A Tribute to Eve

As I lie here in my hospital bed several hours from being discharged with the hard knowledge I will be leaving here having gone through labor but will not be bringing home a baby I wonder what the next 24 hours, or for that matter all my days here on out, will bring. I started out the year 2013 pregnant, miscarried early on with my first, and after a D and E and one cycle got pregnant again with my second. As I mentioned in my last post this second pregnancy has been almost flawless. I kept working, teaching, and training until less than a week before my due date. I stayed strong and relieved stress by practicing yoga each day, strength training many days a week, and going on daily run/walks to keep my endurance up. Although I went past my due date I felt strong up until the very end. Unfortunately the end looked very different from what I had imagined.

On New Year’s Eve I was 40 weeks and two days pregnant and my husband and I celebrated the day by running some last-minute errands for the nursery and making last-minute preparations. My husband made my favorite half spinach pesto half spinach sauce and cheese pizza with a whole wheat crust (our newly nicknamed “Christmas Pizza”) and the baby went wild for it inside my belly as I ate. We joked about her Herculean strength and about how the pizza would surely induce labor later that evening.

The next morning started out like any other, I took my dog out for a run/walk. After breakfast we all cuddled on the couch for the Rose Bowl parade and I noticed the baby seemed quiet. I prodded my belly for a bit and did feel slight movement. I thought she might be engaging her head in the birth canal and ready to come out since at our last appointment the nurse assured us movement would slow with time.

A few hours later I was still concerned so my husband encouraged me to call the emergency obgyn number to get in touch with a doctor. I did and the doctor recommended lying still and drinking something with glucose. If we felt any movement within that hour we could relax. I did this and felt a few small kicks. Though still less than usual movement was movement and we could wait and see if things picked up. I took a warm bath and did some prenatal yoga to calm myself down hoping this would relax me enough to go into labor and meet my baby girl that night.

After no movement during dinner we tried the rest and glucose test again and felt nothing. At this point I called the doctor again and he told me to come to the hospital to get hooked up to a fetal monitor.

Shaking, I anxiously got in the car and my husband drove me over. We were taken to a triage room and they checked the baby for a heartbeat. For the first time since that fateful day during our first pregnancy the nurse couldn’t pick one up. Different nurses came with different devices but none worked. The doctor was called in to make the final and terminal announcement: there was no longer a heartbeat to be found, our baby was dead.

I was totally in shock as we discussed what needed to be done. For some reason I had assumed there was a way to quickly and surgically remove the baby. This is typically not the case, it became clear that to avoid unsafe complications I needed to go into labor soon and birth my daughter vaginally.

I began the medical induction process late that night and was hooked up to an IV. I spent that night awake even though the nurses worked on easing pain and inducing sleep with morphine.

Family from both sides arrived the next day as the labor process continued. The forced labor advanced and contractions became more intense. Food was out of the question during the process as I vomited out whatever was put in me. A saving grace to get me through these harder contractions were yoga poses. The handful I tried with the help of my husband allowed me to get some release and I was thankful that daily practice made them possible even when my body was not working optimally. The breathing I had been practicing certainly came in handy for handling the pain throughout.

Over the next night the real contractions began and I could tell labor was progressing faster. Again, yoga poses and breath got me through the toughest part and even helped me to hold still when receiving the epidural.

As labor further progressed there was the slow realization that as the induction medication was being increased the pain relief medication was not working. My husband helped me through many painful hours of constant contracting with barely a break. It was at this time I became most grateful for the strength in my upper body. With the epidural numbing me in some areas but not the ones that saved me from feeling the intense medically induced contractions my arms were essential in changing positions which helped get me through this difficult period of labor. Thankfully it was agreed the epidural needed to be reset and afterwards things got much more bearable and labor progressed as it should have.

The final stage made me so grateful that I had kept up with my strength, endurance, and flexibility training. All three were needed for the final pushing phase. Though my body was tired from days of medically forced labor, no sleep, a fever of 103, and no food save for many cups of ice with water and Gatorade, I was able to gather all my strength to finish what needed to be done. It took 30 minutes or so of pushing to get my 8lb 8oz 23 inch long little girl into the world. The mental toughness from my endurance training allowed me to push knowing that there would be no happy ending on the other side, the breathing and relaxation techniques I learned in yoga helped me to work efficiently within the moment, and the strength I had in my abdominals and legs made each push more productive and the whole process faster. I attribute flexibility for not needing a single stitch postpartum, even after Eve’s shoulders got stuck.

My daughter Eve looked healthy, strong, and beautiful in her “sleeping” state. As I held her sobbing I wished more than anything that my actions during pregnancy could have had more control over a favorable outcome. The doctors have assured me that there was nothing more I could have done to prevent this senseless tragedy. Like any mother in my situation I am finding it extremely hard to not blame myself for what happened. The most I can hope for is that little Eve enjoyed her time inside me, the bonding we did each evening doing prenatal yoga in the nursery, the long walks and jogs where she got to react to the sounds of Dee our family dog, the classes I taught where she danced to the music along with me, and the quiet times we meditated together imagining what her life would be like once she was here. Never did I imagine what happened but what mother could?

I’ve learned the hard truth that a fit pregnancy does not guarantee a perfect outcome in the end. It can however keep you strong to deal with whatever changes come your way, both the good and the bad. I thought I’d need strength to have the ability to bounce back physically in order to take the best care of my baby and get back to my job. As it turns out I will need more strength than I ever thought possible when I am released today and in the days ahead and though I am heartbroken down to my core I am grateful for having the coping mechanisms I do to deal with things in a healthy way.

I hope Eve knew how much her mommy loved her and tried her best to keep her happy, healthy, and safe during the short time she was here. She’ll be in my heart forever and always, a humbling reminder that even though a healthy lifestyle will not make us invincible or immune to life’s tragedies it is helpful for giving us the strength to get through them, however long that road may be.

Are You Afraid of the Gym?

Halloween is a day synonymous with fear.  It’s the one day a year when instead of putting aside our fears we are expected to revel in them.  Going to a haunted house might make you shudder a bit but how about stepping into the gym?  Do the musclebound men grunting their way to perfection make you queasy?  Do the mats that may or may not have ever been sanitized gross you out more than the gratuitous violence in a low-budget horror film?  Are you worried about looking more idiotic than the guy at your Halloween office party dressed as Little Bo Peep?  If any of these things ring true to you, adhere to the following tips to make your trip to the gym a little less spooky:

1.) No one’s looking at you, kid:  When feeling self conscious during your workout try to remember that most of the other gym-goers are in the same boat.  People are likely more interested in getting through their workout quickly, efficiently, and sans any embarrassing fumbles than in how many pounds you are loading on to the squat rack.  Though it sometimes may feel that way, working out is not a competition and those who think that it is are usually too busy ogling themselves in the  mirror to notice your conservative weight choice on the lat pull down.

2.) Be a big fish in a small pond: Though there are plenty of beautiful, well run “big box” gyms if you are new to exercise, smaller is usually better.  Smaller, boutique style gyms where everybody knows your name will be easier to navigate and are usually equipped with at least a few professionals who are there to do just that.  Rather than being lost in a crowd wondering what that trapezoidal contraption in the corner is supposed to do for your body you will easily be able to find someone to explain it to you.  No matter what your ego says, a little hand holding never hurt anyone and is especially important to prevent injury if you are new to the gym.

3.) Be the change you want to see in the gym: Concerned about the cleanliness of gym equipment?  Try wiping down machines before and after you use them.  Laying a towel down on the bench or mat prior to use is also helpful in creating a barrier between you and germs.  Also remember you do get what you pay for when it comes to working out.  Fancy-schmancy gyms usually have more money in the budget to higher cleaning staff and trainers who are paid well tend to care more about the state of the gym they work for than those who are not.  If you do go the budget-friendly route just make sure you are religious about your sanitizing.  Set a good example and others might just follow your lead.

I hope this makes your gym experience a little less frightening,

Happy Halloween!



Stay Fit When Summer Hits

Summer is a mixed bag when it comes to health and fitness, on one hand you have the availability of numerous outdoor activities such as swimming, hiking, running, walking, tennis, and golf to keep you moving when the temperatures rise.  On the other hand you have nutritional challenges such as backyard barbecues, family vacations, and trips to the ice cream parlor that can make it tough to stick to your usual healthy eating plan.  The following are some tips to keep you fit from Memorial Day to Labor Day:

Make use of longer days:   Enjoy a pre-breakfast run or post-dinner walk to avoid working out during the hottest hours of the day.  If you must workout midday be sure to wear light clothing made of moisture-wicking fabric and stay hydrated throughout.  Too hot to be outside?  Make use of indoor fitness classes in your air-conditioned gym!

Be proactive at parties: Bring a healthy dish to share at your next back yard barbecue.  It will give you at least one healthy option and odds are others will appreciate having something nutritious to munch on.

Think locally: Sure cheeseburgers off the grill are synonymous with summer but so are fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables.  Make use of farmers markets or take a family outing to a “pick your own” farm to get some exercise while enjoying the fruits of your labor.

Come back from vacation feeling better, not worse:  Often times vacations become a vacation from health.  Indulging a bit on foods you truly enjoy is fine, just be sure they are worth it.  That fried lobster may be too good to pass up, but save some calories by ditching the blah potato chips alongside.  Try that same balance when it comes to exercise.  A little rest is a good thing, but be sure to keep up with some feel-good activity such as walking the beach, stretching, or swimming laps in the hotel pool.

By taking a few simple measures to stay fit and healthy you can get the most out of the season and still stay on track.  Have a fun and fit summer!

Eat Like a Bird

If you thought eating seeds was for the birds, think again.  Good things come in  small packages and these little nuggets of nutrition can do a lot of good for your body.  Experiment with the following varieties to add some nutritional bang to your calorie buck:

Chia Seeds:  You may be familiar with the name, and yes it is the same seed used to grow “hair” on the Chia Pet,  but did you know the roots of the chia seed go back to Aztec and Mayan civilization?  The word chia means “strength” and eating these little seeds will surely make you feel stronger since they are packed with protein, antioxidants, fiber, and omega 3’s.  You can learn more about chia seeds here.

Flax Seeds: Another superstar in the seed category, flax seeds are full of omega 3’s and lignans, are great for digestion, keep cells healthy, and lower cholesterol.  You can read more about flax seeds here.

Caraway Seeds: At times eating a healthy diet full of raw vegetables and fruit can be a little harsh on the digestive system.  Caraway seeds are not only rich in vitamins and minerals, they also act as a powerful digestive aid.  Eating a handful after meals can help fight digestive discomfort and bloating.  Warning: caraway seeds have a strong flavor when eaten alone and can taste slightly bitter, you may want to chase them with something sweet.  You can read more about caraway seeds here.

Use them for topping your yogurt, bake them into muffins, or enjoy them on their own.  Experiment with seeds and see what a difference it makes in your diet…if you find they aren’t for you, throw them in the bird feeder!