Tips for Prenatal Activity

Ah, pregnancy in all its glory. Growing at an exponential rate. Joint pain. Back pain (have you seen what happens to a pregnant woman’s spine?!). Fluid retention. Swelling. Lightning crotch (heard of that one?). Round ligament pain.

This is no walk in the park here, people.

I’m currently 33 weeks pregnant and hobbling around like an Oompa Loompa. I’ve been learning my lesson – pregnancy in your 30’s is NOT pregnancy in your 20’s.

This is why prenatal activity (after approval from your provider, of course) is not only permissible, it’s advised. Perhaps necessary! I had my babies when I was 25, 27, 29, and now I’m 31 (like my pattern?). I’m regretting that I haven’t stay more consistently active this pregnancy. Maybe I have good excuses – and it’s not like I’m a couch potato – but my lack of concentrated effort to boost my body has resulted in Oompa Loompa status.

It’s not pretty.

Why is prenatal exercise so crucial?

Well – lots of reasons! Your body is changing immensely. In order to avoid or minimize joint and back pain, it’s best to stay loose and strengthen the muscles that support your joints and bones. In past pregnancies, I minimized hip pain with squats and leg lifts. Trust me, building that strength makes a huge difference!

The other reason activity is so important: CHILDBIRTH! You’re essentially training for a marathon. IF you can build up your strength, you’ll have better endurance in labor and your body will be better able to do what it needs to do. This could also mean a better postpartum recovery. And who doesn’t want that?

A few tips:

  • I usually wait until my 2nd trimester (or my 3rd apparently! Pfft) when the pregnancy is established and I’ve had my first prenatal appointment.
  • Listen to your body! I don’t know about you, but I feel especially in-tune when I’m pregnant. I’m always getting feedback: This is great! or That does not feel good. Stop or slow down accordingly.
  • Allow your routine to feel good! I believe prenatal activity is as much about loosening, stretching, and nurturing your structure as it is about strengthening it.
  • Find things that are specifically prenatal. Prenatal yoga, prenatal circuits – things designed by professionals for the pregnant body. With these resources, you’ll be able to focus on the right areas to prepare you for labor and avoid the things you shouldn’t be doing. I love Laura Dutta’s prenatal yoga (see here), Erin O’Brien’s Prenatal Fitness Fix (see here), or anything from Sarah Beth Yoga (see here).
Get it, mama! 💪

How does Marabou support women?

We live in culture where “bouncing back” is more valued than proper rest. As admirable as it may be for a sports star to get back on the field, the same rules don’t apply to postpartum recovery. The traditional resting period has been stolen from women through pressure to get back to their job or simply through lack of presence.

Grandmas, sisters and best friends who otherwise would have been there to help a woman transition into motherhood often live too far away to be of any help. Household chores and caring for older children inevitably fall on the mom. But she just delivered a new life! She needs rest. 

Marabou Services is a unique gift registry which provides services instead of stuff. Most mom’s get too many onesies, too many baby blankets and not enough helping hands. Break out of a destructive cultural norm and start a Marabou registry today.

Start a Marabou Gift Registry!

With a Marabou registry you can sing up for any service which will benefit you or someone you know during the postpartum recovery period.

Postpartum doulas for a first time mom

House cleanings for moms of multiples

Childcare for moms with older children!

Once your registry is created, add it to any other registry or post it to your Facebook and ask friends and family contribute to your postpartum service, rather than buying you more stuff.

More and more moms find they have to figure out postpartum alone. Is it any wonder why PMDs are on the rise? Or women are embittered by the journey of motherhood? We can change that by giving the gift of peace.

What are Freezer Meals?

Freezer meals? Oh, yeah, that makes sense. They’re meals you – well – put in the freezer.

Ok, now go ahead and make one…

Stuck? So was I the first time I was preparing for postpartum with dinners to stock in my freezer. I thought I would just make a meal and then freeze it. This works for some meals, like soups, chilis, and stews.

But other meals involve a little more finesse. There is an art to preparing a meal up to the point of cooking but freezing it instead. This way, when you (1) pull it from the freezer, (2) thaw in the fridge, and then (3) bake or cook it, it’s like you just prepared it. With a dash of fresh herbs or cubed avocado, it tastes that fresh.

My personal freezer meal favorite has become a pan of enchiladas, which I deliver to nearly every postpartum mother within my sphere of influence. But It can be a freezer baggie of chopped veggies for a slow cooker recipe that you dump in your crockpot and then add a can of diced tomatoes and vegetable stock to. The idea is: having prepared foods in your freezer that you can access whenever you are in the trenches of postpartum or life’s general busy-ness. Oh, how simple life can be when there are meals in your freezer that aren’t overly processed but instead are made with fresh ingredients and a little TLC.

The beauty of freezer meals is that you can make them yourself in the last few weeks of pregnancy in preparation for postpartum, you can make them for a friend for her nesting party (see here), or you can bring one over when you visit a mother after birth. I LOVE doing this because Meal Trains – as amazing as they are – can overwhelm a family with too much food! What a wonderful problem.

But with a freezer meal, things can be more flexible and according to the family’s needs. Meals can be left in a cooler placed outside their home (if they are not receiving visitors at that time) or thrown straight into their freezer in the case that their kitchen is overloaded. They can pull it out at their convenience. You won’t be stepping on any meal-planning or scheduling toes, and they get to decide when to enjoy the meal you’ve prepared.

A cooler left on the front stoop can mean a family doesn't have to entertain guests when they're not up for it!

Don’t waste your time inventing something new; Pinterest has all the freezer meal gurus already working hard to take the guesswork out of good freezer meal recipes!

Here are some of the ones I used when learning the territory:

23 Make Ahead Meals via Buzzfeed

Molly Yeh’s Baby Meal Prep Guide

12 Healthy Freezer Meals from Pinch of Yum

The Gift of Freezer Meals from Take Them A Meal

Marabou’s Bean & Cheese Enchiladas

Marabou’s Parmesan Corn Chowder

A few tips when bringing freezer meals to a growing family:

  • Use disposable! This takes the burden away from the recipients, who would otherwise have to wash and coordinate the return of your dish. I use disposable cake pans and aluminum foil for enchiladas, washed out deli containers from the grocery store for soups, and put muffins in gallon-sized baggies (they hold 16 perfectly!).
  • Always always always bring a copy of the recipe or instructions! Getting your freezer meal to the table should not be a riddle. When I bring my enchiladas, I tape an index card to the top with instructions. It’s simple but still necessary for the uninitiated [(1) thaw overnight (2) bake at 400°F for 15 minutes]. Some are a little more involved and should definitely have the full recipe included. Your prerogative.
  • If you have extra ingredients to bring that don’t go in the freezer (e.g., a can of tomatoes and chicken stock to add to the crockpot along with your chopped veggies), bring them along and put them somewhere safe in the family’s pantry where they can easily find it. If you’re on the receiving end of freezer meals (you lucky duck!), you might put a small bin in your pantry for these extra items so they don’t accidentally get used and are reserved for your freezer meals.
  • Bring a meal AND baked goods, if you can! Meals are great, but postpartum moms also snack all day, especially if they’re breastfeeding. Baked goods are the perfect way to enjoy a healthy, grab-and-go, one-handed snack. Try our mom muffins!

How does Marabou support women?

We live in culture where “bouncing back” is more valued than proper rest. As admirable as it may be for a sports star to get back on the field, the same rules don’t apply to postpartum recovery. The traditional resting period has been stolen from women through pressure to get back to their job or simply through lack of presence.

Grandmas, sisters and best friends who otherwise would have been there to help a woman transition into motherhood often live too far away to be of any help. Household chores and caring for older children inevitably fall on the mom. But she just delivered a new life! She needs rest. 

Marabou Services is a unique gift registry which provides services instead of stuff. Most mom’s get too many onesies, too many baby blankets and not enough helping hands. Break out of a destructive cultural norm and start a Marabou registry today.

Start a Marabou Gift Registry!

With a Marabou registry you can sing up for any service which will benefit you or someone you know during the postpartum recovery period.

Postpartum doulas for a first time mom

House cleanings for moms of multiples

Childcare for moms with older children!

Once your registry is created, add it to any other registry or post it to your Facebook and ask friends and family contribute to your postpartum service, rather than buying you more stuff.

More and more moms find they have to figure out postpartum alone. Is it any wonder why PMDs are on the rise? Or women are embittered by the journey of motherhood? We can change that by giving the gift of peace.

A New Take on Well Care After Birth

I recently read Jennifer Margulis’ The Business of Baby and was fascinated by her chapter on the American postpartum experience. Typically, a postpartum mother has one check up at 6 weeks. Her baby, on the other hand, has well visits at 2 days, 2 weeks, 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 9 months, and 12 months. At these visits, mom and baby meet with a pediatrician or family practitioner. The baby is weighed and measured; questions are discussed; immunizations are administered; and recommendations for sleep, introducing solids, and milestones are given. I used to jokingly call these my “mom tests.” I passed if my baby didn’t have a hint of diaper rash, was sleeping well, and had met his milestones. I often dreaded these visits for fear of “failure.”

In her book, Margulis highlights a new kind of well visit in which moms with the same aged babies meet in a group with two professionals, one of which is a health care provider, and the other typically some form of therapist or counselor. This is a well-baby and well-mom model. Moms can raise questions, give each other advice and tips, and the licensed professionals can be there for back up and individual check ups with baby.

Here’s an excerpt:

Laura Wise, a family practice doctor based in Oakland, California, understands [mothers’] concerns. She thinks the biggest downside to well-baby care – which is a problem of medical care in America in general – is that it is too fragmented. Wise believes in order for checkups during the first year of a baby’s life to really promote a baby’s health and well-being, the mother’s health needs to be considered as well. “The mom and baby in the first year of life are so inextricably linked in their well-being,” Wise tells me in a phone interview as she leaves her office on the way to the gym. “If the mom is depressed, it impacts the baby. If the baby is colicky and doesn’t sleep well at night, it has a huge impact on the mom.”

Wise herself was isolated as a new mom. When her daughter was born in Petaluma, California nine years ago, Wise knew very few other first-time moms. None of her med school friends had had children yet, and she found it lonely to be home all day with the baby without family in the same town or a community of friends. Despite being a medical doctor, she felt unmoored. “I didn’t know what I was doing,” she admits. “I got postpartum depression. I had doctors and could get medication, but I didn’t have any support.”

Then, in 2006, six weeks after her second child was born, a colleague who was going out on maternity leave asked Wise to run a group for her. In this model of group care, pairs of moms and babies come together for a two-hour appointment facilitated by two people, one of whom is a health care provider, usually a pediatrician, family doctor, or a nurse practitioner. Well-woman care (including family planning, mental health, and achieving weight goals) is combined with well-baby care (including safety, immunizations, and developmental assessments). Unlike in the traditional medical model, the group appointments always start on time, patients have a full two hours with the provider (who is there the whole time, although she does the physical exams on each baby in a space apart), and moms learn as much from each other as from the health professionals guiding the group.

When parents bring concerns – a three-month-old baby who has stopped pooping frequently, for instance – they hear from other parents who are experiencing the same issue, and often learn that it’s not actually a cause for concern. The group wisdom also gives women a chance to try less invasive alternatives to clear up medical problems, Wise says. In one of her Spanish-speaking groups a baby had eczema and another mom suggested trying a gentle moisturizing soap. If Wise had been alone with the patient, she might have written a prescription for a topical steroid cream. But the next month the mom came back with a rash-free kid.

“What I wouldn’t give to be receiving care that way,” said a mom of a two-month-old baby in Silver Spring, Maryland, who goes to the same church as Sharon Rising, CenteringParenting’s founder. Laura Wise agrees. “Having a group of moms at the same stage would have been so helpful to me,” she admits. “If my doctor had taken the time to understand my background, and what I brought to mothering, it would have made a huge difference to my daughter’s well-being. I was not outwardly high risk but if you knew me, you would know that I had a lot of risks for postpartum depression. There was so much that I didn’t know. It’s kind of intense. If someone had just given me a Moby wrap, and said, ‘Just put your baby in here and walk around and you’ll have a much better day.’ That’s what happens in a parenting group, someone gets a good carrier and they share it with someone else. It’s transformative.”

First started in 2006, there are now thirteen health centers in the United States where women and their babies can receive CenteringParenting postnatal care. In one randomized controlled study with ninety-seven mom and baby pairs, participants had better attendance, recalled getting more education and advice, and generally reported higher satisfaction than with traditional care. Lead research on this study, Ada Fenick, a pediatrician with more than fifteen years of experience who teaches pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine, says almost twice as many of her medical students requested to receive training to do group well-baby care this year than last. “These residents are learning a lot from the moms in their group, and about how to talk to people. I think it’s wonderful,” Fenick says. “And the parents are getting a lot out of it. For me it’s very exciting. You’ve got the moms teaching each other; every now and then you look over at the doctor, who’s nodding, because that’s just what she would have said.”

Despite the positive results, in the Oakland area, Wise has found it challenging to get her colleagues to embrace group care. “We are trained to take care of people in the exam room, and we are trained to be or act like experts,” Wise explains. “The idea of a facilitated group, which can be chaotic and draws on the knowledge of the people in it, is uncomfortable for health care providers who haven’t been trained in that way.” But, Wise believes, it’s a battle worth fighting. The biggest difference between this kind of well-baby care and a more traditional model is that it changes our current pediatric paradigm by embracing “the radical idea that patients have more knowledge about their health than anyone else.”

***

You can respect the education and knowledge that a health care provider brings to the table, however, group wisdom, especially growth into motherhood, is incredibly valuable. Moms supporting moms as they are simultaneously supported by a practitioner. What do you think about this model of care?

How does Marabou support women?

We live in culture where “bouncing back” is more valued than proper rest. As admirable as it may be for a sports star to get back on the field, the same rules don’t apply to postpartum recovery. The traditional resting period has been stolen from women through pressure to get back to their job or simply through lack of presence.

Grandmas, sisters and best friends who otherwise would have been there to help a woman transition into motherhood often live too far away to be of any help. Household chores and caring for older children inevitably fall on the mom. But she just delivered a new life! She needs rest. 

Marabou Services is a unique gift registry which provides services instead of stuff. Most mom’s get too many onesies, too many baby blankets and not enough helping hands. Break out of a destructive cultural norm and start a Marabou registry today.

Start a Marabou Gift Registry!

With a Marabou registry you can sing up for any service which will benefit you or someone you know during the postpartum recovery period.

Postpartum doulas for a first time mom

House cleanings for moms of multiples

Childcare for moms with older children!

Once your registry is created, add it to any other registry or post it to your Facebook and ask friends and family contribute to your postpartum service, rather than buying you more stuff.

More and more moms find they have to figure out postpartum alone. Is it any wonder why PMDs are on the rise? Or women are embittered by the journey of motherhood? We can change that by giving the gift of peace.

My Recap from Mom Congress 2019

From Sunday to Tuesday this week, I attended Mom Congress in Washington DC (see here). There were 150 of us from around the nation (almost all states were represented!), and I met incredible moms who are survivors of HELLP Syndrome, Preeclampsia, PPCM, Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, stillbirth, and miscarriage. It is an understatement to say that I was surrounded by incredible women who are no strangers to maternal challenges.

The purpose of getting all these strong women together was to speak to and petition our legislators about what is being called the MOMNIBUS, a collection of bills that would create standardization for maternal care surrounding birth, especially in the Medicaid program.

These are the four topics we discussed:

Maternal Mortality

In the US, we spend more on health care than anywhere else yet we have the worst maternal mortality rates in the developed world. We rank 46th out of the 184 countries in the world (see here).

About 700 women die from pregnancy-related complications each year, and 60% of those deaths are preventable (see here).

The leading complications are heart disease, stroke, infection, hemorrhage, and hypertension.

Our mortality rates have doubled in the last 20 years, and we are the only developed nation to have increasing maternal mortality rates.

For every maternal death we have in the US, 70 other mothers have a near-miss.

Maternal Mental Health

The staggering thing is that the leading cause of death in mothers the year after birth is mental health. Suicide is the biggest threat to new moms.

We’ve all heard about Postpartum Depression (PPD), but it’s little known that mothers can also suffer from anxiety (PPA), OCD, post-traumatic stress (PTSD), and psychosis.

Racial Disparities

African American and Native American women are 3-4 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than Caucasian women.

In NYC, black moms are 12 times more likely to experience mortality than their white counterparts.

And: Respectful Perinatal Care

Many mothers are receiving unnecessary procedures that carry risk and cause complications, or they are being dismissed when they feel something is wrong and are prematurely discharged from care. I heard a lot of moms say this weekend:

“We knew something was wrong and no one listened.”

The current state of maternal care could be wrapped up in:

“Too much too soon, or too little too late.”

It’s clear in America: moms need more. We need more standardization in our health care system so fewer of us die in preventable ways after childbirth. We need more support after birth so fewer of us suffer from depression and other mood disorders that can stem from isolation and stress. We need more practitioners of color so that black, Hispanic, and native mothers can be heard and understood in our system again. We need mental health to be taken seriously so we aren’t dismissed as being “just sad” or a product of sleep deprivation.

So, the whole point of talking about all of this was to bring it to the attention of our representatives. Of course, you can’t make your representative do your bidding. But being there in their offices, it was apparent that those who represent us are eager to hear our stories. It’s hard to keep that in mind when all we see is sound bites and political memes.

Legislators are eager to hear from their constituents; they can’t read our minds and need us to tell them what matters to us and what we care about. Even if you can’t go to the office of your legislator, write an email or make a phone call. And (maybe most importantly) get involved in your state and local governments. Make an appointment. Walk in and tell your story and what you think should happen. Your words and opinions are valuable to those we delegate to make decisions on our behalf.

If you don’t know who represents you, click here if you live in Minnesota and here if you live elsewhere.

The MOMNIBUS I mentioned earlier consists of four pieces of legislation. If you’d like to take a look at the bills we were supporting, click on the links below for the associated proposed legislation.

How does Marabou support women?

We live in culture where “bouncing back” is more valued than proper rest. As admirable as it may be for a sports star to get back on the field, the same rules don’t apply to postpartum recovery. The traditional resting period has been stolen from women through pressure to get back to their job or simply through lack of presence.

Grandmas, sisters and best friends who otherwise would have been there to help a woman transition into motherhood often live too far away to be of any help. Household chores and caring for older children inevitably fall on the mom. But she just delivered a new life! She needs rest. 

Marabou Services is a unique gift registry which provides services instead of stuff. Most mom’s get too many onesies, too many baby blankets and not enough helping hands. Break out of a destructive cultural norm and start a Marabou registry today.

Start a Marabou Gift Registry!

With a Marabou registry you can sing up for any service which will benefit you or someone you know during the postpartum recovery period.

Postpartum doulas for a first time mom

House cleanings for moms of multiples

Childcare for moms with older children!

Once your registry is created, add it to any other registry or post it to your Facebook and ask friends and family contribute to your postpartum service, rather than buying you more stuff.

More and more moms find they have to figure out postpartum alone. Is it any wonder why PMDs are on the rise? Or women are embittered by the journey of motherhood? We can change that by giving the gift of peace.

YOU. You’re the Woman for this Job.

Mental vibes affect me immensely, so I often have to put up short mantras for myself. There is so much to do every day just as a mom; throw work on top of that and I about lose my mind on a daily basis! It’s easy to feel like an unfinished to-do list is a failure. Often, I need a little encouragement.

The latest boost on my wall is: “You’re the woman for this job.”

It reminds me that – for whatever reason – I’m the one doing this, here and now. I’m the one that’s here. My family is mine and mine alone. My business is not anyone else’s and even though I often feel unfit, I’m the one. This mantra is empowering. There are days it keeps my going despite crippling self-doubt.

I find myself disappointed by the way we judge each other. Facebook is a common deluge of critical thoughts or exclusive mentalities, encouraging us that there’s only one way to do things and raise kids. The reality is: we each have a unique family and a unique circumstance. As unique women, we are the only ones qualified to make the decisions that affect our people and our lives.

And you know, we should own it. Because we’re powerful enough for that role.

We are not perfect mothers. But it does no good to compare ourselves to each other when one is an apple and the other is an orange. You are the right fit for your family, and I’m the right fit for mine. You’re the right woman for the job of raising your kids. It’ll look different from the family next door or the perfect mom at the PTA meetings. That’s a good thing. The fact that we’re different ought to empower and uplift us – you’re irreplaceable! (Maybe that’s my next mantra)

If you’re reading this, focus on that today: you’re the woman for this job. You’re the right one, simply because you’re you. Own it, give yourself grace when you mess up (pfft, inevitable for all of us), and know that you’re the only one suited to be their mother.

How does Marabou support women?

We live in culture where “bouncing back” is more valued than proper rest. As admirable as it may be for a sports star to get back on the field, the same rules don’t apply to postpartum recovery. The traditional resting period has been stolen from women through pressure to get back to their job or simply through lack of presence.

Grandmas, sisters and best friends who otherwise would have been there to help a woman transition into motherhood often live too far away to be of any help. Household chores and caring for older children inevitably fall on the mom. But she just delivered a new life! She needs rest. 

Marabou Services is a unique gift registry which provides services instead of stuff. Most mom’s get too many onesies, too many baby blankets and not enough helping hands. Break out of a destructive cultural norm and start a Marabou registry today.

Start a Marabou Gift Registry!

With a Marabou registry you can sing up for any service which will benefit you or someone you know during the postpartum recovery period.

Postpartum doulas for a first time mom

House cleanings for moms of multiples

Childcare for moms with older children!

Once your registry is created, add it to any other registry or post it to your Facebook and ask friends and family contribute to your postpartum service, rather than buying you more stuff.

More and more moms find they have to figure out postpartum alone. Is it any wonder why PMDs are on the rise? Or women are embittered by the journey of motherhood? We can change that by giving the gift of peace.