It takes a Village: Aly's Angle Give Flowers

 It takes a Village.

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Cooper just turned 3 months old, and I didn’t realize how much help I was going to need. First off my mom came and spent three weeks with us from the get-go. That selfless gesture is one of the greatest gifts she has ever given me. To be completely honest, I have already thought about how that experience will be when Cooper is having her first baby. I have never felt as loved as I did during those weeks, with text messages and phone calls flooding in, along with meals, meals and meals. Home-cooked and take-out. All the random acts of kindness allowed me to focus on healing and the transition into motherhood.

As the weeks went by, fewer people trickled in. I remember one of my first days sitting at home alone with Cooper. Left to fend for myself, I wondered how in the world I was supposed to accomplish anything outside of my basic needs. In fact, even that felt impossible. I remember moms telling me they didn’t have time to shower. How is it possible that in 24 hours you can’t find five minutes to shower? What I have realized is that you might find the five minutes, but showering within them is not the priority. The priority is eating and getting dressed.

IMG_3526It didn’t take long to realize that my ambitious goal to continue working while being a new mom was only going to be possible with a lot of help from others. As part of this week’s #bebetter52 challenge – giving flowers – I took it upon myself to thank just a few of the amazing women who made both coaching and Be Better possible during the last couple of months. Presenting them with flowers was a great opportunity for me to express my gratitude.

Thank you, Jessica, for being an amazing example of a mother who continues to coach despite the craziness of having to tend to three children with busy schedules. You madIMG_3537-1e it possible for me to take off a whole month at the beginning of lacrosse season so I could be present in the moment with my newborn. Actually, you demanded I be present for a month with my newborn, reiterating the fact that I will never have the time again with Cooper. Not once did I worry about the team, because the girls were in your hands.

Thank you to my interns, Jessica and Jordan, for holding down the fort with the Be Better Movement. You have been flexible and hardworking, making sure all the Be Better challenges are well-researched. Our meetings have been in coffee shops while I was pregnant, in my house so I could nurse and

My mother-in-law

over the phone (when leaving is just not an option). Thank you for all your hard work. It wouldn’t have been possible without you.

And last, but not least. Thank you to my mother-in-law. She has recently moved to Orange County with the sole purpose of helping us with baby Cooper. For the last month, she has devoted herself to hours of babysitting so I can continue my personal passions: coaching and the Be Better Movement.

It takes a village to raise a baby, and I am incredibly grateful for my village.

Aly's Angle: Phone Timeouts with a Baby

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9d281821-bd88-4304-9365-73b97b51cf02Aly’s Angle: Phone Timeouts with a Baby

It is 3 a.m. as I look down at Cooper’s adorable mouth and listen to her grunts and squeaks as we nurse in her dimly lit nursery. I remember finishing the final touches of that same nursery just 10 weeks ago, eager for her arrival. I struggled to envision how life would change, but I knew it would.

I was so curious as to whom our daughter was going to look like: Mom or Dad? Was I going to be a natural or struggle at this whole mommy thing? The answers to these questions were complete unknowns as I touched my oversized belly. Now as I feel her soft feet and watch her fingers moving while she eats, I reflect on how lucky I am to have my growing little family.

It is a crazy feeling, described by many mothers I encountered while pregnant: the feeling of pure love for someone you have only known for days/weeks. It speaks to the power of selfless service and how, when serving someone else essentially 24/7, your love for them grows exponentially. My time with Cooper thus far has been exactly that: servicing my little growing daughter to the best of my ability. When she cries, I pick her up and offer snuggles, hugs and kisses and, most importantly, my boob. When she smiles, I give her a supportive and overjoyed grin right back. Along with my husband, Cory, when she’s dirty, we change her. We do everything possible to provide for her at the expense of sleep.

Two things in my life have changed:

I can’t sleep longer than four hours straight. I either feel the need to check to make sure she is breathing or my breasts hurt, telling me that she needs to nurse.

I am forced to slow down because of nursing. During the day, Cooper eats almost every two hours for about 20 minutes. That is about 2½ hours of nursing during the day, where I need to stop what I am doing and feed her. That does not include the two to three times she wakes up in the middle of the night.

So what are my multitasking options during three hours of nursing?

  1. Eat/drink

  2. Watch TV

  3. Scroll on my phone

  4. Talk on the phone

  5. Play on my phone (apps)

  6. Respond to emails on my phone

  7. Best option: Don’t multitask at all. Be present in the moment of nursing and connect with my daughter.

As you can tell, many of my activities while nursing involve my phone, so this week’s #bebetter52 challenge has inspired me to put my phone aside, especially during nighttime feedings. I have learned that you will never regret the time not on your phone. It is meditative, liberating and allows you to be present. The inability to move around while nursing has forced me to be present.

Without my phone next to me, there is nothing I can do but connect to the reality of motherhood. To be completely honest, a couple of times I have been so at peace thinking about Cooper and Cory that I shed tears of happiness. None of those moments could have happened if I were scrolling on Facebook or Instagram.

I am not perfect, and my reality doesn’t allow me to be without my phone at every feeding. I am now a mom passionate about my family, in addition to being passionate about my work. So during the day some feedings involve phone calls and emails.

But to the best of my ability, I want to carve out a couple of moments daily when I am nursing and playing with Cooper without my phone nearby. I never want my daughter to know the back of my phone more then my face. I want her to get to know my eyes and smile. I want us to grow up talking to each other instead of sitting in the same room silently distracted by our phones.

I am grateful for this week’s Be Better challenge. #bebetter52

 

New mom "worries"?

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Aly’s Angle on Worry Appointments

Telling yourself not to worry makes you worry more, because you never address the feelings. On the other hand, if you worry all day long, you let worry control your life. There has to be a healthy balance of addressing these feelings without letting them control you.

In sixth grade I struggled with anxiety. I would obsessively worry about homework, which resulted in 1 a.m. bedtimes. I would obsessively worry about thoughts I had in my head, which would create a level of guilt that was consuming.

I didn’t have the filter that would have allowed the thought to come in and then go out of my mind. My mother recognized that my behavior wasn’t normal and proactively took me to therapy where, at a young age, I was able to deal with this lifetime weakness of worry. I was never diagnosed with OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) but I did struggle with OCD tendencies. My ability to cope with my worries improved, but it continued in high school and college.

The problem with worry is that I was never living in the moment because I was obsessively thinking about the past and worried about the future. It was consuming.

Fast forward to today. I feel like my tendency to worry has lessened. I’m not sure why, but I give some of the credit to my laid-back husband. He provides a stability and comfort that give me a lot less to worry about. Of course, with all the unknowns of being a new mom, I know that worry will find its way back into my life. This time not only about me, but about our new daughter.

I am making a conscious effort to live a life that isn’t consumed by fear and worry. I want my daughter to know that when you live in fear, you are never present in the moment. It is hard – really hard, sometimes – to work through feelings of anxiety.

I really enjoyed this week’s Be Better challenge Worry Appointments. During your worry appointment, allow yourself to fully worry about whatever is causing you anxiety. Experience the anxiety; don’t tell yourself you shouldn’t worry. I had some complications during my recent labor with my daughter. Although I have no intention of getting pregnant anytime soon, I have worries regarding future pregnancies and labors. This week, I am ready to face them and allow myself to really feel those feelings.

Why I like this challenge? A common trait of people who struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder is obsessively worrying and preforming compulsions to reduce the anxiety felt. A well known example of this disorder is obsessive hand-washing because of germs. Washing your hands temporarily reduces anxiety, but next time you think of the germs on your hands (which will happen over and over again), the anxiety increases.

One way to overcome this type of anxiety is exposure therapy. When you feel the urge to wash your hands, don’t do it. Not only that: think about the germs; do not try to rationalize the problem. The germs are there, and you just have to deal with it.

How is this going to make you feel? Probably horrible. Your anxiety is going to skyrocket. But guess what? It is going to go up, then naturally it will come back down. After you experience that wave of anxiety, the next wave will not be as intense because you fully experienced the anxiety. Then the next wave and the next will further lessen your anxiety.

Week 1: Are you ready to have a baby?

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Lemon WaterLemon Water: Aly’s Angle

Aly's Angle is meant to be a blog about my experiences participating in the 52 Week Be Better challenge, and that it will be. But I have decided to also write about my journey discovering the balance between being a new mother and the CEO of Be Better Movement.  I hope you enjoy my honest and transparent perspective on the weekly challenges aimed at turning self-improvement into global improvement.

It is a crazy feeling knowing that your world is going to change dramatically and forever but not knowing exactly when it is going to happen. Was snuggling and watching a movie with my husband tonight the last time it’s going to be just the two of us? Was the nap I took earlier the last uninterrupted nap of my lifetime? Everyone curiously asks, "Are you ready?" I know they are referring to items like, "Do you have the car seat installed? Are your hospital bags packed? Is the nursery complete? But when I hear this question, I can’t help but think, “As ready as we will ever be.”

Originally, when we discovered our little girl’s due date, I was disappointed that it would fall right around the holidays. If she were two weeks early, she would have been born Christmas Day. If one week early, it would have been New Year’s Day. Well, now January 1 has come and gone. It is the start of 2016, and I am so grateful that her arrival will coincide with the new year.

I have been thinking about what my New Year’s resolutions are going to be. I determined that instead of making New Year’s resolutions, I would have two focuses: Motherhood/Parenthood and Be Better.

My first focus is my transition into motherhood. This includes being the best mother possible while not losing sight of my passion for being a wife. It means determining what motherhood looks like for me and enjoying the process of becoming a parent with my husband, Cory. It’s including our baby in our adventures and being flexible as we adjust to our new lifestyle. Most important, it’s being present in the moment and not trying to be too engulfed in analyzing what we should and "shouldn’t" be doing. Trusting our instinct is key.

The second focus is Be Better. The balance of being a new mother and growing the Be Better Movement in 2016 excites me. At times, if I am being completely honest, I do get a little freaked out. But most of the time, I am overcome with excitement. I love what I do; it fuels me. People often ask, "Are you going to keep working after the baby is born?" Luckily my response goes something like, "Yes, because I love what I do." I don't know how I am going to make it all happen, but I truly believe that when you love what you do, you find the energy to get it all done. The 52 Week Be Better Challenge is my way to make an impact in this world. I believe that being involved in things that make a difference and that make me happy will make me a better mother.

Here are my quick thoughts on lemon water, as I sit here on the couch writing this blog at 1:43 a.m. because I am feeling some strong contractions.

IMG_1804My husband and I are lucky to live in the city of Orange in Orange County, California. We have a good-size backyard (about 6,000 square feet) for a town in Southern California. Anyone outside of California probably wouldn’t consider that much land, but here it is a big backyard. The reason I’m telling you this is because we have five fruit trees in our backyard: three orange trees, one fig tree and a lemon tree. This week, I picked lemons from my own backyard to use in my room-temperature lemon water.

I fill up our big pitcher with water, squeeze lemons, and refill my cup throughout the day. The best part of this week’s challenge for me is getting up first thing in the morning and heading to the kitchen. Drinking a big glass of water – especially lemon water – is such a refreshing way to start the day. It’s so important, especially being as pregnant as I am, to drink as much water as possible.

Little side note: I have a friend who is a dentist, and he told me that if you drink a lot of lemon water, you should do it through a straw because the acid from the citrus is hard on your teeth.

I hope you enjoy this week’s challenge. We (I and my intern team) have been overwhelmed by all the new signups who plan to participate in 2016. We cannot wait to see all the completed challenges and posted pictures.

Just typing this is making me thirsty. Goodnight.

Aly Simons

Epsom Salt during Pregnancy: Aly's Angle

EpsoIMG_0836m Salt Baths during pregnancy

Up until about 28 weeks, I was pretty active. I was participating as much as possible during Be Better Workouts, taking morning walks/runs and doing TRX or Cardio Barre on Wednesdays at my favorite local gym, OC CoreWorks. Now it’s a different story. Now I can hardly walk without limping. My morning walks affect me for days after, all because of a horrible sciatica pain down my left leg. It’s the worst when I step out of the car or try to get out of a chair. It starts at my lower back, shoots down my butt and, luckily, stops at my upper hamstring. On bad days, it rides across my hips to my tailbone and opposite hip. Am I telling you about my aches and pains to complain? Maybe a little, but mostly to tell you about my newfound passion for the power of Epsom salt baths.

IMG_0838I was told by multiple mothers who have experienced this pain that I should try prenatal chiropractic. I was referred to Dr. Valarie at South Coast Midwifery in Irvine, Calif. I was a little uncomfortable with the idea of trying chiropractic during pregnancy, but my body left me no other option. The second I walked into the office, I felt at peace. A very comfortable environment, equipped as a birthing center in addition to offering prenatal care classes. Dr. Valerie gave me a 35-minute deep tissue massage and ended with an adjustment. I left feeling sore and, honestly, a little beat up. She gave me specific orders. Ice when I got home and then an Epsom salt bath for relief. There it was . . . I was introduced to the power of the Epsom salt bath during pregnancy.

IMG_0760 (1)I went out and bought Dr. Teal’s Epsom Salt with Lavender. Why lavender? Because my husband and I love diffusing the Doterra lavender essential oil at night, and I thought it sounded like a good combination. In a nutshell, the bath was relaxing and healing. Just what the doctor ordered. The warm water relaxed my muscles, and the Epsom salt replenished my body with magnesium. Why that was important I didn’t truly understand until this week’s #bebetter52 challenge.

This week’s #bebetter52 challenge, Epsom Salt Baths, was written by my friend and guest blogger Nicole Carnes from Cocoganic, She does a remarkable job of describing the symptoms of magnesium deficiency and the role of magnesium in your body. Turns out Epsom salt is not salt at all, but magnesium sulfate. One of the most interesting parts of the blog was that magnesium is best consumed through your skin. One study highlighted by LiveStrong asserts that the ideal concentration for Epsom salt baths to raise levels of magnesium is approximately 500 grams, or two cups, of Epsom salt dissolved in 15 gallons of water – “the amount that fits in a standard-size bathtub. Ideal amount of time spent soaking is 12 minutes, two to three times per week.”

Reminders for Pregnant Women:

Pregnant women should aim for around 350 milligrams of magnesium per day.

You should not consume Epsom salt orally while pregnant because, according to the FDA, it isn’t safe when taken orally. It is completely safe to soak in.

Make sure you don’t take too hot of a bath. You don’t want to risk overheating in the tub.

Awesome Facts about Epsom salt

 

Relieves aches and pains: Epsom salt is a great anti-inflammatory pain reliever.

Relaxes and improves your mood: Magnesium produces more serotonin when absorbed through your skin. Higher levels of serotonin can improve your mood. Serotonin also helps you sleep.