On Father’s Day, I watched my two year old “help” my dad assemble a shelving unit. Her busy little toddler hands sought out the parts he requested, lost half of them on the journey from her grasp to his, and scattered shreds of packaging and packing tape around the room.
A task that would have taken him 10 minutes ballooned into over an hour of this Sunday afternoon, while he taught her the names for various pieces and tools she found and lost.
His patience with her was as revelatory as it was familiar: I have so many childhood memories of assembling furniture or painting walls or completing other household tasks with my dad when the process was the whole point. I always felt like a valuable contributor, a BIG helper, and never like I was burdening or detouring from the finish line.
That incredible patience, too, feels uniquely foreign: if I had to identify my defining character flaws, impatience just might top the list.
The contrast between his tirelessness with that shelving project and my own tendencies was especially striking this weekend: restlessness and anxiety are the mood du jour as I watched my due date come and go, with nary a hint of labor.
No matter how well I intellectually understand that a due date is just a silly guess, that I am still pregnant, four days later, has me on an emotional high wire, second guessing and over interpreting every spark of sciatica and whimper of a would-be contraction.
Part of me suspects my body is hanging on to this baby because it can’t bear to bring him into this world. Every time I think I’ve hit maximum heartbreak, the relentless cycle of lies and outrage and partisan howling cracks open brand new fissures in my naive understanding of humanity and the nature of progress.
I’m taking a break from the news, and all non-work-related social media. I’ve even taken the long-overdue steps of unfollowing a few people whose posts reliably send me into a tailspin of woe unto the world.
These are steps I should have taken long ago, but in a moment of clarity—thanks to a cleansing, affirming conversation with a friend—I realized that keeping these people as part of my online diet in the name of openness to other points of view was awarding them undeserved power. No longer will these strangers so casually manhandle the levers of my emotional equilibrium.
I won’t step back forever. Stepping back is a luxury and a privilege, and I like being informed so I, too, can howl into the algorithmic void. But right now, I have to chill the fuck out. There’s no vacancy in my headspace for trolls or tribulations. Instead, I’m nurturing my paltry reserves of patience to let this baby boy come on his own terms, in his own time.
Well, the bar wasn’t that high, to be honest. I’m a chronic dabbler in short-form running. How many times have I started the Couch to 5K program? Too many to count. How many times have I finished it? A handful. How consistent have I been about running, even short distances? Not at all.
Up until last year, that is, when two beautiful life events colluded to make me a more consistent runner.
A friend and neighbor asked me to run with her every Monday morning before work, and assured me she not much of a runner—aka not too fast.
Fit Approach started partnering with Gixo, which offers live coached fitness classes, including runs, and I felt compelled to give all the class formats a try. Becauseit’s for work.
Anyway, thanks to the happy coincidence of these things, I’ve made a dramatic shift in a few habits: I’m running way more consistently than I ever have before—to the tune of 3-4 times per week—and believe it or not, up until third trimester hit, I was actually getting faster and stronger. As I got more pregnant.
So fucking weird I almost can’t believe I’m writing those words.
Not weird, I guess, to everyone out there who recognizes, that duh, consistency is the name of the game when it comes to fitness or any other skill you’re working to develop.
And, guess what, I don’t hate it. Running, that is. Or, I am distracted enough by either my run buddy or by the Gixo coaches that I can actually not focus on counting down the seconds or the tenths of a mile until I can stop.
It’s also been the perfect solution to my #momlife crisis of finding time for myself and for fitness. Another weird (for me) habit I’ve developed is getting up early most weekday mornings. I do a 6 am run or workout, shower, drink coffee, and even have a few minutes to myself before the rest of the house is awake. Life-changing, that pre-sunrise quiet is.
None of these results are revolutionary, of course— so many people in my community figured this basic shit out years and years before I did, and have been singing its praises for forever. It just took the lifestyle crimp of toddlerhood + chronic excess of competing top priorities (#workingmom) to push me into trying something new.
If you want to join me, the training program I’m following is free, and you can get a 7-day free trial of Gixo to try the classes that are part of the program, or to participate in race day on May 5. Full disclosure: I’m getting free access to Gixo classes because they’re a partner, but the subscription price is one I’d pay in a heartbeat.
Speaking of working motherhood, this interview with Selina Tobaccowala is the best I’ve read on the topic. There are no generic platitudes about priorities and self-care; just honest, practical examples of what sacrifices and decisions she makes as she wins at both business and parenthood. Reading her example about what she chooses to say yes or no to was a liberating moment for me: there’s no capitulating to the ‘should’ or the mommy guilt; she just makes decisions that work for her and her family. Now that’s #girlboss.
Last time I was pregnant, I read all the earth goddess birthing books and was thoroughly convinced that hospitals were anti-woman assembly lines of procedural misery. Ina May Gaskin and Ricki Lake and a host of other birthing gurus delivered up via Amazon algorithms made me feel empowered and inspired to trust my body to give birth. Their message that birthing is natural, that we are born for this, that our bodies know better than anyone, reverberated with every feminist, girl power instinct in my soul. I was sold. I would give birth, at home, powered by yogi breathing and soothed by “nature’s epidural” (a birthing tub). I’d feel connected to the universe and the stars and billions of women who had gritted and squatted and groaned before me.
Birthing brought me to my knees and kept me there long after I’d crawled through the revolving door at the hospital. It took me months to lick my wounds and fully process the experience. I imagine hormones and sleeplessness contributed to my moving past the traumatic parts, to beginning to forget the hardest moments, to even having lost bodily memory of what the worst parts felt like.
What I’m left with is the acceptance that things turned out just fine, and that while most of it I’m happy to let time soften and blur, there are pieces of what happened that I would like to repeat: namely, midwives and the epidural.
The midwives I worked with were nothing short of wonderful. Our appointments were relationship focused, highly personal, validating, and thoughtful. And on time, too. My pre- and post-natal care was beautiful.
The epidural is something I would log in my gratitude journal every single day for the rest of my life, if I were a person who kept a gratitude journal.
This time around, I think I’m going into it a bit more clearsighted than last time. I (think) I have no illusions of control, though I’m sure this baby and this birth will prove me wrong, again, in ways I can’t yet fathom.
But, one thing I think I’m doing right, is that I’m cherrypicking those two best things about the first time, and I’m having it both ways. After a brief stint of prenatal care with an OB (who was great, but wow, a whole different model of care) I’m back to the home birth midwives I worked with during my first pregnancy. I’m getting that lovely, low-intervention, and respectful care I loved so much, but I’m also having a planned hospital birth. My midwives are so women-friendly—and so understanding that the experience of birth isn’t a one-size-fits-all—that they 100% support my desire for drugs. When the time comes, I’ll go to the hospital, and one of them will come with me as my doula.
I have no doubt this birth will bring me to my knees in brand new ways. But I’m pretty happy with this ‘plan’ and that I (might) get to have it both ways: the earth mother pre- and post-natal care, plus all the miracles of modern medicine.
We’ll see in what ways this turns out to be a fantasy, too.
How do you get enough protein when you don’t eat meat?
This is a question our vegetarian and vegan friends get asked all the damn time, and I don’t know a single plant-based person who isn’t sick to death of explaining quinoa and lentils to curious carnivores deprived of access to common sense or Google.
When you’re pregnant and not eating meat—whether by choice or because of extreme aversions to flesh in all forms— it’s the same story, only with a few fun twists.
First, everyone and their unqualified coworker cares about what you put in your mouth, like all of a sudden when you became a vessel for new life you became public property to be fondled and judged indiscriminately for all of your choices.
Second, there are professionals asking you how you’re doing, diet-wise, on a near weekly basis, and in my experience most of them have extremely high standards for the amount of protein they want you consuming. I’ve heard quotas between 80-100 grams of protein per day while pregnant. As a point of reference, that’s:
13-16 eggs (6g per egg)
6-8 cups of black beans (12g per cup)
10-12 cups of quinoa (8g per cup)
4-5 scoops of protein powder (20g per scoop)
In other words, A LOT OF FOOD.
Third, if you have meat aversions or are experiencing pregnancy nausea, you probably also hate quinoa and eggs and black beans and other typical, healthy, non-meat sources of protein.
What’s a well-meaning, potato-chip craving pregnant woman to do? (Besides, of course, posting pictures of beautiful salads you’ll never eat to Instagram to prove what a #fitpregnancy you’re having. All’s fair when you’re cooking a human, folks).
I’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to crack this code, mostly so I could get back to my potato chips without further interruptions. Here are my four ninja ways to get protein into the kinds of foods you’re likely willing to eat, especially during nausea-time.
Sorry, plant-based friends, these involve sneaky animal products; you’re on your own for getting up to that 80-100g threshold.
This seems like a good time to insert my eternal disclaimer: I am not qualified to tell you how to be healthy, during pregnancy or not during pregnancy. Ask someone who is.
Add collagen to your beverages
Whatever it is you’re drinking, add collagen. I find it works really well in lemonade and limeade (two drinks I could reliably stomach during first trimester). There’s no flavor change, and you turn your empty-calorie drink into 11 grams of protein.
Now that I’m able to drink coffee again, I have been adding collagen into my coffee, and that is similarly tasteless and effortless and also makes my hair ah-mazing.
If you’re getting most of your hydration from non-water sources (I certainly was during first trimester, when water was right up there with raw chicken) you could easily hit your 80-100g goal on just boosted beverages alone.
Progress toward your goal: 10% for each drink.
Cook your rice in bone broth
There was a period of time when steamed white rice and soy sauce was all I could muster, and it drove my husband crazy that our baby’s earliest development was fueled by nutritionally vacant calories and sodium.
I called it survival.
We compromised: he made me rice in bone broth, and as long as I didn’t witness it, I could douse that rice in enough soy sauce that I never knew the difference. Based on my casual googling, I *think* a cup of rice cooked in bone broth has ~9g of protein. That’s about twice what you’ll get from rice cooked in water.
Progress toward your goal: 9%
Whip some collagen into your cream cheese or potato soup or other white semi-solid food
My first pregnancy, bagels and cream cheese were my jam. During the first few weeks of my second pregnancy, I only ate potato soup. Specifically, this potato soup:
Needless to say both foods are on my no-fly list now, but they are both excellent vehicles for a dose of collagen. Just stir or mix a scoop, or a handy travel pack, into whatever soup or spread you’re able to stomach, and boost the protein by 11g.
Progress toward your goal: 10% for each boosted white food
Make homemade gummies, or get someone to make you some
Sour or gummy candy was surprisingly helpful for me with managing nausea, especially on the go; even just a quick sugar boost or something to suck on would get me through some rough moments. There are tons of easy, DIY home-made gummy candy recipes out there on the internet; this one from Nicole looks especially delicious. And because they include gelatin, they have protein in them!
Progress toward your goal: 5% for ~15 gummies (not much, but hey, candy)
And there you have it. If you strategically combine these tactics over the course of the day, you can get away with eating whatever you can keep down, and also supplying your baby with the amount of protein your caregivers recommend. Plus, of course, all of the other health benefits of collagen, gelatin, and bone broth: healthier and stronger skin and nails, healthier and more flexible joints, and improved athletic performance. Those are all major side benefits to the very basic goal of getting enough protein, especially during a time in your life when your rapidly changing body seems to serve up fresh surprises and betrayals with every new day.
I will say, too, that my sudden reliance on collagen for protein has my skin and hair looking radiant. Especially for winter.
If you’re ready to hop on the collagen wagon, you can save 20% at Great Lakes Gelatin with the code GLGLife20, valid until 3/15/18.
This post is sponsored by Great Lakes Gelatin in partnership with Fit Approach and the #SweatPink community. All opinions are my own. I so appreciate your support of the brands who partner with my first baby, Fit Approach. Thank you. <3