The Baby Business

I am almost 31 weeks pregnant; deep in the throes of organizing my “nest” and feeling possessed to clean out, purchase, and get everything ready before little Sophie Leona Holguin arrives into this world. It is definitely the mark of the third trimester beast: get your home in order because you might not ever have time to get it in order again.

However, as the focus shifts from pregnancy to actually having this little bundle of joy, I am more than a bit overwhelmed. I’ve been blogging about my entire pregnancy, asking the pertinent questions, doing research, but I am still as confused as ever as to what you really need for an infant. And of course, the incessant concerns run rampant:

  • Are crib bumpers safe or not safe?
  • Can your baby ever sleep with a blanket?
  • Will breastfeeding really be as hard as some people say it is?
  • Am I going to be forever judged for introducing my child to fresh, whole foods instead of the standard kid’s menu?
  • Will my pediatrician be the right one?
  • Will I ever sleep again?
  • Will my body be able to go back to what it was?
  • Will my child be healthy?
  • What will I do when she’s not healthy?
  • Will I seek alternative methods or listen to the doctor?
  • Will I be able to teach her everything she needs to know?
  • Will I be able to afford it?

In my life, babies were not part of the plan. I liked things I could quantify, things I could measure. I devoted my life to physical activity – progress I could see, feel, and experience. I dedicated my life to helping others reach their goals mentally, physically, and emotionally. I dedicated myself to the page. I wanted to become a writer, so I did. I wanted to marry my love of health and the written word – so again, I did. I met the love of my life after many sordid years of relationship strife. We married the way we wanted to. We got a puppy. We have managed to make everything work, and we have done it our own way. We never asked anyone else’s opinion, because we simply trusted our own.

So, why do I think having a baby will be any different? Why do I feel compelled to question my own judgment and listen to everyone else? To ask questions and take notes like I am studying for the bar exam? Perhaps because there is no preparation here. You don’t know what type of baby you will have until they are here. You can read the books, you can study, but until you become the expert on your own little person, all you have are tools in the arsenal.

And to be honest, all these tools can seem a bit overanalyzed and complicated than they need to be. What happened to simply trusting your instincts?

Having a baby used to be the most natural thing in the world. You didn’t ask for other people’s help or opinions. You trusted your judgment – on everything (this applies to our diets and physical activity as well). You fed them. You swaddled them. You used ancient remedies to help them get better. They got fresh air and movement. They grew up. They survived.

There were no warnings about BPA and SIDS and toxins in mattresses and cloth diapers versus disposable and sleep schedules and colic… instead, there was one universal thing that surrounded these little ones: love.

That is one thing I don’t have to prepare for (and yes, I know sometimes it can take a while to “bond” with your baby and that it might not be love at first sight, though I can’t really imagine that, as I love her so much already). But I don’t have to take a class on how to love my child.

I am a realist. I know my husband and I will make mistakes. Lots of mistakes. I know we will be more exhausted than we ever dreamed, and that I will probably spend many days crying on the sofa, whether it’s due to hormones, too much love, stress, exhaustion or everything combined.

But the great thing? There is no right way to do this. Having a baby should not be a “business” or something you study for. It should be natural, just as falling in love can be natural and messy and scary and everything in between.

So, as my husband said to me this morning, we will figure it out our own way. We’ve never walked down the beaten path, and we’re not going to start now. And no matter what, we have each other.

And I feel lucky.

And I cannot wait to meet my daughter at the end of May.

She will have everything she needs. Nothing more.

Nothing less.

As long as we both shall live.

Baby Registry 101

Almost 5 1/2 months pregnant - slightly sucking in... if I let it go, I look 9 months pregnant. :)

It’s that time – registry time.

I will be 5 1/2 months pregnant on Monday, and Sophie has an empty nursery. Every time I walk into the slate blue/gray room, with the 12 foot ceilings and large window, I am calm. I open her closet and see the few onesies hanging there – gifts from eager relatives. I see the blankets and two tiny stuffed animals, and the blank canvases Alex bought to paint her some animals to go above her crib. There, on the shelf, is her roll of ultrasound film, snugly coiled into a tight little ball. I place my hand on my belly and breathe deeply. Sometimes, she pushes back. Sometimes she sleeps soundly. Either way, she is in there, and so very alive.

I can’t wait for the day when I tiptoe into her room to check on her; to stare down at her beautiful face just to watch her breathing; to marvel at what Alex and I created, and what a miracle it all is. To pick her up, to swaddle her, to change her, to put her in a carrier and traipse all over the city of Chicago, to show her our home.

Until that time, there are “lists” to be taken care of. Massive tasks. To-dos a mile long. And really – despite the myth that I’m supposed to have a ton of energy (or perhaps I used it all during our move) – all I want to do is light a fire, make a giant bowl of pasta, have a big glass of wine (a girl can dream) and watch senseless TV until I fall asleep. I want Alex and Neruda curled beside me, their silhouettes dancing off the brick walls – the reflections of my family flickering back in the eco log’s warm flames.

At our last visit, my doctor told me we need to register for baby classes (check), register at the hospital (check – though it was strange to fill out a living will), and that I should think about getting a doula as I want a natural birth. Actually, let me rephrase: I insist on a natural birth for a variety of reasons, but mainly these three:

1. I loathe medicine.

2. Ever since I had brain surgery in 2001, my pain receptors are “off.” This means I can’t get numb at the dentist and pain medication of any sort does not work correctly. It’s odd and annoying (especially if you have to get knee surgery and can feel EVERYTHING because they can’t get the pain under control – even after 5 attempts with various medications, including morphine).

3. I want to.

Pain has never “scared” me in the traditional sense. I enjoy the intensity from various workouts, when my muscles are screaming and you want to just drop dead – but that’s when I push the hardest. I love tattoo pain – when I went with my friend to get her ribs done, she cried and sang Jingle Bells for 3 hours and was forever traumatized. When I went and that needle first touched down, I exhaled. “I love this,” I said, and though no one believes me, and though my tattoo artist inked my ribs for 5 hours without a break, tattoo pain is still some of my favorite (yes, I am a weirdo). I love neuromuscular massages, where it feels like my internal organs are being massaged, and my pain threshold has tripled since knee surgery – mainly because the surgery made it worse and I’ve lived with chronic pain ever since.

However, this type of pain – the pain of a human being escaping my body – astounds me. I literally can’t prepare for something I’ve never experienced or come close to experiencing. I can’t compare it to anything… I even cringe when I go to the gynecologist. So, how does one know how her body will respond to the crushing reality of contractions and delivery??

She doesn’t – hence, constant visualization of how I will handle the pain and the question of will I be in the camp of “I can handle this,” or “Oh my God, I’m going to die”?

I am hoping for the former.

Always a nerd, I signed us up for three classes: Great Expecations, Breastfeeding and Newborn Care. Do I know if they’re worth the $220 I had to pay? No clue, but I figure a little extra education never hurt anyone.

Which brings me to my next point: registering.

I have been talking with people, receiving the most helpful emails and suggestions about what to get and what not to get, and I am beyond thankful. I think the bottom line is this: Don’t buy too much crap, especially in the beginning, because you really won’t know what you’ll need until your little bundle of joy arrives.

Anyone who knows me knows that I loathe clutter. I hate the sight of cords dangling below a table leg, books that are out of place, and even a speck of dust on the floor. When Neruda flings all her toys about, I sigh and collect them, placing them back in her bed, only to see them scattered about five minutes later. With a child, I know it’s going to be impossible to keep a completely minimal, tidy home, BUT I think with a newborn, this can be accomplished in numerous ways. And the first way to accomplish this?

1. Don’t register for too many things.

I’ve realized, as I peruse the various genres of baby gear (and yes, I’m not ashamed to admit I really, really, really want the 4 Moms Origami stroller that costs $850), that I have no idea what I’ll need or not need, so perhaps just registering for a few staple items and some gift cards is the way to go.

This will not make for a very exciting baby shower, but seems to be the most practical thing.

But for now, I am continuing the day, having just read an amazing poem about days passing. One of the sentences really struck me:

“For some reason, we like to see days pass, even though most of us claim we don’t want to reach our last one for a long time. We examine each day before us with barely a glance and say, no, this isn’t one I’ve been looking for, and wait in a bored sort of way for the next, when, we are ocnvinced, our lives will start for real.”

I’ve often felt like that – that today is not the day – that tomorrow will be more exciting, more fulfilling, more productive. Yet, all we have is today, and I am learning to accept each day as the gift it is and not yearn so much for what awaits.

Today, I am a bit drained. It could be the recent addition of wheat into my diet and the excessive eating out during our move. It could be from my workout two days ago topped with the 4 hours of cleaning our old loft before the walk-through on Sunday. I skipped the gym yesterday and instead had 2 hemp waffles topped with sunflower butter and blueberries, and I followed that up with a fresh winter juice.

Though it’s cold outside and you want to reach for a coffee instead, juicing supplies infinite more energy and a plethora of vitamins and minerals (and you can even achieve that delectable “foam” just like a latte). If you’re in Chicago, head to Stanley’s, where you can stock up on 4 grocery bags of organic produce for under $30.

Enjoy!

Winter Juice

Ingredients:

1 cucumber

1 large juicing carrot

2 small red delicious apples

4 stalks celery

2 handfuls spinach

1. Juice (or blend) all ingredients, pour and sip slowly!

Dear Sophie…

Our little girl, Sophie Leona Holguin

January 12, 2012

Dear Sophie,

I met you today, as a wand with warm goo brought you into my sight… and you were easily the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

Your little face with the tipped up nose and tiny lips. You, with your fisted hands and strong legs, and the brilliant fish scalelike quality to your perfectly formed spine.

You were conceived on a hot night at the tail end of summer in a loft in the middle of Chicago. The not knowing you were inside me for the first few weeks, as I cooked and coached and worked out, astounds me now. How could I not have known that you – you, this infinitesimal beauty, this concept, this once tiny poppy seed, would grow in just over 20 weeks into an actual human being?

We watched your heart on the monitor for a full hour… I could not turn away. Your four chamber heart, your jaunty legs, your blood flow, lit up in reds and blues like Christmas lights… both Alex and I watched every part of you as you were dissected and measured by the lab technician who wore a scarf around her head.

Now, I sit from my new home – the first home you will ever know, though you won’t remember it – and type a letter to you, on this frigid winter’s night. I hope you come to love winter as much as Alex and I do… I hope you run through the snow with abandon and let us warm your cheeks with our kisses and a big cup of hot cocoa. I hope you love this life as much as we do.

I hope you recognize how loved you are – already, even as you fidget and sleep and grow inside me. Even as you cannot comprehend what awaits you. Even when you do comprehend the world and it doesn’t always make sense to you. Let your sense of awareness guide you.

When we went to the doctor, the sky was pregnant with clouds. When we came out, the roll of your first photo session clutched tightly in my palm, it was snowing. It continued to snow all day – as I made phone calls and kissed your father goodbye and dropped him at work and walked around our house, ignoring deadlines and holding my stomach in my hands. I called your name out loud: Sophie. Sophie Leona Holguin.

My little girl.

The life that beats inside me.

Now, it’s late, and we can hear our upstairs neighbor, who is watching some movie with the volume of a ninety year old with two hearing aids. The tree directly in front of our window droops heavily with snow. I want to open the window and catch a snowflake on my tongue. The train tracks are muted by the white slush – there is a general buzz outside, and it feels like winter has finally arrived.

This will be a day we will always remember: the day we first met you, the day we fell in love with you on a monitor… how can this be going on inside me? How can you be so beautiful and I haven’t yet held you in my arms? How can you be ours?

I cannot wait to share our lives with you and to see what type of life you will have. I want to share words and poems and thoughts and music and give you the room to grow on your own.

I want to see you fly.

I don’t know much, but this much I do: I love you already, from the depths of my soul. There’s not much that’s unconditional in this world, but this is one of those unconditional things. My love to you. Alex’s love to you. Your grandparents’ love to you. It’s all ever after.

As if in assent, you make a movement inside of me. I feel the pressure of your little body pressing against mine. I smile. The heat kicks on. Neruda yawns. All is just as it should be.

I cannot wait to bring you home, Sophie.

I cannot wait to look into your eyes and say hello, Sophie.

I cannot wait to softly call your name, Sophie.

Smile, dear girl.

For you are meant to be.

 

Her Door

by Mary Leader

for my daughter Sara Marie

 

There was a time her door was never closed.

Her music box played “Fur Elise” in plinks.

Her crib new-bought – I drew her sleeping there.

The little drawing sits beside my chair.

These days, she ornaments her hands with rings.

She’s seventeen. Her door is one I knock.

 

There was a time I daily brushed her hair

By window light – I bathed her, in the sink

In sunny water, in the kitchen, there.

 

I’ve bought her several thousand things to wear,

And now this boy buys her silver rings.

He goes inside her room and shuts the door.

 

Those days, to rock her was a form of prayer.

She’d gaze at me, and blink, and I would sing

Of bees and horses, in the pasture, there.

 

The drawing sits as still as nap-time air –

Her curled-up hand – that precious line, her cheek…

Next year her door will stand, again, ajar

But she herself will not be living there.

 

Home Sweet Home

Today marks a new beginning. We can argue that everyday we have new beginnings. We wake up, the slate is wiped clean, and we choose our paths. Go to work or rebel. Follow the list or chuck it. Finally take that vacation or keep dreaming for years on end.

This beginning is a bit more subtle, but it’s still a start to something new. Now, as the traffic flows by on my new, busy street, and the Metra runs its course, scraping across the metal tracks, I am comforted by all the new noises, by my puppy still acclimating herself to her new home, and to all the familiar furniture, now highlighted in a more beautiful space.

Our new living room...

Finally, after almost two weeks of packing, schlepping boxes and hiring overpriced movers to move exactly 12 pieces of furniture (as Alex and I got a little over zealous and just kept backing boxes and furniture in our car prior to our actual move date), we are in our new home. [Note to self: Don't ever attempt moving heavy boxes and going up and down flights of stairs and attempting consistent workouts when 5 months pregnant. It's just not smart.]

This is the home that we will have a baby in. This is the home I will grow large and plump in; the home where I will probably get intense cravings and “encourage” Alex do late night runs to get me something delicious. This is the home where we will go from being a twosome to a threesome. This is the home where I will begin labor in; where I will have my first baby shower. This is the home where I will stare out massive windows and go from a life of silent pondering to a life full of noise: my baby crying, the upstairs neighbor, who is literally 7 feet tall and stomps around until 4:ooa.m. every night, letting my creative imagination come up with ways to mangle him, the way the sounds carry in this condo, much moreso than the loft… and how you never really know what quirks of a home you’re getting into until you’re there.

The view from the dining room...

My mother, the saint that she is, flew up to help with the unpacking, shopping and setting up of the place since Alex had to go back to work. We spent four days making lists and tackling them, rearranging furniture, loading up books, unloading books, stacking books, purchasing numerous odds and ends (the things you never budget for: shelf liners, bathroom accessories, kitchen accessories, trash cans, more bookshelves, etc.), and getting so exhausted I could barely keep my eyes open (and received my first sore throat of five years).

Before the furniture arrived, on our first night, I made pasta and we ate on ottomons, setting our olive oil, bread and wine for my mom and Alex on a step ladder. We watched Parenthood on the iMac and reveled in the almost “doneness” of our accomplishment. The first day we worked over here, I packed food for us but forgot normal silverware, so we ate our salads with giant wooden spoons. These are the things I will remember.

My other babies...

Over the weekend, my father came into town. We had an amazing weekend where we ate and talked and sipped coffee and celebrated his birthday and just reveled in each other’s company. On our last morning, we sat with them in the Sofitel lobby by the fire. How I hate our goodbyes.

Today, I am looking at “the list” and wishing for snowfall. I can’t wait to have our first real fire and watch the fat flakes decorate the street and our 12 foot windows. I can’t wait to feel the baby kick and welcome it into this world.

Today, I am five months pregnant – 20 weeks. I began feeling the first tiny flutters, which feels like butterfly wings. They come and go sporadically, and it feels like the baby is literally tickling me from the inside. On Thursday, we will find out what we’re having: a boy or a girl, and from there, a different piece of the puzzle will randomly fall into place.

My current child...

I try not to rush this week – my first week in our new home – but as I walk back to the nursery, painted in its cool slate, I wonder what clothes will hang in the closet, what the nursery furniture will look like, what his/her little face will do first thing in the morning. I don’t want to rush this person into existence, but I am eager to see and known and finally understand what everyone talks about: the love for your child.

Until then, I am taking slow steps. I am listening to the new sounds of a different neighborhood. I am waiting patiently for the next steps to unfold, in writing, in training, in love, in life. I am gaining patience.

And growing with time.

My workspace...

Brownies and Road Trips: Two of My Favorite Things

Yesterday was one of those days.

It started as I popped Neruda’s metal dish into the microwave. From there, the day quickly spiraled out of control, from miscommunication with clients to idiot drivers to melting chocolate on the stove in my usual glass bowl, only to have the entire bottom of the glass bowl break into the pan of water when I was on a deadline (and had no more chocolate), to getting stuck in a random carpool line for half an hour when my bladder was about to burst (and I didn’t have a child to pick up), to getting a “no” from the job I wanted after two months of waiting, to having the checkout lady at Whole Foods cough grotesquely into her hand and then fondle my groceries… (and the list continues).

Instead of crying (which would be totally expected in my pregnant state), I took a deep breath. I assessed the situation. This was just a day, not my life. Everyone was still breathing. It was a beautiful, albeit, frigidly cold day. And like so many things, if you get out of bed and stub your toe (or almost catch your microwave on fire, as in my case), you send yourself on a path of negativity. I wanted to get off that path.

And last night, I did. Alex and I attended Olson’s Christmas party, held at Hub 51. As we worked our way inside, I realized this must be what every Chicagoan does on Thursday night as we are snuggled on the couch: they are out drinking and mingling at Hub 51. Downstairs, the party was in full swing. I felt festive, and found it was so nice to be surrounded by new people – people I’d heard so much about but hadn’t yet met.

Quickly, I met woman after woman who was pregnant, just had a baby, or had been on the mommy track for quite some time. We yelled over the music and hours passed in the span of minutes.

As we left, I felt invigorated and so proud of Alex for slipping in so effortlessly with the group in only 3 weeks’ time.

As a celebration, I ate some of the delectable brownies I had remade earlier in the day and thought of our vacation to come. Not all the packing and moving that will come after it or the possible new job at Downsize Fitness when I return: no.

Only packing the car for the 7 hour journey to Nashville; bringing our pup, Neruda, for the very first time; seeing my parents’ warm smiling faces and their big house with the comfy guest beds; watching endless movies and eating delectable treats; taking walks around the quiet block, going out to long dinners, sitting at Fido with Nikki, eating hangover bombs and talking like no time has lapsed since we’ve seen each other; waking on Christmas morning to music and photographs and the tree, warmed by lights; brunch with the family and staying in pajamas all day to watch A Christmas Story and be sloths on the sectional with my husband, his mother, and the rest of my family.

These are the moments that fill me with the most happiness… simple moments, nothing moments, really, in the span of a life, but they are the ones that truly matter. It’s not the book deal or the one solid interview or the perfect article – it’s the experience.

As I touch my belly, finally budding and starting to show its own sense of life in this world, I am so curious as to who she/he will be and what they will hold dear to them.

For me, I will hold this holiday close to my heart, not because of what Christmas usually represents with presents (which we are not doing this year), but with family. I am fortunate to love my family and get along with them so well. This will be my last Christmas as an individual – before someone calls me mommy or the world views me with a new title or I experience an even deeper sense of love than I can possibly comprehend.

This year, I am counting down the hours until we leave like a child on Christmas Eve.

The apartment is quiet, save for the dryer, heating up the last load of clothes. Neruda’s bag is packed, full of potty pads, food and her interminable amount of toys. My bag is half-packed. Our snacks for the road are in a Whole Foods bag and ready to go. All I need now is Alex, walking through the door, so I can kiss the cold from his cheeks, hear about his day and feast on something delicious, as we continue to tidy our house, throw our clothes into a bag, and hit the road at the crack of dawn tomorrow for a new adventure.

These are the moments of my life… and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

Black Bean Flourless Brownies (inspired by the ever amazing YumUniverse!!!)

These flourless, gluten-free brownies are completely vegan and packed full of protein from black beans (I promise you can’t taste them). With just a few simple ingredients (and a few variations from YU’s recipe), this will satisfy any chocolate craving.

Ingredients:

3 cups low-sodium black beans, rinsed (25 oz. can)

1/4 cup coconut oil

2 cups vegan chocolate pieces (10 oz. bag)

2/3 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup pecans (optional)

1 cup + 2 Tbsp. coconut palm sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line pan or cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2. Rinse your canned black beans and set aside.

3. Melt your chocolate and coconut oil using a double broiler or microwave. *

4. Place all ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth. Stir in pecans.

5. Spread into pan or cookie sheet and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean.

*Note: If using microwave to melt chocolate, make sure to use a microwave safe bowl and lower power on microwave to half. Melt in 30 second intervals and then stir. It should not take more than a couple of minutes! 

The Baby Blues

I am 16 weeks today. Officially 4 months pregnant – a month in which, for some uncalculated reason, seems to mean that I am “really” pregnant and haven’t just been bloated and growing boobs for the past four months.

While most mothers are getting that radiant glow and gaining energy, I seem to be slipping slowly backwards. While I never got the intense fatigue people talk about in the first three months, it is growing on me, gaining momentum. I feel drained. I feel sad. I feel foggy-brained and a bit overwhelmed by all the tasks before me (and yes, this could mainly be due to the stressors of moving!).

Perhaps it is that Alex is now back in a 9 to 5 environment – albeit, an amazing, creative one – truly his dream job, and I am here, as always, writing and trying to ignore the boxes that are demanding to be packed for our mid-January move. We are leaving for Nashville in a week. It is all I can think about. My parents’ cool house, endless fires, cups of hot tea (and copious amounts of red wine for the rest of them), coffee shop jaunts with my two closest girlfriends and a cold that is not bitter, but should still warrant a jacket and thick, bright scarf.

I suppose I am panicking. Panicking as the baby grows and sucks me dry for nutrients; panicking as I wait to hear back from a job I really want; panicking as we’ve locked ourselves into a lease, when really, I am longing for my family and wondering how I will do this pregnancy without them. Panicking about money (though I am reading The Secret every night before bed… yet it seems to slip from my brain like a distant memory by morning). Panicking about my body’s rapid changes and missing my workouts so much, it is like the worst addiction.

I am not a worrier. I don’t see the point in laying out all my fears and concerns like a safety blanket – pinning my insecurities to the worn fabric as if that will do something or bring about some sort of resolution. I am a doer. A task-blaster. A go-getter. Yet, lately, I want to wear pajamas and curl up on our couch and let other people take care of making food and taking photographs and writing and meeting deadlines and feeding the dog and cleaning and going grocery shopping (yet again – damn you, Whole Foods!!) and doing laundry and moving in the dead of winter and painting and setting up a new house and registering for baby stuff I have no idea about and doing the finances and making time for everyone I want to make time for and paying the ever climbing bills and going to doctors’ appointments when I still don’t like doctors and simply waiting around until May when the real fun begins…

Some could easily discern that I am spinning. Do other mothers ever feel this way before the baby comes? Perhaps I am glimpsing a future, dimmed by endless fatigue and constant to-dos… but I don’t want to be that mom. I want to be present in my life and active and energetic. And most of all grateful. And happy. Which I am (I swear).

I know this is a passing phase. That this slight halo of depression is just that – slight and fleeting. That I will get through this, just as I’ve gotten through every other phase in my life, and most importantly, I will have learned something.

But, for now, I am going to bake a cake and attend a party. I will put on a pretty outfit and smile and say all the right things. And I will feel better because I will not be in my own head, festering and wondering and mooning about our future.

I will be a reactor instead of a ponderer.

I pat my belly and smile. It will all be okay. I know it, I feel it, I will it.

Like anything, it’s just growing pains.

*NOTE: Today, I feel completely normal and happy about all that lies ahead! Thank you, surge of hormones. I am hoping this will be a continuing trend…

Eating for 2, Not 22

Turkey Day

Our "no" turkey day, complete with white bean and potato mash, acorn squash with quinoa, parsley and pistachios, brussels with cranberries and walnuts, peanut sweet potato soup, salad and fresh bread.

I never count calories.

As a teen, I would laboriously count calories, plucking grapes self-consciously at lunch and counting up the numbers in my head. After years of torturing myself with eating improperly, I became certified in nutrition and got a handle on what my body needs. I can’t remember the last time I counted a calorie or tallied up my day. When you fill your body with whole foods, you simply don’t have to. You get what you need, and you eat until you feel satisfied.

With the typical American diet, we eat more and more because the foods aren’t nutritionally dense. When we eat more plants and grains, our bodies fill with all the fiber and nutrients. We are satisfied. We move on. We have energy.

And while I haven’t been able to eat as well as I’ve wanted to while pregnant (I don’t think vegetarian burritos or chips and guacamole from Chipotle were on my pre-pregnancy menu!!), there is a topic that seems to get a lot of flack during pregnancy: how much extra to eat while with child.

Contrary to popular belief, we only need about 80 calories the first trimester (or none if you’re at a healthy weight), 250-300 the second, and 400-450 the third. This equates to an apple in the first trimester, 1 apple and 2 Tbsp. of peanut butter in the second trimester, or a serving of black beans, quinoa, avocado and some veggies in the third – that’s it.

While this seems negligible, it’s not. Our bodies, while pregnant, absorb more nutrients from what we eat. Our bodies become more efficient, and therefore the baby takes what they need (hence, being irrationally tired), and we supply the rest.

One interesting fact I found in the book Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies? by Jena Pincott is that chocolate lovers do have sweeter babies. The author did a ton of research and concluded that the more chocolate a woman consumed the sweeter her baby’s disposition. If chocolate calms your nerves, you produce fewer stress hormones that could affect your unborn baby’s mood and disposition.

So, when the craving strikes, opt for dark chocolate or even vegan chocolate. While chocolate does contain caffeine and sugar (about 20 milligrams of caffeine per ounce), if you limit it to a few small pieces per day, you should be fine.

And to demonstrate this point, I made some delicious dark chocolate pistachio bark for Thanksgiving that was a huge hit.

The next time the sweet tooth strikes, try this no-bake treat and think of how sweet your baby will be.

Dark Chocolate Pistachio Bark

Ingredients:

2 bars dark chocolate (70% dark)

1/2 cup raw, chopped pistachios

dash of sea salt

1. Melt chocolate over medium heat in a double broiler by breaking chocolate apart and stirring frequently (or get a pan, fill slightly with water and place a heat safe glass bowl on top of it). You can also melt chocolate in the microwave.

2. Grease an 8-inch pan with vegetable spray, then line with parchment paper, allowing a slight overhang.

3. Once chocolate is melted, pour chocolate onto the parchment paper.

4. Sprinkle pistachios on top of the chocolate, dash with sea salt and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, until set.

5. When you want to serve, peel off of parchment and break into pieces.

Someone To Be Thankful For

Alex

While Alex was at an interview yesterday, I ran to the store to gather our Thanksgiving groceries. We are hosting Turkey Day for his family and are introducing them to their first vegan Thanksgiving (Tofurkey not included).

As I weaved in and out of the aisles, the scent of Christmas trees abundant, I gathered produce in thin, plastic bags and took my time, careful to cover all items on my list. I gathered fresh yellow tulips and pecan pumpkin bread and cranberry walnut bread. I scratched off the dishes in my head: peanut sweet potato soup, arugula salad, brussels sprouts with cranberries and thyme, white bean potato mash, acorn squash with quinoa and pistachios, dark chocolate bark with pistachios and a natural pumpkin pie.

When I came home, I worked on my novel, something I take such great pleasure in. When Alex returned, he ducked into the other room, as I listened to Pandora and finished a few articles. Then, in my inbox, this:

Rea,

The morning is long gone. Thoughts and small memories float around my mind and out into the air of our apartment. Thoughts of waking up. Thoughts of looking at you from across the gym. Knowing how madly in love I have become with you in such a short time. Thoughts of my 9:30 interview. Thoughts of tasting your sweet lips before departing, and feeling the one and only thing that has and will always exist as ‘home’ to me: you. Thoughts of what was said for 2 hours. Thoughts of what’s to come. Thoughts of my life and the journey I am blessed to experience with the only person I was meant to experience it with. Thoughts of our child growing inside of you. How thankful I am, and how honored I am that you will be its mother. The most amazing woman I know will not only be my best friend, my love, my everything, but she will also be a mother. I could not have picked a better person. I could not have wished for a better person. I could not have imagined a better person.

As the music stirs the air on the other side of our apartment and your fingertips float with ease across your keyboard, the only thing I can think of is how much I love you. How much you mean to me. How much happiness you bring me. How much I need you. How much I would do for you. How much I missed you for the first 29 years of my life. How much you have always been a part of me and my life. How much ‘us’ means to me. How much I brim with pride being married to you. How much strength you have given me. How much excitement I am filled with knowing that I get to spend my life with you. How much that time will never come close to being enough.  How much you are my world.

I love you, Rea Frey Holguin. From now until always. I will even when I am no longer here.

Happy Tuesday, gorgeous. You grow more stunning as the days pass. Don’t ever forget how much you mean to me. You have filled every missing piece in me beyond capacity.

Yours,

Alex 

I stopped the monotony of what I was doing and crept into the other room, smothering Alex with kisses, falling into him, holding him. We’ve been lucky enough to work in the same space and spend an exorbitant amount of time together over these past two years, but things are about to change. Different jobs will lead us in new directions, and next summer, it will never be just the two of us again.

There is comfort in that, and trepidation as well.

But, as I look at my husband, who has become everything in my world, all I feel is grateful. Grateful that I found him, grateful for our lives, grateful that we get to work it all out together, grateful that he will be the father of my child.

I am grateful. Right here, in this moment.

Because it’s all I have.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Pregnancy

Today, I awoke bright and early at 6:00a.m. Due to the pouring rain, my clients were cancelled, but I immediately jumped on work, made my buckwheat blender pancakes, and began a steady stream of typing. Around noon, I felt insanely tired and decided to take a short nap and go work out. Making a quick detour to Whole Foods for pasta ingredients for tonight, I picked up an issue of Fit Pregnancy. It was like a whole new world.

Thankfully, this issue was perfect for me. On the cover was a vegan actress (the star of Bones, Emily Deschanel). Inside was a complete “clueless” guide for first-time mothers. (Thank you, Jesus!) What to eat, what not to eat, what to buy, what to worry about, and what not worry about. In a word: savior.

As I walked mindlessly on the step mill, I devoured the information, and it was nice reading something out of my comfort zone for once. This isn’t another magazine full of exercises to help you get slim or lose five pounds – it’s about preserving your life for another’s. The selflessness overwhelmed me.

When I talked to my friend, Johnny Cooke, MAT specialist, the night before about altering my fitness routine, I became panicked.

“You have no idea how ravaged your body is about to become. You will not be doing anything explosive for 18 months. Once that baby is born you aren’t going to be thinking about going to the gym. You’re going to want to sleep.”

Johnny has two children. When his daughter was born, his dad pulled him aside and told him he would never again have a good night’s sleep. This is what I fear, and what I’ve always been intrigued by. If Alex and I don’t get a good night’s sleep, we are groggy, grumpy, and float through the day in a funky fog. But, parents all over the world miraculously work three jobs and make ends meet. They do what they have to with no regard to the bone weariness that keeps them up well into the night.

While sleep deprivation cannot be avoided, the way we construct our days and lives can be controlled. For instance, Alex is one of the most helpful human beings on the planet. He will be that dad up all night if that means I get to sleep. He is the laundry and dish king. When he gets stressed, he cleans (yes, really). He is emotionally and physically supportive, and together, I want this to be completely new and interesting and tough and hilarious – because that’s the way our entire relationship has been.

We haven’t listened to anyone. We’ve gone with our intuition on every decision (yes, even that impulse purchase of our puppy, whom I love more than anything) and it has never led us astray.

I also know that over these nine months my workout philosophy will shift and change, but exercise is my sanity. It always has been. Going to the gym is as much a part of my life as brushing my teeth. It’s what I’ve done since I was three years old, as I tumbled across a mat, little brown curls bouncing. My mother said I used to throw elbows and knees in her womb: even in utero, I was a fighter.

And as my first OBGYN appointment looms closer, and I will have to divulge the details of my brain surgery 10 years ago (and that clipped vein still swimming around my head somewhere) and my knee surgery and the fact that I am a plant eater and don’t have maternity insurance, I am, in this moment, calm.

Over the past week, I have been given help and advice and different suggestions. But, the lesson I’ve learned for today?

Trust your own instincts.

I am listening to myself and to my body. It’s what millions of women did before they had magazines or websites or guidelines to follow.

Our bodies are made for this. It is awesome and inspiring and miraculous.

As is my hunger right now… so I am going to go eat.

I will leave you with a haiku:

I place my hand to 

My belly and breathe; how can

Just one breath feed two?

Vegan Strawberry Oat Bars

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup pitted dates

1/4 cup raw macadamia nuts

2 Tbsp. old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cup strawberries, thinly sliced

1. Pulse dates, nuts, and oats in a food processor until combined.

2. Press the date mixture into the bottom of a glass container or a 9×5 inch loaf pan.

3. Mash half of the berries and spread on top of date mixture. Top with remaining strawberries. Slice into rectangles, if desired!