Stellar Baby: Week 24

24 weeks preggers

The best thing about this stage of pregnancy so far? Feeling movement! Baby is kicking and punching or just generally moving around, and my husband was able to feel her for the first time this past weekend. It was a special moment! Every time she gives me a little nudge, I talk to her, ask her how she’s doing. I may look a little crazy, but I love talking to her and knowing that she recognizes my voice and my husband’s as well.

Week: 24

Baby: is the size of a cantaloupe! She should weigh more than 1 pound now, according to my app, and her heartbeat was steady and strong at our last checkup.

Feeling: Really good, for the most part. If my days are really active, I’m definitely ready for bed early by nighttime. And I find it harder to roll around in bed now — getting up from the couch and bending over for something on the floor is getting tougher, too. But I’m hanging in there!

Eating: I’ve been craving everything strawberry! Fresh strawberries, strawberry popsicles and slushies, strawberry cake. I can’t seem to get enough of it!

Working out: Last week I was really proud that I went for two walks and worked out at Torque twice. The two weeks before that? Nada! I was traveling a lot for work, and that was zapping all of my energy. This week I hope to go to Torque at least once, but my belly has been a bit achy, so I’m playing it by ear. I’ll be off to the beach for the weekend, so strolling along the water sounds like the perfect form of exercise to me!

Planning: Cross your fingers for me that the dresser and crib will be delivered this week! Once we get those in place, I feel like we’ll really be able to think about the other smaller pieces and decorating. We’ve also scheduled all our birthing classes. Besides getting the room ready, I want to focus on buying a few things here and there that I’ll need in the future, such as items for my own hospital bag and after-birth care, and diapers. It’s time to start stocking up!

So that’s where things are at 24 weeks. The countdown is on!

Only Shop for Bikinis With Body Positive, Feminist Friends

Guest post by Mandy Shunnarah

Had I been with my mother or grandmother, I would have dissolved into tears within 15 minutes. And it wouldn’t have been the first time I’d cried in a Target dressing room.

All this for a bikini.

Even if someone doesn’t tell you personally, to your face, to cover up, the world does.

Every time a new line of clothing is advertised on only rail thin models, even if there are plus-size options available. Every time a new “revenge body” or weight loss-themed reality show airs on TV. Every time a fashion magazine says you can wear crop tops “if and only if” your stomach is flat. The world is telling women to hide their bodies — to cover up because we’re not meant to be seen.

Betty_Grable_20th_Century_Fox

Betty Grable

The world thinks that unless women are practically 2D, they should keep as much of their skin hidden as possible at all times. And if there’s one thing swimsuit shopping over the years has taught me, it’s that the larger you are, the fewer options you have for bikinis. It’s as if the swimsuit designers don’t want to see your body in their clothes unless it’s a one-piece or a tankini.

All last summer I wore a one-piece. Not because I liked it, not because it was my style, or because I felt confident in it — but because my mother bought it for me and I felt like that’s what I “should” wear.

The truth is, I was self-conscious the entire time. I was even self-conscious wearing that swimsuit as my now-fiancé was proposing to me on the beach. In one of the happiest moments of my life, the shadow of insecurity loomed. I wondered if he’d hired a photographer I hadn’t noticed to follow us to capture to moment, and how I must have looked in the pictures.

Women are not born with innate fears about our bodies. The negative self talk, the self-consciousness, the shame, and the embarrassment are all learned behaviors. Just as we learned these thought patterns, we have to unlearn them. We must re-wire our thinking, re-write our histories.

I decided then that I wasn’t going to hide myself in a one-piece. If I’m going to be self-conscious either way, I can at least do it while getting a decent tan.

So I was in the market for a bikini. A two-piece. That showed my stomach. And my back. And my thighs. And all the things I’m supposed to feel bad about and hide in several layers of clothing, even in the heat.

While some women do feel more comfortable in more modest clothing for a variety of reasons, all of which are valid and should be respected, I couldn’t bear the thought of going another summer where I hid my body in shame and wished I could rock a bikini.

I enlisted Victoria, a friend of mine who’s feminist and body positive, to go swimsuit shopping with me at Target. I wanted someone who wouldn’t expect me to hide my body, but who would also tell me if what I picked out just didn’t look good.

We spent over two hours in the dressing room. I must have tried on 30 bikinis and Victoria was right there in the room beside me. Besides being patient, encouraging, and helpful, there were several other things she did right.

She didn’t criticize my body for not looking how it “should” look in a bikini.

Victoria didn’t point out “flaws” I couldn’t do anything about. Rather than telling me to get a longer top or a tankini to hide the rolls on my back or encouraging me to get a high-waisted bottom to hide my stomach, she asked me how I felt. Did I feel confident in the bikini?

No? Okay, let’s try another one.

Yes? Great! Do you want to stick with that one or see if they have more colors?

She was honest about what worked and what didn’t without body shaming me.

If Victoria didn’t like the way a piece looked on me, she had a concrete, non-body shaming  reason why. For example, she pointed out that the more sporty tops weren’t really my style since I tend to be a little more girly. She didn’t encourage me to try tops that had underwires built in because she knows I wouldn’t be comfortable with my boobs jacked up to my chin.

She also warned me when tops looked like the might be prone to nip slips. I’m body positive, though I still like to avoid nip slips. That’s just for my own personal level of comfort.

None of these things had to do with any perceived flaws with my body. It was simply that the particular swimsuit piece wasn’t a good match for my body. That doesn’t mean something is wrong with me — it just means that piece wasn’t going to be part of my perfect bikini.

If something looked good on me, she wasn’t shy about telling me.

Some people think that if you’re past some arbitrary size, nothing looks good on you. Or nothing but a tent dress. Not Victoria.

She told me which bottoms made my butt look rounder and my legs look longer, which tops worked best with my shoulders, which pieces were more versatile if I wanted to mix and match for more combinations, and which colors looked best with my skin tone.

Again, her compliments weren’t about “fixing” whatever was “wrong” with my body. It was about finding the right pieces to enhance the assets I already have and focus on the things I like about my body. As a body positive feminist, Victoria understood that what’s most important is how I feel in the bikini I chose, not what other people think of me.

When I finally exited the dressing room, chosen bikini in hand, I felt good. And not only had I found a great two-piece, so had Victoria.

Then she said something I understood all too well: “This is the first time I’ve gone swimsuit shopping and enjoyed it. I’ve always gone with my mom and I usually cry before it’s over.”

For a moment, I was surprised to hear her say that since she’s several sizes smaller than me. She has a body that many women would envy. Then I remembered that women feeling insecure about their bodies is, sadly, damn near universal. It doesn’t matter what size we actually are or how close we might be to some idealized form because, at some point or another, the world has made us feel ashamed.

bikini shopping

Body shaming isn’t about size. It’s about power and control. Some people need to make others feel less-than so they can feel better about themselves. And we have to fight back.

We fight back by unlearning self-hatred and negative thought patterns. We fight back by daring to feel confident and wear clothes we like, regardless of whether people think it’s what we “should” be wearing. We fight back by going clothes shopping with friends who understand the damage these learned behaviors have caused and have committed themselves to learning new ways to love themselves.

If there’s one thing I learned from swimsuit shopping with a body positive, feminist friend, it’s that I can rock a bikini.

And so can you.

Mandy Shunnarah is a writer of personal essays and book news. Her work has been published in PANK Magazine, Entropy Magazine, The Missing Slate, Deep South Magazine, Birmingham magazine, and New Southerner Magazine, where she won Honorable Mention for creative nonfiction in their 2016 contest. She also writes a weekly book blog at offthebeatenshelf.com. When she’s not writing, she can most likely be found reading, and cuddling with her two adorable cats and her even cuter fiancé in Columbus, Ohio.

Working Out Outside Of The Gym

Two weeks ago, I broke up with my gym.

My gym has been good to me. For years, it’s where I went to take spinning, Zumba, hop on the treadmill and lift weights. There were times when I paid monthly dues and rarely set foot in the door. And months when I got my sweat on four or five days a week. Through the ups and downs of my workout routine, my gym was always there for me.

But sadly, I grew bored of the gym. I needed something else to encourage me to work out. And I found it.

Thanks to the Torque classes I started attending last August, I have found a renewed excitement about exercise. While I can’t attend as often as I’d like right now, being almost six months pregnant, I know Torque will be the workout I return to after the baby is born.

So I canceled my gym membership for the first time in almost 10 years. While it feels weird to no longer have a gym membership, I’m 100% happy working out at Torque, and I’ll also be hitting the pavement walking the further into my pregnancy I get.

A 2-mike walk on my vacation day? If it's @railroadpark then yes, please! #stellarfitfam #stellarmiles #stellarhealth #health #fitness

Walking at Railroad Park

That’s the beauty of working out these days: the options. Between Crossfit, yoga studios, barre classes, parks with trails for walking and running, there’s no shortage of places to get sweaty! Not to mention the workouts you can download right at home, or check out on YouTube. You don’t need to shell out money for the typical, old-school gym anymore.

Here are some of my favorite workouts that don’t require a gym membership:

  1. Torque or a similar workout — obviously I’m a huge fan of this workout, and anything that challenges you to combine bursts of cardio with strength-training is fun and keeps you on your toes.
  2. Yoga — here in Birmingham, I highly recommend Abundance Yoga or the Yoga Circle. I’ve taken more difficult classes and classes for beginners, such as Fat Girl Yoga. I find them physically tough but also mentally relaxing. A great stress relief!
  3. Free classes at Railroad Park — if you don’t live in Birmingham, check out classes your city may offer as part of a “get healthy” movement that many cities partake in. The classes sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield usually include Zumba, yoga and other fun group classes that get you outside, in a gorgeous setting, with other people in your town!
  4. Barre — I’ve taken a few barre classes and I love them. I think they work different muscles than I normally focus on, and the movements can easily be adapted for your fitness level.
  5. Walk or run — the easiest way to stick to this is to either give yourself a monthly mileage goal to reach — aiming for 20 miles, for example, would mean needing to walk a mile or two most days of the month — or make dates with friends and get some social time in while you stroll.

A few other options I’ve heard people enjoy, but I haven’t tried myself, are of course Crossfit, OrangeTheory and Iron Tribe. You should also look for fun dance classes, like belly dancing!

Struttin' my stuff with See Jane Write founder Javacia

Belly dancing with See Jane Write founder Javacia

Breaking up with the gym isn’t for everyone. But sometimes if you’re stuck in a rut and you need a push to try something new, paying a drop-in fee at one of these locations, or just hitting the pavement for walking and running, can be a great boost to your routine.

Let me know if you decide to try something new, and what you think!

Stellar Baby: Pink Walls & Other Preparations

The nursery is underway!

nursery

This week I will be 23 weeks pregnant, and I’m starting to hear the ticking of the clock louder and louder. Logically I know we have plenty of time to prepare for baby’s arrival, but I’m a planner, so I don’t mind getting a headstart on a few things, such as painting the nursery — which my husband took care of last weekend!

We chose a purply-pink color called “Girl Talk” by Behr, and it came out just as I imagined. We have a few other things picked out, so I’ll be sure to share the progress along the way. We both love to decorate, so this is definitely the fun part!

I’m grateful for the nesting part of pregnancy because this week has been a little rough, sleepwise. Before I went on a work trip to Cleveland, I started tossing and turning a little more, trying to get comfortable when I sleep. I returned from my trip with an icky head cold and chest congestion, so I not only need to sleep on my side now, I also need to prop myself up a bit.

Thankfully, we bought this crazy pillow last weekend!

snoogle

At about $70, the Snoogle is the most expensive pillow I’ve ever bought — I definitely balked at the price. But it has already been totally worth it! The way it hugs my back, or I can hug it to my chest, makes me feel cozier, and having it fit between my legs and also under my head, it helps my hips and legs feel better as I sleep. I highly recommend it — whether you’re pregnant or not!

I’ve been thinking about a few other things we need to do to get ready for the baby’s arrival, and I know we can get her clothes washed and organized with other items in her closet. So of course I turned to Pinterest and other moms I know to ask about laundry detergent and other tips. A few moms highly recommended the laundry detergent and dryer sheets from Honest Co.

The laundry packs are supposed to be safe for babies, nontoxic without chemical residues, chlorine or fragrances. According to the company’s website, they are: “made without: SLS, fragrances, dyes, glycols, phosphates, 1,4-dioxane, chlorine, DEA, formaldehyde, caustics, or optical brighteners.” At $17 for 50 packs, it seems like a good deal!

honest laundry

And the Honest Co. dryer clothes are “baby and allergy safe, hypoallergenic, pH neutral and made without animal by-products. They can also be used twice each, so 64 loads for $9, I’m in!

honest dryer

If you’re a mother or you choose to use all-natural products, what other household products do you suggest?

In the meantime, I’ll be looking forward to using cute bins like these, and closet labels like these, to organize our sweet girl’s clothing!

koala baby elephant

koala baby closet

Disclaimer: I have received no compensation or free products to mention any of the companies in this post.

A Letter To My Body

Dear body,

Goodness gracious, I have put you through a lot. From the first time I broke my left leg when I was 2 years old and hobbled around on a cast with one of my Dad’s giant socks pulled over it, to falling off the merry-go-round in fourth grade and needing stitches just above my knee where a sharp edge gouged out a hole. From flipping my pink-and-gray 10-speed bike over while riding down Devil’s Hill in North Dakota, to flipping head over heels on a trampoline in my backyard in California, banging my foot on the side rails and breaking it again.

Dirty Girl Mud Run, 2013

Dirty Girl Mud Run, 2013

From volleyball practice, to walking home from school. From days on my feet working at the candy store on the boardwalk in the summer, to drinking too much before Christmas break in college and puking so hard my eyes became bloodshot. And only several years ago, putting you through training for my first half marathon, then my second, and demanding you try Zumba, spinning, body pump, kickboxing, bellydancing, barre, yoga, swimming and now Torque, where I lift weights, do push-ups and squats and lunges and run hills.

Through it all, from as young as I can remember, you have helped me do all of these things. You’ve helped me hug my loved ones, you’ve helped me lounge around and read books. You’ve walked streets of Chicago, New York, Atlanta, London, Paris, Dublin and more.

And all the while, I’ve hated you.

I’ve hated your size. I’ve hated your rolls. I’ve hated your stretch marks and your flabbiness and most of all, I’ve hated how you jiggle.

For far too long, I’ve hated the thighs that hold me up for being too dimply. I’ve hated the arms that hold me as I sleep at night for being too soft and squishy. I’ve hated the butt I sit on for it’s cellulite and expanse. And I’ve hated my belly. The roundness and the softness and the wideness of my belly.

But now. Now there’s a sweet baby girl growing in that belly. This is where she lives, this is where she eats and hears my voice and the voice of her Dad.

Now my body is working overtime to bring us a child, to help her grow and form her little fingers and toes, her arms and legs, her belly and head and neck.

And I don’t want her to hate her body. I want her to recognize the joy it brings her — the jumping and running and hugging and dancing. I want her to see her body for all it can do and all she wants it to do. I want her to show her body respect and appreciation for moving her through this life.

You have given me so much, and now you’re giving me the gift of life. And even if another woman never has a child, her body has given her life, too. It has given her abilities that she probably takes for granted — I know I have.

It’s time I thank you, my body, for the beautiful moments we’ve had, and all those that are yet to come, and say I am sorry. I’m sorry for the times I’ve treated you badly, that I haven’t taken care of you. I’m sorry for when I haven’t given you credit for moving me, for embracing me, even when I hated you.

I am sorry, body. I promise to try to learn to love you, every inch of you — squishy belly and soft arms and dimply thighs and all.

I promise to thank you more often and treat you better.

I promise to love you.