Best Me I Can Be

How I’m Preparing for Birth In My Final Weeks of Pregnancy

Blog Tuesday!

I’m in the final stretch of pregnancy at just over 38 weeks. People have asked if I’m miserable and ready to be done yet and I think miserable may be a bit harsh but I’m ready to be done whenever.

I think I’m treating my body and baby well at this stage and giving us the optimal experience that I possibly can. I’ve learned to embrace body changes and love when baby Finley moves.

How I'm Preparing for Birth In My Final Weeks of PregnancyThe nursery is mostly set with the exception of a wall mural and awaiting a bookshelf to put the books on.

I feel ready, not at all nervous yet.  I feel well prepared thanks to my healthcare provider team (chiropractor, Chinese medicine doctor, and massage therapists) and birth team (midwives, doula, hypnobirthing instructor, and breastfeeding instructor).

I know my blogs have taken more of a turn surrounding pregnancy but it really is an incredible part of my life that should be embraced and if I can share with other moms-to-be then that makes me feel really good. My intention is always to share what has worked for me, but never to judge someone if they choose otherwise.

So the blogs that follow this leading up to the birth will likely be about pregnancy and birth.

I always sit down and just write whatever comes to mind so I cannot tell you what October will hold and if I will be blogging at all in the coming months with the new baby, but I always promise to come back.

Today I thought I would share how I am preparing for birth in the last few weeks.  Most importantly is staying comfortable and stress free. Our bodies work so much better in labor and delivery when we are relaxing and haven’t been tense.

1. Seeing My Healthcare Team Weekly in the Last 4 Weeks- I see my chiropractor weekly to make sure my entire body is aligned and to also do any Webster Technique to work the Round Ligament that may be tight. If this ligament is tight it can restrict movements for baby because they have less room in the uterus to move around.

I see my Chinese medicine doctor for acupuncture to help facilitate blood flow to the uterus and relax my body. If Finley were in a less than optimal position acupuncture could help her flip, as could chiropractic Webster technique.

I see a prenatal massage therapist and our structural integration therapist each week now. It may not be necessary to do both but I do because prenatal massage focuses on pregnancy and relaxing.

My structural integration therapist is deeper tissue, although not like it was prior to pregnancy. This helps separate fascia and helps alleviate any sticking of muscles and fascia which can still be occurring because I lift weights and my body has experienced so much change.

We attend prenatal yoga once a week as well to really get us in the zone for birth.

2. Food and Supplements- When I was in to see my Chinese medicine doctor this past week she recommended a list of things to do and not to do. She recommended avoiding spicy and pungent foods as well as damp foods like peanuts.

This helps the body from becoming overly damp and hot, who needs to be overly hot when you already are pregnant? I do have some peanut butter in a shake about twice a week but tend to avoid it otherwise.  It was a little tough giving up salsa but my body has responded well to it.

At my midwife’s recommendation I have added alfalfa into my diet regularly in supplement form to assist with clotting after labor as it contains a natural source of Vitamin K.  I also will start to add Raspberry Leaf Tea to tone the uterus from time to time.

I have had a thing for dates the last few months and it turns out that eating 6 dates a day is supposed to help in labor as it has oxytocin like effects, so now I eat them daily. This also helps with digestion because it has fiber in it.

3. Purchased Essentials for Me for After Birth (Must Read!)- I purchased my nursing tops, nursing bras, and nursing sports bras as well as a belly bandit.  I prefer the nursing tops from Target because they are comfortable and affordable.

My nursing bras I actually went and got fitted for which I highly recommend because I would not have purchased the right size.  I spent a little more in this category to ensure they were right for me.  I got mostly bras without underwire as they say that underwire can possibly cause blocked milk ducts and mastitis. I purchased plenty of disposable and reusable pads to put in my nursing bra for milk leakage.

I love the bamboobies ones as they seem soft.  I got my nursing sports bra from La Leche League (thanks Jessica for the recommendation!) as I wanted proper support for when I return to workouts and still the accessability to nurse as I know I will be working out at home in our home gym for awhile.

I also did quite a bit of research on the belly supports and how they help with pushing any fluids out as well as helping your body return faster to its original size (or close to it).

It fits like a girdle and should be put on daily even starting as soon as hours after delivery. Belly Bandit is what I chose to go with, will see how it works out :).

4. I Made Postpartum Cold Pads & Essential Oil Concoctions- The postpartum pads aren’t talked about as much as I think they should be as they help any swelling go down after birth quicker.

I simply purchased extra heavy pads, put aloe vera, witch hazel, lavender, and geranium drops in them and then resealed the pads in their packages and put gallon bags of them in the freezer. It is pretty simple to do.

I also made sure I had several essential oils on hand like basil and black pepper for pain during labor, clary sage and myrrh for contraction help, lavender to calm me, wild orange to energize me, and frankincense for anxiety.

I made a couple of mist blends for the different stages of labor as well as a perineal support balm for during labor and a mist to spray on my lady parts after birth.  There are also mixtures for sadness, edema, after pains, and hemorrhoids that I have essential oils on hand for in case I need them.

I did make some home made sanitizer and germ sprays as well as making sure there are oils on hand for baby remedies like bonding, cord stump care, sore bottom, and so forth.

5. Continued Daily Practice- I continue to do my daily yoga flow, cat-cow exercises, breathing practices, visualizations, affirmations, walking, and workouts.  I also apply belly oil/salve twice a day to my belly, breasts, butt and thighs to continue to prevent stretch marks. I sit on the exercise quite a bit if I sit at all which I love.

A few things we will add in this week are perineal massage (yes, it is weird but look into it as it may help prevent tearing during labor) and every few days Rebozo technique.  I encourage you to google this or take a look on Spinning Babies website to ensure you can do it and how to properly do it. Our doula/prenatal yoga instructor has worked with us on this.  It feels awesome in the last few weeks!!

6. Our bags are packed- I packed a diaper bag and bag for myself and husband so we are all set.  I know there will be things to add but at least I know I grabbed the right diapers and clothes for baby Finley as well as shower stuff and a change of clothes for me. 🙂

This was a longer blog post, my apologies, but I so wanted to share. If there are any questions about anything, please don’t hesitate to email me at ashley@ashluther.com

Thank you for reading!

With much love & gratitude,

Ashley

Things That Get Tougher To Do In Pregnancy

Blog Tuesday!

Today I wanted to share some light hearted humor that is also incredibly truthful related to pregnancy. There are so many things about pregnancy that are shared and then some that are just assumed but yet when it happens to you it is still shocking because often times we don’t realize how much we take simple things we used to do for granted.

Things just get harder to do during pregnancy, and a good laugh about it definitely helps because some day you will get back to normal or some form of normal.

Things That Get Tougher To Do In Pregnancy1. Shaving- This one is definitely more difficult especially if you don’t have a ledge or seat in the shower to put your leg up on.  Luckily we do, put it still seems a bit more difficult.  And for any ladies that shave their own private region, this can be comical.

You literally cannot see what you are doing and that’s ok, totally understandable. Do the best you can, your doctors and your partners totally understand.

If your partner doesn’t, then maybe they can do it or pay for you to get a wax :).

2. Pedicures- For heavens sake, just go to a salon and have this done. I speak from personal experience on this one. I tried painting my toenails in month 7 and it was not a fun experience, super uncomfortable, no matter how you try to move yourself around.

Just bite the bullet and go get a pedicure from a professional so you can relax or have a friend or significant other do it.  Enjoy the massage part of it too, just make sure they aren’t applying deep pressure along the inner parts of your ankle and shins.

These can be labor pressure points and we want to avoid them until baby is ready to come.

3. Sex- I’m just getting real with you, positions are likely to change.  Skip this if you don’t want to know.  Hands & knees is a more comfortable option or stacking up pillows under belly while doing so. Standing positions may be better or even side lying.

You’ll soon find that lying on your back late in pregnancy can be super uncomfortable and I’m always careful lying on my back for blood flow restriction which can make a person light headed and decrease blood flow to baby some.

Get creative, don’t give this up because it is important to maintain some intimacy with your partner.  It makes you both feel good and keeps that part of your relationship still intact.

4. Sleep- This can be incredibly frustrating!  Some nights I am super sleepy and others I am wide awake.  It usually helps if I read or listen to a hypnobirthing tract before bed to settle my mind. I definitely have to be off electronic devices awhile before bed as well, which is just a good habit to keep anyway.  Sleep position is tricky too when in late pregnancy.

I literally have a fortress around me at night and it has to be resituated each time I pee, which is more often as well.  We definitely pee more in later pregnancy with the added weight and position of baby on our bladder.  This is just something that can’t be avoided.

Think of it like your body is training you to get up with baby multiple times a night, then it doesn’t seem quite so bad. It puts a happy spin on the matter.

I do have to laugh at myself sometime as sometimes I lay down and feel like I have to pee again, and do.  Laugh and roll with it.

5. Tying Our Shoes and Putting on Undies and Shorts/Pants- This seems like such an easy task before pregnant, but wow does it change!!  Shoes that tie are definitely a task to get on. I recommend crossing the leg over in figure 4 position as you sit on a bench or bed so we aren’t leaning over our belly and pinching as much.

Pulling up underwear and shorts/pants/skirts is just comical to me now as it seems like work.  To be safe, stand near a wall and be prepared to use it for support or ask your partner to help.

Laugh about it together, lighten the mood, it is not forever.

6. Walking– Walking is definitely different later in pregnancy. I luckily do not have a waddle, although maybe I will get it yet.  I am a much slower walker these days and stairs are hard.  Both can make us feel winded and out of shape.

I get more Braxton hicks when I’m walking or going up stairs.  I concentrate on my breathing and sometimes stop to sit or bend over.  Do what makes you feel comfortable, just always be careful coming back up as it is a more severe change for our blood now to go from bending over to standing.

My friend Alison told me to think of my slower walk as more of a leisurely walk…I love that.  It is quite a bit of pressure on your pelvis at the end so respect that and know it is ok to go slower, this my friends, is not a race, the experience of pregnancy is a marathon…keep things steady and slower.

7. Eating Less At Meals But Maybe Eating More Often- I have found that I can be starving but cannot eat nearly as much as I used to at a sitting or else I feel really miserable.  So eating less and stopping before full is good, but it may mean that we are hungry again in a few hours. No biggie, just eat again. It is better to prepare for this, keep it in mind.

I hope this has been helpful! Remember to laugh these things off, no need for stress!! It isn’t permanent.

Thank you for reading!

With much love & gratitude,

Ashley

 

Why I Am Choosing A Natural Birth and Why You Should Choose What You Want Too

Blog Tuesday! The due date is drawing near!!

We are so excited to meet baby Finley!! The journey has been fast and yet slow at times.

When I look back at the almost 10 months, I realize how much has changed and how pregnancy really is a long time but so amazing.

I have learned so much about myself and learned so much from other moms and healthcare providers.  I am eternally grateful for this blessing in my life.

I have tried to do things as natural as possible throughout my pregnancy, reading labels on things I put in my body and on my body more so than ever as well as trying to respect my body more.

Why I Am Choosing A Natural BirthI decided this week I wanted to share a bit about our birth plan and the choice to have a natural birth…

First off, every mother to be needs a birth plan.  Lay out exactly what you do and do not want, be protective of it and what you really want. All mothers deserve to have their rights and wishes respected when it comes to such an important event in their life.

If you are feeling like your healthcare provider is going to disagree with you and try to change your mind, then that is not the right fit for you.  Spend time looking for exactly what you want. Trust your gut!!

I hesitate at times in this blog topic because when we talk about natural birth it can sometimes seem like those choosing to do it are perceived as having a “wonder woman” complex and that is not the case for me at all.  Another thing when it comes to natural birth is that we never want to make our mamas that had C-sections feel inadequate or that they have done something wrong which can lead to not talking about natural birth at all.

I respect every mother’s decision, I sometimes am frustrated with how medical staff can push a mother into a situation she initially never wanted because they invoke fear in the mom or intervene with nature’s natural progression of birth.

There are most definitely times that C-sections cannot be avoided and I am incredibly respectful of the doctors and parents.  It is when doctors schedule c sections or try to speed up labor to adhere to their time schedule, despite mom’s wishes that pisses me off. There, I said it.  We all know it happens.

I am choosing a natural birth because I believe that the body and baby work together harmoniously and know what to do. Women have been having babies forever and never had interventions. We have survived, and very well, as a race.  Natural remedies were used for pain and women got through it.

When we interfere with the natural ebb and flow of birth, it makes it hard for mom, baby, and medical staff.  I ask people to think about inductions and using drugs to get things started, maybe our baby isn’t ready yet.

Is it selfish to push them out if there is not a danger and there is still time?  Do we live in such a fast paced world that it actually is acceptable to do this just out of our desire to want the baby here sooner?  (Again I am not referring to way way late babies and emergencies.)

Our babies release a chemical when they are ready and our bodies recognize this and start labor. Of course there are circumstances that this may not happen in and we may need some help getting going, but there are options like eating spicy foods, pineapple, evening primrose, walking, pressure points, sex, nipple stimulation, and last resort castor oil that are more naturally based.  Couldn’t we try these first? And maybe, our stressing about the baby not being there yet is actually delaying the process?

Research has shown that Pitocin can actually slow labor because it is synthetic in nature and actually makes contractions more severe which tires out both mom and baby before body and baby are really ready to move forward.  Pitocin often times then leads to C-section because mom and baby are tired and baby’s heart rate will naturally drop over time when exposed to Pitocin, which is always a reason to suggest C-section.

Epidurals can alleviate pain but don’t allow moms to feel themselves really experience the birth pushing experience.  It is hard to tell if something feels right or wrong.  I know there are times that these things may be necessary but I feel that they are overused simply because of time constraints of the doctor and more importantly the fact that we as a society have not done enough to empower moms into thinking that they know what is best for themselves during delivery.

If a mom has a low pain tolerance, then go for the pain meds, they are not for me because luckily I’m blessed with a high pain tolerance amongst what I’ve learned, but not getting the drugs for these moms may in fact add stress to herself and baby as her body is in the fight/flight sympathetic response and not relaxed. So in that instance, go for it.

Some say babies are a little more lethargic and latch less easy in these instances but I don’t think that is always the case.

I believe every woman has the right to the birth of their choosing. We need to empower women and lift them up to ask for what they want. 

I choose a natural birth in a birth center because I live a natural lifestyle and I have always wanted a natural birth.  Would I be disappointed with a c section, of course, but I know with my plan that that would only happen if there was absolutely nothing else that could be done and my baby was in danger.

She is the most important thing, always.  And because she is the most important thing, I want to offer her my gift of a natural birth.  I have prepared myself with countless meditations, breathing sessions, yoga positions, books, affirmations, visualizations, hypnobirthing classes and prenatal yoga class.

I have researched essential oil usage and have learned how to use it correctly during labor, birth, and for both of us after delivery.  These also incorporate natural pain remedies.  I have learned what a parasympathetic relaxed state feels like and a stressed sympathetic state.  I have the tools to keep me calm and peaceful thanks to my hypnobirthing class, my husband’s assistance and our wonderful doula, amongst a wonderful birth center team and my own healthcare team I formed for myself.

Did it take more work and time, you bet….but that is so worth it to me.  I am not expecting the process to be easy or free of pain, I just feel properly equipped to handle the situation at this point.

I think all moms should have access to this.  It is incredibly empowering to me to know I did so much work and that I am capable of anything I am faced with in the birth process, whatever it may hold. I have faith in my team/support staff, in the process, and myself.

I don’t think there is a time in life that can be so empowering, soften your spirit and yet make you stronger than you thought you could be.

Moms-to-be, you deserve this. Seek out what you want and do your research. If you want those pain meds, write it down in your birth plan and be strict about what you want and don’t.

Seek out ways to empower yourself and know that you can do this the way you want to be done, in a way that is best for your baby and you.

I never want to offend anyone, so hopefully I have not done so. Natural birth is right for me and maybe not for everyone.  I only want all moms-to-be to feel empowered in their decisions and have access to all the tools and information they can to make an educated and yet gut instinct based decision that is appropriate for them.

Thank you for reading!

With much love & gratitude,

Ashley

Beneficial Baby Classes for First-Timers

Post by on August 30, 2016

Blog Tuesday! I’m keeping with the baby theme this week as I just had my baby shower and have less than 6 weeks left until the due date!

This week I thought I’d share a bit about the classes that we have taken during pregnancy that I think would be beneficial for mommies-to-be. My husband has been awesome about making it to most of them and that has been great, so if one could get her husband to a class there is a lot of benefit in that and who knows, they sometimes enjoy the classes.

Beneficial Baby Classes for First-Timers

1. Hypnobirthing Classes for Birth Preparation

We loved this series of classes and it makes me feel so prepared for the birth. If a mother is really into visualization and breathing or a frequent yogi, this class is the perfect fit.  There are visualization exercises to do, different breathing exercises for birth, as well as positioning to help during the birth, and even pressure/massage points for your partner to help with. I cannot wait to utilize these tools during the birth and I have incorporated a lot into my daily life already.

2. Breastfeeding Classes

If a mom-to-be is going to go to any class, please go to this one! I learned so much about the importance of breastfeeding, statistics on babies whom are breastfed, and how to latch properly.  My instructor gave me so much information on latch technique, how to hold the infant to latch properly, how to store my milk and pump, nursing bras and pads that she recommended, signs to lookout for, and so much more.  I left there feeling so much more comfortable about knowing what to expect.

3. Prenatal Yoga Classes

We love our prenatal yoga instructor! She also happens to be our doula :).  I highly recommend a yoga class, not just for the strength, stretch, and relaxation aspect of it, but also for the relationships that are built during the class with our pregnant moms.  It is so refreshing to hear their stories and what they are experiencing that may be similar to you or be able to offer things that have worked for yourself.  It is a neat little group to be part of that empowers us as women.  Men can go support their significant other, my husband enjoys going.

4. Homeopathy/Natural Remedies Classes

This was a presentation that was given at our birth center about ways to naturally treat infant issues like rash, tummy upset, earache, sore throat, etc.  It also is great for adults! We really enjoyed learning from the doctor talking that morning. With homeopathy, there are over 4000 treatments available and to be more specific to the person affected it may require an actual meeting with the doctor, but some remedies for common things can be done without the doctor.  We are trying to treat and prevent things as naturally as possible so this was a great class for us.

5. Essential Oils Classes

I have a workshop coming up for this that I will attend. I have been getting all the essential oils and their containers ready for this class so I can make natural balms and oils for certain things to help me during labor and after as well as for baby Finley.  With essential oils it is so important to find a good resource and also make sure that oils are diluted appropriately for baby.  Babies do not need much at all. If one isn’t sure how to use the oils, I definitely recommend seeking out a class or representative that can help you instead of just applying to your child.

6. Mommy & Me Groups

These I have not attended yet.  However, I plan to attend some of these groups.  Some of the groups I am interested in are the Mommy & Me Yoga Classes, Tiny Tots Gym Classes, Gymboree Classes, Swim Classes, Mommy & Me Fitness Classes, and a few others.  I think it will be good for us to get out and be around other moms and babies in order to feel social and sane and know that there are other moms experiencing what we are going through as new moms.

There are so many great classes out there, these are just my favorites that work for me.  Bradley Childbirth Classes and La Maze Classes may be perfect for another mom-to-be, do what feels right for you and try different classes out.

Thank you for reading!

With much love & gratitude,

Ashley

 

How Pregnancy Taught Me Greater Appreciation For…

Post by on August 23, 2016

Blog Tuesday!

Today I wanted to share about the things I appreciate way more now that I am pregnant and nearing the end of my pregnancy.  I’m sure many moms can relate to these things and often times it is things that seem so simple and easy but during pregnancy I have found an entirely new level of appreciation.

So much changes in a 40 week period and after baby is born, when we really think back and take a look at it, it really is incredible.

How Pregnancy Taught Me Greater Appreciation For...

1. I love & appreciate my friends & family that are mothers so much more. While that may come across as saying that I appreciated them less before, what it really means is that I couldn’t understand clearly where they were coming from at times before I was pregnant, because I wasn’t in that stage myself.

I loved them and appreciated them but pregnancy has brought it to an entirely different level.  It is like a different sort of bond is formed with these women when you become pregnant.  I am so incredibly grateful for these women in my life, for their stories, sharing their favorite products (and ones they didn’t care for), stories of challenges throughout pregnancy and with motherhood, and the triumphs they experience.

In a sense, it is like I have entered into a new tribe of wonderful women that I appreciate and just adore. The other really cool thing is that I have started meeting new people and forming new bonds because of pregnancy.  It can definitely be reassuring to be around women that are going through or have gone through similar feelings and experiences.

It makes us more confident, relieved, and self-assured that we are ok and not crazy.:)  It is a beautiful thing and I encourage all pregnant women to reach out to their friends & family that have children or are pregnant or to join expectant mother groups.

There are so many things about pregnancy, baby items, and motherhood to know and it can be overwhelming at times.

These people make you feel so much better, so allow them to help you!

2. I appreciate my body so much more than I ever thought that I could.  This one is huge for me! Yes, it is incredibly amazing to think about all of the changes that our body experiences to form another life, but what I am talking about is how the body was before.

Never has getting in and out of bed during the middle of the night been such a process!  Pushing myself up is a task in itself, not to mention removing the fortress of pillows I have to make in order to be comfortable.  I look back and think about how easy it was before pregnancy to just jump up out of bed and get back in without issues.

At times I have to laugh at myself because it really can be quite comical.  Stairs…oh my goodness, stairs are so daunting now, for I know that once I reach the top that I will be out of breath and have to lean over or sit down to recover.  Running up the stairs was something I totally took for granted before, I just didn’t think about it.

When we are pregnant we dramatically increase our blood volume, some of us may have a little lower blood pressure and blood sugar, and that coupled with added weight definitely makes things like climbing stairs and long walks harder, especially in late pregnancy.

I find that lifting weights for 30-40 minutes is much easier than climbing 2 flights of stairs, because weights are short bursts of exercise.  This one definitely makes me laugh sometimes and really appreciate my body before.

When we look at the incredible changes it can be very humbling. 

I have such a newfound respect for my body as a whole, during pregnancy and before.

3. I appreciate my body’s ability to regulate my temperature, even though I get impatient with it at times. I have always been that person that is cold and it is incredibly rare now that I am pregnant that I am ever cold.  Before pregnancy, I was that girl that would go to bed with sweatshirt, sweatpants and covers during summer and now it is most definitely tank top, shorts, no blanket, and the air conditioner cranked up.

This one is also comical to me as I’m pretty sure daily I say, ” I’m so f-ing hot.”  It seems like I can’t get the car cool enough or that when I am out at stores that there air conditioner is not working.

Yes, we live in Arizona and it is pretty darn hot here right now, but that’s the way it is every year and this year just seems like I’m literally being cooked.

I have found that if I focus on my breathing at these times that I can cool myself down a bit more, thank you for the power of breath!

4. I appreciate my sleep and rest, will it ever be the same? I have always valued my sleep.  I used to be the person that could sleep until noon if left to it.  I know love being up early but it is nice occasionally to have those weekend mornings, though few and far between, that allowed me to sleep in.

Sleeping in isn’t a thing during pregnancy, you have to pee at some point…well multiple times, so sleeping in doesn’t happen.

I can recall some nights in the second trimester when I would get up like 8-10 times to pee, um, that doesn’t really give a person much in terms of quality sleep.  I have become used to the sleep interruptions (peeing) now, but I often wonder, when will the next time be that I actually sleep through the night? 🙂

This was an aspect of my life that I worried about before getting pregnant since I loved sleep so much and knew the importance of it in terms of health, attitude, mental coping skills.

I am so glad that I have acclimated to it, though I know the tough stages are yet upon me with a newborn.  I just dab a bit more concealer under my eyes and make sure I get that eyeliner and mascara on to open my eyes up a bit wider. 🙂

5. I have such a deep respect and sense of love for my husband’s neverending help and support. I am incredibly lucky to have such a wonderful husband that has always supported my and helped me whenever I needed it, but it has only increased during pregnancy.

The way he holds out his hand to help me get up from sitting, or does things sooner on our To-Do list (this may be because he fears the impatience in me to get things done has increased and he doesn’t want to deal with my irritation :)), or helps out with getting the nursery together, make me love him even more, if that’s even possible.

He goes to birthing classes with me, not just the preparation for birth, but things like homeopathy classes or prenatal yoga classes.  He has no idea what this means to me.  He tells me I look good even when I feel so big and uncomfortable and that is so nice to hear (even if we don’t think so.)

Sometimes, I will be honest, as a woman going through pregnancy, it can feel a little lonely because your spouse can’t understand what is going on in your body, let alone your head, but him offering to go to these classes, read to the baby, or show interest in the nursery takes away that feeling. 

He is the best and I hope that each and every pregnant woman has a partner or friend that can be that person for them, for it truly makes an incredible difference!

I’m sure that after I have this baby that I will find even more things that I appreciate about my life, including the new baby girl! Our bodies and the people around us are incredible gifts that I love and value tremendously and I’m sure many of you feel or will feel this way too.

Thank you for reading!!!

With much love & gratitude,

Ashley

 

Natural-Based Cleaning Products That Are Safe For The Entire Family

Post by on August 16, 2016

Blog Tuesday!

This week I am going to continue with some suggestions and products that we use in our household that are more natural based and toxin/allergy conscious.  From cleaning the home to cleaning clothes as well as some products for baby/children and natural feminine products for women.  I give these merely as references to what we use and have found to work well for us.

Natural-Based Cleaning Products That Are Safe For The Entire Family

Again, I’m sure there are several more options out there.

Dishwasher Detergents & Dish Soap

Obviously a lot of what we eat comes off of a plate, glass, or silverware that we use.  This can often be overlooked in the health conscious department, but it could possibly impact health depending on ingredients.  We use Seventh Generation for both dishwasher detergent and dish soap.

They have powder and packet form of the detergent which is quite convenient.  We do like Shaklee products for this as well and used them a lot this summer at the lake.  A person can find a representative for this or order from the website.

Earth Friendly brand also has a great line of products to take a look at.  We can find Seventh Generation in grocery stores here and definitely in health food stores. In smaller areas, this may require ordering online.

Handsoap

In the past we have used a store bought organic hand wash but in the future I plan to transition to Beautycounter or Shaklee as I find their ingredients list more toxin/allergen aware.

Sometimes with more organic based soaps one must be aware that they may not suds up as much due to having alternative ingredients to sodium lauryl sulfate.

Laundry Detergent, Fabric Softener, Stain Remover, Dryer Balls vs Dryer Sheets

We have also used Seventh Generation as well as Shaklee in the these categories.  I don’t use fabric softener typically. I ordered wool dryer balls off of Amazon and they work great in terms of static and catching extra lint.

The only thing is that one may need to order them more regularly than say a plastic dryer ball. The wool dryer balls are definitely more organic based and contain hardly any other ingredients whereas a plastic ball may have several.

I do not use dryer sheets ever as there are known toxins in them.

For children and babies, I use babyganics to do laundry with.  It is more sensitive to their skin than other detergents tend to be.

Cleaning Supplies

We really liked cleaning with Shaklee products at the lake this summer and will likely continue some of those especially with glass and surface cleaners. They also have wipes to wipe down surfaces that are more natural based that worked great.

Our floors are cleaned with distilled vinegar and water and it does a great job especially with all of the Arizona dirt that comes into the house.

Feminine Care Products

Natracare is by far my favorite brand for tampons, pads, and feminine wipes.  One can find these in natural food stores or even on Amazon. I typically order them on Amazon in bulk if I can as they can get a bit spendy in stores.

One thing to look out for is anything scented or that has been bleached.  Our feminine flora can be disturbed by this thus leading to yeast infections and flora imbalances.

Toothpaste, Tongue Scrapers, and Floss

My favorite natural toothpaste is Jason’s Natural Toothpaste.  It has a nice minty flavor and leaves my mouth feeling just as fresh as the regular brands.  I look for a brand that does not contain fluoride and contains natural ingredients.  A person could use baking soda as toothpaste as well.

I also use a tongue scraper once or twice a day after brushing. I feel like it helps remove any cravings and my tongue just feels cleaner.  There are natural based flosses to choose from as well although I think focusing on the toothpaste is most important.

Baby & Children Skincare Products & Diapers

I am choosing to use Babyganics and Beautycounter primarily for skincare and hair care products for my child.  They both have lotions, body wash, body oil, and shampoo.  I also have looked into and purchased some balms and other products from the Honest Company to try.

I have yet to experience this with my child and will definitely write a future blog on them once I know what has worked for my child.  I am choosing to use either Honest or Babyganics diapers that are more natural based but another great solution would be cloth diapers and there are becoming lots and lots more options in that department.

Something to note with more natural based cleaning products is that they often don’t have that “clean” smell to them, in fact they may not have a smell at all.  This is because they don’t add fragrance because there may be some toxins associated with them.

If a person really craves that “clean” smell, adding a trusted essential oil company’s oil to it can solve this problem.  A person could get lemon, grapefruit, orange, or even lavender oil to get that fresh and clean smell.

I hope these last few blogs have helped in terms of a place to start with a more natural approach to life.  Remember to always consult ewg.org with any questions.

 

Thank you for reading!

With much love & gratitude,

Ashley

 

 

 

My Best Skin and Hair Product Recommendations

Post by on August 9, 2016

Blog Tuesday!

This week finds us back in hot Arizona, all unpacked, but trying to get adjusted to new school schedules and prepare for the baby.  I have been increasingly more conscious of not only the foods/supplements that I put into my body but also what I am putting on my skin, especially during pregnancy.

I have had some things that I have used that maybe had some more toxins in them than what I would want and I’m trying to be more and more careful about what I choose, for what I choose, my baby also is getting exposed to.

My Best Skin and Hair Product Recommendations

Today I wanted to share some of my favorite skin/hair products that I use and recommend.

There are several brands I’m sure that are great out there, but these are ones that have given me results and kept my body cleaner and safer for myself and baby.

A good resource to be able to use the ewg.org website. 

This is the Environmental Works Group website and they test thousands and thousands of products that one could look up and view information on toxicity and allergies in relation to the products.  I refer to this website quite often and love it. I encourage people to use it often as well!  Sometimes the most highly recommended products on a google search are not necessarily the best for our bodies. I have definitely learned this.

In this day and age in which we have an increasing amount of cases of autoimmune diseases, gastrointestinal disorders, cancers, and childhood issues, isn’t it worth it to spend a little extra time researching before purchasing?  We don’t have to go crazy with it, but at least maybe research the most commonly used products in our daily life.

Not only can we find a product that we like, but also find a product that can bring us some reassurance that it is healthier for our bodies.

Lotions

Lotions can contain some pretty toxic ingredients and it something that most of us use either in terms of on our face or overall body. Think of how much we use on our babies and children too!  Our skin is our biggest organ and therefore the source of most exposure to good and bad things.

Great options for a balm, oil or lotion that are cheapest and contain the least amount of ingredients to look through are pure organic coconut oil, jojoba oil, shea butter and cocoa butter (look at all ingredients, companies can add a lot to these that are unnecessary!). Some good ingredients in lotions that are safe are those listed above as well as olive oil, beeswax, calendula, Helianthus Annulus, aloe, non-gmo vitamin e, and natural oils like lavender.

Avoid products that say natural but list fragrance as an ingredient as they can contain toxic ingredients.

Some of my favorites are from Beautycounter and the Honest Company. I love the body butter and daily lotion as well as daily & nightly facial lotion from Beautycounter.  I also like the Baby Oil from Beautycounter. They have a great baby skincare line to checkout that is safe for your little ones.  Beautycounter works closely with the Ewg for their products.

I love the Belly Balm and Body Oil from the Honest Company as it doesn’t have much of a scent and once rubbed in doesn’t feel greasy.  These are great products for pregnant moms or just people in general for itchy skin or stretch marks.

Deodorants

This can be a hard one to find for sure! Our armpits serve as a way to release toxins from our body and the last thing we need is to put on something that is more toxic in such a highly important area.  I do find that I may have to reapply more than I would with a typically common brand, but at least I know I am safer, especially with all the breast cancers popping up and lymphatic issues.  My favorites or Tom’s and Lavanila The Healthy Deodorant.  When you search for deodorants look for all natural, free of parabens, and no aluminum.

Our Daily Facial Routine

This is a no brainer for me. I have been using Beautycounter for a year now and absolutely love their skincare lines.  With their working so closely with the EWG and with their mission being about the healthiest and safest skincare options, I feel safe using their systems and love the results.  I use their cleansers, exfoliaters, toners, face lotions, firming serums, masks, and eye cream.

If I do have a blemish pop up occasionally then I will use a non gmo source of vitamin e to dab on the area.  I do get monthly facials still from Aveda and like their products but feel safer with Beautycounter on an every day basis.  A person could always exfoliate with a good source of coconut and vitamin e as well.

Beautycounter has great makeup as well in terms of mascara, eyeliner, brow liners, foundation, blush, lip liners and glosses, and eye shadows.  I also use Jane Iredale for foundation and bronzer.

Bug Sprays, Sunscreens, and Hand Sanitizers

With bug sprays we always want to avoid Deet.  There are some great essential oils to use for this that one could look into. I also like Honest Company’s bug spray.  My favorite sunscreen comes from Beautycounter but I know Babyganics has one for infants that may be worth looking into since they are a more natural based company.

Hand Sanitizers can definitely be tough.   Doterra and Young Living both have essential oils that can be used to address this, Doterra has OnGuard and Young Living has Thieves.  The Honest Company also has a great hand sanitizer available.

Body wash and Hair Care

I love Beautycounter for this category, no question. I occasionally do use some Aveda on my hair as well but for the most part stick to Beautycounter.  An ingredient to try and avoid is sodium lauryl sulfate which is in most products for the foaming ability.  Fragrance is another ingredient again to be aware of.

It may appear I tip towards Beautycounter on a lot of the categories, but the results and the safety speak for themselves.  Once I find things that work, I tend not to switch.  I do encourage each of you to do your own research and find what works best for you.  A category I’m still trying to fulfill is perfumes and shaving cream.

Currently I use my body wash as a shave cream but am still looking. I’m picky in this category for lots of shave creams create ingrown hairs for me.  A nice option for perfume is essential oils and I do this sometimes.  One should be careful not to apply to much and to dilute it.

I did this blog to bring awareness to what we put in our bodies and for us to take the initiative to be more aware of what is going into our bodies.  I hope this helps some of you that may already be interested in doing this but are unaware where to begin.

Start with natural and organic products if possible and always use ewg,org as a reference.

Thank you for reading!

With much love & gratitude,

Ashley

 

Pregnancy Must Have List

Post by on July 26, 2016

Blog Tuesday!

Our time at the lake is coming to an end as we have only one full day left. What a great summer experience, especially while pregnant!  This month I have focused more on pregnancy blog posts as it is a big part of my life now, especially with it being the third trimester and preparing for the birth.

Today I wanted to share some of my pregnancy must-haves for mommies that are expecting or planning on getting pregnant.  What works for me may not always work for everyone, but it is certainly worth a shot to make your pregnancy as comfortable as possible.

Pregnancy Must Have ListI am in my 29th week this week and feeling well. I do feel a bit tired in the afternoons now and often will just lay down for a short while if I can. I highly recommend that, not to mention it keeps your mood better. 🙂  I am definitely feeling larger in the belly and feeling some slight low back discomfort and round ligament discomfort, but completely tolerable.

This is why I feel it is so important to do my yoga, stretching, breathing and meditations daily to ease this as well as the things I will list below.  All in all, I can honestly say I have loved second trimester and the start of third trimester.

Now for the list of must haves!

1. Body Pillow or a Selection of Pillows- I didn’t need this really until into the second trimester but it helps a ton. A good body pillow to support the belly, back, and to rest between your knees is awesome! It makes sleep on your side so much better! I have graduated to 4 single pillows with a bit more fluff now, 1 between my knees, 1 to hug, 1 for my neck, and 1 behind my back.  It makes side sleep much easier and more comfortable as we get larger bellies.

2. Stability Balls- I absolutely cannot live without this ball. They are inexpensive to purchase and so worth it. They are the big blue ball that you often see in the gym in the abdominal area.  I use it to sit on when uncomfortable or to lean over on my chest with my knees on the ground so my belly can just hang. I use it often to sit at the dinner table and eat or while at the computer as it is much more comfortable compared to a normal chair. It is great for our abdominals as well before, during, and after pregnancy, so a worthwhile investment. I hear they can be great during labor as well. I couldn’t live without this ball.

3. Foam Roller- I love this too and recommend this to everyone, pregnant or not. During pregnancy we do want to be careful to avoid the inner thigh and inner calf as it can be a trigger area for labor but it is great for other areas. I have loved using it on my glutes, legs, and lower back region.  I use it on my mid-low back quite often now to loosen up those muscles that are stretched with a growing belly. I either lay back gently on the roller as it lays on the floor or put it behind me between my body and the couch and roll up and down. It feels so good!!

4. Find A Prenatal Massage Therapist – A true prenatal massage therapist will have the pillows and foam wedges to work with the growing pregnant belly.  They will also work some on the round ligaments of your groin region that often times can cause some discomfort in later pregnancy.  Finding a good prenatal therapist can be hard as many say they do prenatal massage but aren’t necessarily certified more in depth.

5. Find A Webster Certified Chiropractor- This is a certification that I made sure I had for my chiropractic practice for pregnant mommies. It is an extra certification that works with pelvic alignment through specific adjusments and round ligament work.  I can tell having used the technique on many women and now having experienced it myself that it definitely is something worthwhile.  The premise to to allow proper position of the uterus and pelvis so that the baby has more room to turn in the direction necessary for optimal delivery.  The round ligament work can be tender but it is worth it.  Most times moms and docs can feel the baby shift right away.  It is also great for moms with breech babies to get them to turn.

6. Rubber Bands/Hair Ties & Belly Bands- Ponytail bands gave me more time in my pre-pregnancy pants, shorts, and jeans.  You simply loop the band through the hole and wrap around the button.  Then you can put a belly band around your waist to conceal any opening in zipper, genius!!! Some women can get away with this for quite some time during their pregnancy if not all of it. It saves on maternity clothes for sure!

7. Access to Water/Lake/Pool- This is the best, especially in late pregnancy when the pressure in your back and belly increases. Even just standing in the water for 30 minutes can dramatically change how the body feels the rest of the day.  Obviously being in water helps the body feel weightless and eases the pressure that our growing bellies experience due to gravity.

8. Comfortable and Supportive Pregnancy Gear- I have a few pairs of yoga pants that have the belly pocket in them and I love them.  I have had the same pairs through the entire pregnancy as it stretches with the growing body.  I like target brand yoga pants as they have this and yet feel comfortable and slimming.  I also love the ribbed pregnancy tank tops and tops in general, especially if you’re someone wanting a tighter fitting top.  I also have wide legged comfortable yoga pants that have the band that can fold up over the growing belly. I swear I wear a pair of these nightly.  For my business, dinners, or typical days I like to wear a ribbed tank or regular tank/top with a long skirt. Most of my long skirts are not even maternity so one could save in this category.  Make sure to have a supportive sports bra for workouts and a few good daily bras.

9. Pantyliners- Yep, I went there. During pregnancy our fluids increase everywhere and this is definitely something to have on hand daily as pregnancy progresses.  I never really wore them before pregnancy but I feel much more comfortable now with them.  Not to mention when you get later into pregnancy and snissing can occur. What’s snissing?…..snissing is peeing a little when you sneeze. I can honestly say this has happened to me once, right out of the shower and super tiny amount but if I had been out in public a pantyliner would have definitely come in handy.  I also learned a lesson on peeing when I first have the urge versus waiting. 🙂 Just sharing to prepare you, in case it should happen.

10. Coconut Oil, BeautyCounter Baby Oil, or Other Oil for Stretch Mark Prevention- I have been lucky so far to not see any stretch marks.  I put oil on every morning and coconut oil nightly. I put it on my breasts, belly, upper thighs to my knees front and back, and glutes.  The belly is not the only area that stretches during pregnancy so I am covering all of my bases.  It also has helped with itchy skin, which I have only experienced once when I skipped putting on the oil.

Hopefully these must-haves can help another mommy-to-be out too. I am so grateful for the recommendations that I have had from other moms and things that I have found work for me.

Thank you for reading!

With much love & gratitude,

Ashley

5 Ways to Slow Down and Increase Productivity (while pregnant on vacation)

Post by on July 19, 2016

Blog Tuesday!!

I hope this week finds us all happy and healthy in the middle of this great summer!

Our time at the lake is nearing a close with only 9 full days left here. It has been such a great experience being here for almost 2 months. We have had plenty of time with friends, family, and enjoying time by the water.

5 Ways to Slow Down and Increase Productivity (while pregnant on vacation)

I think one of the greatest gifts has been the slower pace in our lives compared to the fast-paced routine at home.

Granted, pregnancy has also really helped me to slow down and recognize that everything doesn’t have to be done right away and that booking a schedule as full as possible isn’t necessarily in my best interest.

I have been a huge advocate for people, women especially, taking time for themselves but this pregnancy and this summer by the lake have brought it to an entirely different level that I hope others can incorporate into their lives too to be happier, healthier, and more fulfilled.

While not everyone can take a few months off at the lake, we can be more selective about how we spend our time and energy.

I thought I would share a few tips that I have learned that have helped me slow down and yet also be productive:

  1. Learn to say no and say no more than feels comfortable. We live in a society in which fast paced lifestyles are expected.  We try to book as many appointments as possible, schedule dinners & coffee dates around kids activities and getting to the grocery store.  It makes our brain race and adrenaline pump and over time eventually can lead to health issues.  I have really learned over the last 7 months how to be more selective with my appointments and time management and a large part of that meant saying no to some invites.  Initially it was because I didn’t feel well during pregnancy (which actually I know view as a blessing) but it eventually turned into just liking my life much better because I didn’t feel so obligated to say yes to everything.  After awhile it became a relief to say no to things that I really didn’t want to go to or that I just felt obligated to go to.  In doing so, I learned that my time really is valuable and it is up to me entirely to make the most of that time.
  2. Don’t overbook, in fact do less than you would like.  This one has been hard for me as I try to be super efficient time wise, which can still be done, just differently.  It never fails, when making a to-do list with the appointments for the day that I felt like I was constantly racing around.  I may pick 1 day a week now that is like that and then I make sure that the evening is relaxing to let my body and mind relax.  I constantly was overdoing it on my to do lists on what could be accomplished. Now I make a weekly to-do list and monthly to-do list.  Then I pull 1-3 things from it each day, dependent on time I think the activities will take to get done with my appointment schedule.  Clusterbooking is great so long as breaks are given and extra time is allowed for travel, unexpected calls, and such.
  3. Pick a time during the day to plan and relax. I typically look at my calendar and weekly to-do list each night and not right before bed. I plan out my day and select a few things from the to-do list.  Then I relax for the rest of the night unless there are prior activities planned. I use mornings as my “me time”.  I set aside at least an hour to 90 minutes to do my chakra balancing, gratitude list, meditation, mini yoga flow, go outside with the dog, eat breakfast and get ready for the gym or the day.  I have kept gym workouts to 30-40 minutes this summer.  If I skip the routine, I feel less calm and engaged all day. From time to time there are mornings that I have to shorten the routine, but I try not to skip out on it entirely.
  4. Keeping the social media to a minimum. I am notorious for wanting to clear the red dots on my phone that alert me to an email or social media message. The red dots annoy me, most times I simply go in, delete them, scan emails and save the important ones for another time. I try to do this only a few times a day but I often clear them when I’m riding passenger in the car or while waiting.  This is something I am still trying to work on. I would eventually love to only check and clear things 1-2 times a day. It eats away so much time and isn’t usually pressing in nature.  Who wants to work on this one with me?
  5. Be Conscious of Your Breathing.  When I feel like I get going to fast and get stressed, I come back to my breath. I inhale for say 7 counts and pause, then exhale for maybe 10 counts, making the exhale longer to slow my heartbeat.  Focusing on my breathing brings me back to the present and helps me refocus on what is important, being peaceful and enjoying the process of things.

Slowing down is such a benefit to the body and to those around you.  What a gift to give yourself and them!

Thank you for reading!

If you ever are interested in learning more about this in terms of guidance or other aspects of health, please feel welcome to check out my website at www.ashluther.com.

Transformational health coaching is available as well as other services such as Reiki and Yoga.  I will be working with clients until late September and then taking some time off with the arrival of our baby in October. Also feel free to read previous blogs on a variety of topics.

With much love & gratitude,

Ashley

 

Healthy Food Alternatives This Summer

Post by on July 12, 2016

Blog Tuesday!

This week finds us back at the lake for another three weeks before we start our drive back to the Arizona heat.  While here at the lake, sometimes I feel like maybe we cheat a bit more on our meals than I’d like.

However, if I do that my body usually signals me in one way or another to readjust and get back on track. Yes, I am pregnant, but that doesn’t mean I can go crazy.

Healthy Food Alternatives This Summer

So today I thought I would give some alternative snacks for those times that we want to snack quickly but also in a healthy way.

  1. Trade chips & dip for veggies and hummus or guacamole.  Some great veggies to have on hand are cauliflower, broccoli, celery, tomatoes, squash, and even some carrots. Carrots are a bit higher in sugar content but as long as they aren’t the stand alone snack they are ok.  I love to dip them in hummus or guacamole. Guacamole is pretty easy to make at home with avocados, onion salt or real onions, garlic salt, cilantro, tomato, lime juice, and one could even throw in jalepenos.  The vegetables and healthy dip version will be lower in calories and sodium.  The vegetables will also help us feel full faster thus eating less calories.  The hummus and guacamole are great sources of good fats as well.
  2. Trade ice cream for fruits & either dark chocolate or cocoa spread. I have a dairy intolerance so ice cream really doesn’t agree with me but when I crave a sweet treat I often times will have a piece of dark chocolate or do a cocoa spread with fresh strawberries.  My favorite brand of dairy free cocoa spread is Smudge.  This fulfills my sweet tooth and gives me a source of good antioxidants from the strawberries.
  3. Trade chips for celery & peanut butter. When I crave something crunchy I opt for celery with peanut butter on it instead of chips.  Not only does this give me a good source of water and fiber, but also some fat and protein.  A person could use almond butter or cashew butter too.  This treat is way less in calories as well.
  4. Trade sugary drinks for flavored soda water or homemade fruit water. There is a time and place for sugary drinks, we just have to do it sometimes. If I do opt for something like this I try to do it earlier in the day and with some food to combat the sugar rush and crash.  I do however really like some of the flavored soda water over ice. and it is a great option, especially if there are no artificial ingredients or aspartame.  I also like fresh ice water with strawberries, blueberries, lemons, or limes in it.  This helps quench a little sugar craving and gives some antioxidants in the meantime.
  5. Trade sugary alcoholic beverages for soda water or spritzers.  While I am not partaking in any drinking of alcohol this summer due to pregnancy, I did use these options a lot last summer at pool parties and such.  Sugary drinks crash our blood sugar and make us hungry, not to mention having an effect on our mood, skin, and digestion.  Mixing alcohol with soda water or a flavored soda water is a much better option and it also makes the drink lighter which is often what we crave in the summer heat.  The body stays a bit better hydrated as well which can help with hangovers. Sometimes I would simply drink vodka with water and a lime.
  6. Choose between dessert and the after dinner drink. I know it is tempting to do both, but choosing one will most definitely feel better later or the next day when there is less sugar involved.  It will help with the sluggishness the next day and mood. Not to mention the possible guilt and possible need to work harder in the gym the next day.  With that being said, if one does overindulge, simply eat cleaner the following days and do a bit more exercise to offset the effects.
  7. Trade fried food for grilled or seared food. Most fried food contains gluten so if a person is sensitive to that it should be avoided. I cheat from time to time and I definitely feel the effects of it.  When I eat grilled food I never regret it.  It also leaves me with the option for dessert if my main course is healthier. 🙂 Fried food has much less nutritional value and can tend to make us crave it even more. Great options if we are looking at side dishes are grilled or baked veggies or fruit.

I hope these options help out some in the upcoming summer weeks.  It always feels good to stay on track with our food and exercise.

Thank you for reading!

With much love & gratitude,

Ashley