Maternal Health in India

Despite numerous social welfare organizations fighting for the cause, maternal health in India still needs major improvements. Quality aspects in maternal health care have long been ignored by the Indian public health system. Most women in the rural areas of India  either do not have proper access to healthcare or are unaware of what to do during a pregnancy. A research study published by Princeton University asserts that more than 40% of Indian women are underweight when they begin their pregnancy. So from the start, women are headed toward an unhealthy pregnancy. The results of this research study highlight the need for government intervention in terms of maternal health monitoring.

It is not the lack of access to medicinal support, but because of the influences of a patriarchal society that maternal health is difficult in India. The status of a woman in India is much worse than in any other county. Because most women in rural areas are married off at a young age, they are likely to become pregnant soon after marriage and expected to keep quiet, work hard and eat little. The lack of respect for women in Indian society is a glaring telltale for the cause of this problem.

Not only do these women have a low status, but they also all live in a disease-filled environment. 70% of rural Indian households defecate in the open, a practice that is bound to multiply intestinal diseases and parasites. Though certain mental health programs are trying to alleviate the problem by distributing free food in impoverished areas and offering cash incentives for hospital deliveries, the problem cannot be solved until the focus is shifted toward increasing weight during pregnancy.

The gravity of the situation is recognized by Every Mother Counts, a non-profit organization dedicated to making pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mother. They are active in informing, engaging and mobilizing new audiences to take action and raise funds that support maternal health programs around the world. To support this cause, the Indian Club at Chapman University recently teamed up with Be Better Movement.


On Thursdays, April 27th and May 4th, Chapman University’s Indian Club set up a table in the Attallah Piazza with a goal in mind. Offering free Henna tattoos and playing Indian music, club members rallied to increase awareness and to voice a call to action. They urged passersby to subscribe to the Be Better Movement in support of increasing maternal care in exchange for a free henna tattoo. The club received many interested people who were willing to engage, some because they wanted to get a henna tattoo and others because they wanted to support the cause. Ultimately, the publicity for Be Better Movement brought successful results and we are closer to making the world a safer place for mothers and their babies.

Eating Oranges in the city of Orange, CA

In 2013, we bought a house in the city of Orange in Orange County, CA, and guess what? We even have orange trees in our backyard. So this week’s citrus challenge was not challenging at all. I love seeing old photos of Orange packed with orchards of citrus which, until the 1950s, was the backbone of the local economy.

From mid-December to mid-February our backyard produces enough oranges to feed the neighborhood. One year, we put a box of oranges on the sidewalk with a sign that read, “FREE! Take as many as you want.” When our backyard oranges slowly disappear, I buy my citrus from two sources:

  • Our bi-weekly Fresh Farm to You box often comes with a couple oranges, lemons and/or tangerines.

  • Cooper and I also go to the farmers’ market every Tuesday at Irvine Regional Park, particularly because the $3 parking fee is waived that day, but also because we love the produce there. This week I bought a $5 small bucket of tangerines.

Lessons on Vitamin C

When Cooper was sick earlier this year, her doctor told me to start feeding her mid-day smoothies with a whole orange blended into the mix. For some reason the concept “blew my mind” although it should have been common sense. What is the first thing we often do when we think we are getting sick? We grab one of the Emergen-C packs loaded with Vitamin C, an essential compound in maintaining a healthy immune system. Ever since then, I try to add an orange to her smoothies

Cooper has gone through moments when she LOVES eating Cuties (you know those small mandarin oranges with a cute name), but recently she puts them in her mouth, sucks out the juice and then throws the rest on the ground.  On a positive note, she is still getting some of the nutrition.

As I mentioned, this week’s #bebetter52 challenge was easy, but I have enjoyed the excuse to eat more and more citrus this week.

 

Be Better from a College Student at Tufts University

Hello! My name is Lauryn, and I am currently a senior at Tufts University, about 5 miles outside of Boston. I am studying biology and am interested in pursuing a career in health care. Although I have loved my time on the east coast, I am excited to be returning to the Bay Area for some warm(er) winters and quality time on the outdoor hiking trails.

I have been a part of the Be Better Movement for about a year and a half after a friend referred me to this community. I am not going to lie though; it is a struggle to keep up with the challenges week after week. As a college student, it is easy to focus solely on what is going on within your “college bubble.” However, I am motivated by the fact that each challenge I complete not only benefits admirable charities such as Every Mother Counts, but also improves my health and well-being.

This week’s #bebetter52 challenge is to eat citrus. Citrus provides me with Vitamin C, essential to staying healthy when interacting with patients at a hospital. Because I love citrus already, it was relatively easy for me to incorporate into my meals this week. In fact, the hardest part of this challenge was remembering to buy citrus at the grocery store!

Since citrus is the main focus of the Be Better Challenge this week, I tried to be more mindful and creative with the drinks and food I put in my body. For example, while I normally drink plain tap water, this week I added lemon or lime wedges to my water. I could not believe that such a small change would actually impact my mood throughout the day! I felt more awake and present in class.

This week, I also baked salmon with lemon and brussel sprouts, which I served over spaghetti with a brown butter, lemon, and rosemary sauce. It was delicious and nutritious! This recipe is actually one of my quick, go-to meals during the week.

I had so much fun with the challenge this week, and I can’t wait to complete more in the future!

 

Just Breath by Katherine

This week’s #BeBetter52 Challenge: Breathing.  Sounds pretty simple, but when you get down to it, I think we all forget to stop and take a breather every now and again.  With two young kids, two dogs, a full-time job, and a husband who works primarily during evenings and weekends, I completely understand the need to take a moment to center and calm myself in the midst of chaos.  

For a couple of years now, I’ve been taking hot yoga as often as possible, sometimes up to five times a week.  I love the hour session that calms my brain.  Doing yoga, and concentrating on my breathing when my mind begins to wander, has allowed me to apply this to my everyday stresses.  When my kids are yelling at each other, or me, and I feel like I am going to scream, I focus on my breathing.   When my husband does something I disagree with and I want to bite his head off (I’m human after all!), I focus on my breathing.  When I am so overwhelmed with all of the activities on our calendar, and I’m schlepping children from activity to activity, I remind myself to focus on my breathing.  It doesn’t always work – but yoga reminds me to seek the inner calmness and peace that comes with it.

Though I’m not able to participate as often as I’d like in the #BeBetter52 challenges, this one speaks to me loudly and clearly.   Everyone has so much going on in their world, and breathing is a major element that can help you take a moment to put priorities into perspective.  

Our Hearts Beat Against Each Other: Baby Hugs

We all know someone in our life who is just a "huggy-type" person. For me, it was my Grandma Kathy. I remember disappearing into her hugs, nestling into her squishy arms and laying my head on her chest. Yes, I was her grandchild, and I never thought to ask my mom if grandma was that way with her own children. Since having a baby of my own, my desire to kiss and hug this little girl is all encompassing. Sometimes my love is so intense I smoother Coops with my kisses and hugs, not wanting to stop even when she starts pushing me away. Until about a month ago, Cooper did not like to snuggle, and our only snuggle time happened while nursing. Originally, I had planned to stop nursing when she turned one. But as one year came and went, I found myself not wanting to give up those precious moments when Cooper wrapped herself around me while nursing. They were moments I treasured and didn't want to give up. Thankfully, the weaning process became easier on “mama” when I recently discovered that the less I nursed, the more she became a true cuddler. Not only with me, but also with Cory.

I did attempt to give out more hugs this week, but my main focus was to enjoy the snuggle sessions Coops gave me daily. Whenever she felt sleepy, either before or after a nap, she blessed me with a hug. She would rest her head on my chest while sucking her thumb and lightly rubbing my neck. I then lightly rubbed her little back as her breathing slowed down and she completely relaxed. I know these moments of a toddler snuggling her mother are short lived, so trust me, I am soaking up every minute of it. In our moments of embrace, I feel a sense of complete calm and connection with my little one. Our hearts beat practically against each other. I believe all the facts are true regarding the physical and emotional benefits of hugs, and I want my baby to always know I am here for a hug.

I cherish all the hugs given to and from my husband. Sometimes a long hug after a particularly tiring day can be a cure all. I am grateful for the ones who taught me to hug and to the ones who allow me to hug.

 

Slap me. Clean me. Remind me.

Slap me. Clean me. Remind me.

In general, I am pretty good at filling up water bottles for the day, and I am pretty good at drinking all the water.  I try to never buy water bottles unless I am super desperate because it feels wasteful and lazy. I use the word lazy because I have witnessed first hand the physical and emotional sacrifice women worldwide face to supply their families with drinking water.

photo credit: Kenya Keys

photo credit: Kenya Keys

Slap Me.

The reality is sometimes I am annoyed it takes over 30 seconds to fill up my 25-ounce Swell Water Bottle. I sit at the refrigerator feeling impatient and frustrated it is taking so long. I have places to go and people to see. This week I noticed my ridiculous impatience. Someone needs to SLAP ME IN THE FACE if I ever do it again because I know firsthand how lucky we are to have fresh, cold, filtered water coming directly into our homes in abundance whenever we want it.

I have traveled to Kenya six times with the organization Kenya Keys. Each trip is centered around identifying and breaking barriers that keep education from the “girl children.” The reality facing many girls, starting at a young age, is the responsibility to fetch the family’s daily water. This trip to the water catchment involves carrying gallons of water, sometimes for miles. This chore consumes their day, taking away from precious hours they could be attending school and studying. The water crisis in Kenya right now is real and seriously affects educational opportunities, health, and sanitation. So yeah, please slap me when I forget my obnoxious first world problem.

Clean me.

One thing that stops me from drinking more water is a lingering concern my water bottle is not clean. Years ago, I left a water bottle in my car way too long, and it turned moldy inside. Yes, disgusting. Since then, I am consistently nervous that mold is growing in my lid or deep inside the water bottle. Many of the water bottles have a skinny spout, making it difficult to see inside. So this week I also researched how to clean metal water bottles. Turns out it is simple.

-       Do not use a dishwater

-       Normal cleaning is just soap and water.

-       More advanced cleaning involves diluting 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar with a cup of water. Pour solution into water bottle, let sit for 15 minutes. Use a bottle cleaning brush if you have one.

Remind me.

Now that Cooper is 90% weaned, all the liquid keeping her hydrated comes from organic whole milk and water. It has been a transition for me as well because normally I stick her on my boob and all is good. Now I have to fill up, refrigerate and wash sippy cups. Yes, I am weird about the potential for mold in the sippy cups, too. It’s not just the preparation. I need to remember to offer her water as much as possible. Every meal this week, I set two sippy cups on the table in front of her, one with milk and the other water. Every five minutes I asked if she wanted more water. Normally, she would just take a couple sips at a time, but by the end of the week she was pointing to them mid-meal asking for more. Many pediatricians advise against fruit juice and definitely soda, so I want Cooper to love water. It is pretty much the only beverage she is going to get, minus whole milk.

 

Baby's Cell Phone Obsession

Last year around this time, we had a similar challenge to this week’s #bebetter52 challenge, which was to take timeouts from your phone. I remember writing an Aly’s Angle and taking a picture. The finished photo is a visual that will stick with me forever. I had two-month-old Cooper lying on her back on my lap. While she stared up at her mama’s face, I held the phone between us and pretended to text someone.  The text on the picture read, “I never want my daughter to know the back of my phone more than my face.”

It has been a year, and I feel my sensitivity to the overuse of phones has grown increasingly.  It is a subject to which I have given great thought. I notice families out at dinner with the children glued to their phones. I have made a new commitment to be absent from the phone while playing, feeding and bathing Coops. This is not easy, and I haven’t been 100% perfect at it because I essentially work from my phone. The only way this is possible is to separate work and home as much as possible.

I feel young parents have been told kids should have limited phone and/or “screen time,” and most of my friends seem pretty committed to the cause. But what I have noticed is the lack of limiting their own “screen time.” How can we expect our children to detach from the phone when the very thought of not checking a new text message increases our heart rate and produces anxiety?

I know many adults struggle with how to detach from their phones. I, too, struggle, especially when it comes to work text messages. I hate falling asleep with unanswered texts or waking up to them. Much to my chagrin, I have been guilty of sending text messages without even looking at the time. Once,  I pressed send only to realize I had just texted my high school seniors past 10:30 p.m. Totally unacceptable on my part.

I understand moms feeling the need to be connected in case their children or a doctor calls, or when a work related call might happen.  This week I thought, “So what if someone calls and I do not answer it?  I’m sure within an hour or so, I will check any missed phone calls and promptly call them back.” All week, I set my phone in a completely different room, and I even tried out the “do not disturb” feature on the iPhone which stops all notifications. It was liberating.

It has been intriguing watching Cooper’s natural instinct to want to reach for my phone.  I bring her into bed in the morning to nurse, and if she sees it, she stretches for it with a little whine. Is there some sci-fi-like force attracting her to the device because she seems to know how to click the buttons without ever being taught? Curious as to her baby fascination with the phone, I goggled it. Tons of articles came up.

Suggestion to parents from the article, “Baby’s Cell Phone Obsession”

I want to return her gaze with my eyes and smile, not the back of my phone.

I want to return her gaze with my eyes and smile, not the back of my phone.

Limit your own use.

The article points out that “most problems can wait until your child is in bed or you’re back in the office.” This is so true, yet if I remember something I need to do on my phone (check bank, weather, email, text, etc.), anxiety floods me if I don’t do it that second. Maybe I think the task will never get accomplished if I don’t get on it immediately. This week I placed an old-fashioned pad of paper in the kitchen so when these ADD thoughts entered my brain, I could simply write them down in a list.

Be Consistent.

“Letting your toddler play with your cell phone at the grocery store to prevent a candy aisle meltdown, but not at home, will only confuse and frustrate him.” I had honestly never thought of it that way, but it makes complete sense. I reflected on the moments I have let Cooper play with the phone. There are only two moments: one, in her carseat while kids’ music plays on Pandora, such as 52 Sing-A-Long Silly Songs. She dances with it in her hands until she throws it somewhere in the back seat and then whines for it until we get home. Recently, I  play the music on it without letting her hold it;  two, when we Facetime her “dada” or other family in Maui and Oregon. The second she hears the Facetime ring, her face lights up, and she says “dada.” Is that a good use of the phone? It feels like it.

Engage your toddler in stimulating real-life activities.

"Toddlers love to imitate their parents," says Schwartz. “Give him pots and pans for ‘cooking’ (and drum playing) or ask him to help you do the laundry with his own pile of hand towels to sort or to water the plants together with his own mini- watering can.” I love this. So all week I have tried to involve Cooper more in my daily activities. I pulled her high chair up to the counter as I made our healthy smoothies, introducing every fruit and vegetable to her before putting it in the blender. If giving her ways to imitate me helps her not reach for the phone, then I will come up with more ways for her to do so.

She helps me be present in the moment. Who needs a phone for entertainment?

She helps me be present in the moment. Who needs a phone for entertainment?

The research is real. Phones are not awesome for children’s development.  I found an article that states 10 reasons not to give children technology. I feel the first four items on the list really speak to me as a mom of a young toddler.

1.     It can change the child/parent relationship.

2.     It becomes their first addiction.

3.     It sparks tantrums.

4.     It prevents them from sleeping.

The article states, “Between the ages of 0 and 2 years, an infant’s brain triples in size. A parent’s voice, touch, and eventually play can help build pathways in their brain that aid them in learning how to bond emotionally with other people. But for children who spend too much time interacting with a screen, something different happens.

“Their neural pathways change and different ones are created,” says pediatric nurse Denise Daniels. “It affects concentration, self-esteem and, in many cases, they don’t have as deeply personal relationships.”

I am not pretending disconnecting from your phone is easy, but after researching more on the negative effects of phones, it is worth it. One of the things I love most about traveling is not having my phone service available. I feel more alive and present in the moment. I want my life to feel like that daily, and Cooper helps me with that goal. I don’t want to miss out on her little moments because I was busy scrolling. I don’t want her to look up at her mama and see the back of a phone instead of her mom’s eyes.

 

Aly's Angle: Lucky to have a "good eater"

I am not the best at cooking meals everyday for my family, but I am pretty awesome at making sure the refrigerator is stocked with healthy food. I grew up in a house that always had a packed refrigerator with cut vegetables and fruit in glass bowls.  Friends loved coming over to my house because of the abundant snacks my mom put out for us. Having well-stocked refrigerator shelves and cupboards filled with healthy foods has become important to me as well, especially since I don't enjoy eating out unless it is a date night with my husband or an outing with friends. I eat practically every meal with Cooper at home, and most of the time our meals are a variety of snack-size portions that taste good and are nutritious.

Primarily I buy food at these 4 places:

1.  Trader Joe’s. Love this place.

2.  Farm Fresh to You--we order local produce every other week, which comes in a box and is delivered to our doorstep Thursday mornings.

3.  Irvine Regional Park Farmers’ Market--we buy foods such as yogurt, dips and produce.

4.  Grocery Outlet, Bargain Market. I know it might surprise you, but this new store is packed with organic produce and products for very inexpensive prices. (Check expiration dates)

This week's #bebetter52 challenge asked us to make and drink green smoothies. This has become one of Cooper’s favorite morning meals and mid-day snacks. Her pediatrician recommended sticking an orange in the blender for extra vitamin C to fight off little winter colds. Luckily for us, our orange tree is still packed. In addition to oranges, I added kale from our Farm Fresh to You box and watercress from Trader Joe’s. I threw in hemp seed and flax seed for the extra omega-3 and a banana and some berries for additional vitamins, minerals and flavor.

Often times I hear about parents trying to “hide” healthy food within dishes they are making. It would be easy to throw healthy vegetables into a smoothie and keep it a secret from your kids. This week, however, I decided to tell Cooper what she was eating within her smoothie. Yes, she is only 13 months old and hasn't yet put up too much of a fight regarding food, but I hope as she grows older, she’ll be excited to eat kale and other healthy vegetables.  Who knows? All I do know is I am lucky to have a "good eater" who pretty much eats anything I put on her tray.

Intern Lindsey Brown's take on Green Smoothies

Intern Lindsey Brown's take on Green Smoothies

Hey everyone, my name is Lindsey Brown, one of the newest interns here at Be Better Movement.  I am super excited to be working for an inspirational nonprofit that focuses on healthy and happy living while making monetary contributions to Every Mother Counts, an international organization dedicated to making pregnancy and childhood safe for every mother, everywhere

 

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Our morning routine: Aly's Angles

I have been looking forward to this week's #bebetter52 challenge since the start of the year. I admire people who have healthy morning routines, and most of my life I have not allowed myself the time in the morning to achieve a set one. Before Cooper was born, I would sleep in until the last minute, and then I would rush out of the house with a morning smoothie in my hand-- if I was lucky. I would drink it in the car, planning out my day while stuck in traffic. Now that Cooper wakes up earlier than we ever did, we, too, wake up earlier.

Although my morning routine is not always focused and constructive, I have to admit the time in the morning has become sacred quality time with my little family. We have made great improvements since Cooper’s birth. Why? Because our mornings are a lot longer with a baby.

When Cooper wakes up, my husband gets out of bed first and plays with Cooper until he needs to shower and dress for work. This time is special to him and our daughter and is also a sweet, supportive gesture to me so I can sleep in a bit.  When daddy and daughter are done, I am greeted by a little 13-month-old munchkin, full of joy to see me and excitement to nurse. It’s then my turn. This is when and where my morning routine starts.

I get my snuggles.

Then we play.

Then we eat together. Most mornings I am busy in the kitchen preparing food until we sit down, side by side, and enjoy our breakfast. Yes, some of the meal involves chucking food to "woof woof," so I put our dog behind the baby gate to try and reduce the temptation for both of them.

Then we do an activity. Quality time with Cooper in the morning is important to me, so I devote  mornings to her and only her. Most days around noon, I start work. I have created a schedule we both look forward to, allowing for flexibility when life moves outside the routine.

Mondays- Run to Old Town with breakfast date at Starbucks

Tuesdays- Farmers’ Market and Park at Irvine Regional Park (free parking)

Wednesday's-Workout with Cooper at beach with Be Better Women

Thursdays- Library Story Time at Orange Public Library

Fridays-Workout with Cooper at beach with Be Better Women

This week our normal routine changed a bit because my mom visited us from Oregon, Tuesday through Thursday. Grandma time is the best!  Mornings were spent playing and eating. Cooper has become pretty proficient  at sign language, especially signaling more and food. On Thursday we took a little family trip to Utah. Nothing about vacations is routine, except for spending quality time with our baby girl.

We woke up to snow, Cooper sat on the floor and counters to eat, and she climbed up and down stairs all morning long.

Although my morning routine wasn’t super consistent this week, I treasure the moments spent with my little family.  And those “me time moments” before my daughter comes into the room can only help me be a more present mom.

Morning Routine from Portland, Oregon

Hello! My name is Jocelyn O’Bryant. My husband, my 8-month-old daughter Berkeley and I just moved from Portland, Oregon, to American Fork, Utah. We are currently living with my parents while my husband completes a Master's of Finance program at the University of Utah.

I loved this week’s challenge to establish a routine. I already have developed a morning routine because that’s how I function, and I think it’s beneficial for everyone! I am an extremely organized girl, and most of my days are planned out--at least my morning routine is. My fairly simple morning routine makes the rest of my day go much smoother. Every morning I workout, come home, eat breakfast while I do some personal development. Next, I have scripture study with Berkeley, get ready and work on my dōTERRA essential oil business. With kids, it’s sometimes hard to get a routine established. I know the more kids you have, the harder it gets, but I think just incorporating a few morning habits can be effective not only for you but also for your family. Before I had my daughter, I wasn’t working a full-time job,and I didn’t have much of a morning routine. It basically consisted of waking up, eating breakfast, personal study, going to workout and that was it. Now it’s set, and the first and foremost thing I do is feed my daughter since I am still nursing, and then I can go about my routine.

Since I already have a morning routine, this challenge wasn’t difficult for me at all, but it reminded me to stick to it. Every morning I start the day by heading to the gym for a workout. Some mornings, especially Mondays, I am so tired I just want to sleep in.  But I know I need to wake up and hit the gym because otherwise I won’t be able to get my workout in. My husband watches Berkeley while I go, but he’s at school the rest of the day. My routine not only keeps me sane, but it also keeps my family on a schedule and “in the loop.” Most of the Be Better challenges are easy for me to do. Others are more difficult and stretch me a bit, but I am always motivated to complete each challenge because $1 goes to the Every Mother Counts Charity and then another $1 is matched when I post it on social media.  I invite all my friends and fellow Instagram and Facebook followers to join this Be Better Movement

Paulina Sudhalter, New Be Better Intern

A Little Bit About Me and My Morning Routine


Hi Be Better Movers! My name is Paulina Sudhalter, and I am a Strategic and Corporate Communications major at Chapman University. I was raised in Scottsdale, Arizona, but was born in San Diego, California. Needless to say, I am overjoyed to be back in beautiful Southern California discovering Disney, the beach, and the myriad opportunities available to me. When searching for a summer internship, I stumbled upon Be Better Movement and instantly connected to the cause. As a health enthusiast and believer in making a difference in the world, I thought pairing this internship with my passion for marketing and social media would allow me to gain the real-world experience I need to succeed. This past summer I began to focus on living a healthier life through clean eating and exercise.

My morning routine

I’ve come to realize that having a morning routine truly kick-starts my day. All of fall semester 2016, I would faithfully be out the door three days a week at 6 a.m. to go to the gym. My days were so jam packed with classes, meetings, and extracurriculars that it was difficult to find any other time to hit the gym. Now my classes are later in the day, so I have more flexibility. Whether I wake up at 6 a.m. or 10 a.m., I always make sure to stretch in my bed. Taking the extra two to five minutes to elongate all the muscles in my body releases any tension making me feel refreshed. I am excited to learn from Aly and contribute to the Be Better Movement.

Be Better from Phoenix, AZ

Each week, Be Better Movement wants to feature some of our active participants completing the challenges around the country. We all come from different places, different life experiences and different cultures, but have one thing in common. We are committed to turn self improvement into global improvement. We hope that you become inspired by the stories told. 

My name is Secily, and I was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. I currently live in Phoenix, Arizona, where I am a single mother of two teenage boys. Family is important to me. My parents, my brother's family, and my boys and I get together at least once a month. I like to travel, attend community events, and try new eateries with my boyfriend of seven years, Jon. I have worked in the field of K-12 education for over 20 years. I was a classroom teacher for 10 years, and I now have the privilege to provide professional development to teachers and administrators across the state.

Brace yourself! I am about to tell you a secret. I don't love chocolate! I know, I am not normal. It's not that I don't like chocolate at all; I just prefer to eat it paired with other ingredients such as marshmallows, almonds, pecans, toffee, caramel, and coconut.

I have never challenged myself to eat chocolate before. This #bebetter52 challenge would have been difficult for me a year ago. In my quest to better myself over the last year, I started focusing on my health, and in doing so, I came across research that identified the many health benefits of dark chocolate. I have begun to choose it over milk chocolate.

With it being Valentine's week, candy was everywhere I turned. My favorite part of this #bebetter52 challenge was I remembered to grab for the dark chocolate pieces...in small quantities!

Documenting and sharing this week's #bebetter52 challenge, and every week's challenge, is important to me since it benefits a charity. The Every Mother Counts organization is working hard to ensure women from all over the world experience a safe pregnancy and a safe childbirth. As a mother of two teenage boys, I understand the importance of prenatal care for both the mother and the baby.


 

Not all lose weight breastfeeding: My postpartum body

My body 40 weeks pregnant.

My body 40 weeks pregnant.

When I was pregnant, everyone told me not to worry about my weight gain because the second I start breastfeeding, all the weight will just fall off. First off, I wasn’t necessarily worried about my weight gain.  I mean I was pregnant growing a baby in my tummy. When I look at my pregnancy photos, I think I looked pretty good. I am tall and athletically built to begin with, so I felt like I carried the extra weight and baby well. The deceptive part was even though I looked decent, I was miserably sick my first trimester and struggled with horrible sciatic nerve pain my third trimester. Regardless, I know it could have been a whole lot worse, and I consider myself blessed to have had a healthy pregnancy.

My postpartum body 8 months later.

My postpartum body 8 months later.

The part that shocked me most after Cooper’s birth was the breastfeeding rumor. The dramatic weight loss while breast feeding is NOT a guarantee. It actually turns out new mommies can fall into one of two categories; ones who either lose weight while breastfeeding and ones who CAN NOT lose weight while breastfeeding. I fall in the second category. I have struggled with coming to terms with my new postpartum body more than I ever struggled with body image while pregnant.

Everything about a postpartum body should be celebrated. I have seen women embrace their stretch marks, the extra skin on their bellies, their saggy boobs. I love that these women understand their bodies will most likely never look or feel the same, but they celebrate the fact they have created a human life with their beautifully strong bodies. I have attempted to take that same approach while embracing my new body, one that has maintained a little belly pouch. This pouch is something that will not disappear until I stop breastfeeding. My sisters and my mom both warned me that our genetics make it impossible to return to pre-pregnancy weight until the breastfeeding hormones leave our bodies. It is not just the extra 10 lbs that has surprised me, but how my ligaments still hurt when I exercise and how weak my core still feels.  I think it is important for mothers-to-be to prepare themselves that they might not lose weight while breastfeeding or return to their pre-pregnant bodies as quickly as Hollywood photoshopped moms do.

Although at times it is frustrating to carry around an extra 10 lbs, here is a sweet insight given to me by my younger sister who has three children of her own.

My own mom after having my younger sister Maddie.

My own mom after having my younger sister Maddie.

She said, “I used to get discouraged I wasn’t able to lose the weight like others while breastfeeding. But then I found a picture of mom months after having Maddie (our youngest sister). I had always noticed she was a little heavier but most recently when I look at those pictures, she looks even more beautiful. The extra weight represents the sacrifice her body went through to bring us into this world.”

I hope when I look back at my pictures after Cooper,  I will always be reminded of the beautiful sacrifice my body went through to bring our daughter into this world. I am trying to be kind to my body while finding balance in exercise and healthy eating.

This week’s #bebetter52 challenge is to eat dark chocolate, perfectly timed for Valentine’s Day week. I typically do not shy away from treats to begin with, so it was nice this week to have an excuse to buy extra dark chocolate from Trader Joe's. On Valentine’s Day, my husband surprised us by coming home at noon from work. Lucky for Coops, she was able to spend the day with “dada” while “mama” had to still work. The sweetest moment was when Cory brought us both flowers. It was particularly special because my thoughtful dad always gave his three daughters valentines in addition to my mom.

We gave our two cute babysitters dark chocolate toffee valentines. Cory doesn’t have a huge sweet tooth, but, boy, does he love Trader Joe's dark chocolate-covered pretzels. When reflecting on why we (Be Better Team) chose to suggest DARK CHOCOLATE for a #bebetter52 challenge, I realize it was for similar reasons I need to embrace the new 10 lbs on my postpartum body. This life is all about finding a healthy balance and being present in the moment. The balance this week is dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate. Why?  Because it’s Valentine's Day, the day to celebrate all things loved.

 

I am so grateful for my mom's sacrifice of horrible morning sickness DUIRNG 9 months of pregnancy.SHE IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMAN I KNOW.

I am so grateful for my mom's sacrifice of horrible morning sickness DUIRNG 9 months of pregnancy.SHE IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMAN I KNOW.

Why I struggled with this week's challenge to Pay it Forward.

I am not quite sure why “paying it forward” seemed like a difficult  #bebetter52 challenge for me to complete this week. I have two working hypotheses. One I am ashamed to admit, and the other one I hope is true.

My first hypothesis about why I had a problem carving out time to pay it forward with random acts of kindness is difficult for me to accept. Being a mom, wife and business owner, I find it difficult to make time to go out of my way to serve others. This hypothesis would make me really sad if it were true, so I am praying my second hypothesis is the actual reality.

My second hypothesis is that paying it forward is something I already do in almost every action during my day. This reality would sit a lot better. Most likely the truth lies somewhere in the middle.  Throughout the week when I was looking for opportunities to serve others, I would be attending to Cooper-- preparing her lunch or reading her books before naps. As a mother, almost everything I do is a selfless act of service.  I was also trying to come up with ways to serve during coaching or when I was working on Be Better. I soon realized the reason I love my work is because its mission is centered on improving the lives around me.

One area I worked to improve during the week was giving out more compliments. It became my “pay it forward” focus. When I admire someone or feel thankful for an individual, I often think up a compliment in my head but sometimes forget to vocalize it. This week I went out of my way to express those complimentary thoughts. Recently, I have realized the power of compliments and am surprised at how infrequently they are given.

Do you recall the story of the New York woman fatally attacked outside an apartment building while 37 people heard her screams but did nothing? Later, when the residents were interviewed by the police, everyone in the building admitted to hearing her cries for help but assumed someone else would call the police. Sometimes I feel compliments are the same. People assume others are thanking the individual and, as a result, few compliments or kudos ever get to the individual.

This week I also spent time noticing random strangers paying it forward. It is easy to be distracted by the negativity of national and world news, but I took time to notice little acts of kindness in my community. For example: while I was running in Old Town Orange pushing Coops in the stroller with my dog’s leash around my waist, we stopped at a bowl of water and bucket of dog treats one of the shop owners had left out for passing dogs. This random act of kindness made a dog and its owner happy.