I’d love to tandem nurse. I know that’s not the cultural norm or everyone’s desire, but I’m saying it here so maybe someone reading feels less crazy 🙂

So we are nursing some, he’s drinking frozen breastmilk I still have and also drinking some Ripple pea milk which he loves. With his cow’s milk protein allergy, I’m thankful for fortified pea milk which has a similar profile to cow’s milk. I’d give him soy milk but there can be some cross-reactivity with the cow’s milk protein allergy.

EXERCISE

I’m finding this pregnancy much harder on me physically. I was way more active (mostly long walks and barre3 online 4-5x a week) when I was pregnant with Cal, but man I feel way more physically taxed this time around! Chasing and picking up/carrying a 22 lb toddler has been really hard on my lower back and pelvic area. There are days when I need complete rest and minimal movement. Most days though, we are walking around town 2-3 miles and after not exercising really at all for the first 13-14 weeks I’m trying to do 10-30 minutes of Barre3 or the 15 minute MommaStrong videos (which, I am LOVING and highly recommend) 3-4x a week. Structured exercise is not a priority in my life right now, but I could feel the toll not doing anything was taking on my joints and body overall. Doing a 10, 15 or 30 minute video a few times a week at home is realistic for me right now. I’m also trying to do 5-10 minutes of bedtime prenatal yoga, especially for my lower back, before I get in bed at night and that helps so so much. Exercise is purely for function which has lended a whole new appreciation and care for my body.

PRENATAL CARE

Most women who are low risk give birth at Martha Jefferson Hospital here in Charlottesville – if they choose hospital birth. Apparently it’s very bougie and spa-like which sounds dreamy. I love the idea of a birth center with midwives, but my nurse brain just feels safest in a hospital with all the necessary people and equipment around should the worst case scenario arise. I know for many women, a hospital brings anxiety, but for me it brings peace of mind. ***edited: I wrote this before COVID-19 really took off – right now we are still planning on a hospital birth, but I’m holding all birth plans loosely.

I had Cal at Brigham and Women’s in Boston, which provides care for many high risk pregnant women, but we had an awesome, incredible experience there and I loved my OBGYN group. For me, I like knowing if the worst of the worst happens, we are in the right place. Given that, I’ve decided to have this baby at UVA Medical Center (the place to be in VA if something goes horribly wrong and very close to our house) since they have an awesome midwifery group that has transformed obstetrics there over the past 5 years. So I feel like I’m kind of getting the best of both worlds for me – peace of mind of a hospital, but the low intervention care of a midwife. So far it’s been great!

OTHER HELPFUL THINGS

I started seeing a prenatal chiropractor around 20ish weeks who was highly recommended in Cville, but we did not vibe at all. I didn’t find any physical relief and she went on a rant about how I should eat zero sugar because it causes muscle inflammation, which I disagree with. I saw a chiro in Indy starting at 28 weeks with Cal (we were in Indy at the time) due to awful costochondritis and it was life changing. I was a chiro-skeptic-turned-convert after that. And then I continued seeing a wonderful chiro back in Boston up until his birth. I don’t think all chiros are created equal (just like any healthcare provider) but if you find a good one they are GOLD. Just this week I felt my costochondritis symptoms come on that I had with Cal (I carry babies so high so they chill up in my rib cage) and despite COVID, got an appointment with the same chiro since we are in Indy this week. I cannot go back to that pain – it was completely debilitating. I so wish I could take this man back to Cville with me because he is so helpful! Lots of myofascial release, some adjustments and at home PT exercises and I already feel so much better. The Spinning Babies daily essentials, when I can do them, have also been helpful.

I caved and got a pregnancy pillow this time around and that has also helped with the back pain. Cal is co-sleeping with us most nights for the last 2-4 hours of his night time sleep and I was not positioned well doing that because the pillows I’d place between my hips and behind my back would get lost in bed. My hips and back were killing me in the morning! The pillow, although big and obnoxious, has been the best thing. Highly recommend if you have the space. This is the one I bought which was on the lower price range at $40.

I’m taking a different prenatal this go around because with Cal’s dairy allergy and me still nursing I’m not eating dairy and can’t pay attention to nutrition as much (convenience wins) and want to make sure I have my bases really covered – essentially, I needed a bigger insurance policy lol. I also am more tired this go around so wanted to make sure I was getting more than enough iron. I took Vitamin Code’s raw prenatal for all of Cal’s pregnancy and loved it. It’s got a good amount of Vitamin D, folate, Vit A and selenium, includes a probiotic blend and is food based. But it only has 18mg of iron (RDA for pregnant women is 27-48mg) and is lower on some other nutrients vs other prenatals. I still recommend it (I also like New Chapter’s Perfect Prenatal and Mega Food Baby & Me 2) but I’m now taking Thorne Research’s Basic Prenatal which has 45mg of iron and the folate and B vitamins are methylated so they are already ready to be absorbed and utilized right away by the body. Mega Food also uses methylated folate and B Vitamins, it’s just lower in iron and far more expensive, but it does include choline! I didn’t know much about the importance of choline in my first pregnancy – it’s important for brain development in baby. The RDA in pregnancy is 450mg. One egg is a great source of choline at 150mg/egg so I’ve been aiming to eat 2 eggs a day and then I’m likely getting the remainder of what I need through other foods. In addition to the prenatal and eggs, I’m taking Nordic Naturals prenatal DHA daily.

I’m entering into the third trimester, and while I could use some more sleep, I am so grateful to be carrying another healthy baby. The gift of another pregnancy is not lost on me. This go around is teaching me how to let the little things go (like the laundry on the floor) and instead rest when I need to and soak up these final weeks with just me and Cal. I feel a wild mix of emotions about our time as just the two of us coming to a close. Thank you for coming along for another season with me. You guys really are the best!

**I’ll leave links here to the posts I’ve written on body image & pregnancy and intuitive eating & pregnancy I wrote when pregnant with Cal since I get emails and messages quite often on these two topics – I hope they encourage you <3

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Motherhood & Career & Another Baby