My five-piece capsule wardrobe

While prepping for our What I Wore Wednesday event tomorrow, I realized just how predictable my outfits have become. For the last month or so, I’ve been wearing the same thing on repeat, always, all the time.

At three months postpartum, the Venn diagram of clothes that I own, clothes that fit my postpartum body, and clothes that work with breastfeeding has an overlap of … maybe 5%. My closet is full of clothes that almost fit. 

Add in clothes that are clean (Levi is a veritable volcano), and that figure drops even further.

To keep myself from feeling the closet rage every morning, I picked up a couple of low-investment items that work for this current body and its current needs, and as it turns out, the benefits of working with a greatly reduced closet are palpable. After years of over-thinking how I might create a highly edited capsule or uniform-based wardrobe, I stumbled my way into one. It’s made entirely of dresses and it’s rocking my world.

Dresses are my jam right now for a few reasons:

  • Breastfeeding. Wrap dresses or forgiving necklines feel much easier than pulling my shirt up, and I don’t own (or want to own) any double layer / fancy breastfeeding clothes. I just can’t be bothered to care or spend that much, especially right now when breastfeeding in public feels like an act of rebellion.
  • Babywearing. A dress is simply the easiest outfit for going to the bathroom while babywearing.
  • No decision fatigue. In the morning, I just make one decision, usually further limited by what’s clean. That means it’s often no decision. Is this how Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs felt every day? No wonder they are drunk on their own power.
  • Layering potential. I hear it may someday cool down. When that happens, I’m ready. I have cardigans, jackets, boots, tights, and scarves, all at the ready.

My five dress capsule wardrobe

1. prAna berry dress

Technically this is two dresses because I own two identical Berry dresses. I wish I had ten of them, so I could only wear this dress every day for the rest of my life. This is the most perfect dress I’ve ever owned.

Off the rack, the Berry dress works for breastfeeding in a pinch, but the neckline was starting to fray after so much yanking, so I took mine to a seamstress and had a hidden zip added into the neckline. As someone for whom the activation energy for actually getting something altered has proven insurmountable in the past, I am pleased to the point of smugness with this life hack.

Berry dresses are no longer in stock at prAna, but you can still find them on super sale at random retailers.

2. Tart maternity wrap dress

Since this is a maternity dress, the wrap overlap is really generous, meaning your toddler can yank and you can squat and you probably won’t flash anyone.

Look at all that extra fabric! 

The pattern is also custom engineered to hide spit up. It’s kind of amazing that way. I’m feeling pretty ready to retire this dress, but since it’s functionally perfect I’m keeping it around for the time being.  If I were ever to get pregnant again, the only maternity clothes I’d buy would be Tart dresses. Just don’t pay full price: there are plenty of used ones available for cheap on Poshmark, and they always go on sale; the one I have is currently 50% off at Nordstrom

3. This dress from Target

This dress is light, cheap, easy, and if cooler weather ever comes to Austin, the colors will work well for winter layering up, too.

There’s a hook and eye clasp at the neckline that makes it perfect for breastfeeding, and there are pockets. Done and done. 

4. Pact wrap dress.

This dress is the happy result of bleary-eyed late-night nursing and a well-timed Facebook ad. I like that it’s organic cotton, and the price point is appealing, especially with the discounts they always seem to be offering on social. The dress is easy and works well for nursing, and goes with all my sneakers. I find synthetic fabrics are much more my jam right now; cotton just doesn’t camouflage spit up or sweat, but this one is helping to offset my guilt about buying some fast fashion from Target. 

BONUS: my house dress

This This $20 dress is technically a nightgown but it’s more or less my at-home loungewear. (It’s on my list of postpartum faves, too.) I literally wear it all day every day when I’m at home. It’s easy access for nursing, has enough coverage to wear while walking the dog, and is super comfortable no matter what size you are. I wore it as my swimsuit cover up, nightgown, even as a dress, during my final weeks of pregnancy. I probably need a duplicate of this, too, for while I’m nursing.


That’s it! Five dresses, in regular rotation, plus my house dress. Thanks to the double trouble of rampant humidity and high volume spit up, I have to do laundry about every 2-3 days, but it’s worth it to not expend so much futile energy every morning bemoaning my still too-tight pants.

Any other dresses you love that I should add to my rotation? Please, please share!

No matter what you’re wearing, jump in on #WIWW (What I Wore Wednesday) on 10/10 for a chance to win an item of your choice from prAna. You don’t need to wear prAna to win. If you don’t want to share your outfit, you can even just share your wishlist from prAna! Tag: #WIWW @prAna #sweatpink

prAna is a long-time partner of Fit Approach, but that in no way alters my die-hard love affair with this dress. I received my first Berry dress for free, and I paid for the second one, along with the other three dresses, with my own cold hard cash.

Closet nursing and staying in my lane

This last weekend I went to church with my family. My churchgoing these days is always in honor of someone else: I go to services with my husband on high holy days; I go to mass when visiting my grandpa.

They are not my traditions, but I like these occasional encounters with religious practice. I crave more opportunities to slow down, unplug, and reflect, and I appreciate the energetic groundswell of a community of people brought together in reverence for something greater than themselves. I’m sure I make plenty of mistakes, but I do my best to be respectful when I show up, through my dress, my participation, and my comportment.

This time, I spent the service in the crying room (a glass walled room at the back of the church, with the service piped in over intercom. You can see and hear everything; the congregation can’t hear you).

I wasn’t sure if nursing was appropriate in plain view, so I pulled a rocking chair next to the changing table in the windowless closet, and stared at a wall while I fed my baby and listened to a homily on the value of family.

I hid in service to my son while I listened to scriptural explanations for how I have no identity separate from my husband and read, on endless loop, the admonition taped to my wall:

“This is NOT a nursery or a playroom. Adults and children MUST BE ATTENTIVE TO MASS.”

Out of respect, I hid in a closet to carry out perhaps the most foundational act of mothering while a man on a stage who has never had a family spoke about its centrality.

His words made me feel invisible, like a utility to be used but not seen. I learned that I am of one flesh with my husband, except when my flesh is provocative. Except when my flesh is actively prioritizing family in the most fundamental way. Except when it dares to perform in ways my husband will never be able to match or manage.

If I’d tried to come up with an image to represent the invisible work of women and the hypocrisy of ‘family-friendly’ policies, closet nursing during a sermon on the role of the sexes and the primacy of the family would have been far too overwritten and obvious to use.

And yet here we are.

Then I realized how complicit I was in my own invisibility. I dragged my own damn chair into that closet. Not knowing the etiquette, I overcorrected out of imagined respect to those who would happily force my hand in becoming a mother but shame me for publicly fulfilling that contract.

I breastfeed in public all the time—I am purposefully not shy about it—and here I was, submitting, out of a ‘respect’ that was anything but reciprocal.

The second time my son wanted to nurse, I stayed put in my glass box, in full view. No one said anything. Maybe no one noticed. I was probably just as invisible, still contained by the architecture of a protective patriarchy.

But at least I could no longer see the sign scolding me to stay in my lane.

Photo: tgraham via flickr. 

Levi’s birth story

birth story

Hey! This is a birth story. Consider yourself warned, though as far as birth stories go, this one is entry-level: no trauma, and light on words like lochia and placenta.   

I was due June 15, but all my pregnant friends were having babies at 37 weeks, so starting in mid-May I started prepping for impending baby-bearing.

I had my maternity transition plan for Fit Approach locked and loaded by 37 weeks, which of course meant I spent the next month that I was still pregnant continually updating that damned document instead of doing, you know, productive things.

40 weeks came, and 40 weeks went.

By his due date, I’d been having contractions every night for about a week. Five or six mild, but real, contractions would come for a visit right around 10pm every night, then ghost within the hour. This routine was just enough to work me up into a state of anxiety: maybe this is happening, now? And then, by 11pm, I’d realize I’d been had again, at the cost of an hour or more of much needed sleep.

My head played so many tricks on me that week. Was this a contraction? Had it started? Had it ended? I had to keep reminding myself that if there was any lesson I’d learned about birth, it was that contractions are not mysterious or shy. They let you know when they’re real. If there’s any doubt, well, that’s not a contraction.

I went into Labor and Delivery for monitoring at 40 weeks, 6 days, and everything was fine, though the midwife on duty had itchy induction fingers. She gave me some serious side eye for working with a home birth midwife but planning on a hospital birth, and she kept reminding me of the risks of going past 40 weeks, repeated a few times that they routinely offer inductions at 41 weeks, and suggested that we make an appointment for me to come back tomorrow and get induced. She kept looking at the clock (it was 8pm) and I swear she was trying to cook up a strategy for inadvertently holding me for the four hours until I turned into an elective induction candidate.

There was nothing I wanted more than for my body to go into labor naturally. I had induced labor before and what I most hoped for with this birth was to experience labor starting on its own.

Well, that’s a lie: what I actually wanted most was for baby to stay with me, and not require any NICU time. But a naturally-started labor was second on my wish list.

With those goals in mind, and since baby looked healthy and strong, I dodged that pitocin-happy provider, consented to a deadline of 41 weeks and 4 days, and went home to be teased again by dead-end contractions.

On Saturday night (41 weeks, 1 day), yet again, I had a brief run of contractions. I brushed it off and decided to go to sleep, knowing that if they continued or escalated, they’d absolutely wake me up.

And wake me up they did, at 3:30am. Right on schedule, really; the 3am hour had been baby boy’s most active throughout third trimester. I laid in bed a while, waiting to see if these, too, would fizzle.

Though the contractions were mild and completely manageable, I could feel the early rumblings of back labor. My midwife had recommended that at the first hint of back labor, I should get onto my hands and knees and stay there for an hour with no position changes—a recent study had shown it would correct baby’s position and reduce back labor—so I got into position and turned on Girls Trip to keep myself distracted. I only half paid attention, but the peeing scene seemed strangely prescient.

I waited until 5am to call Monika (my midwife) and at that point the contractions were 10 minutes apart and still manageable, but increasing in intensity.

(Side note: I worked with a home birth midwife for pre- and post-natal care, with the plan to deliver in the hospital. It was an unconventional choice, as several people let me know during my hospital stay, but it was the dream arrangement for me. If you haven’t looked into midwife care, I highly recommend it, and if you’re in Austin, look no further than Monika Stone.)

She told me to keep going, and that I should call back when I felt them shift. I figured I had some time, so I kept watching the movie, sipping on water, and even managed to eat a bowl of Cheerios. I woke up my parents, letting them know things were happening.

By 6:30, the contractions were 3-4 minutes apart and lasting 60 seconds. I called Monika again and she said to go into the hospital. I was skeptical; even though I was contracting at a fairly rapid clip, they were nowhere near as strong as what I’d experienced early on in my first birth. I imagined I’d go in, get checked, and get sent home at a paltry 1 or 2 centimeters. But I trusted Monika, and the last thing I wanted to was to miss my window for the epidural, so my mom, Nathan and I hopped in the car, leaving my dad to take care of the menagerie at home: a toddler and three dogs. (Thanks Dad!).

Nathan dropped me off at the door to the hospital. My big plan this time was to walk through the revolving door—the same one I’d crawled through last time—but some friendly soul was holding open the regular door, so I settled for casting a triumphant eye back at the inconvenient place where I’d moaned through a particularly tough contraction two and a half years before.

Check in was a breeze. Monika had called to warn them of my arrival and I was shown immediately into a labor and delivery room (I guess the beauty of an early Sunday morning is that you get to skip the triage rooms?). The nurse took my vitals and then did the dreaded exam.

When she announced, you’re at a 5 or 6, and 100% effaced, I cried tears of joy. It was the best news I’ve ever gotten after having a stranger’s fist inside my body.

The contractions at this point were not even in the same category as those I experienced well before reaching even 3 centimeters with my first birth. They were still so manageable. And here I’d arrived at the perfect time to get an epidural. I wouldn’t have to visit that edge I’d met before. Best news ever.

As we waited for anaesthesia, the contractions really picked up in strength. I had to breathe through them, and took some perverse pleasure in squeezing the life force out of Nathan’s hand, but again: a shadow of what I remember from last time.

The anaesthesiologist was efficient: I felt nothing as he placed the epidural, and shortly thereafter, the contractions faded into memory. Sweet bliss.

The next couple hours were lovely. I snoozed, I spaced, and knowing what was likely at the other end of this reprieve, I really luxuriated in this chance to rest. It would probably be my best sleep for months, or maybe even years. I was so present with that nap and that rest time, even despite all the wires hanging off my body and an eager audience staring at me, anxious for a new human to emerge from my lady parts.

I’ll never sleep this well again.

After a while the midwife on staff checked me again, and suggested breaking my water to help things move along.

I could feel the gush of liquid but nothing more, and a few moments later, it was time to push. I could feel pressure that hinged on pain, and wow, I had forgotten how intense it is having so many people shouting encouragement in your face when all sensation in your lower half has gone dark.

Mid-push, the midwife asked, “Did your first baby have a lot of hair?”

“Yes,” I said, grateful to think about anything other than pushing.

“Well this one doesn’t,” she responded, and in that red-faced, bearing-down moment, it was the funniest thing I’ve ever heard.

That roaring head and a triumphant hand finally appeared.

For a moment I was a two headed human and I felt a moment of peace: the head is out, people, isn’t my work here done?

But more pushing there was to do. And a few minutes of interminable straining later, he slipped out, to general surprise and a round of betting all related to his robust size.

The medical team’s estimates clustered around 9lbs; the scale reported back a proud 9lbs 12oz.

No wonder I was so tired those last few weeks.

The midwife stitched me up—just a couple of first degree tears to address, no big deal—and I held that baby close. Just like his sister, he blessed me with a meconium deposit on my chest.

As they wheeled me to a recovery room, I whispered a heartfelt thank you and farewell to the epidural. I’m almost a little sad that was likely my last epidural ever.

 My gratitude for the epidural is overshadowed, though, by my gratitude for how straightforward this entire birth was. It felt like a redemption achieved in just nine hours.

The first time around, my expectations were so contorted by a cultural insistence that birthing is natural, and that your body knows what to do, that I felt like a failure for needing intervention after intervention. Wasn’t birthing supposed to be handled by some kind of blood memory passed down from my mom (3 unmedicated births) and my grandmothers (5 births apiece) and on and on, a ceaseless ancestral drumbeat of bodies that delivered?

I know that feeling of inadequacy is nonsense. That birth is a dangerous and unpredictable and above all loaded with infinite potential and unrepeatable iterations.

That leaves me with nothing but gratitude. For all my kvetching about still being pregnant as my time wound down, I’m grateful some internal mechanism triggered my labor, not a ticking clock of escalating risk. I’m grateful for how textbook this birth was, with zero detours or dalliances.

I’m grateful that labor progressed as though my body knew just what it was doing. The blood memory, I guess, had to come from my own experiences. What a tremendous gift my daughter gave me and her new brother: she paved the way for this birth—my last birth—to be an easy, healing one.

Speaking of Mac, here’s her birth story.

Finding the right kind of accountability partner

Let’s talk about accountability. Specifically, about accountability partners. I’ve accepted the hard fact about myself that I NEED accountability to get anything done. I’m not one of those people who will work hard for the journey.

Oh, no.

I need deadlines, buddies, groups, classes, requirements, deliverables, and peer reviews to get into GSD mode. Even better if there’s a shiny reward at the end: grades, gold stars, and other meaningless markers of success are literally the wind beneath my wings.

I’ve learned that the best way for me to get to that shiny reward is to enlist some accountability partners to join me on the ride, and more importantly, to enlist the right kind of accountability partner for a given goal.

I divide accountability partners into two groups: there are motivating accountability partners, and there are irritating accountability partners.*

The health app telling me to stand up when I’ve been baby stuck for hours: irritating.

A coach on Gixo encouraging me to run faster to meet a goal: motivating.

My husband reminding me to drink more water: irritating.

Joining the Sweat Pink community and Gerolsteiner for a hydration challenge: motivating.

So as I work on getting myself back into healthy routines post-baby, I’m rounding up my accountability partners to help me get there. It’s NECESSARY, y’all, to resist the siren call of red vines and another nap.

Here’s who I’m leaning on, and for what goals:

Goal 1: drink more water

Accountability partner: Gerolsteiner Sparkling Mineral Water and the Sweat Pink Community.

As I embark on the Gerolsteiner Sparkling Detox for the third year in a row, the support from my community is crucial. Giving up coffee is pretty much the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I know I could do it again thanks to going through that challenge with a supportive, engaged community around me.

If you’re new to The Sparkling Detox, here’s how it works: for one week, you replace all beverages with Gerolsteiner Sparkling Mineral Water. It’s a fun way to really focus in on your hydration, plus you get all the extra benefits of the mineral content in Gerolsteiner (reader take note: not all sparkling waters are created equal!). A liter of Gerolsteiner contains 2,500 mg of essential minerals in total, which support the healthy function of your digestive and immune systems. To be honest, while I’m generally aware of how much protein, or how many servings of vegetables I’ve had in a given day, mineral intake just isn’t something I think about that often. It’s nice to know that Gerolsteiner has me covered with highly bioavailable minerals (since they’re in water, they’re more easily absorbed. Boom.)

There’s still time to register for Gerolsteiner’s Sparkling Detox (August 27-31) and you’ll be automatically entered to win a case of Gerolsteiner!

Hitting my stride with hydration is going to be key to tackling my next two goals, too. I see proper hydration as a catalyst for making my other fitness goals happen: being on top of my water intake is basically non-negotiable in the Austin heat, especially because I’m currently breastfeeding.

 

Goal 2: become a stronger runner

Accountability partner: my neighbor Kristina, Strava and the Sweat Pink community

Up until a few months ago, I had a regular weekly run date with my neighbor, and I can’t wait to jump back into our early morning runs. I so enjoy meeting her in the dark early hours of Monday morning and knocking out a short run to start the week. We each track our runs on different apps, and I loved watching our average time go down on the same route we did every week. Which leads me to…

Confession time. I’ve been a secret Strava user for years. I never made my runs public or even accepted follow requests because I was embarrassed by everything about my profile: my inconsistency, my low mileage, and my turtle speed.

Now I’m embarrassed to admit all those reasons out loud. It’s the opposite of what I believe in, and what our community stands for. So I’m officially coming out on Strava with a public profile and will be sharing my runs there. Because there is no shame in starting over, or in being right where you are.

Here’s my profile. Let’s connect!

 

Goal 3: easily fit fitness in wherever, whenever

Accountability partner: Gixo & Gixo Teammates

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the Gixo app is the best thing that happened to new moms for getting back in shape. I took classes up until I was about 34 weeks pregnant (actually, I did join one at 38 weeks, but quickly realized that my jump squats ship had sailed, so I don’t really count that one), and I credit Gixo for helping me feel awesome through most of pregnancy.

I’m counting on it to help me feel awesome now that I’m cleared for exercise, and to help me gain my strength back after a few months of really low activity.

So there you have it, friends. My plan for roping in my accountability partners and reclaiming my fitness. It’s everything I need to jump start a return to regular fitness and to really feel confident and healthy

*There is also a third kind of accountability partner: the fun, no-accountability partner. Long ago, my friend Jackie and I were workout buddies who regularly talked ourselves into brunching and shopping instead of going to the gym. She’s now an Ironman triathlete, and I can only imagine how much sooner she would have crossed that finish line without my “help”.

Bringing that champagne energy

There was a time when champagne was my drink of choice. I’d order it everywhere, no matter how unlikely a place to drink bubbles. It was my choice at happy hour, at dinner, even late night at clubs in Vegas.

Because why not?

Oh, youth. This is from a Vegas trip when I drank exclusively champagne.

What I remember most about my champagne era was an overwhelming sense of joie de vivre. A constant undercurrent of this is fun. I ordered champagne because it matched the way I felt: I was joyful, carefree, and above all, present.

I had just started a new business and was full of the heady energy of new beginnings and big dreams. Every moment and every small win felt like a celebration, and I was more than happy to jump in with a toast and starry eyed look to the future.

As that new business demanded more and more of me, that energy waned and chronic stress and anxiety stepped in. I wanted so badly to be taken seriously that I became too serious. I was tired of being dismissed as ‘girl’ and my ideas being labeled ‘cute’ or ‘female-targeted’ before I’d even had a chance to open my mouth. I was tired of showing up only to learn that I was yet again, a token, or worse, entertainment.

Those years were some of the unhealthiest of my life, primarily because of the toll the stress took on my body and my mental health. I was never present, never able to truly disconnect. I sacrificed every other aspect of my life—my relationships, my hobbies, any chance to relax and unwind. ‘Balance’ meant going on that girls weekend away, but spending that beautiful Sunday inside a bookstore, poaching their wifi, working, while all my friends relaxed on a lovely patio overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

I remember thinking, this is not worth it, but it took a couple more years before I found a way to change my reality. 

Looking back, I wish that I had found a way to carry some of that champagne energy forward, and found ways to be joyful and present despite the stress. I wish I’d found a way to maintain my own sense of self even when it felt like what I had to offer wasn’t good enough.

These days I’m leaning back toward bubbles, for a lot of reasons. I have way more balance in my life, and beyond that, I’m also not trying to pass as something I’m not.

Instead, I’m embracing that I’m a woman, that I need time for myself, and that I’m a working mom, and I won’t apologize for any of that. I won’t hide or downplay what I’m juggling or how I prioritize.

Memories of how alive I felt during my champagne era, and all the girl power feels, surged anew when Anna, one of our Sweat Pink sisters, reached out to share her new business: Fit & Flirty, a line of champagne & fitness themed apparel

How cute is this tank

I connected immediately to the brand, because bubbles and fitness together are a perfect symbol of that elusive balance—not to mention presentness and joy—I’m seeking right now.

Why yes, it does look cute as casual wear OR athletic apparel. 👌

Whereas I used to be too busy (read: too stressed) to take care of myself, I now know all too well that no one wins when I don’t make time. However I’m moving or sweating, whether the vehicle is burpees or running or yoga, the purpose is the same: it’s about putting in the work, and seizing the now so that I can be joyful, present, and grateful, no matter how tough the workout or how challenging the day.

I think I just expressed gratitude for burpees. #WhatIsWrongWithMe

And I’ll happily order champagne at every opportunity, knowing this moment and these bubbles are worth celebrating precisely because they won’t last forever. These days, my priority is to be present, here in this moment, whether that’s doing burpees, playing dump trucks with my toddler, spending hours nursing, or raising a glass in celebration.

Cheers to RIGHT NOW. 

How sweet it is to enjoy these moments before my knees give out, the snuggles must be coaxed out instead of soaked up, and the champagne falls flat. 

If you need some champagne energy in your life, Anna’s new business, Fit & Flirty, just launched this week, and you can save 15% with the code SWEATPINK21 .  There are a ton of cute options (see Nic’s tank in action here), including a crop top I’m going to treat myself to once I’m ready to show off my belly again.

There’s also a buy one get one 50% off promo going on this week if you need two tops. Maybe one for your bff, if sharing is your thing.

Sizing: I’m usually a medium in all things, but since I’m carrying an extra 20 pounds on my post-baby bod, I sized up to a large, and it’s nice and slouchy / comfy. All this to say, I think they run true to size. 🙂

This post is sponsored by Fit & Flirty. All opinions are my own, of course. Here’s to supporting women-owned businesses, and embracing right now.