5 THINGS I WISH SOMEONE HAD TOLD ME BEFORE I WENT INTO LABOR

This post has been a long time coming. I've gone back and forth a million times on what to call it, how to format it and, most importantly, how much to share. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I don't think anyone comes by motherhood easily. Whether you gave birth, adopted, had a surrogate, are a stepmom or something else, it's all hard. And quite honestly, I had a mostly scare-free pregnancy and a relatively non-dramatic labor and delivery. For these things I'm endlessly grateful. Nothing below is meant as a complaint. It's just my truth. For some of you, this is likely Too Much Information. For me, I'm just scratching the surface. For everything I say below, know there is far more unsaid. It's tough to know where to draw the line but I feel quite strongly that these are things that no one really talks about, and I feel an even stronger pull to talk about them. So here are 5 things I wish someone had told me before I went into labor and had a baby...

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When the nurse offers you pain medication in the recovery room, FOR GOD'S SAKE TAKE IT. Holy regret. I've said this before and it's worth repeating. I was NOT prepared for the pain that set in once the epidural wore off. I was so focused on laboring and delivering Ari (see more on that below) and then I was in such a state of baby bliss that it never occurred to me that I was in for a world of hurt once the epidural stopped doing its thing.

The first thing our nurse did when we were wheeled into our recovery room was offer me Motrin, and I looked at her like she was nuts. "I don't need that," I huffed. "You don't have to take it," she said. But what I WISH she'd said was, "BUT YOU SHOULD, YOU IDIOT." I am not anti-OTC meds by any means, but I also don't take them very often. I'm a believer that most minor pains can be solved with lots of water and lots of sleep, so it's pretty rare in my every day life that I reach for an Advil. I don't know that taking the Motrin at that moment would've made a HUGE difference, but I do imagine it would've taken the edge off. The contrast of going from feeling groovy to all of the sudden being in excruciating pain was shocking.

Breastfeeding is hard. ...and in the end, it didn't work for us. I was determined to try, and I did. But no one truly tells you how challenging it is. My mom didn't breastfeed and I was totally clueless. I kept asking our nurses to send the lactation consultant in because I had no idea what I was doing and they promised me over and over again that she was coming. She did, and she was wonderful, but unfortunately this was AFTER Ari had a poor latch and cut me up pretty badly. (YES THAT'S A THING.) No one had told me the difference between a good latch and a bad latch, tongue ties, lip ties, etc. In the end I had to stop nursing and pumping shortly after we got home for a myriad of reasons, but I can't help but wonder if things might have gone differently if the lactation consultant had come the day Ari was born. What I do know is that for us, fed is best, and I literally Thank God every single day of our lives for formula. Ari is a great eater and a happy, healthy baby. I think there may always be a part of me that feels guilty that I couldn't do what other mothers seem to do so effortlessly, but it is what it is and I'm going to leave it at that.

You can focus on labor & delivery all you want but the truth is that the recovery lasts far longer. I obsessed over labor and delivery my entire pregnancy, which is ironic because Ben and I didn't take a single child birthing class. (He even cracked a joke when the doctor came in and said, "You're ready to push." I was all, "I don't know how!" and Ben goes, "Just do what they showed us in Lamaze class!") Even so, I was so consumed by the idea of being strong enough for the labor and delivery that I never once, not for a single second, wondered what my recovery would be like. Oh, Teddi...

 No one really wants to say that birthing a baby is a trauma to your body but I'm here to tell you it is. Sure, it's "natural" but so what? I pushed for three long hours because I birthed a big baby out of a small pelvis. And I plan on holding it over Ben's head for the rest of our lives. Kidding. Maybe.

The truth is that L&D took far longer than I'd expected and my recovery was much, much more difficult than I anticipated. Of course, I have no basis for comparison. On the flip side, I'm comforted by the knowledge that if we have another kid, I'll at least have a better idea of what I'm in for.

The hormones are unlike anything you've experienced before. Or, they were unlike anything I'VE ever experienced before. Because I've never been one to be affected by period hormones or birth control hormones. People would talk about them and I'd just think, "Huh?" I've never had PMS and I didn't feel too terribly different emotionally during my pregnancy. But the extreme highs and lows I felt in the days following giving birth were terrifying to me. I felt like I was on a rollercoaster and to quote my beloved Bethenny Frankel I just kept thinking, "Stop the ride. I want to get off."

When Ari was placed on my chest I cried hysterically because I didn't know what else to do. She and I both worked so hard to bring her into this world safely, and I knew her heart rate was low towards the end and I was so scared. Once we were in recovery, I'd go from feeling overcome with joy that after 33 years I was FINALLY a mother to suddenly being scared out of my mind that I was suddenly a mom and I had no idea what I was doing. The physical pain was also affecting me mentally, not to mention I was so sleep-deprived. I will never forget someone I don't know sent me a direct message on Instagram that said, "DO NOT send your baby to the nursery at night! It's the worst thing you can do! They need to be with you at all times!" Well, guess what, random Instagrammer whose opinion I did not ask for? I sure did send her to the nursery AND I DON'T REGRET IT FOR A SECOND. At that point in time Ari was already being supplemented with formula because of challenges I was having, so the few hours of sleep I got while the nurses looked after her were my truly bridge from despair to hope and I had enough sense not to let myself stew in guilt over it. 

My hormones were at peak insanity the day we brought Ari home from the hospital. Our discharge was very strange and anticlimactic and left Ben and I both feeling pretty uncomfortable. We had a wonderful experience overall, but when it came time to leave they were basically like, "PEACE!"  No one walked us out to our car and helped us put Ari in the carseat. We had no idea what we were doing and we were totally flustered and she was screaming. Once we were home there was so much going on and I was still in so much pain and completely overwhelmed. I overheard my mother in law say to our baby nurse, "I'm the grandmother," and I immediately thought, "Oh right, because my mom is dead." Which is such a gross way of putting it but that was literally my guttural reaction. Suddenly, her absence sunk in. It sounds absurd but it hit me at that moment like a pile of bricks that I was finally a mother, my own mother was still gone, and Ari only has ONE grandmother. I hadn't really had time to mull over that thought process in the past 72 hours and now it was all I could think about. I will never forget how I stumbled into our living room, sat on the couch next to Winnie and just sobbed into her fur. Perri came and sat next to me wordlessly and held me and cried into my arm. My dad then came into the room, looked at the three of us and said something to the effect of, "Oh, brother." It was a dramatic sight, I'm certain, and I still shudder when I think of that moment.

Hindsight is 20/20. My mother in law is an amazing grandmother and Ari is so lucky to have her. I told her that I hope she has the relationship with Ari that I had with my Nana. God, it was a hard thing for me to say because it kills me that Ari is robbed of a relationship with my own mother - and that will never not feel horribly unfair to me - but I meant every word of it.

Your body will never be the same again. In the weeks after giving birth when people would say to me, "Your body will never be the same again," it made me fuming mad. "What do they know!!!" I'd think. "I know plenty of hot moms!" Now that I'm a little further away from it, I get it. For the record, "Your body will never be the same again," can come off to a hormonal new mom as "Your body will never be strong, firm or beautiful again," and for that reason it's a sentence I personally will never say to another new mom. On its own, it sounds REALLY negative. But I GET IT NOW. It just means that your body went through something life changing and it isn't the same. Personally, I'm determined to get even stronger and lift even heavier than I did pre-Ari. But once you've given birth, there's no turning back. And truthfully, I'd never want to. 

After I gave birth my friend Mallory told me something that goes like this: "Welcome to the largest sorority in the world. The hazing is crazy." I've always loved kids and I've dreamed of being a mom my entire life. I'm still in disbelief that it's here, that she's here. God, the beginning was tough in ways I never expected. Ben posted a photo of Ari on Instagram a few days after she was born and wrote, "Teddi, what an unbelievable weekend!" I read that and thought, "Seriously? Sure, you didn't actually have to do anything!" Unbelievable? True. Yes, if you're lucky, you have a wonderful husband or partner who is holding your hand and there with you. But when you're the only one giving birth, you're also the only one experiencing the pain and the hormones. For me, that part was incredible isolating because I couldn't put into words how I was feeling and therefore I didn't know how to talk to Ben about it. It was easy for him to brag about his beautiful baby girl without a second thought. It took me a few weeks to realize that he can brag all he wants, but I get the joy of being her mother. I'm the one who got to share a body with her and I'm the one who got the honor of bringing her into this world. YES, it's a huge responsibility and it tested me more than once. But being a mother - all of it - is unparalleled. Once that started to sink in and I got a real feel for being a mom - for being Ari's mom - I realized it was all worth every millisecond of pain and discomfort. 

I'm going to end this by saying that of every feeling I've felt over the past three or so months - and there have been A LOT of feelings, many moments of euphoria and admittedly moments of darkness too - the one feeling I keep going back to, the one that I go to bed with every night and wake up with every morning - is gratitude. I'm so grateful. I'm so damn grateful for every single bit of it. I'm more grateful than I could possibly ever say, write or express.

Ari and Ben, thank you so much for making me a mom. :)

P.S. 5 Things I wish someone had told me about pregnancy.

MY FOOD PHILOSOPHY (& HOW IT'S HELPED ME MAINTAIN MY WEIGHT FOR 7+ YEARS)

Whether you've known me for a long time or a little, it's hardly a secret that I love food. I have never been and will never be someone who does cleanses, has lemon juice instead of salad dressing or believes, "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels." While I do believe we should eat to live and not the other way around, I also feel strongly that food is meant to be enjoyed!

Something I've talked about openly with you is the fact that I was majorly unhealthy (and, in turn, unhappy) in my early- to mid-twenties. I was out of shape, weighed more than I should've, and truly had no real grasp of what or how I should be eating for my health. My diet consisted mainly of cheese and carbs. I think my decent metabolism is the only thing that kept me from being even more overweight. 

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I read many books as I made the transition to Teddi 3.0, if you will, and one of them was, of course, Naturally Thin by Bethenny Frankel. I read this cover to cover in the span of a few hours one day and while there's lots of good advice and I do recommend reading it if you're into that sort of thing (also check out Food Rules by Michael Pollan if you're a Food Book Nerd like moi) there is one thought process she shares that has stuck with me all this time.

Treat your diet like a bank account. 

Now, Bethenny goes into detail about how to apply this metaphor to your daily life - looking at calories as dollars, making withdrawals from the "bank," good "investments" vs. bad, etc. And I love all of this. But there's a piece of this theory that really hit home for me. It's become what I like to call my "food philosophy." It's a single question I ask myself before every single thing I eat.

"Is this worth it?"

Meaning...

· Is this worth working into my food budget today?

· Is this worth re-jigging my food plan today because it takes up more fat/carb macros than something else I'd normally eat?

· Is this worth the stomachache it might give me because it's fried/processed/junky/etc?

And most importantly...

· Is this WORTH eating? Will it fill me up and fuel me up?

As you've already guessed, this question is more important to ask when presented with an indulgent choice rather than a beautiful piece of fruit or a plate of roasted veggies. I ask myself this question constantly because it keeps me mindful and ensures I'm not snacking just to snack or eating things out of boredom, laziness, convenience etc. But when this question TRULY comes into play is typically when I'm out of the house, at a restaurant or place or event that offers food choices that don't typically live in my home.

My "rarely-to-never worth it" list is pretty long and specific because I'm picky, but here are a few highlights:

· Soda. I think I had it twice when I was pregnant, but otherwise, I stay far, far away.

· Any thick, sugary drink like a milkshake, Frappucino, Slurpee, etc. When you think about it, these are really so unsatisfying and almost NEVER worth it!

· Any sort of packaged baked good, like a boxed cookie or a plastic wrapped brownie. Knowing that it was mass produced and I can have it any ol' time makes it much less appealing.

 · Croutons. Stale bread cut into cubes. What a racket!

My "almost always worth it" list:

· A fresh donut from a place that specializes in donuts (Dough in Manhattan; Gordough's in Austin; Stan's in Chicago.)

· Waffle fries with Polynesian sauce from Chic-Fil-A. That's the Texas girl in me. (I know, I know. I like their chicken - not their politics...)

· A fresh biscuit when I'm down South.

· A bowl of pasta at a great Italian restaurant.

Giving "worth" to every single thing I buy, cook, order, put on my plate and eat has undoubtedly made me a more mindful eater. It allows me to examine my choices without obsessing over them. It encourages me to focus on quality first and it holds me accountable day in and day out.

The old me didn't think like this. I ate whatever was easy, quick, convenient and covered in cheese.

When I started doing yoga in 2011, I became much more aware of what I put into my body. Looking at it from different angles (downward facing dog, for instance) will do that to you! From there I began to pay attention not only to my portion sizes but what was on my plate to being with. Once I stopped to think, "Is this worth it?" before shoving it in my mouth, I realized that a lot of it wasn't worth it. This thought process enabled me to not only lose the weight I needed to, but to keep it off!

If you're looking to refine your diet, lose weight or simply focus on making better choices, give this way of thinking a whirl. I promise you it'll open your eyes and if you apply it consistently, I believe it'll help you make long-lasting change.

Photo: DAG Photography. Tank top: Koral.

YOUR INTERMITTENT FASTING QUESTIONS, ANSWERED!

There are several things I get asked about over and over and over again. Like...

Q: Where did you get your living room rug?

A: World Market

Q: What are your favorite shoes to lift weights in?

A: Nike Metcons or Converse. (If you want to try weight lifting but aren't ready to invest in new sneaks, try a great pair of grippy socks.)

Q: Where did you get your "A" necklace?

A: It's from Neiman Marcus and the designer is Roberto Coin.

I also get tons, tons, tons of questions on Intermittent Fasting, and even though I've written two posts on it already - a post about my first experience with 16:8/"Leangains" and a post about what I ate in a day while intermittent fasting - I decided to write a third because so many of you wanted more information! 

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Here's what you wanted to know.

Q: Why fast at all?

A: One point I want to make upfront is that FASTING and INTERMITTENT FASTING are two very different things. Intermittent fasting does NOT equate to starving yourself. 

I think the reason intermittent fasting is so appealing to people is because you're not necessarily changing the foods you're eating or reducing your caloric intake, rather you're letting time be your guide. Some people say, "You can eat whatever you want while doing IF," and I don't agree with that. I don't believe it's an excuse to go balls to the walls at the gourmet donut shop. I DO believe it can allow you more flexibility with your meals.

Case in point: if you're trying to eat 1400 calories a day and you budget yourself 450 for breakfast, 400 for lunch, 350 for dinner and 200 for snacks, well, you can see how that could be a bit daunting. However, if you're trying to fit 1400 calories into 8 hours... it's a whole new ball game.

I love IF for many reasons. Now that I have a baby, my mornings are a little crazy and not having to worry about making and feeding myself breakfast and a mid-morning snack is a plus. I find that IF also helps to cut down significantly on my sugar cravings. When you're fitting ALL of your nutrition into 8 hours, you think twice about every single thing you're consuming. Empty calories become FAR less appealing. Personally I also love having a clear cut start and stop time for eating. No more midnight snacking or late night glasses of milk 'just because.'

Most of all, I love IF because it's EFFECTIVE. (Keep reading!)

Q: What kind of fast do you do, and how long is it?

A: I do a 16:8 fast, which is also known as Leangains. The idea is to fast for 16 hours and eat for 8. Leangains was established by a nutrition expert and former model who figured out that this way of eating is extremely effective when you're trying to lose fat without sacrificing muscle. Hence the name. Most people I've talked to "skip" breakfast as this is the easiest mealtime to give up for several reasons: 1) a lot of people don't like to eat breakfast; 2) a lot of people are busy in the morning and don't have a ton of time to make, get, or eat breakfast and 3) socially, it makes the most sense. When I intermittent fast, I typically eat from either 12-8 or 1-9, depending on what day of the week it is or what my/our plans are for any given day. 

Keep in mind that 16:8 is not for everyone, and there are several other ways to try an IF plan for weight loss. Leangains was created to be done in conjunction with weight lifting, which is why I love it. But I realize that not everyone is interested in making "lean gains" (losing fat while still maintaining and gaining muscle mass). I don't have any experience with the 5:2 (eat normally 5 days a week, eat less than 600 calories the other 2) or Alternate Days (eat normally one day, eat less than 600 calories the next). I love this Today Show segment that shows Kerry Sanders trying all three methods.

Q: How do I know if 16:8 is for me?

A: 16:8 might be for you if...

· You're looking to change your body composition (IE lose fat, maintain/gain muscle) in a healthy way (IE no crash diets, no gimmicks, no rapid weight loss, etc.).

· Your schedule allows you to work out in the late morning, afternoon or early evening. (You can pick any window to eat in you choose, but I personally think 12-8pm or 1-9pm is the most realistic and sociable.)

· You already lift weights or are interested in getting started.

16:8 might NOT be for you if...

· You have ZERO interest in weight lifting or being a muscular individual. Keep in mind it was established to be done in conjunction with weight lifting. This isn't to say it WON'T work otherwise, but personally I wouldn't recommend it to someone who doesn't do any sort of resistance training.

· Your schedule ONLY allows you to work out very early in the morning or very late at night. (Personally, I wouldn't want to have to skip lunchtime or dinnertime in order to make 16:8 work. Technically you can eat from 6pm to 2am and fast for the rest of the day, but to me that doesn't seem super realistic or like it would be easy to stick to, unless you have a unique schedule.)

· You have any sort of history of disordered eating and feel IF might be a trigger for you.

Q: Do you count macros while doing IF?

A: You can, but you don't necessarily have to. This really depends on the individual's goals. The first time I did intermittent fasting, I did it for 16 days and did not count macros. In those 16 days, I lost 2.8lbs of fat and gained 1.1lb of muscle. (I know this because I took my body composition immediately before and after. I would recommend doing this, and not going simply by your total weight. It's much more important to know your body fat mass and muscle mass.) This time around, I have more fat to lose and therefore I've been watching my macros a bit closer. My recommendation would be to try IF for a few weeks without counting macros, checking in with yourself and going from there.

Q: Can I drink anything other than water during the fasted period?

A: I get this question a ton, and the answer is complicated because it differs depending on who you talk to. Some people say to stick to black coffee or plain tea. Martin Berkhan (the creator of Leangains) says that a tiny splash of milk won't really affect anything. I've also read that the body can technically stay in a fasted state if 50 calories or less are consumed during the fasted period. This is the theory I followed during my first stint with IF. I had iced coffee with a little milk every morning (always measured) and still saw great results. This time around, I'm trying to stick to black iced coffee. My advice would be to start with adding a tiny bit of something (honey to tea, milk to coffee) and see how you feel. If you feel you're not getting the results you want, take that away and keep on. (People ask about sugarless gum as well and my advice is to skip it. Gum isn't all that great for you to begin with and it can also cause bloat. The chewing motions may make you hungrier. I just don't think it's worth it. Concentrate on upping your water intake instead.)

Q: What's the deal with fasted cardio?

A: I admittedly don't have a ton of experience with this, so if you're looking for more information I recommend checking out this article

Q: How can I lose body fat more effectively?

A. Start lifting weights! Muscle burns fat. Period. If you want to lose body fat and keep it off, you need do some form of resistance training. (Also - see next question.)

Q: Does IF burn fat rather than sugar?

A: Here's the deal. Your body wants to burn the sugar off first. However, when you're working out in a fasted state - let's say you stopped eating at 8pm on Tuesday and started your workout at 11am on Wednesday - your body doesn't have a recently consumed meal to burn. At this point, you've been fasting for 15 hours, and there is no readily available glucose or glycogen (sugar or complex carbs) to use for energy - you've already burned through that. Therefore, you're forced to use the only energy source available to you: fat stored in your cells.

Cool, right?

Keep in mind that even if you're not at the gym or working out, you're still expending energy in your daily life. So this rule still applies. 

Clearly this is a topic that I'm passionate about, so if you have any additional questions or just want to chat, always feel free to leave a comment, email me or message me on Instagram!

TWO MONTHS WITH ARI

I'll spare you the, "WOW, I can't believe it's been two who months!" (even though I can't believe it, so I guess I didn't spare you that) and a baby likes/dislikes list. I'm sorry, but every one I read is nearly identical. ("Little Susie loves to eat and hates having her diaper changed! Hee hee!") I love my baby but don't believe she's wildly different from other two month olds. I can't promise to keep the list to myself once she's a bit older with more of a personality, though! 

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Convertible gown, baby socks, bouncy chair, toy bar attachment (she LOVES this!)

The most questions I've gotten from all of you over the past month or so is about Ari's schedule. After many moms recommended it to me, I read 12 Hours Sleep by 12 Weeks Old and I really like her philosophies - regimented but not too strict. I wouldn't say we've kicked it into high gear yet, but so far, so good. I've come to realize not everyone understands or agrees with sleep training, but so many moms have reached out to me to say something along the lines of, "teaching your child to sleep through the night is the best gift you can give them," AND I COULD NOT AGREE MORE. As a personal trainer (and really, a human) I believe that quality sleep is paramount to living a happy and healthy life, no matter your age!

Ari actually dropped her "middle of the night" (2/3am) bottle on her own at 7 weeks and hasn't had one since. We heard her crying at 3am and Ben went downstairs to make her a bottle. By the time he got back, she'd fallen back asleep and slept until 6am. The following night, she slept from 9:30pm-6am. After that, I was determined not to go backwards, and we haven't. Currently, she takes bottles around 7am, 11am, 3pm, and 7pm. I fully admit I'm anal about her schedule because I think it will pay off in the future, but I try not too be too militant about it. 

Ari was sleeping well in her zippered swaddles until she was about a month old, and then she began to cry every time we tried to put her in one. Our baby nurse switched her to a standard blanket swaddle, but I noticed she was breaking out of that too easily. An Instagram friend of mine sent me this "escape-proof swaddle technique" video, which has been a really good alternative for us, though I wouldn't call it 100% escape-proof. (Ari's good.) However, it's definitely the best option for us. When Ari doesn't kick out of her swaddle and wake herself up, she sleeps 9-11 hours each night. The past few nights, it's been closer to 10-11 hours.

The best investment we've made in the past month is far and away the bouncy chair and toy bar attachment pictured above. Now that Ari's awake more during the day, this is a great place for her to hang out, and it's ideal for when I'm eating, doing dishes, etc. so that I can interact with her. I'm trying not to buy everything at once, and I was deciding between this and a playard. I think we'll buy one to keep in my dad's place in Miami to act as a travel crib and changing station, but I'm not convinced we need one in our house quite yet. I keep our borrowed (thanks, Mal!) Rock n Play in our bathroom so she can hang there while I'm showering and/or getting ready. We use our Jonathan Adler play mat for tummy time and she also lies on her back and swats at the toys with her hands! 

Her nursery is still kind of a mess but I hope to take nice photos and dedicate a post to it in the next month or so. 

Other products we're currently loving...

Boogie Baby blanket. This was a gift from some of our cousins in Chicago and I fell in love with it from the minute I pulled it out of the box - I'm not sure how to explain it, but this blanket has a "cool to the touch" feel that is so soothing. I lay it out on the floor of Ari's nursery for her to lay on, or we snuggle up with it on her rocker. Several of you have asked me for baby gift ideas, and this is always on the list.

Boogie Baby burp cloths. We have lots of different burp cloths, but I'm always excited when these are fresh from the wash. YES I GET EXCITED ABOUT BURP CLOTHS. The material is soft AND durable and they're easy to tuck under her chin.

Munchkin disposable changing pads. Our baby nurse turned me onto this and they've been a laundry lifesaver. I have these changing pad covers but let's just say if I didn't layer the disposable ones on top, I'd be washing the cotton ones a LOT more of ten.

Munchkin bottle drying rack. I have this next to our bottle sterilizer. Before, we were just using paper towels; this is a MUCH better system.

Skip Hop Sling Tub. I didn't really understand what a "sling" tub is until the first time we used this. It has a little seat (sling?) for her to sit in and I can't stand how damn cute she looks in it. Easy to use and since her bathroom is white and gray with a whale-print shower curtain, a gray whale-shaped tub doesn't look at all out of place. I also have the knee pad

Now that it's getting warmer out, I've made a few fun new additions to Ari's wardrobe: this eyelet & seersucker romper; this polo dress (with matching socks); these bow ballet flats and of course, her first pair of Jack Rogers, to match me! (Thanks, Dad!)

Ari, you are the light of our lives and I can't wait to see where the next month takes us. And to all of you reading, a huge thanks for your continued support and love!

FROM FESTIVAL FASHION TO MOM STYLE WITH FOREVER 21

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Wearing: Selfie Leslie Off The Shoulder RomperVintage Havana Espadrille MulesGem Beaded Fringe Drop Earrings

When Forever 21 asked me if they could send me some clothing to feature in a spring fashion-inspired post, I couldn't say "YES!" fast enough. Not only was it continued motivation to lose the baby weight, I've been shopping at Forever 21 for over half my life - 17 years, to be exact! Yes, Forever 21 has been around for that long and yes, I am that old!

Fun backstory: my mom and I discovered Forever 21 at the Collin Creek mall (just outside of Dallas) when I was 16. In high school, my style was half "preppy" (I wore a LOT of Abercrombie & Fitch) and half trendy. We were blown away by the huge selection and great prices and I walked away with a shopping bag full of goodies. I took my love of the store with me to college (my best friend Alyson and I spent MANY hours shopping for sorority parties at the Millenia store) and of course, when I lived in Manhattan I stopped in the Union Square store often for cute "going out" tops and dresses. Now that I live in the suburbs, I'm no longer near one of their store locations but quite honestly, these days I'm not the hearty, scrappy shopper that I once was. I was MORE than happy to sit down with a giant cup of coffee and peruse their website for spring fashions.

My challenge was to create an outfit inspired by spring colors and festival fashion, and also put something together that felt flattering on my current physique and appropriate for my new lifestyle. This felt like a tall order, so I started off by looking around the web and instagram to see what the kids are wearing to music festivals these days. The answer: a LOT of crop tops. And since my abs aren't quite there yet, I was thrilled to see that rompers are also a staple on the scene. I fell in love with this off-the-shoulder style as it's modest yet fun. The shorts aren't too short and the tie waist gives me some shape. Bare shoulders deserve a great pair of statement earrings - I've found some of my best pairs at Forever 21. I liked that the peach tones in this pair sort of echo the shades of the romper and the shoes.

Speaking of shoes: I'd been DYING for a pair of fun mules and knew I had to make these mine the moment I laid eyes on them. Every single thing about them - the blush color, the pearl and gem details, the espadrille bottom - screams spring. (They also give me serious Miu Miu vibes.)

What are you most excited to wear this spring? For me, it's pastel colors, any tie or bow detail, and I'm probably most looking forward to wearing and feeling confident in more fitted styles as I inch my way back toward my pre-baby body. Thank you to Forever 21 for the duds and for keeping my "I'm not like a regular mom, I'm a cool mom!" style on point.

P.S. I really wanted to include Ari in some of the photos but she Was. NOT. Having. It. See below. Hashtag Mom Life?

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WHEN MOTHER'S DAY IS BITTERSWEET

This is that time of year when you start seeing gift guides, advertisements and marketing aimed at Mother’s Day. And I know I can’t be the one who cringes every time they come across one of these ad campaigns or the drugstore greeting card section.

If you've been partly dreading this weekend and holiday, please know that it's okay. Personally, I'm struggling with the fact that I should be thrilled that it's my first Mother's Day as a mom, and yet... I'm so deeply saddened that it's also my first Mother's Day without both my mom and my nana. So many firsts...and lots of conflicting emotions.

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My mom loved Mother’s Day. She loved any excuse to celebrate anything! The last Mother’s Day we spent together was before she was sick and it was my favorite of all. I cooked a big brunch for her, my dad and Perri. She was so happy and complimentary and we had the best time. That memory warms my heart this time of year.

After my mom passed away, I was even more grateful for and dependent on the relationship I had with my Nana. I couldn't believe how ironic it all was - I stayed up in bed so many nights wondering and praying that Nana would live to see me get married, and in the end, it was my mom who died first. 

This Sunday is also a tough reminder that Mother’s Day last year was the last time I saw Nana. She was already sick and in pretty bad shape, and it was a really, really hard weekend for all of us.

When I found out I was pregnant in July, I decided to give Nana the good news in person, in September when we planned to visit for the Jewish holidays. I knew she was sick and her memory was going, but I couldn't wait to see the look on her face when I told her she was going to have another great-grandchild. Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse pretty quickly and she died on August 4th. I was 8 weeks pregnant. I never got to tell her.

In the days after I had Ari, it hit me like a ton of bricks that this is going to be my first Mother’s Day without my mom or my nana. Before the baby was born I told Ben that we could host a Mother’s Day brunch at our house for both of our families. But in those first few weeks postpartum, I felt like I had a dark cloud over me. I told him we needed to cancel the brunch because I couldn't handle it. I didn’t want to celebrate. It was just too hard.

Around the time Ari turned a month old, the clouds separated and I started to see glimpses of sunlight again. I gave it some thought and realized I was being horribly selfish and that I wasn’t being fair to Ari, to Ben, or to either of our families. This is also Perri's first year without a mother figure in her life on Mother's Day, not to mention my dad's first Mother's Day without his own mom. 

Something I've thought about since having Ari is that no one comes by motherhood easily. Whether you gave birth, adopted, are a stepmother, etc. - the truth is that some may call it a silly Hallmark holiday but I truly believe that all mother figures deserve this day to be celebrated.

At the same time, many of us are suffering. Maybe you're like me - a daughter who can't be with your mom. Maybe you're a mother who can't be with your child. Maybe you're struggling to become a mother and the last thing you need or want is another reminder.

If Mother's Day this year is tough for you too, whoever you are and whatever your circumstances may be, know that you're not alone and I'm sending you love. 

After my mom died, I made a list of the lessons she taught me. I want to share five of my favorite with you:

1. Surround yourself with things you love to look at. 

2. Be your own best advocate - never expect or depend on anyone else to.

3. Be tough, but not unreasonable. 

4. Less is more with criticism and perfume, but never with jewelry. 

5. Don't sweat the small stuff.

ONE MONTH WITH ARI

If you follow me on Instagram, look at my photos and/or watch my stories, you know I've been fairly open about motherhood so far. It's hard to believe it's already been a month since my life changed forever and for the better. In the interest of staying organized and somewhat concise, I'm just going to answer the questions I've been asked frequently. (Note that most of the questions I received were more about my experience with birth/postpartum rather than about Ari herself, which is, I think, to be expected. She's only 1 month old, after all!)

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How are you feeling?

Like shit! No, I'm kidding. Sort of. Emotionally, I'm feeling overjoyed to have Ari as a part of our family. Mentally and physically, it's been a rocky road but I'm feeling a little more like myself each day. I will write more about my recovery once I'm a bit further away from it. Stay tuned.

What was in your hospital bag? Anything you wish you'd packed or were really glad you had?

Ben and I joked about what ameteurs we were because we ABSOLUTELY overpacked. The thing is, we live in Westchester and had the baby in Manhattan, so I knew we were going to overpack (since we couldn't just run home for something we'd forgotten) and I was totally fine with it. When we got to the hospital it looked like we were headed on a three-week European vacation. The one thing I packed that I absolutely DID NOT NEED was maternity underwear. (I brought these, which I love and am now living in, for the record. I also have and like these.) I learned quickly that after the baby is born you pretty much live in mesh undies. However, I was very glad I packed these pajama pants, these camisoles and this robe. I wore this set home from the hospital, which is pricey but worth it. I still wear all of those pieces at least once a week.

What surprised you the most about labor & delivery? Is there anything you wish you'd known ahead of time?

I've given a lot of though to this because my immediate reaction was, "Yes, I wish someone had told me I was going to be birthing a near-nine pound baby." I gave birth to Ari the morning of my scheduled 40-week appointment, and so the last time I'd seen my doctor (at my 39-week appointment a week earlier) she'd given me no indication that the baby was going to be bigger than her prediction (in the 7lb range if I gave birth on time, about 8lbs if I went past my due date). But the truth is, no, I don't wish I knew how much she was going to weigh ahead of time. It wouldn't have changed anything. 

What I do I WISH I'd been made aware of is how the pain sets in when the epidural wears off. This sounds so incredibly obvious, but I was in such baby bliss staring at and holding Ari that I never once considered what the pain would be like until I was faced with it. A nurse offered me Motrin when we got to our recovery room and I refused it. In hindsight that was a mistake. I don't know if it would've made a HUGE difference, but it might have at least taken the edge off.

Birthing a baby is an amazing feat and quite frankly I think we're all fucking superheroes - whether you give or gave birth naturally, vaginally, via C-section, and/or with or without medical intervention. I don't feel women will EVER get the credit we are due. But, I also feel that giving birth IS a trauma to the body and I wish more people were open about what the process is truly like.

How much weight did you gain and what does your current diet look like?

I gained 40 pounds, which was about 15 pounds more than I was expecting to gain. For the record, I was at my personal best body composition (fat to muscle ratio) two weeks before I became pregnant. I had 19.5% body fat, which is considered to be in the "athlete" category for women. I had 59 pounds of muscle, which was about 44% of my total body weight. 

Most medical professionals say that a woman who was an "average" weight before pregnancy should expect to gain between 25-35 pounds after becoming pregnant. These numbers HAUNTED me after I hit 25 pounds and knew the scale wasn't going to stop there. But at some point - around 30 weeks - I decided to stop letting the scale rule my life, and it was such a weight (pun intended) off my shoulders. Towards the end of my pregnancy, my doctor asked if I could, "slow down the weight loss." I looked at her and said, "I eat well, I walk my dog over two miles most days and I'm strength training at the gym 3-4 times a week. How do you suggest I slow it down?" She was dumbfounded and said, "I guess there's not much else you can do."

I share this in hopes that maybe at least one of you will ease up on yourself about weight gain during pregnancy. Every woman and every pregnancy is unique. I had an extra lobe of placenta and I gave birth to a big baby. I lost close to half the weight I gained almost immediately after giving birth. The delivering doctor even said, "I can't believe how much your belly has gone down!" while she was stitching me up. (I had a second degree tear.)

The second half has obviously been slower to come off. The first two weeks after pregnancy, I gave myself permission to eat how I wanted. I was still attempting to breastfeed and pump, and I had a big appetite. Once that all quieted down, I decided to eliminate grains from my diet. In the past when I've done this, I've noticed a huge change in my overall lifestyle: sharper mindset, better quality sleep, lessened joint pain, fewer cravings and weight loss. Ben is also "grain-free" (and looks even more amazing than usual, might I add) which certainly makes my life easier in terms of cooking dinner, eating together, etc. I weigh myself every Friday morning. I'm focused, but I'm not obsessed. At the time of publishing this post I'm about 14 pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight. 

Do you *really* think staying in shape during pregnancy helped you during Labor & Delivery?

No. I KNOW staying in shape helped me during Labor & Delivery. Look, I was in labor for just over 24 hours and it was the longest day of my life. I was NOT expecting to actively push for 3 hours. Ben commented afterward that even though it was rigorous and he knew I must've been tired, I never once said, "NO," or, "I need a break," when the doctors and nurses asked me to keep going. The delivering doctor told me multiple times that she was impressed by my strength and mobility throughout the process. I know my lifestyle is to thank for getting me through that! 

Do you have help?

We have an amazing baby nurse who is invaluable to our family. I am utterly thankful for her. Of course, my dad has also been incredible. He comes over a few times a week to spend time with us and he's also unbelievably helpful. He walks Winnie, feeds Ari, comes to the grocery store with me, etc. He will truly never know how grateful I am.

How is Winnie doing with the new baby?

Winnie is still a little bit confused by the tiny human who is now calling the shots. The first thing my dad did when Ben and I got home from the hospital with Ari was install this gate he'd purchased right after I gave birth. (Have I mentioned/you gathered that my dad is an absolute mensch/saint???) He literally came over, installed it in our upstairs hallway (so it blocks Winnie off from all of the rooms upstairs except ours - where she has free reign/sleeps at night) and then went to go pick up her from the boarder's. It's been so great because not only does it provide her with a physical barrier, it's taught her a bit of patience, too. 

Ari doesn't cry too often, but when she does, if Winnie is nearby, she'll start to cry, too. It's painful. If Ari is on my lap and Winnie is nearby, she'll come over, sniff and lick her a bit, and then goes back to what she's doing. Truth be told Winnie is an absolute diva who went from a life of what we imagine to be turmoil (we think she was ripped from her mother too soon/neglected/possibly abused) to the sweet life. I think it's going to take her awhile to get used to being second banana. I know people think I spoil her too much, and the truth is that I owe her a debt of gratitude. We moved out to the suburbs halfway through my pregnancy - a place where I didn't (and still don't) know a soul. We left Manhattan, I left my job and my day-to-day lifestyle changed immediately and intensely. Pregnancy on its own can be extremely isolating and I had these added factors of being by myself in a brand new town. Winnie was my only friend and she was amazing company. Yes, she's a handful and often annoys the living daylights out of me. But I forgive her a lot because I'm forever grateful for her.

What's Ari's schedule like?

Well, we don't really have her on one yet. Per many of your suggestions (THANK YOU) Ben and I recently read 12 Hours By 12 Weeks and will start implementing those strategies once our baby nurse leaves. I will be sure to keep you all posted on how that's going.

What products are you using/loving?

This list will change and grow over time, I'm sure, but here's what's currently on it:

Boppy Nursing Pillow. Even though I'm no longer nursing, I still use this daily to feed and hold Ari. I love the leverage it gives me. (My dad also got us an extra slipcover.)

Baby Brezza Formula Pro. This was a gift from our registry and makes prepping bottles a snap. It's a total luxury and therefore maybe not something we would've purchased ourselves, but we're definitely grateful we have it.

Moba Moses Baby Basket. This was a(n amazing) gift from my best friend, Alyson. I bought the stand to go with it, and we keep it next to the couch in our family room. I grew up in a house with two designers (my parents!) and I'm really trying to take their lead as we settle into our new home. Can I be honest with you - there's a lot of hideous baby gear out there. I LOVE how sleek and chic this is. Since Ari's a little monkey (always moving) she's able to gently rock herself. She really enjoys being in this! If you're looking for a really nice baby gift to give someone, I believe any stylish new mom would be thrilled to receive it! (The picture above is from a few days ago - we just started using this Rock N Play on loan to us!)

Love To Dream Swaddle Up. I forget who recommended these to me, but THANK YOU. We noticed within 24 hours of Ari's birth that she liked to break out of her hospital blanket swaddles.  Somehow I'd anticipated this might happen and had thought to order a zipper-up swaddle that I'd heard somebody rave about. And sure enough, I've purchased several more since! It's so easy to use (no wrapping) and gives us peace of mind that she's safe & snug as a bug in a rug.

Samsung BabyView Dual Mode Digital Baby Camera/Monitor. I was overwhelmed by all of the different baby monitors out there but we have (and love) all Samsung TVs in our home so I knew I felt good about the brand. I brought it home for Ben to check out and he did the research legwork and gave it a thumbs up. This is one of the pricier options out there, but we LOVE it. The picture and sound quality are beautiful, and I love that we're also able to turn our iPhones into baby monitors via the BabyView app.

Kissy Kissy bodysuits. This was another gift from Alyson! The fabric is so soft and I love that the bottom has two snaps instead of three (sounds so silly, but makes a difference when you're trying to get this on or off a fussy baby). 

Monica + Andy hats. I treated Ari (and myself) to a Monica + Andy layette to bring to the hospital. After she was born, we quickly realized she takes after her mom and has a big ol' head, and the hospital hats were really struggling to stay on. We put her in the top knot cap from the layette box and that seemed to do the trick! I've ordered several more since.

WubbaNub pacifiers. Thus far Ari only gets a pacifier if she's fussing while lying down (in her crib or Moba) and these are definitely her favorite!

Jonathan Adler by Fisher Price Sensory Gym. I love anything Jonathan Adler because my mom did - she actually purchased his ceramic vases at Barney's way back when he first started selling his designs. (I have several JA items in Ari's nursery* - this pillow and this sculpture, and lots more of his pieces sprinkled around our house because it helps me keep my mom's memory alive.) Ari loves to lie on her back and looks up at the toys or looks at herself in the mirror. We'll definitely get a lot of mileage out of this!

Beyond Yoga Postnatal Tummy Tightener Legging. These are the leggings I've talked about many times on Instagram. Many of you have asked me and no, I didn't get any belly bands or anything for after pregnancy, so I can't speak to those. I wear these at least twice a week. I bought these in my pre-pregnancy size (XS) and the first time I put them on (1 week postpartum) it took me about 5 full minutes to pull them all the way up. That was a bit frustrating but totally worth it. They're super compressive and I love how supportive they are. 

I'm so grateful to you all for coming along on this journey for me. I'll have more posts like this in the future so be sure to send me any questions you may have and stay tuned!

*I've gotten TONS of questions about Ari's nursery and I hope to get a post up about it in the next few months, so stay tuned!

P.S. Ari is wearing this "footie" in the photo above - it uses magnetic closures rather than snaps or zips!