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Last week, a group of my girlfriends and I got together for our book club. Before we dug into the actual book (and the plethora of treats), we sat around a bit catching up on our lives.

Since my life is basically just baby these days, we talked about that when we got around to me. My friend Kristina asked if pregnancy had been what I expected it to be or if anything surprised me.

I didn’t have a very good answer at the time because I hadn’t really thought about it, but I’ve been thinking about it ever since then.

Honestly, I always kind of thought (hoped?) that I would enjoy being pregnant. I don’t know why. I mean, a lot of people don’t. And it certainly comes with a host of discomforts. But for whatever reason, I looked forward to the chance to carry a baby and felt optimistic about the process.

And, for the most part, I have really enjoyed it. Yes, it helps that I am incredibly fortunate that getting and staying pregnant went smoothly for me. Yes, it helps that I managed to dodge difficult morning sickness and a host of other unpleasantness a lot of women go through. Some of those things I could impact, others were just the way it turned out. Whatever the reason, I’m grateful.

But there was one aspect of pregnancy that I always assumed I would have a big problem with: gaining weight.

I mean, it’s kind of a head trip. As a woman, you’re nearly constantly bombarded with confusing messages about your body and what it should be, and, as a rule, those messages tell you that you need to be smaller and weigh less. Like a lot of women my age (like a lot of women any age?), I spent a large portion of my life trying to weigh less or trying to maintain my lowest weight.

And now you’re telling me I need to undo all that hard work and deliberately try to gain weight? Are you crazy?!

Part of me was deliciously enticed by the possibility (guilt-free weight gain!). Another part of me was totally terrified.

Because, you guys? I’ve gained weight before. Significant amounts of weight. (Though, of course, that’s subjective.) And the resulting shame spiral took me to dark, spiny mental places that I worked for years to get out of. It destroyed my relationship with my body and just generally screwed me up for a while. I clawed my way out of that place. And I work actively and aggressively to keep myself from going back there.

So…I was scared. Because I didn’t want to feel negative feelings about anything associated with creating my baby. I wanted the process to be filled with love and joy as much as possible. Maybe that sounds naive, but it was how I had always pictured and hoped the experience would be.

And then I got pregnant. And, yes, obviously, started to gain weight. And you know what?

It hasn’t bothered me even the teeniest, tiniest bit.

It probably helps that I NEVER weigh myself except at my doctor appointments. Not in pre-pregnancy life, and certainly not now. Like always, I let the way my clothes fit and the way I feel determine if my size is acceptable, instead of attaching too much meaning to a silly, downright objective number.

I’m not delusional — I know that I’ve gained 10-12 pounds (maybe more…I have an appointment next week) in the last seven months. It’s just that…I couldn’t care less. Yes, I know it’s weight for the baby (even though the little miss is only two-ish pounds, the rest is all fluid and uterus and that whole extra organ your body grows to feed your baby, the placenta), so maybe that contributes to my not freaking out about it.

But beyond not caring about the extra pounds, I feel so much more loving toward my body than I ever thought I would. It’s like I’ve found an old friend after years of (at times) abusive silence.

I’m so proud of my body for not only growing a human full-time, but also for sticking it out through the still-challenging workouts that I put it through to maintain my mental balance. I cherish the increasingly convex curve of my stomach way more than I ever did its flatter counterpart because this tummy lovingly cradles my baby all day and night. I want to high-five my swiftly changing reflection so I can congratulate my body on being a total rockstar and miraculously knowing exactly what to do to create and nurture another person.

The most surprising thing about this process, for me, is how much awe it has filled me with. For women and their amazing bodies. For God who created them in his incredible wisdom.

I’m proud of the mental journey I’ve made and my newfound ability to see myself as I really am for possibly the first time in my life — wonderfully made.

I’m officially into the third trimester.

Even just writing that sentence fills me with, well, all the feelings.

I’m excited. I’m so, so, so excited that it’s almost time to finally have our little girl in our arms. Joey and I talk every day about how much we can’t wait to meet her and how much we’re looking forward to even the most mundane moments. (Baby’s first yawn? It’s gonna kill me dead.)

I’m nervous. You guys, I’m going to be a mom. That’s…big. One of the biggest things I’ve ever done. I want so much to be good at it without driving anyone (myself included) crazy. That’s a lot of pressure.

I’m (a little) stressed. There is so much I want to do before Vivian makes her grand entrance. Blame it on the nesting, but whatever it is, here’s everything that has been crowding my to-do list:

1. Finish the nursery.
Obviously this is a big one. We’re planning to paint her room this weekend (and I’ll hopefully get a start on the mural wall on Sunday). I also have some frames that I need to paint and fill for her walls. As soon as that’s done, we’ll order the crib. I’ve been looking around on Craigslist for the perfect dresser/changing table, but I haven’t found the right one yet. I also need to start finding alternate places for everything we’ve been storing in the room until now.

2. Organize the hall and front closet.
I’ve mentioned before the weird abundance of closet space our apartment has. The front coat closet and hall closet are two that I feel are a bit underutilized at the moment. Now that we’re much more settled, I want to basically take everything out of each of them and put it back in a way that makes the most sense. Being me, I’m of course weirdly excited to do this. In a similar vein, I also want to reorganize our cellar space. This is largely a room for Joey’s sports equipment and bigger items we don’t have room for, but I think it could be a little neater.

3. Do my bi-annual clothing cull.
I’m very serious about my twice-yearly clothing sorts where I get rid of anything that is cluttering up our closets. Since the little miss will be arriving around the time I usually do my fall closet purge, I’d like to get that taken care of over the summer. (Since, you know, I’ve heard people with newborns are fairly busy people.)

4. Just…generally clean everything?
I think I can definitely blame this one on the nesting, but I want to get at least one deep cleaning in sometime late summer. My mom is planning to spend a week or two with us after Vivi is born, so I know she will be extremely helpful with the general upkeep of the apartment, but I’ll feel better if I know everything has had a fairly recent scrub-down. I also want to finish up any last-minute decor plans I’ve had rolling around my head so I’m not, I don’t know, staring at those spots on the walls that need paint touch-ups in Vivian’s third month. Hypothetically.

5. Get my own maintenance in.
As I said, people with babies seem pretty busy. So I want to get myself in order (as much as possible) before the baby gets here. That means dentist appointments, hair appointments, and any other last-minute things-that-make-me-feel-healthy-and-like-myself appointments needs to be scheduled sometime in August. Think of it as a pre-baby tune-up.

Okay, all written down, this list feels much more manageable. I really need about four solid weekends to get everything done. (Not the easy request since July is already pretty much taken up, but I still think I can get it done.)

Am I forgetting anything?

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In general, I find it kind of fascinating to observe the general population’s reactions to pregnant people. Whether it’s determining who is most likely to give up their seat on the subway (more on this later) or watching strangers struggle to control their “must touch the belly!” reflex, being pregnant (especially in a big city) is nothing short of non-stop social experiment.

That includes the reactions you get when you work out with a baby bump.

I’ve made a concerted effort to keep up with my workout routine as much as possible since I got pregnant. Prior to the bean, I worked out pretty hard 5-6 times per week. When we wanted to get pregnant, my doc recommended cutting back because there is some indication in recent studies that exercise can have negative effects on fertility. (Well+Good actually did an article on this in January if you’re interested in some of the science behind it.) Because I’m impatient (and, oh yeah, really wanted to get pregnant without too much trouble), I started cutting back on my vigorous workouts when we started trying. Which, really, meant cutting back on every workout I did. I go hard, yo.

I didn’t love tempering my workouts (I also didn’t love the handful of pounds I gained when I did), but fortunately I ended up getting pregnant the following month. Were the two actions directly correlated? I’ll probably never know. But I like to think I was at least doing everything I could to make the process go smoothly.

Ironically, while doctors recommend cutting back on exercise to get pregnant, they’re actually pretty encouraging about hitting the gym once you’re knocked up. The only warnings my doc gave me were to avoid trying anything new or where I could get injured easily, like rock climbing, mountain biking, and horseback riding (um…no problem?), and to try not to surpass an 8 on the “how hard is this from 1-10″ scale. Generally, that meant pushing myself without pushing my heart rate above 140 so I was never breathless.

Obviously, every pregnancy is different and you should make your own decisions based on whatever advice your doctor gives you and how you feel, but in general, your Great-Aunt Bertha’s advice to avoid anything more strenuous than climbing the stairs is pretty outdated.

It took me a while to really start showing, so for a few months, I was able to exercise while pregnant without causing much of a fuss. I stopped attending super hardcore bootcamps, like Barry’s or this studio I used to go to that trains you to do obstacle runs, and I held back a bit more in spin class. Otherwise, it was business as usual.

In the last month, though, things have started to change. And by “things,” I mean my belly. Despite being officially into bump territory, I’m still able to do most of my workouts without too many new modifications. I mean, I can’t lie on my tummy anymore, I have to adjust my handlebars higher in spin, and I had to sit out a half marathon Joey and a bunch of my friends ran recently, but all in all, I still feel like I can push myself and usually leave class feeling like I got a good workout.

The real difference is in the responses I get from trainers.

I have to say: If you ever really want to know how experienced a particular trainer is, watch how they handle having a pregnant woman in class.

Less experienced trainers always act they they have been thrown a gigantic curve ball (literally?) and will usually over-modify everything to the point where you might as well just be lying in a bed and sitting up every now and then. I mean, I get it. They (and I) would rather I got less of a workout than anything or anyone got injured. But if I’m going to take the time to show up and the trouble of having to wash my hair later, I want to feel like it was worth it.

Of course, there are always the less experienced trainers who basically just ask you to tell them what you can and cannot do. This is where it pays to be informed and aware of your own body. I generally tell these folks that I can’t do sprints, but everything else I can handle or will modify so I’m comfortable. That usually calms them down enough for you to work out in peace.

It’s much better, though, when you end up with a more experienced trainer. I’ve even had a few who have prenatal training certifications, which is awesome because you feel so much more comfortable letting them push you instead of trying to feel out for yourself where your limits are. Plus, these are usually the folks who don’t look at you like you’re broken somehow.

The trainers who are truly the best are the ones who have kids of their own. Female trainers with kids obviously get what you’re going through (and understand that if you’re still showing up to class, it’s because you still want to get a good sweat session in), and male trainers are usually just really nice to you because they’ve dealt with a pregnant lady before.

Over all, and like most aspects of pregnancy, I’ve found you just have to be your own best advocate. Pay attention to your body, and trust it. Let the trainer know you’re pregnant (I usually share this info when they ask if there are any injuries, but I always say, “I’m not injured, but I’m pregnant”) so they won’t try to push you more than you are comfortable with during class — but from there, do what feels right. As a trainer (who is a nurse and has had two babies) told me recently, “The baby will tell you when you can’t do that anymore.”

For me, keeping up with my workouts benefits me physically, emotionally, and mentally. I feel more like myself, I have more energy, and I’m told it will make labor and recovery a lot easier down the line. What’s not to like?

Have you worked out while pregnant? What kinds of responses did you get? What are your best tips?

To those of you who are getting a little bit tired of my sunshine-y, “pregnancy is great and easy!” attitude, I have good news: Things are starting to get a little uncomfortable around here.

I have to admit, I still don’t really feel like I should complain all that much. All in all, I really have enjoyed being pregnant. So far, I would not be scared to do this again.

But, it has to be said, people aren’t kidding when they say the end of pregnancy isn’t all rainbows and puppies.

After months of wishing and hoping for my belly to actually resemble that of a pregnant woman, I’m getting my wish — and then some. So far, I’ve got a perfectly manageable soccer ball-sized bump. But I’ve also got two and a half more months to go. And if her activity level is any indication, the little miss doesn’t show any signs of slowing down on development.

Adios, seeing my toes. I barely knew ye.

Speaking of that activity level. Joey and I apparently knew what we were doing when we settled on the name Vivian (which means “vivacious or full of life”). This girl boogies for hours at a time, and she pretty much stages her own Spring Spectacular every evening while I’m resting on the couch. (Complete with a lot of high-kicks and jazz hands, natch.)

Fortunately, while it’s sometimes a little surprising to get a jab in the gut from a pint-sized fist, I wouldn’t trade those pokes and prods for anything. I think the kicking will be what I miss most about pregnancy. (That and the fact that in vitro Vivi never talks back.)

Of course, talk to me again in another month and we’ll see if I’m still charmed.

Another pregnancy thing that isn’t just a bit in “Father of the Bride Part II”? Pregnant ladies are hot.

That’s with one T, as in temperature-wise. (Though I like to think my husband still thinks I’m pretty cute.)

Normally, I’m the girl who always has to bring a sweater and shivers through even the sunniest 60-degree day. Joey and I regularly debate about the definition of what is cold because anything about 70 makes him sweat.

Well, babe, I’m right there with you these days.

And, of course, I managed to get pregnant just in time for my third trimester to coincide with the hottest months of the year in New York. August is going to be brutal, folks.

So things are a little uncomfortable these days. And hot. And wiggly. But for now, I’m just trying to dress comfortably, drink loads of water, and enjoy it as much as I can.

Any tips and tricks from other mommas for surviving the summer whilst pregnant?

"This is how to bake cheesecake. And this is how to ruin it."

“This is how to bake cheesecake. And this is how to ruin it.”

I’m going to tell you a sad story. It’s called, “The Time I Tried to Make a Cheesecake for a Party.”

And, yes, there is a bit of foreshadowing in that title, isn’t there?

Last week, we found out two of our dear, dear friends were moving to Texas. To send them off in style, a group of us decided to put together a little Western-themed going-away party. Everyone chipped in or offered to bring a certain dish or drink for the party.

I offered to bring a cheesecake because it is one of our friend’s favorite dessert.

Nice enough, right? Sound simple, doesn’t it?

But, as you already know, this is a sad story. And sad stories are rarely nice and simple.

Anyone who has ever made a cheesecake before knows that it’s at least a 2-day process if you’re making the real deal. (Your no-bake Jell-o versions need not apply here.) So, the day before the party, I rounded up the ingredients for a Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake with white chocolate chips (roughly $40 of ingredients because baking is expensive, yo) and got to work after dinner.

It’s also relevant for you to know that my husband’s pal Gregg was over for dinner, and he and Joey watched this whole thing go down.

After dinner, the boys sat around drinking scotch and bonding (I assume) while I went to work in the kitchen. I made my own crust from gluten-free ginger cookies to appease the guests with diet restrictions. I whipped the cream cheese and sour cream and sugar and white chocolate into a fluffy, pillow-y mass. I gently swirled the raspberry jam, thinking fondly of the fresh raspberries I had also purchased to adorn the cake the next day.

When everything had been lovingly combined and assembled, I arranged the springform-bound confection in a water bath and put it in the oven.

It takes almost two hours to bake a cheesecake, so the boys had a great deal of fun asking me at 20-minute intervals if they could eat it yet. Ah…what fun we had…before the incident.

I always get nervous at this stage of cheesecake making because it’s so difficult to tell if it’s truly done. The center should still be a bit wiggly when you take the cake out of the oven because it sets up in the fridge overnight. If you over-bake a cheesecake, it gets a dry, almost powdery consistency that still usually tastes okay but is not as pleasing.

I was even more nervous because my little, old oven is not exactly the most reliable appliance.

But despite my trepidation, I finally got the cake to the correct consistency and set it on the stove to cool for an hour before it was to be refrigerated.

By this time, it was after eleven, and this old lady was quite tired to be up past her bedtime. But after washing all the dishes (because what’s the point of a perfectly prepared dessert if your kitchen is a disaster?) I watched TV with the guys and we chatted amicably about how to make cheesecake (and, no, they still couldn’t eat it).

Around 11:45, I had to call it a night, so I went to put the cheesecake in the fridge.

When I tell this story in person, this is around the time when people start biting their lip or preemptively putting their hands over their mouths in anxiety.

I don’t really have an excuse for what happened next. I mean, I was tired. The cake was kind of heavy. I had it on top of another pan so the butter wouldn’t drip onto the floor. I was holding it with one hand and opening the fridge door with the other.

But really, the excuses don’t matter. What matters is that one second I was opening the fridge door to put the cake in, and the next I was watching it, in slow motion, slide off the tray, nail a 180-degree flip, and then splatter all over the kitchen floor. The springform pan, free of it’s creamy contents, did one of those slow, spin-rattles to a stop.

No one in the apartment breathed for a second. (Well, Bogey did. He was already lunging for the mess.)

A number of thoughts courses through my brain in those seconds.

“That did not just happen.”

“I didn’t even have a chance to clean the floor yet this week.”

“$40 of ingredients.”

“This is why I don’t bake.”

And an assortment of words not becoming of a lady.

I let out a long, slow breath, and started to clean up the mess. Joey tentatively approached me from behind. You know, the way you do a wild animal that might kill you.

“Oh babe…what happened?” he asked.

“I do not want to talk about what just happened,” I seethed through clenched teeth.

“Ok,” he replied quickly. “Do you want me to get the Wet Jet or-”

“I want you to stand there and not say anything.”

“I can do that.”

(Even in the moment, I have to give it up to Joey for just NOT trying to fix it in that moment. I was mad at everything, and he knew getting involved was a surefire way to make me mad at him, too.)

For the record, I didn’t cry then. I didn’t cry while I scooped the (still searing hot) cheesecake back into the pan with my fingers and a large spoon. I didn’t cry while I sponged up the creamy bits the spoon couldn’t get. I didn’t cry while I mopped up the sticky remnants. I took a few shuddery breaths while I washed my hands and face, but I did not cry.

I told the guys I was going to bed. They quickly said, “Ok!” and gave me their best sympathetic glances.

I went to my bedroom and shut the door. And then? Then homegirl sobbed.

To be fair, I probably would have cried even if I wasn’t dealing with Hulk-level hormones lately, but I’m sure it didn’t help.

I heard the guys whispering furtively in the living room for a few minutes. Then a little while later, Gregg went home. Joey came into the bedroom and wrapped me in a bear hug.

“I just want you to know, Gregg and I both think you handled that better than we would have. We agreed that we definitely would have been throwing things.”

“I…don’t…want…to…talk about it,” I heaved through my sobs.

We both went to bed. And the next day, Joey bought a cheesecake for the party. (I wanted nothing to do about it.)

I can laugh about it now, obviously. (Though the next morning, I still wasn’t able to tell the story without getting glossy eyes.) But I just felt like sharing the story on here was the best way to purge it from my system.

So now, I want to hear your sad stories. Share your experiences of baking loves lost in the comments below. And we’ll all bond over wasted ingredients and sticky floors together.

{24 weeks}

{24 weeks}

Did you do a double-take at this post’s headline? Not going to lie: The fact that my pregnancy is almost two-thirds of the way over is mind-boggling even to me. (Technically the second trimester doesn’t end until the 27th week. The more you know.)(Insert shooting star.)

The first trimester seemed to crawl by, mostly because we wanted to keep things quiet until it had passed. The second trimester is going much quicker, but I still feel like the months crawl by sometimes. Now that I’m starting to feel a bit less comfortable (thanks to that soccer ball-sized uterus I’ve got now), I’m wondering if the last 16 weeks will seem to pass more slowly.

Anywho, I thought it could be nice to update any of you who are wondering how this whole “growing a human thing is going.” Here are answers to some of the most common questions I’ve been getting lately:

How do you feel?

Pretty good! I’m definitely feeling heavier and rounder, and I’m pretty dang tired by the time I get home from work (I have to walk about three miles a day as part of my commute, so I’m sure that has something to do with it), but overall I can’t complain too much.

How’s the belly?

It’s definitely growing! I have a wide ribcage, so up until the last couple of weeks I felt like I was filling out more than forward, but now we have officially entered baby bump territory. I feel like my stomach has stretched as much as I could have puffed it out naturally before (what, you never puffed out your stomach to see what you would look like pregnant?), and now we are at the point where things will start to stretch. Still keeping the hope alive that I won’t get stretch marks, but we shall see. I feel like the next month is going to bring a big ol’ belly with it, so stay tuned.

Any weird cravings?

Nothing too crazy, but I think I could eat frozen yogurt or ice cream every day. And today I was walking to work and thought about fried pickles and then thought, “YES.” So basically I’m a roly-poly cliche.

Any weird pregnancy symptoms?

HA! The whole thing is weird, folks. The things I’ve experienced run the gamut from: super thick hair, excess saliva (seriously), gas (yup, this is real life), dry skin, increase in hunger (though I get full after a few bites because my stomach doesn’t have as much room to expand), dry eyes and blurrier vision, forgetfulness, an increased interest in nesting, and crying over nothing. Plus, probably others that I can’t remember. (PREGNANCY BRAIN IS REAL NO MATTER WHAT SCIENCE SAYS.)

Does she kick a lot?

Yes! I get a handful of little kicks throughout the day, but between 9 and 10 pm she really tends to let loose. Joey and I love feeling (and SEEING) her kicking — it’s one of the weirdest/coolest things I can imagine. Fortunately, the kicks aren’t uncomfortable for me (at least yet), so it’s still one of my favorite feelings.

Do you have a name picked out?

Yes! We’re planning to go with Vivian, though we’ll probably call her Vivi while she’s a baby.

How’s your health?

(Okay, this question mostly comes from my parents.) Good! Vivi and I have passed all our screenings and tests so far with flying colors. I’ve been doing my best to keep up with working out regularly, partially because being stronger and healthier tends to make labor go smoother, partially because I’m vain and am hoping to get back in shape quickly after Vivi is born. Plus, the activity has a lot of positive benefits on my mental health and balancing out my (at times wonky) hormones. I miss being able to go all out in a tough spin class or boot camp, but even my modified workouts make me feel more like myself as my tummy continues to grow. So far I’m still able to run (usually between 3-4 miles), cycle, and go to pilates and barre classes. Though tying my shoes is getting to be more of a challenge…

I think that’s everything! I’m pretty much an open book when it comes to pregnancy, so if you have any other questions, feel free to post a comment below.