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Before conceiving, I thought I’d be one of those earth-mother types who would instantly start radiating from the inside out. From what the media (and even more-so social media) depicts about pregnant women, I was under the impression (perhaps delusional?) that this would be me from the get-go too. I had of course heard about the early cliche pregnancy symptoms like morning sickness, etc., however the greater emphasis is usually put on the glorified parts. Maybe for some that radiating actually happens out of the gate. But for most women, the reality of the first trimester looks nothing like this at all. I mean not even a slight resemblance.

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Have you ever imagined what it would be like to have the flu for 2 months straight? Probably not, because that would be the WORST THING EVER! Well this was my warm welcome into pregnancy. There were consecutive days when I could barely leave the couch, and pajamas became my standing uniform. I give boatloads of credit to women who work demanding 9-5,6,7? jobs and somehow get their asses to work every day, dressed in appropriate attire, makeup in check. And the real superheros in this universe are women who work these rigid schedules, and already have a kid(s) to take care of at home.

In those early days when I felt like the only person in the world who was struggling. But that's not true. So here's 10 of the less glorified parts of pregnancy that may be part of your first-trimester reality.

1. Fatigue. Think about the most tired you’ve ever been in your life. Now multiply it by 1,000 and it’s still not even close to how tired you will be in your first trimester. While doctors and friends assure you that this will pass come your second trimester, it doesn’t matter because you’re tired today and there is nothing you can do about it. My recommendations include laying low, keeping plans very loose, accepting that you may need to cancel commitments, and resting as much as you can. You will never regain the time back to nurture your body the way it needs during a pregnancy so take advantage of the moments you have to relax. And don’t feel bad about it either. You are creating human life, and the first trimester is the most critical time for development. Take the time you need.

2. Nausea. Fortunately, I never threw up. But I constantly felt like I could. Low-grade nausea plagued me daily. There were even times when I had to bypass taking my prenatal vitamins because I would gag when I tried. There really isn’t any way around being nauseous in the early days when your hormones are on the rise, but there is one thing that can help: eat. Keeping your stomach full (not overly so) can take the edge off and ensure your blood sugar stays intact. My favorite on-the-go snacks included:

● Apples

● Oranges

● Cucumber (w/ a little salt)

● Gluten Free Pretzels

Puffins Gluten Free Cereal

● Kind Healthy Grain Bars

● Lara Bars

3. Dizziness. When pregnant, your cardiovascular system is undergoing traumatic changes. The amount of blood in your body increases by 40-45 percent, and your heart rate goes up, pumping more blood which the majority of goes to the baby. This can slow the return of blood to you. As a result, your blood pressure goes down and there is less flowing to your brain, which causes the dizziness. Sit down if you’re feeling faint and put your head between legs. And if you you are at home, lie down on your left side. This helps move the blood back to your heart. Keep moving to maintain healthy circulation. Low blood sugar could also be another reason for the dizziness, so make sure to eat regularly and bring snacks when on the go. Stay hydrated by carrying around a water bottle (I use this one). Exercise is always important for maintaining healthy circulation.

4. Shortness of Breath. I’m not in good shape, however I don’t usually get out of breath when let’s say, I’m making the bed! Even little activities actually knocked the wind out of me during my first trimester. According to BabyCenter, “ An increase in hormones, particularly progesterone, directly affects your lungs and stimulates the respiratory center in your brain. And while the number of breaths you take per minute actually changes very little during pregnancy, the amount of air you inhale and exhale with each breath increases significantly.” I can’t express how much you need to take it easy (especially if you’re working out) and in the moments where you’re feeling a lack of air - pause and take deep inhales and exhales (inhale - count to 5 - exhale - count to 5). Fill your body up with as much oxygen as possible and take a moment to let it circulate. The shortness of breath only increases into your second trimester while your bump puts more pressure on your diaphragm, so make sure to breathe deep.

5. Headaches. Some women experience what I call a “pregnancy headache,” likely caused by the changing hormones and increase in bloodflow. Although most doctors say Tylenol is fine (contact yours first before taking anything), I steered clear of medication because of the excess I had to take during my IVF process. If you are not taking medication and you get a pregnancy headache, lay down, close your eyes and go to bed! Drink a ton of water, and if the pain is that great, put an ice-pack or bag of frozen peas on your head. A massage/tickle from your partner doesn’t hurt either. It helps the release of endorphins which causes euphoria and pleasure, and can help you relax. Another key thing to stay aware of is what you are eating because food/caffeine can trigger headaches too. Keeping a food diary will help track potential causes. Check out The Mayo Clinic, which has a bunch of recommendations for avoiding headaches all together.

6. Emotional/Depression/Anxiety. This past year was full of ups and downs for me, especially since the process of conceiving included fertility treatments. When I finally found out I was pregnant, I thought for sure I’d be over the moon and all of my sadness, frustration and defeat would disappear. WRONG! Pregnancy takes your hormones on a roller coaster ride and if you’re an already sensitive person (like me), expect it to be supersonic. Especially in your first trimester. It also doesn’t help when you perpetually don’t feel well, and that could depress anyone. Being pregnant is also scary! The plan to have a baby and the reality of being pregnant are two completely different things. It can bring up tons of emotions which lead to anxious and/or depressing thoughts and this is all very normal. Know that you are not alone, and like I mentioned, continue to remind yourself that everything you are feeling is natural. Unfortunately, 33% of women do face clinical depression/anxiety during pregnancy, and if you think this may be you, there are ways to seek help.

7. Hunger. If there was a theme song playing throughout my first trimester, it would be “Hungry Like the Wolf”, because that is exactly how I felt. I pretty much had to eat every 1-2 hours and if I didn’t get something in my stomach before that window of time, I’d start to feel faint, nauseous and dizzy. Before getting pregnant, I imagined my diet to consist of tons of veggies and fruits, lean meats, and fish (per recommended amount), but you can throw that all out the window in your first trimester. I ate what I craved, and that’s it -- tons of carbs, minimal veggies, a little more sugar than I had hoped, ginger ale (regular, not diet), surprisingly red meat, and (luckily) oranges. I recommend keeping food handy. Pack snacks in your bag and always have something to nibble on in case you are not home and reach the witching hour before sh*t hits the fan.

8. Thirst. Parched as if you’ve been stuck in the sahara for a week, yes, that is how thirsty you will be in your first trimester. Staying hydrated is obviously important, so keep a water bottle handy so you can constantly quench your thirst. While water is not very exciting when you’re pregnant and craving anything from macaroni and cheese to pizza (or maybe that’s just me), I add lemon to my water for flavor. And club soda is a solid alternative too.

9. Sense of Smell. A heightened sense of smell could possibly have been one of the worst symptoms I faced, caused by the increase in estrogen. Before I got pregnant, I started to make my own cocoa body butter, and ordered so much cocoa/shea butter and oils that it now takes up an entire bottom row of a cabinet in the kitchen. I hooked my wife Dina onto it too. Cocoa butter has a very distinct smell, especially if you don’t buy it with chemicals or fragrance. And this is the smell that came back to haunt me once I conceived. Not only did I smell it constantly because Dina wore it, but I smell it every time I open the kitchen cabinet. I now have over $150 worth of ingredients to lotion up a small army, yet I cannot deal with even the slightest whiff. Unfortunately, it is difficult to escape smells, and no matter where you go or what you do, you will be faced with breathing in something that will make you want to run for the toilet to vomit. Something I read (which I didn’t do, but is genius) is carrying around a lemon so that in the event that you smell something that turns your stomach, you can whip it out and sniff it as a distraction.

10. It’s Already about Baby. If you think you’re going to spend the next 9.5 months getting your sleep, having dinner with friends and filling up your social calendar before your baby is born, you are sorely mistaken. From the moment the sperm meets the egg, and your magical being is conceived, your baby will be the main priority in your life. That means lots of sleep, downtime, an adjusted diet, no booze, minimum caffeine and a whole lot of energy spent nurturing the little one inside. Things change from the moment the seed is planted.

Image source.

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As a mid-Spring holiday, we never knew exactly what to expect from the weather on Easter when I was growing up in Michigan: Would we get to wear our new Sunday dresses without coats? Or would we be hunting for eggs while wearing snowsuits?

Although what the temperature had in store was really anyone's guess, there were a few special traditions my sister and I could always depend on—and it won't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that my favorite memories revolved around food. After all, experts say memories are strongest when they tie senses together, which certainly seems to be true when it comes to holiday meals that involve the sounds of laughter and the taste of amazing food.

Now that I'm a parent, I'm experiencing Easter anew as my children discover the small delights of chocolate, pre-church brunch and a multi-generational dinner. While I still look forward to the treats and feasting, I'm realizing now that the sweetest thing of all is how these traditions bring our family together around one table.

For us, the build-up to Easter eats is an extended event. Last year's prep work began weeks in advance when my 3-year-old and I sat down to plan the brunch menu, which involved the interesting suggestion of "green eggs and ham." When the big morning rolled around, his eyes grew to the size of Easter eggs out of pure joy when the dish was placed on the table.

This year, rather than letting the day come and go in a flash, we are creating traditions that span weeks and allow even the littlest members of the family to feel involved.

Still, as much as I love enlisting my children's help, I also relish the opportunity to create some magic of my own with their Easter baskets—even if the Easter Bunny gets the credit. This year, I'm excited to really personalize the baskets by getting an "adoptable" plush unicorn for my daughter and the Kinder Chocolate Mini Eggs that my son hasn't stopped talking about since seeing at the store. (You can bet this mama is stocking up on some for herself, too.)

At the same time, Easter as a parent has opened my eyes to how much effort can be required...

There is the selection of the right Easter outfits for picture-perfect moments.

There is the styling of custom Easter baskets.

There is the filling of plastic eggs and strategic placement of them throughout the yard.

But when the cameras are put away and we all join together around the table for the family dinner at the end of the day, I can finally take a deep breath and really enjoy—especially with the knowledge that doing the dishes is my husband's job.

This article was sponsored by Kinder. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


Our Partners

This week isn't going to be an easy one for most of us. There are hard things happening in the world right now as the coronavirus pandemic continues. We're not going to pretend like this is an easy time to be a parent, because it is not. It's okay to say you're not okay today. But it's also okay to allow yourself to enjoy the lighter moments of life because these moments are still happening inside our homes during the pandemic.

This is a hard week, but there are still so many things making us smile.

Here are a few of the good news headlines we're loving right now:

This baby's quarantine style birthday party is going viral 

So many events have been canceled because of the pandemic, and many first birthday parties are among them. For parents who were looking forward to celebrating their little one's first birthday with friends and family having to cancel the guest list is hard.

Mama Kylie Najjar was one of the many parents having to make the hard choice to cancel her baby's birthday party, but she decided to make it special by doubling down on the theme of social distancing.

Her baby's big day has now gone viral because even in a difficult time like this pandemic, small moments still matter and can still make us smile.

This viral illustration highlights how the pandemic is impacting newly postpartum mamas 

The artist Spirit Y Sol touched so many mamas this week, letting art speak for the women who have had their postpartum experience changed so drastically by the pandemic. Through an essay and accompanying illustration Sol describes what was stolen from those currently in the fourth trimester.

"This is not what you had planned. This is not what you'd envisioned. There are no visits from friends, no loving doula bringing you soup, no "mommy and me" yoga classes, no coffee dates, no stroller walks through the park." Sol writes.

"But mama, know this—We are alone. Together. You are surrounded all the other mothers who are navigating this tender time in isolation. You are held by all of us who have walked the path before you and who know how much you must be hurting. You are wrapped in the warm embrace of mama earth, as she too settles into this time of slowness and healing."

Sol is right. We are in this together, mama. And we are here for you.

Some Good News with John Krasinski has a surprise for Hamilton fans 

Last week we told you about John Krasinski's new coronavirus YouTube series, Some Good News, and this week he's going viral again with his second episode.

He gets his wife Emily Blunt to make an appearance and organized a treat for Hamilton fans, having Lin Manuel Miranda and the rest of the cast put on a performance (through Zoom, of course).

We love how Krasinski is using his creativity and connections to make people smile during this tough time.

This mom just welcomed baby no. 22, 30 years after her first child's birth! 

Back in February we told you the mom of Britain's biggest family was going viral after announcing she was expecting her 22nd child.

Now, Sue Radford's 22nd baby is here. She's a girl and her name has not yet been announced by the Radfords, Sue and her husband Noel.

Sue was 14 years old when the couple's oldest child, Chris, came into the world in 1989 (Noel was 18). Both Sue and Noel were adopted at birth and when they found out they were expecting as teens they decided together to make the choice to parent.

Four years after Chris was born they got married, and a few decades (and many kids) later they became reality TV legends in the UK, starting with a show called 15 Kids and Counting. They now have more kids than their American counterparts from 19 Kids and Counting, the Duggars. Besides TV appearances, the Radfords also own a pie shop.

In total, Sue has given birth to 12 girls and 10 boys so far (one son, Alfie, was stillborn), but giving birth during the coronavirus pandemic was a bit different. "I was so worried that Noel wouldn't be allowed to stay with me," she told The Sun.

Radford continued: "We have all been isolating and it seemed wrong to leave our safe bubble to go to a hospital, but when I got there I felt safe straight away."

Kristen Bell's Hello Bello launched a new 'camp' you'll want to check out 

Everyone is looking for extra ways to keep kids entertained these days and that's why Kristen Bell + Dax Shepard have launched Camp HelloBello on Instagram Live and IGTV!

Each week there's a new schedule for activities like singing, dancings and crafting (and Hello Bello is paying people creators to participate, you can apply to be a "camp counselor" at CampHelloBello.com).

According to a press release, "Schedules will be released on a weekly basis with lots of special guests (like Kristen + Dax and their friends) and members of our community to add some extra creativity to kids' days (and fill up some time for the parents too!)."

Sounds super cool!

This viral post highlights how our kids are 'little heroes' during this crisis 

There is a viral post floating around the internet that gives some credit where it is due: To our children.

Our kids have been champs during this crisis, as the post notes, "their little lives have been turned upside down...[but] every day they get up and carry on despite everything that is going on! Painting pictures, drawings to show their support to the heroes out there and to make other children walking past feel better!"

We see you, little heroes.

You're doing great and we are so proud of your resiliency!

Viral video shows even social distancing can't stop toddlers from 'socializing' 

Twitter user Toby Marriott went viral this week thanks to an 8 second clip of his nephew, "the friendliest toddler you'd ever meet." According to his uncle, this 3-year-old always says hello to anyone he meets on the street, but he's not running into any people on his daily walks these days...so he has to pretend.

"Hope this brightens up your day!" Marriott captioned a video of his nephew saying hello to an invisible friend. It's super cute and if we hang in there, one day this little guy will be able to say hello to his neighbors again.

News

There's so much happening on a daily basis I think I control that I do not. All of us have been affected by the spread of the coronavirus in the last few weeks—some more than others, of course—but all of us in ways big and small.

We all want life to return to normal. But if protecting others means we need to stay at home for a few weeks, we can do that. We can do our part to protect our communities and love those around us a little better. Our family has decided to take the guidelines and advice of those with more knowledge than us on this so we're being diligent about staying in and staying home as much as possible.

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Which means spending a lot of time together as a family right now. We have had many slow days, filled with great conversation, meaningful prayer time, games, delicious food we've cooked together and lots of time outdoors.

It has been opening my eyes to just how much we were on the go on a regular basis, pre-coronavirus, preoccupied with this, that or the other thing. It has given me pause to be able to appreciate the people in my home even more than I did before by connecting more than we usually do. That part of all this strange uncertainty has felt gratifying.

Our normal weekly schedule typically consists of running around non-stop to work, sports practice, church functions and music lessons. Our quarantine time has forced us to connect with each other on a daily basis—time that we usually don't even get in one month! We now have time to play games together, do puzzles, organize our home, watch movies and have full conversations we don't have to rush through.

This is what we need as a family unit. With all the busyness of our society, it's been a blessing to give ourselves permission to simply slow down and just be with each other.

I think oftentimes we under-appreciate things until they are taken away. I am really grateful for the freedom I experience on a daily basis, like going out to dinner with friends or even if I'm just going to Target or running errands. Because freedom is limited at this time, I don't think I'll ever take it for granted again. I hope I don't.

But right now, where I'm finding freedom is within my faith. My relationship with God has given me the freedom to surrender control and trust this path.

Stepping back to realize for me, that God is truly in control and I can trust Him even in the hard times (or maybe especially in the hard times) has been both challenging and rewarding. It's easy for me to say, "I trust in God..." or sing along at church and say "Amen" in prayer when everything feels perfect. But when things feel difficult, that is when my faith is tested and I must step up in order to practice what I preach.

This time in our lives has caused me to lean into my faith in God like never before. I I have had to put every tool I've learned over the years into practice lately.

I've been challenged to lean on God for my own sanity—when my fears and anxieties threaten to overtake me. To see the joy around me and not just the difficulties. To acknowledge my gratitude. For the first time in my life, my relationship with God is all that is keeping me together. I am desperate to see things through His eyes—the good and the bad.

I have often felt as though I have no time for mindfulness and connection with God with all I had going on. Now there is plenty of time, and I need it more than ever. When I look to Him and have time with Him daily, my perspective changes from stress to thankfulness. Without it, I'd never be able to see the lessons I'm learning all around me—I wouldn't be able to recognize that I'm living life with clearer eyes now.

That clarity is soul-filling. Because what's coming out of that clarity is love. The most important thing. I can love my people whether things are perfect or challenging as if tomorrow is not promised. Because these times remind us that it isn't. Whether sitting in our home or busy with our "normal" schedules, the shortness of life has been a good thing to keep in my mind.

Because I'm living more intentionally, and hope I now always will.

Life

A trip to your local coffee shop is a thing of the past, but turning to social media to find ways to get your caffeine fix at home is the new normal. Now mamas are becoming their own own baristas while social distancing and creating mini Starbucks in their kitchen.

It all began with a simple coffee TikTok video posted on March 14, that has since garnered more than 10 million views. Since then everyone has begun making a foamy beverage named, "whipped coffee."

Boston Food & Travel | Emily’s Instagram photo: “Friday mornings with my Dalgona coffee ☕️💕 — Recipe (vid in highlights) 3 tbsp instant coffee 3 tbsp white sugar 3 tbsp hot water Milk (I…”

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What is whipped coffee?

Before you get excited and think that TikTok created this trend, think again. The drink originated in South Korea and is better known as Dalgona coffee, a frothy sugar-coated Korean drink that's topped with cocoa, crumbled biscuits or honey.

The cool thing about Dalgona coffee, AKA whipped coffee, is that it only has four ingredients—instant coffee, sugar, hot water and milk—and can be made in 5 minutes. You basically mix the ingredients with an electric mixer and it's it!

If you're into sugary-drinks this is perfect for weathering the quarantine, but if you're not, no worries. Try coconut sugar or a sugar substitute like stevia.

Here's how to make a yummy whipped coffee:

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp instant coffee
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp hot water
  • Milk of your choice
  • Ice

Directions:

  1. Add the hot water, sugar, and instant coffee to a bowl.
  2. Either hand whisk or use an electric mixer until the mixture is fluffy and light.
  3. To serve, spoon a dollop over a cup of milk with ice in it and stir.

Recipe from Tasty.

Note: If you don't want the consistency of a light mousse and you're just here for the caffeine, you can easily make this drink hot or iced. Just don't use a mixer to build the foam. Enjoy, mama!

Lifestyle

Artist and teacher Catie Atkinson at Spirit y Sol recently shared a beautiful drawing of a new mom crying on a couch—leaking breasts, newborn baby, pile of laundry and what we can only assume is cold coffee, included. Everything about the image is so real and raw to me—from the soft stomach to the nursing bra and the juxtaposition of the happy wallpaper to the palpable vulnerability of the mother—I can almost feel the couch underneath me. I can feel the exhaustion deep in this woman's bones.

My heart feels the ache of loneliness right alongside hers. Because I remember. I remember the confusion and uncertainty and love and messy beauty of the fourth trimester so well. After all, it's etched in our minds and bodies forever.

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But I've never experienced a fourth trimester amid the chaos and heaviness of a global crisis. A scary pandemic keeping people away, keeping new mothers home—increasing the isolation, increasing feelings of being trapped.

I haven't quite experienced that. And my heart goes out to the postpartum moms who are crying on their couch right now wondering why exactly, this is the maternity leave or introduction into motherhood they're getting—and not the one they envisioned.

She wrote:

"This is not what you had planned. This is not what you'd envisioned. There are no visits from friends, no loving doula bringing you soup, no 'mommy and me' yoga classes, no coffee dates, no stroller walks through the park. There is empty space where you had planned comfort and company. There are long days with no one but your little one to talk to and this big transition to navigate all alone.

"I know it's lonely, mama. I know the walls of your house feel tight and the days feel so long, and you crave a warm hand on your knee and the soft embrace of a friend. You wish for someone by your side to marvel at this beautiful baby of yours and to wrap an arm around you when the feelings get too big and scary.

"We were never meant to do this alone. Motherhood has never been a solitary sport. And yet here we are, in this odd chapter of isolation and distance, with no choice but to do it by ourselves.

"But mama, know this—We are alone. Together. You are surrounded all the other mothers who are navigating this tender time in isolation. You are held by all of us who have walked the path before you and who know how much you must be hurting. You are wrapped in the warm embrace of mama earth, as she too settles into this time of slowness and healing.

"This too shall pass. And when it does, hugs and coffee dates and visits from friends will taste so much sweeter. Soft kisses on your cheek and arms around your waist and gentle laughter in your ear will be the joyful medicine after this trying time.

"Until then, hunker down mama. Find the coziest, warmest spot on your couch, sink into the pile of unfolded laundry, and sleep the Spring away, with that sweet babe warm on your chest."

I cry for the new mom who has to introduce her new baby to their grandparents over FaceTime instead of an in-person visit.

I hold onto hope, knowing the day you can finally parade your baby around out in the world—showing them off to everyone you love—will be one of the proudest moments of your life.

I cry for the new mom desperate to go to a mother's group to commiserate and celebrate together with other mamas who are in this.

I hold onto hope, knowing that there are opportunities for virtual connection that are helpful and soul-filling, too.

I cry for the new mom wishing she had an extra set of hands around to hold her baby while she showers or naps.

I hold onto hope, imagining this time is a really special (albeit, intense) period of bonding and connection for your brand new family.

I cry for the new mom needing to break free from the walls of her home, the surroundings she looks at all day long.

I hold onto hope for you, praying you're able to get out for a walk or even a quick drive by yourself—with the music turned up on full blast.

We cry for you—with you—mama. But we're wildly inspired by you, too. You're the mothers birthing and raising new babies during a global pandemic. You are strong. You are resilient. And you are certainly not alone.

We are with you in spirit and solidarity. The fourth trimester you're getting might not be the one you hoped for, but that doesn't make it any less real, or any less significant.

It's powerful and it's yours.

Life
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