Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Naya's Birth Story

On October 20th 2016 we welcomed our third child, Naya Jenine Franklin. This is her birth story:

My whole pregnancy Naya had been measuring very small (like, 6 weeks behind, small). Having previously had two other small babies my midwife and I knew that she was likely fine, just constitutionally tiny. But as my due date approached doc became increasingly nervous, and we decided to try a membrane sweep at 39 weeks to see if we could gently encourage baby Panda (get it? Mixed baby? 😛) to come out. Membrane sweeps don’t always work as a means of inducing labour but I knew that there was a chance it would, so the night before my appointment I made sure to fit in one last good workout, had a glass of wine, and got a good night’s sleep.

Anticipating the possibility of labour, I checked my older two into daycare the morning of my appointment (cleaning up spilled Cheerios mid-contraction would NOT be my idea of a fun labour). My appointment was at 10:40am. My midwife performed the membrane sweep, did a vaginal exam (already 3cm dilated!!) and measured my fundal height. I had not gotten any bigger over the last few weeks so she decided to send me for a last-minute ultrasound to make extra extra sure baby was ok in there. My husband and I grabbed a coffee and made our way over to the X-ray department (which is around the corner from the OB clinic. Yay, Naval Hospital!) While we were waiting I started feeling some very mild contractions – it was working! We got our ultrasound then made our way to the L&D deck to get some fetal monitoring. Our midwife met us as the monitoring finished, and told us that although baby measured in the 17th percentile for weight, her head and abdomen both seemed to be measuring below the 5th. She told us that at this point she would be much more comfortable if baby came out so he/she (we were waiting to find out the gender) could start breastfeeding and putting on some weight. It wasn’t so urgent that it required a Cesarean, but it did mean induction.

So hubby went and picked up the kids while I went home and gathered my thoughts. Everyone reconvened at home, had a snack, packed some last-minute things, and we were off again. We dropped the kids off at my friend’s house for a sleepover then went straight to the hospital. We arrived at 3:30 and got settled before meeting our OB.

Unfortunately my midwife wasn’t on-call that night (bummer!) but we did have another wonderful OB check me in and devise a plan with me. I had been having mild contractions all day at this point, so instead of going straight to a medical induction with Pitocin she said she’d perform another membrane sweep and see if that helped speed things along. It did! Within 30 minutes I was getting regular contractions that were increasing in intensity; I was in active labour.  Aside: my doctors encouraged me to eat before I came in and allowed me to snack until 9:30. I know many doctors don’t allow, or at least strongly discourage or even guilt-trip women from eating while in labour, but I have to say - as someone who has done it both ways - having that food in my belly made a HUGE difference in my state of mind and of course my energy, which you need lots of for labour. I would absolutely encourage any woman to speak to her OB/Midwife about eating during labour, and fight for it. Do know that there will likely come a point where the contractions are so intense that if you eat you will throw it up (that happened to me with my first). But in early labour especially it is a sanity-saver. 

I labored naturally from 4:30pm – 9:30pm. It was hard, but not unmanageable. Grey's was on, so that kept me distracted. There was a point, I hope I'll never forget, where I was alone in my room and felt the baby kicking, and I knew at that moment that that was probably the last time I would ever feel a little one moving inside me. I broke down in tears and absorbed every single sensation, then said a special Thank You to God for giving me these four beautiful pregnancy experiences. John came in and I cried on his shoulder. He of all people knows how much I love being pregnant, but cheered me up a little by reminding me that holding our baby soon would be such a wonderful feeling. The next doctor (shift change) checked me at 9pm and I had only dilated an extra 2cm, so he felt at that point that it would be best to start Pitocin. An hour after they started the Pitocin I cried “uncle” and opted for an epidural! Lol Pitocin is no joke. People have said to me “you’re so tough - you probably have a really high pain tolerance”. WRONG! The discomfort I inflict on myself while training (which can be stopped at any time I choose) is VASTLY different from the involuntary, relentless pain you endure during labour. I would never ever subject myself to that on a daily basis.

Another Aside: I have had an epidural for every one of my deliveries. For my first, I had been in labour for 36 hours (at least 20 of those were active) when I was finally admitted to the hospital and given an epidural. Best relief of my LIFE! It was so wonderful that I barely hesitated to do it again with my second. But because I had been medically induced with her and then wasn’t allowed to eat (see note above), the combination of Pitocin, hunger/fatigue intense contractions and epidural turned into a terrible experience and I swore I’d never do both again! Fast forward to my third delivery and everything – from the process of being induced, to my mental state going into the day, to the intake process at the hospital – was SO much better! My husband reassured me that this time would likely be much better than last, given that my body and mind were both feeling so much stronger. And he was right! The pain never fully disappeared, but this time I didn’t really want it to. On a scale of 1-10, my pain was still at about a 5 or 6, and that was fine by me 😊

By the time everything got set up I only ended up having the epidural in for about an hour before I started pushing. My doctor came in to check me around 11:30 and, holy geez, I was 10cm! The baby was right there! He told me to hang tight – NO PUSHING! – while he went and got his things. While we waited the nurses told me they could actually see the baby crowning, and asked if I’d like a mirror to check it out. I’ve never wanted to scar myself with that visual, but for some reason this time I was curious. Maybe because this was our last baby, and I knew this would be my last chance to ever see it. So I looked and….wow… and yep, I could see baby’s head in my hoo-ha. Black hair and all. It almost looked foreign - like an object that’s not meant to be there. But babies really are meant to be there! What a weird, cool moment.

The moment I first laid eyes on her

The doctor came back in and the rest was a whirlwind; while he set up, the nurses got all my limbs in place and within a couple minutes it was time to push. “PUSH! 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10!” Quick breath, and resume pushing. “Ok, ok! Just a little push this time. Easy, easy…. Baby’s out!” You read that right people, two pushes and that was it! The next thing I heard was my husband announce “It’s a girl!” which was not at all a surprise, because we had both had a feeling all along that baby was a she. “We called it!” I said. And then this tiny crying goopy black-haired angel was placed on my chest. They let me hold her for probably 20 minutes before taking her to check her. A little small (5lbs 11oz) but perfectly healthy. We took pictures, we called our parents, and I delivered my placenta. No tearing or stitches (ah, the benefits of delivering a small baby). The epidural wore off nicely and I was up and lumbering around a couple hours later. I started nursing as soon as they finished measuring her  while John went out and got me a celebratory burger and fries (I highly recommend a huge delicious meal post-delivery - no meal will ever taste so good and lord knows you’ve earned it.) Naya slept well most of the night but I was too excited to sleep. The next day went well, and the only issue I had with the whole recovery was a lack of bowel movement for 4 days. Not comfortable, but it ain’t too bad!

Loving siblings meet 

 Our little Naya. The final member of our family, whom we had been waiting our whole lives to meet. I knew I wanted her since before I even met my husband, and it felt so good to finally be holding my third baby. Still does 💖 She was by far and away my best birth experience. Although I had hoped to just go into labour naturally and not be induced at all, I think all things considered it could not have gone any better because, as a friend pointed out, no labour ever goes exactly the way we “plan”. And I think any mother would agree: we will gladly go through ANYTHING, just as long as our precious babies are ok. We are so thrilled to finally have you with us, beautiful baby Naya!  

Sadly, due to two separate cell phone incidents we have very few photos of Naya in her first few weeks of life 😞. Moral of the story: back-up your photos OFTEN! 

Monday, 17 October 2016

Baby Prep: Freezer Meals

If I had one piece of advice for expectant parents (especially first-timers) it would be to prepare 1-2 weeks worth of freezer meals ahead of baby's arrival!

Although newborns are actually quite simple beings - feed, change, cuddle - those three simple tasks can completely consume your first few weeks with them. Whether you're tied to the sofa breastfeeding for hours each day, recovering from a C-section, or trying to get your colic baby to stop crying for just 30 straight minutes, there are lots of ways in which a baby can distract you from your own basic human functions. And in my experience, eating is the first thing to go (followed closely by showering)! I'll never forget those first few weeks alone with my son, when my helpers (aka. family) had gone back to work/school/home, I basically survived on granola bars and cucumber chunks during the day. And when it came time for dinner.....? Well, it was a lot of late meals because we had to wait for my husband or sister to get home to start cooking. I just COULD NOT! And daily takeout just wasn't an option.

My second and third time around I knew better, and I've prepared accordingly. On Sunday my girlfriends and I went to Costco and did a massive grocery haul.
Another thing you will really NOT feel like doing after birth: grocery shopping!

When I got home I spent about 3 hours preparing 8 crockpot freezer meals. I also bought 8 small pre-made chicken pot pies, so in total we have 10-12 days worth of dinners taken care of.

For your shopping and cooking convenience, I've included all the recipes I used and my grocery list below :-) I chose recipes that had at least a protein and vegetable, and ideally also included a starch. I dunno... I just feel like it's not an "easy meal" if the meat is done in the crockpot but I still have to cook a separate veg and carb. Are these recipes squeaky clean? Meeeeeeehhhhh. They'll fill your belly and won't break the bank. Are these recipes kid-friendly? Well, I guess that depends on your kid ;-)

Grocery List

-lean ground beef 4 lb
-beef stew cubes, 5 lb
-chicken breast, 2.5 lb
-bone-in chicken thigh, 3 lb
-kielbasa sausage, 12-14oz

-onion, 6 medium
-carrots, 11 medium
-red potatoes, 4 large
-celery, 1 head
-mushrooms, 1.5 lb
-diced butternut squash, 2 cups
-limes, 2
-cilantro, 1 bunch
-red onion, 1
-garlic, 2 heads

-onion soup mix, 2 pkg
-mild taco seasoning mix, 1
-chili seasoning mix, 1
-barley, 1 cup
-brown lentils, 4 cups

-black beans, 2 (16oz) 
-Red kidney beans, 1 (15oz)
-stewed tomatoes, 2 (14oz)
-diced tomato, 5 (14oz)
-tomato sauce, 3 (16oz)
-cream of mushroom soup, 3 (10oz) 
-vegetable stock, 2 qts
-diced green chilis, (4oz)
-coconut milk, 1 (14oz)

-frozen corn, 2x 16oz
-green peas, 10oz

Pantry Staples
-curry powder
-Italian seasoning
-gallon-sized freezer/storage bags

Getting ready: colander, scale, can opener, scissors,
peeler, bags and labels, cutting board and knife, and instructions! 


1) Black Bean Taco Soup (Six Sisters Stuff)

1 lb lean ground beef (or turkey)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 package mild taco seasoning mix
1 (16 oz) bag frozen corn
1 (16 oz) can black beans drained and rinsed (you could use kidney beans or pinto beans)
2 (14 oz) cans stewed tomatoes
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (4 oz) can diced green chilis
Brown meat and onion, drain. Let meat cool for a minute, then dump into a resealable gallon-sized freezer bag. Dump the remaining ingredients into the bag, mix together, and zip bag closed. When ready to eat, remove from freezer and thaw in fridge for 24 hours. 
Cook time: HIGH for 1-2 hours or LOW for 2-3 1/2 hours.
Serve with: sour cream, guacamole and tortilla chips

2) Hearty Beef Stew (Six Sisters Stuff)

1 lb beef stew cubes
4 carrots, sliced
4 red potatoes, cut into large cubes
1 package dry onion soup mix
2 cans 98% fat-free cream of mushroom soup
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (10 oz) package frozen green peas
Place all ingredients in a resealable gallon-sized freezer bag. Mix together and zip bag closed. When ready to eat, remove from freezer and thaw in fridge for 24 hours. 
Cook time: LOW for 7-10 hours or HIGH for 5-6 hours

3) Cilantro Lime Chicken w/ Corn and Black Beans (Six Sisters Stuff)

1.5 lbs chicken breasts
Juice from 2 limes
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1 (16 oz) bag frozen corn
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste
Place all ingredients in a resealable gallon-sized freezer bag. Mix together and zip bag closed. When ready to eat, remove from freezer and thaw in fridge for 24 hours. 
Cook time: LOW for 8 hours (or HIGH for 4 hours).
Serve with: tortillas and toppings such as with sour cream, guacamole, salsa, and cheese.

4) Slow Cooker Beef and Mushrooms (Six Sisters Stuff)

3 lbs stew meat, cubed
1 (10.75 oz) can cream of mushroom soup
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup apple juice
1 (1 oz) packet dry onion soup mix
Combine all ingredients in a resealable gallon-sized freezer bag. Zip closed.
When ready to eat, remove from freezer and thaw in fridge for 24 hours. 
Cook time: HIGH for 6 hours or LOW for 10 hours.
Serve with: rice

5) Mom’s Slow Cooker Chili (Six Sisters Stuff)

1 lb ground beef (you could also use ground turkey)
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1/4 cup ketchup or chili sauce
1/4 cup water
1 (15 oz) can dark red kidney beans
1 packet chili seasoning mix
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 tbs sugar
Brown ground beef with chopped onion. While they are browning, combine all other ingredients in resealable gallon-sized freezer bag. When the browned hamburger and onion has cooled down, add it to the rest of the ingredients in the freezer bag and zip closed.
When ready to eat, remove from freezer and thaw in fridge for 24 hours. 
Cook time: HIGH for 3-4 hours or LOW for 7-8 hours.
Serve With: shredded cheese and corn chips

6) Mushroom Barley Stew (Hello Glow)

1 lb beef stew cubes (wasn't in the original recipe, so I added them)
16 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
1 celery rib, sliced
1 onion, chopped
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 cup uncooked barley
*2 quarts vegetable stock 
Directions: Add all ingredients except vegetable stock to a gallon-sized freezer bag. When ready to eat, remove from freezer and thaw in fridge for 24 hours. Add 2 quarts vegetable stock to the slow cooker before cooking.
Cook time: 8 hours on LOW
Serve with: hot, crusty bread or rolls

7) Lentil-Butternut Squash Curry (Hello Glow)

1 lb chicken breast (wasn't in the original recipe, so I added them)
1 onion, diced
2 cups red or brown lentils, 
2 cups butternut squash, cubed
1 large carrot, sliced
1 (14 oz) can coconut milk,
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 tbs curry powder
2 tsp salt
Directions: Add all ingredients to a gallon-sized freezer bag. When ready to eat, remove from freezer and thaw in fridge for 24 hours. Add 4 cups water to the slow cooker before cooking. Check halfway and add more water if needed. If soup is too thick at the end, add more water.
Cook time: 6-8 hours on LOW
Serve with: hot, cooked rice, flatbread, raita

8) Sausage Lentil Soup (Hello Glow)

12 -14 oz  kielbasa sausage, sliced
2 cups brown lentils
2 carrots, diced
1 celery rib, diced
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
Add all ingredients to a gallon-sized freezer bag. For best flavor, brown kielbasa and diced onion, let cool completely before adding to bag (optional, but results in a better flavor and texture). When ready to eat, remove from freezer and thaw in fridge for 24 hours. Add 2 quarts of water or stock to the slow cooker before cooking
Cook time: 4-5 hours on HIGH
Serve with: fresh bread and/or rice

 Of course you can swap out recipes as you like - these are just my own tastes :-) But I think most parents would agree: if you have the time to prepare even a week's worth of meals ahead of baby's arrival, DO IT! You are all going to need all the energy and nourishment you can get, especially if you (or your partner) are breastfeeding. And bonus: the less time you spend cooking, the more time you have to snuggle with that precious little newborn. 

Monday, 3 October 2016

The Phrase “Get Your Body Back” Has No Business in the Baby-Making Business

6-Week Plan To Get Your Body Back! Get Your Body Back After Baby! Easy Ways to Get Your Body Back!

Since when did having a baby “ruin” a woman’s body? Since when is the word “change” synonymous with “destruction”? When people say “Get Your Body Back Post-Baby” I think: but your body hasn’t GONE anywhere. It’s exactly where you are right now, and it’s been with you every step of the way.

Coming from a bodybuilding background I learned some time ago that our bodies are in a constant state of flux – when I am dieting for a show I'm a lean size 0; when I’m off-season I’m a softer size 4; clothes from 6 years ago no longer fit because I have put on 10lbs of muscle since then, and my dimensions have changed because I have grown my back and tapered down my legs. We won't even get into what kind of annoying implications this has for my wardrobe....

First show 2010

Fourth show 2013

When I am pregnant my belly gets bigger, I accumulate fat on my hips, and my pelvis shifts; in the weeks immediately following birth my tummy is soft, my breasts are large and I still have that fat on my hips; as time passes my uterus shrinks, breasts deflate, I lean out because my training and diet intensify, and my butt looks smaller because I always seem to lose muscle in that area during pregnancy. The skin on my stomach will forever be softer than anywhere else, and my spine is noticeably (likely permanently) altered. Change is the name of the game of both bodybuilding and life: your body is a reflection of what you are doing today, and what you have done in weeks and years prior.

1 week postpartum with baby #1
1 week postpartum with baby #2
37 weeks pregnant with baby #3

Let me ask you, when you say “get my body back”, to which body are you referring? The one you had immediately before becoming pregnant? The one you had in college? The one you had on your wedding day? Your body has looked different at all these stages (even if the differences have been minute ones) and I’ll be totally honest, it’ll never look the EXACT same as it did at any of those points again. You have lived since then - you got older, and you have changed. You would never hear a grown woman say “I want my prepubescent body back”, or a 60 year-old say “I’m going to get my 40-year old body back” No! Because we all know there is no going back after such big life events. Now that’s not to say you can’t look BETTER than before (I have seen some rockin’ 50-year old bodies, and I personally feel I look better now than I ever have)…. but you will not look the SAME. And that's ok! You were never meant to.

University 2005
Heaviest weight 2011
Wedding Day 2012
Fall 2015

Perhaps a better thing to say would be “I really want to regain my lost muscle mass after I have the baby”, or “I'm going to match my pre-pregnancy fitness level”, or even “I want to lose the weight I gained with the pregnancy”. At least these statements take into account the fact that you’ve just had a freaking BABY! But saying you lost your body is not giving dues to the incredible thing you have accomplished – a thing that is a very normal part of life, and which in fact the female body was designed for. You haven’t lost your body, you’ve actually fulfilled its highest purpose! All you can do now is work with the changes.

To fitness professionals, we need to stop saying “let’s get your body back” and start asking “so what would you like to accomplish with your body now?”