New Moms, Photography, Toddler Moms

Capture the Memories

Sometimes I have to pinch myself just to make sure I’m not dreaming. Our daughter recently turned ONE, and yet becoming her Momma still feels so surreal at times. In large part I imagine because although parenthood was always part of “the plan,” over the years the Universe certainly had taken us on several detours to get here. Now that a year has passed, I still find myself reflecting back on this past year: the sleepless nights, my weakened nerves, but in all seriousness – also many of the happiest moments and most amazing days I couldn’t possibly have dreamt of… easily the best year of my life – the first year of Arran’s life! At the risk of sounding cliché, it really does seem as if it were yesterday I held her for the first time. Looking back at Arran’s newborn photos I am thankful to have such a momentous time in our lives documented so beautifully, which is why capturing another important milestone of memories we could forever cherish was so important to us!

To say we were thrilled with the turnout of our hospital newborn photo shoot is an understatement. I had labored for a day and a half, so the thought of being photographed ~48hrs after the arrival of our daughter wasn’t exactly something I was looking forward to. And yet, Bella Baby Photography somehow made me feel beautiful, along with having captured the early hours of excitement as first-time parents. So when the opportunity arose to yet again work with Bella Baby Photography for Arran’s one-year photo shoot, we jumped at the chance! We even chose to incorporate the same receiving blanket she had been swaddled in for some of her newborn photos into the present day pictures, a great reminder of how little she was at birth and how far we’ve come on this journey as parents.

Quality professional baby photography makes the mementos of such an important time in your lives, something you will want to savor in the years ahead.

If you live in the Chicagoland area, I highly recommend hiring Bella Baby not only for baby milestone professional pictures, but also your family photography needs!

Our photographer Kimberli and I had several exchanges leading up to the big day, which was scheduled ~3weeks after Arran’s official birthday. Everything was planned: from what time of day would be most ideal, to what Arran would wear, to where we would shoot… and then the Universe decided to take us on another detour. The day before Arran’s shoot, she came down with Coxsackie Virus (a.k.a. hand, foot, and mouth disease). I immediately phoned our photographer, who was both incredibly understanding and also (luckily for us) willing to reschedule. It was apparent that Kimberli was by no means new to the challenges that photographing kids can bring, being both a seasoned photographer and a Momma herself (of multiples, nonetheless). And even though I had not met Kimberli at this point, instinctually I knew I wanted to work with her – even if it meant waiting until her schedule opened up after a few more weeks… and my hunch was right, I am so happy we had the opportunity to work with Kimberli.

Photographing babies/kids is no easy task They rarely want to sit still, sometimes they’re cranky – at least as was the case with our daughter on the day of her shoot. But guess what? When you’re working with an experienced baby/kid photographer, such as Kimberli, its important they are considerate of the child’s temperament – knowing just the right times to change poses, swap in a parent, etc. to keep everyone happy.

Keep it real Not once did Kimberli “say cheese” to Arran and in doing so she was able to photograph our child in a very raw manner, such that it never felt forced or fake. She captured true authentic connections of our family, which ultimately allowed us to have fun and not be stressed. By creating a more relaxed environment, we were able to go with the flow as our daughter eventually opened up to a new face holding a somewhat intimidating piece of technology. Kids are perceptive, they sense when you’re overdoing it and aren’t acting like yourself… and they’ll respond in kind. I simply told myself to take a deep yogic breath and trust the process.

Let them be little Instead of trying to keep our daughter to a specific backdrop, Kimberli allowed her to explore: to touch the grass, crawl/walk around, or even hug Momma and Dada (if she got scared). In the moment I couldn't help but think: she’s not her usual smiley self, but as it turns out – the subject doesn’t have to be looking directly at the camera (or even facing the camera at all for that matter) for the image to tell a powerful story.

Thank you Bella Baby Photography and Kimberli Nelson for capturing two of the most important moments in our lives: our daughter's arrival and her 1st birthday!


Photographs taken on October 3rd, 2018 by Photography By Kimberli via Bella Baby Photography
and on September 3rd, 2017 via Bella Baby Photography

A one-year photo shoot was gifted in exchange for my honest review with Bella Baby Photography. 
All opinions are genuine and my own.

In addition to receiving high quality downloads of our pictures on a zip drive that we can share and print, 
we also received a slideshow to download as well.
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Fitness, New Moms, Postpartum, Toddler Moms

Strength for Motherhood

Having taught yoga classes for nearly a decade, exercised all throughout my pregnancy, I assumed I would jump right back into working out after giving birth (once I received the official go-ahead from my Midwife). But truth be told, I was cleared long before I actually started truly working out. The months following my daughter's arrival were in a constant state of flux, trying to fit in all the priorities: motherhood, work, and of course - taking care of me.

As a new mom I found myself more than ever in search of balance in body and mind, in order to move throughout my days more mindfully. Lets just say, sleep deprivation coupled with all those new duties of motherhood, finding the time for to take a yoga or fitness class was a challenge… not to mention the fact that I wasn’t exactly keen on the idea of being apart from my newborn (especially in the early days). Oh, and then there was the issue of figuring out childcare in order for me to partake in a group or private class.

There was only one logical solution for me: incorporate my daughter into my workouts.

Enter FIT4MOM, the nation’s leading prenatal and postnatal fitness program, which offers fitness classes and a network of moms to support every stage of motherhood. From pregnancy, through postpartum and beyond, their fitness and wellness programs help make moms strong in body, mind, and spirit.

As you may already be aware, there is no shortage of benefits in doing postnatal exercises, as your once pregnant body copes with getting back to normalcy. Ideally postnatal exercises help in the following ways:

  1. Enhance your mood by increasing the release of good chemicals. Pregnancy is a roller coaster ride of hormonal shifts. Postnatal exercises help you regain your actual self and relieve stress.
  2. Improve stamina levels helping you take charge during motherhood, by replenishing a tired body with the vigor and vitality needed to raise your baby.
  3. Strengthen and tone your body by making it flexible, not to mention heal your former pregnant body of the aches and pains it has endured.
  4. Reduce the heavy postnatal depression with a healthy mind, with moderate-to-high intensity aerobic exercise reducing anxiety sensitivity. And you thought intervals were just a good way to burn calories!
  5. May also help in weight loss management, if incorporated along with a balanced diet (for this benefit, Fit4Mom offers a Body Back® 8-week high intensity workout program with a dietary component).
FIT4MOM helps you to make strides in fitness, motherhood, and life®

MAKING TIME FOR MOMMA
Finding the dedicated hour a day for a class or gym workout can be a struggle, and yet every new mom spends at least an hour a day interacting with her baby. What if you could use at least some of your time with baby as workout time (with baby in tow), so that you do not have to take any time away from baby? Stroller Strides® accomplishes just that, as a stroller-based fitness program designed for moms with little ones. Each 60-minute, total body workout consists of a variety of: power walking, strength, toning, songs and activities.

BONDING WITH BABY
Spending even 45-60 minutes with your baby, while you work out, is beneficial to both parties as it helps solidify your bond. Baby is either in the stroller or on a mat staring back into your eyes while you endure the struggles of holding plank pose, or perhaps cooing when you kiss him/her as you perform a modified push-up. Either way, baby receives all the good vibes of you doing something positive for yourself, while you focus on your little at the same time.

BABY CAN WORK OUT TOO
Mom and Baby exercise time can also be used to develop muscular strength and motor skills for the little ones. Tummy time is an activity must for new babies in order to improve head and neck control. Baby can work on their tummy time on a blanket beside or in froth of you while you complete a series of core exercises and/or post workout stretches. And once baby’s head control is strong enough, you can even incorporate them into the abdominal exercises, helping him/her practice trunk control to help develop sitting balance.

HEALTHY HABITS FORMED FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY

Its not surprising that when you focus on fitness, you become healthier and in better physical condition. So when your children see you prioritizing fitness and are a part of your daily fitness routine, they also learn the importance of incorporating exercise into daily life. Exercise rarely happens in a vacuum, and that’s good news for all of us, so that we may inspire each other to push harder during a sweat session. So find your mini workout buddy and get moving!

SUPPORTING MOMS THROUGH COMMUNITY

All FIT4MOM locations offer free playgroups (a.k.a. Our Village... because all Mommas know, it takes a village to raise a child). Forming lasting friendships is a joint effort: through Our Village, my daughter participates in play-dates and special Our Village arts+music classes, while I have enjoyed monthly mommas' night out. Additionally, the Our Village Mom's Club holds quarterly Moms on a Mission events throughout the country. On a personal level, each club educates, empowers and supports mothers on important issues facing our children and our families.

For me, Stroller Strides® was just the vehicle I needed to:

❤ find lasting energy in a more sustainable way, rather than watching it go high and low.

❤ help me to stay grounded, so that I may better adapt to the ebbs and flows of motherhood.

❤ build the strength required for Motherhood while also honoring the need to rest and practice self-care.


But perhaps the greatest benefit in exercising alongside my daughter was the reminder 
that you simply cannot pour from an empty cup. 

By incorporating your little one(s) allows you to model what it is to take care of yourself 
(for your children).
__________________________________________________

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New Moms, Postpartum, Yoga

Sthira & Sukha: finding (Strength & Ease), through Baby & Me Yoga

Patanjali described the physical practice of yoga in Sanskrit as “Sthira Sukham Asanam.”
Loosely defined, we should strive to practice yoga with strength and in a relaxed manner.
     Sthira translates as strong, steady, and stable.
     Sukha means comfortable, happy, and relaxed.
     Asanam refers to the physical practice of yoga.

Baby and Me Yoga can lead to a happy Baby & a happy Momma!

photo credit: Carina Yepez

As a new mom you seek to find balance in how you take care of yourself along with caring for your new child, while discovering your powerful new identity as MOM. There are the strains your physical body has taken on - let's face it, its seen better days and is still healing. You may be adjusting to a new sleep(less) schedule and dealing with the demands of feeding and nurturing your baby. As the surge of hormones take over, you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and lacking motivation to venture outside the house...especially when the weather isn't cooperating. And yet, making time for yourself and getting out is so crucial to your mental and physical well-being. Baby and Me Yoga classes are one of the best things a new mom can do to feel better overall!

Especially in those early postpartum months, it is so important that you find an exercise regimen gentle enough for your body, but also challenging. Avoid starting a high-impact workout now, if it isn't already in your repertoire. Whether you're new to yoga or were a committed student before having your child, Baby and Me Yoga is healthy, playful, bonding activity that will get you on a supportive postnatal wellness track.

As a Baby and Me Yoga Instructor, I can personally attest to the benefits that both Mom and Baby can experience in this phenomenal class!

Bond With Your Baby
Baby and Me Yoga focuses on both of you! We modify traditional yoga poses so that moms can practice yoga while holding and rocking their babies, resulting in stronger connections.

Strengthens And Increases Body Awareness
Carrying a baby around all day can put a strain on your back and neck. This class caters to the fluctuations that a new mom's recovering body has undertook, as you'll learn strengthening poses and stretches to help restore balance, improve posture and increase your waning energy levels.

Emotional Well-Being And Increased Brain Activity
Yoga reduces stress by helping ease new-parent jitters, as well as give Mothers the opportunity to nourish and care for their own bodies. Focused stretches and mindful breathing exercises increase brain activity to help your short-term memory get back on track... Bye-Bye Mommy Brain!

  • Can Aid in Digestion, Constipation and Relieve Gas and Colic for Baby

Babies are natural yogis, they develop through yoga poses, which can aid in their gross and fine motor skills. The poses and movements all done in this class are very intentional, with a goal of creating ease for Baby fussiness.

  • Better Sleep for Mom AND Baby

The breathing techniques and meditative state practiced in yoga can help Mom sleep better at night. It also helps to improve Baby sleeping patterns both in duration and frequency, as well as encourages baby sleeping through the night. The class offers just the right amount of stimulation Babies need to sleep for longer stretches of time.

Keeps Baby Happy Through Repetitive, Soothing Motions
Most babies enjoy movement, which makes this class different from a traditional yoga class in that we spend the majority of the class in constant motion without holding one pose for too long. We also incorporate music, singing and gentle yoga stretches for baby. Healthy habits learned early in life become healthy habits later in life.

  • A Safe, Supportive, and Social Environment

The class initiates social interaction in a non-competitive environment for both babies and new parents, offering a great way to meet other new Moms. Know that it is natural for your baby to cry, so changing a diaper or feeding your baby anytime during class to make them comfortable is the priority number one.

Come to class with a open heart and get ready to calm your mind, relax your body and have fun with your baby!

photo credit: Carina Yepez

If you're in the Chicago area, please join me for a special Mommy & Me yoga class Sunday May 20th @ 9am CST, hosted by Athleta (Oak Street)

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Bump Club and Beyond, Feature, New Moms

Exploring Chicago: with babies & kids

Last month, I had the honor of speaking on the Chicago Moms Panel alongside some pretty talented Mommas at the Best of Bump Club Chicago event.

If you weren't able to attend, not to worry... I've got you covered! Please read on to discover all the FUN baby/kid-friendly activities Chicago has to offer all-year-long!

FREE (or Super Cheap) Activities to Do with Babies & Kids in Chicago

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activities to do with kids

At Best of Bump Club we hosted one of our favorite mom panels about navigating the city of Chicago with little ones. We loved what was shared so much that we wanted to put some of our favorite tips on the blog. First up, Tanya Findlay, yoga teacher and mommy blogger over at Momma Prana, shares her list of fun and free activities across the city:

Indoor activities:

Chicago Public Libraries (75 branches) gives FREE use of computers & books and movies to check out

Harold Washington offers FREE programs for kids daily

While there, pick-up a FREE general admission museum pass for families (good for Adler Planetarium, Field Museum, Museum of Science & Industry, Shedd Aquarium, and the Art Institute)

Chicago Museums are required to offer 52 FREE days yearly – check out each website for more info

Art Institute offers FREE kids activities year-round

Bank of America & Merrill Lynch card holders receive FREE admission to many Museums (1st weekend of every month)!

Chicago Children’s Museum offers FREE admission (every Thursday from 5pm-8pm & every 1st Sunday of the month)

Museum of Contemporary Art offers FREE family days (2nd Saturday of every month)

Nature Museum offers donation-based admission (Thursdays) – for Illinois residents

Whole Foods FREE music concerts – the following locations offer FREE 30min concerts (all @ 10am)

West Loop = Tuesdays

Lincoln Park = Wednesdays

Lakeview = Thursdays

Chicago Architecture Foundation offers FREE Read & Build workshops for ages 3-6 (1st Wednesday & Sunday every month from 9-12pm)

Conservatories: Garfield Park, Lincoln Park, Oak Park – all offer kids events @ different times yearly

Lego Store (@ Water Tower) offers FREE monthly build workshops (on Tuesdays)

Home Depot offers FREE hands-on Kid’s workshops once or twice a month (9am-12pm for ages 5-12)

Pottery Barn Kids offers FREE Story Time on select days – check the website for more details

Chicago Fire Department offers walk-in tours FREE, no appointment needed

 

Take it outside 

Explore Chicago beaches – each has different activities and amenities like parks, concessions, etc.

Neighborhood Parks offer FREE events for kids/families, including Movies

Maggie Daley Park & Millennium Park (Crown Fountain, the Bean, Lurie Garden, Pritzker concerts)

If too crowded, check out the “hidden park” in nearby LakeShore East – has a small play area

Festivals have Kid tents/activities (& most Suburban fests have carnival rides too)

Lincoln Park Zoo offers FREE admission (daily, year-round)

Northerly Island – hike or bike around the trails, safer biking for small children than the lakefront

Water Taxis – not FREE, but very cheap!

Riverwalk – walk or bike along, sit and watch the boats go by or the bridges go up!

Metra rides – weekend pass $8/adult, kids ride FREE – unlimited rides (Saturday & Sunday in Summer)

Ravinia offers low cost kids performances in (June & August)

Arlington Park offers Family day on Sundays with kids activities – including a petting zoo

Botanic Garden offers Trolley from the Metra (Sundays, during Summer)

CPL Museum pass holders park FREE (usually $25/car)

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Infertility, IVF, Pregnancy

Flip the Script: weathering the storm

 

the storm that is infertility

National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) may have ended, but for those who struggle with this illness its an all day, every day battle. My hope in joining the thousands who also vocalized their story was to decrease the stigma behind the “I” word … infertility. It's time to Flip the Script! There is a significant gap in the conversations that take place about this disease, and yet we know that 1 in 8 couples will struggle with either infertility or secondary infertility at some point in their lives. We still see significant barriers that stand in the way to get care. The costs are excruciating and yet only 15 states require insurance companies to cover it. For those that don’t cover it? We are talking at least $20,000 for a single IVF cycle. The affects of infertility? Marriage, Friendships even Family relations are all too often causalities of infertility.

waiting for the storm to pass

Even after giving birth to my daughter I am still immensely affected by infertility. We may have "beat infertility" once but the odds of giving our child a biological sibling are not great. And if I’m being honest, a small part of me still feels a bit jealous (even if just for a moment) upon hearing of an accidental pregnancy. Of course I’m happy for anyone who chooses to grow their family, but I’m human too! I have never known what its like to become pregnant without trying let alone without medical assistance.

a rainbow after the storm

Trying to conceive a child was hands-down the most difficult process my husband & I have ever gone through…emotionally, physically, and financially. Not all marriages grow stronger through infertility, but it can and it did for us. The road to parenthood was so long and winding that many times I thought it may never end. And yet as I sit here, I know that we're one of the lucky few. That even after undergoing multiple rounds of IVF, countless visits to multiple doctors, acupuncturists, an insane amount of needles, patches and pills I was able to finally conceive and give birth to our daughter Arran. And now, after finally having our little IVF miracle, comes the opportunity to shine a light on such a powerful but often overlooked topic. Now it’s my turn to champion for my fellow warriors in the wait and enable them to find their light!

facing the storm (and defying it)

Sadly there are far too many women and men who are still in the throws of infertility, some whose journey has been even longer and more arduous than my own. Infertility is never far from my mind, which is why I am so passionate about speaking out, offering support and resources and seeking to improve the lives of others. I’ve been told that the years of struggle will seem like a distant memory – that I might even forget the heartache endured during those four years. I almost wish that were true, but I honestly will never forget what it took to get here. I doubt there will ever be a time when I can no longer recall the feelings of isolation, guilt, shame and anger experienced. And at the same time, I choose to never stay silent about this heart-wrenching illness, for once I personally made the decision to no longer struggle in silence and Flip the Script on infertility, I was ambushed with encouragement and support from people I had never even met, a tribe of infertility sisters who were going through similar pains and who were so gracious and willing to share information, tips, or just offer hope in a time of despair. This sense of connection was deep!

eye of the storm

IVF may have helped us overcome infertility, but infertility will always be part of my story. We are so thankful for the advancement of modern medicine, but also for the organizations and individuals that are dedicated to offering infertility assistance when and where needed!

If you are struggling with infertility, please consider connecting with a community (such as Resolve) who understands what you are going through...and is one of the best things you can do for yourself during this time!

Everything that has been shared during NIAW creates a ripple effect of change - that's why this matters so much! Every year we highlight infertility awareness we move the needle in the right direction, in the hopes that anyone challenged in their family building has the support they deserve and the access to all options!

Other ways you can take action:

♥ Register for the Walk of Hope &/or help support me in making a difference in my hometown, 
during the Chicagoland Walk of Hope by making a donation through my fundraising page

♥ Volunteer with Resolve.org an organization whose goal is to try and improve the lives of others.

♥ Donate to fund family-building support programs. Your gift will ensure that as long as there are 
women and men suffering from infertility, RESOLVE will provide needed support, education, and 
advocacy programs in local communities.

♥ Connect with legislators and join #AdvocacyDay by making your voice heard as the family 
building community in your state comes together to talk to lawmakers about issues important 
to our community.

♥ and last, but not least, show some love to the 1 in 8 who suffer from infertility by listening to 
those around you who may need a friend during their time of struggle!

To my warriors, first and foremost always remember to guard your heart! This journey is far too hard to not put yourself and your own well being first!

~ Tanya

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Bump Club and Beyond, Feature, Infertility, Pregnancy

Gratitude: my journey through Infertility

Stories of Gratitude: My Journey Through Infertility

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infertility

 

When my husband I decided to start a family 4 ½ years ago we initially approached our “let’s make a baby” plan in the most relaxed way possible: didn’t obsess over it, didn’t use ovulation-testing kits or chart my temperature.  We planned to be patient and felt it was in the Universe’s hands (it would happen when it happened). Well…that relaxed attitude was maintained for over a year and half…only, nothing happened. And if I am being honest, I didn’t feel grateful for much during that time. I shed a lot of tears, especially as it felt as though so many of those surrounding us became pregnant quickly and easily.  I was happy for them, but sad for us.

As months went on, we realized it was time to be more proactive. We sought out a local fertility clinic in search of answers and hope, but our diagnosis (“unexplained fertility”) left us feeling frustrated. Treatment after treatment (3 rounds of IUI and 2 IVF egg retrievals, to be exact) we were finally pregnant, only to miscarry 7 weeks later. The failure to get (or stay) pregnant only triggered irrational guilt within. After all, society’s message heard loud and clear is that we (women) are built to build humans and (for reasons unknown) I could not do that. It was then that we decided to take charge and be our own best health advocates! Knowing the second opinion we needed would be from the very best clinic there is, we headed to Colorado. After many more months of testing, we had hope in our hearts once again! We also now had an understanding of why our journey to parenthood would have always required medical intervention (turns out it wasn’t entirely unexplained). A 3rd IVF egg retrieval and embryo transfer later, we could finally share the good news that was several years in the making…we were pregnant!!!

Looking back, I honestly am grateful for this horrendously hard and yet beautiful journey of infertility. As I held our daughter Arran for the first time, not only did I inhale motherhood in all its glory, but also the exhilarating rush of a broken heart as it pieced its way back together. Being a Mom certainly is my greatest joy, but I feel very lucky that I got to know myself really well first. I have come to better know my own body and the super challenging – yet amazing things it can do (like withstand the hundreds of injections and blood draws over the course of several years of fertility treatments). I am also grateful to have a husband, a partner, who loves me enough to fight alongside me. There are no words for how amazingly supportive he was through it all, I was so consumed by my own sadness at times that it was often hard for me to stop and think about how hard it was for him too. After all, he wanted to be a dad just as much as I wanted to be a mom. But there he was, an optimistic, supportive rock through it all. He made it clear to me time and time again that we would figure this out. His love for me was not dependent on my fertility issues.

I am also grateful to those directly responsible for making me a Mother today, Doctor Schoolcraft and the Embryology team at Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine! We had an entire team of people (both local and remote) giving their time, energy and talents not only to help make parenthood a reality for us, but also to be our biggest cheerleaders every step of the way. I am still so in awe of the miracle that is IVF, and thankful to be born in a time where science and technology offer hope to women like me have struggled to conceive! I’m grateful for the little picture that now hangs in my daughter’s nursery of her as a 6-day old embryo on transfer day. Who else can show their kids their first picture, when they were literally 6 days old in the womb? Along the way, I found that in sharing our infertility journey, I was able to be a voice for others who had not yet found their own. I am grateful to the incredible women with whom I’m fortunate enough to share this special bond, my fellow warrior tribe! IVF isn’t for the faint of heart, but because we went through it and survived it, we’re better for it. We have walked through hell and back…and still I would do it all over again! To have the opportunity to long for, fight for and love a child years before she was ever born, it’s the testament of our love for her, and for that I am forever grateful!

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