Meet Jack!

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Hi friends!

Long time no talk! Sorry that I have been MIA on here, but also…not really sorry because I have been on a “maternity leave” of sorts! :)

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Everyone, meet baby Jack!

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Jack Benjamin Cohen was born on September 18th and he is perfect! We are so very in love with him…especially James! Seriously, watching James with his baby brother is about the cutest thing I have ever witnessed. James’ transition into the role of Big Brother has gone so much more smoothly than I was expecting and I’m so so very proud of him. He loves kissing Jack, doing tummy time with him, and he always includes him when we’re going to do things. For example, I’ll say, “Come on James, time to go to music class!” and he’ll shout, “And JACK JACK TOO!” haha He’s so sweet. I am so happy that my boys will have each other as they grow up.

So, back to Jack! He was 7lbs 15oz and 20inches when he was born - smaller than James. James was 8lbs 11oz and 21 inches. But, Jack was also born earlier than James was, at 38 weeks 3 days. Jack looks so much like James, but also very different. Jack’s nose is much pointier than James’, and Jack has a pointier chin as well. James has Ben’s strong chin (and under bite, which is the cutest), whereas it looks like Jack might have more of my jaw line. We’ll see! But Jack is blonde with big blue eyes, just like his brother. :)

Life with two kids is hard, but wonderful. But hard…haha I’ll do a whole blog post on this soon. Currently, we’re just figuring things out and settling into our new normal as a family of four (five!! Sorry Gunner!)

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I’ll be posting Jack’s birth story in the next few days so check back for that! If you’d like to read James’ birth story in the meantime, you can click here.

Thank you all for following along during my pregnancy, and for all of the continued prayers, words of encouragement, and love! I’m so thankful for you all and for the opportunity to have a “normal”, uneventful, scare-free pregnancy!

So thankful for my beautiful boys! And for all of YOU.

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What's In My Hospital Bag! Second Pregnancy

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At almost 36 weeks pregnant with baby number two, I finally have my and my baby's hospital bags packed! I definitely am doing things a little bit differently this time around than I did with my first pregnancy. I learned a lot about what I do and do not need to bring with me to the hospital.

You can read what I packed in my hospital bags during my last pregnancy here and here.

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First up, I'll just start with everything I'm bringing for ME:

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  • Granny panties: haha Definitely bringing a giant pair of comfy granny panties!
  • Pads: The jumbo ones like these.
  • Snacks
  • Cell phone charger

I'm pretty sure that's all I'm bringing with me!

Now on to what I'm bringing for my baby:

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  • Four outfits (including the one that matches my nightgown that I talked about above)
  • Sleep sacks: These are my number one MUST HAVE. Seriously, they were a game changer once we started using them for James, so I'm definitely bringing a couple of them to the hospital to start using with this baby right away! Click here for the sleep sacks
  • Mittens: For his little hands so he doesn't scratch himself. Click here for mittens
  • Socks
  • Hat

That's it! I mean, I plan on adding in some of these fuzzy, non-slip socks once they arrive. And I'm packing these joggers and this top for my "going home outfit."

Let me know what your MUST-HAVES are/were for YOUR hospital bag! I definitely don't want to forget anything important, but I'm also trying to not pack too much because last time I didn't use half of what I brought with me!

Also, head on over to my Instagram stories (@annamcohenblog) for a closer look at everything I packed!

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What I'd Like You To Know About My Anxiety

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I've been wanting to write this post for awhile, but it's been a hard one to make myself actually start. Whenever I thought about what I wanted to say or how I wanted to approach this topic, I got overwhelmed and honestly, I got anxious. Thinking about writing this post on anxiety gave me anxiety. Ha! The subject is so huge, so complicated, so hard to explain, and so deep that I feared that this post would end up being LOOOOOONG. Too long. So I've just decided to keep it as short and simple and to the point as possible.

When I mentioned recently on Instagram that I have social anxiety, I got a lot of messages and comments from people who suffer from the same thing and who wanted to hear more about my experience. I love the idea of giving some insight into anxiety and hopefully helping at least one other person who may feel the same way. But on a more selfish level, I more want to write this post for the people in my life to read and to maybe have a better understanding of me, why I am the way that I am, why I act the way that I act, etc...

I have no real plan for how to lay this out, so I think I'll just dive in. I apologize in advance if this seems disjointed or unorganized or confusing! And I want to just say THIS right up front:

I'm a happy person! I am totally ok and I love my life and this is not some huge sad thing that negatively impacts my every single day. It's just something I deal with that impacts *certain aspects* of my life, but not to the extent that I am unable to deal. I'm ok! I just want to share my experience in case it is helpful to other people in even the slightest bit! :)

You might think I'm shy. Well, maybe I am a bit. But, really, I just have awful social anxiety. My whole life I've grown up being told that I'm quiet, shy, an introvert. I've believed it. I've felt it. But I also knew that there was so much more to it. Rather than just feeling apprehensive or a bit "shy" around new people, I feel an almost debilitating surge of anxiety.

And not just around new people. Around people I've known for years and years.

Family members, friends, coworkers...you name it. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of people that I DON'T experience this with: my parents, Ben, and James. Really. That's it. Every single other social interaction sends me into a nervous, anxious attack of panic - some obviously much worse than others. Some aren't so bad, sure. But sometimes I have BAD attacks.

Here's Some Of What I feel/Experience:

-inability to catch my breath

-surging chatter and noise in my head so I can't focus on the conversation at hand

-choking on my own spit (no really, haha)

-shaking

-sweating

-hot flashes

-completely consumed by analyzing what my face is doing and how the other person is seeing me and what they are thinking while we are talking

-obsessing over which eye to focus on when talking with someone...like, do I stare in between their eyes? Do I focus on one eye? Do I switch between eyes?!?! haha

-complete blanking of anything to say...like...I go brain dead.

-heart racing

-light headed

-dread

-panic

You get the idea.

I used to dread going to school. Yes yes...I know, EVERY kid dreads going to school. But I mean, I used to DREAD it. Like...panic, fear, hyperventilating each and every morning. Over thinking every single step I would have to take to get to my first class, every single person I may have to pass in the hall... I missed A LOT of school because some days I just honestly mentally COULDN'T walk into the school.

Now you may ask, if I am on medication for this. The answer is no. Because, while I have it bad, others have it so much worse. Because I am still able to function. Because I am, in most cases, able to put on at least some sort of a front - a mask - and appear at least relatively calm and normal... relatively. ;) Other people can't. That's when you need medication. I don't want to be on medicine for this and I am able to cope and live and function without it. But, I guess the point of this is that it's hard. Sometimes, it's really hard. The mere idea of a lunch date with a friend, or meeting a group of my husband's co workers, or going to a family dinner sends me into a panic-y attack of stress and anxiety and dread. It sucks. Being social is genuinely HARD for me. haha

Now, here is something I'd like you to know:

The worst...WORST...let me repeat this: THE WORST thing that people do or say when I try to explain how I feel is to say "oh but everyone feels that way!" "I feel that way too in certain situations!" "oh, those are normal feelings!" "everyone feels like that deep down!" and other similar things to that affect...

Because let me tell you this: not everybody DOES feel this way. Anxiety is real. It's a thing. It's a mental thing. It's a medical thing. And unless you have it, you DON'T know what it feels like.

Yes, you may get nervous meeting new people. Yes, you may dread socializing, small talk, chatting, etc... Yes, you may prefer to stay in and watch a movie rather than going out with others... Yes... THAT stuff is normal. But to have trouble BREATHING, SWALLOWING, THINKING, STANDING, FUNCTIONING, FORMING WORDS...to have actual physical symptoms...that's not normal. That's anxiety.

So, the BEST thing to do when someone tries telling you that they are experiencing something like this is to acknowledge how they feel. Accept it. Hear what they are saying. Even if you don't understand it...understand this: something much bigger, deeper, and darker is going on than you could ever fully comprehend. The person telling you these things is suffering and is letting you in on a little of their secret. So...just hear it. Tell them you're sorry, tell them that may be tough. Acknowledge that you don't understand what that feels like. 

But please don't dismiss what they are feeling as less than what it is.

Here are a few things that help me with my social anxiety:

-focusing on my breath

-focusing on happy thoughts

-trying to tune out my own internal commentary when I'm talking to someone or listening to someone

-meditating

-praying

-positive self talk

-being able to laugh at myself and see the humor in it ;)

A few last thoughts:

-This post makes this sound like social anxiety is such a dramatic part of my life...it's not! I promise! Trust me, after almost thirty years of living with this, it really only impacts me to the extent of the situation. So, for example, when I'm living my life, I'm fine, I'm so happy. When I run into someone I know at the grocery store and choke on my own spit and start sweating and babbling and my eyes start darting back and forth between their eyes...it sucks. haha! That's when it impacts me. But then I walk away and I am able to laugh at myself and roll my eyes, and then I'll tell Ben about what happened and we'll laugh and it becomes no big deal. Ben and I are able to joke about it...that's one of the many reasons I love him so much. He makes me feel normal. He makes me feel safe. He makes me feel fine. :)

-I've only recently really started understanding what it is I suffer from, and with that has brought about an immense amount of relief. Now that I know that what I feel has a name and is a legitimate thing and that other people suffer from it to, I don't feel so out of control and weird and dysfunctional. I feel like...I just have social anxiety. So now I can deal with it!

-After giving birth to James and going through a traumatic pregnancy and birth experience, my anxiety skyrocketed. For several months, I suffered from postpartum anxiety and it was very hard and dark to have to deal with that when trying to adjust to being a new mom. But now things have leveled back out and I feel better than ever. Am I nervous that it will get bad again after giving birth to my second child? A little. But I know I can get through it if it does.

So, the point of all of this is not for pity, or to make you think I'm suffering on a daily basis, or that I'm unhappy, or that I'm crazy... haha It's just to give you a little glimpse into my experience. I hope that if you have any similar experiences that you'll share them with me! It's always so nice to know that we're not alone, despite all the crazy weirdness that we each may deal with.

Thanks for reading, friends!

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Five Favorites

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Hi friends!

It's been awhile since I have done a Five Favorites post, so I thought it would be fun to get one up! I have been trying out some new products and brands lately and I have some things that I am LOVING. I can't wait to share!

Here we go:

  1.  Tarteist PRO Glow Highlight and Contour Palette
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I am obsessed with this palette! It is seriously *beautiful*, and smells amazing too - which is a bonus! I love love love the highlighter and it has the prettiest shade that I love using as an eye shadow. Highly recommend this! I received this palette in the Summer FabFitFun box, which brings me to my SECOND favorite thing at the moment...

2. FabFitFun Subscription Box (Use code AMC10 for $10 off your first box!)

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FabFitFun is a subscription box that comes to you every season full of FULL-SIZED products! The box contains various things related to beauty, fitness, tech, and lifestyle from brands like Moroccan Oil, Trina Turk, Tarte Cosmetics, Dermalogica, Dr. Brandt, and more. I have been dying to try out a box for a long long time because I've seen them posted all over social media. When FabFitFun reached out to me and asked me to be a #FabFitFunPartner I jumped at the opportunity! And let me tell you, the box did NOT disappoint. It is as amazing as I thought it would be - more so! I love all of the products and it is so fun that each season you get a new box filled with new goodies! They gave me a code for you guys: Use the code AMC10 and you'll get $10 off of your first box at FabFitFun.com!

3. Fawn Design Diaper Backpack

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I can't say enough good things about this diaper bag. Not only is it BEAUTIFUL, and totally does not look like a diaper bag, but it is also extremely functional. Now that I've been "momming" for a couple of years, I can say hands down that a backpack diaper bag is the way to go. Especially with a toddler. You need those hands (and arms) free, mama! This bag is great quality and I can fit so much into it. Get the bag here.

4. Knocked Up Fitness Prenatal Program

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You've heard me rave about the Core Rehab Program (click here for more info. on Core Rehab) for postpartum mamas and how it helped me to heal my abdominal separation after having my first son (read about my experience with the program here and here). Well, the creator of the Core Rehab Program has a program for pregnancy and it is just as amazing! I have been doing the prenatal workouts throughout this pregnancy and I love them and how they make me feel! You can learn more about the workouts by clicking here!

5. Made by Mary Zola Disc Necklace

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I have this necklace with 'james' on it and I just love it so so much. You can get it personalized to say whatever you want and I think it is so special. I wear it all the time (I switch off every day between this necklace and my mama and baby bird necklace!). I can't wait to get this necklace with the new baby's name on it once he arrives! I'll get it in an 18" chain and wear it with my 'james' disc necklace above it. This would make such a great gift for a new mom! For reference, the disc necklace I have is in the rose gold color, brushed metal, 16" chain. Click here for the necklace.

I hope you guys enjoyed this edition of Five Favorites! I'll do more of these, I promise. They are so fun to do.

Let me know what you are currently loving in the comments!

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What Postpartum Life Is REALLY Like

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I am honored to have written a piece for the Fit4Mom Blog about what postpartum life is REEEAAALLY like! You can read the full post here.

Now for an excerpt:

When I was pregnant with my first child, I had many preconceived notions about “postpartum life.” 

 

I had a vague idea about how life would change. But I intended to work the baby into MY life.

 

I knew I’d be tired, but there was no way I could even begin to comprehend what exactly I was in store for. I knew my body would probably be a little different. But if you work hard enough, I thought, your body didn’t have to change just because you were a mom.

 

Secretly, somewhat smugly, I judged moms that I saw juggling screaming, misbehaved children. MY kids would be well-behaved little adults...They wouldn’t eat junk food. They wouldn’t watch tv! I knew a bit about postpartum depression. I knew breastfeeding was hard for some. But these seemed like distant impossibilities. I was a happy, sound-minded person - I wouldn’t be sad! Especially not with a cute, fun little baby to play with! I was going to breastfeed.

 

No question about it!

 

Looking back now, almost two years later, pregnant with my second child, I realize how naive I was…how my world was about to be rocked in a way I never expected. The truth is this: having a baby is really and truly the most incredible, beautiful, wonderful, happiest thing in the world. I feel so blessed to have my son, to have been able to birth him, and to be able to raise him. But here is another truth: having a baby changes everything…

 

EVERYTHING.

Click here to continue reading...

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What has your postpartum experience been like? I'd love it if you'd share!

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Baby After Bedrest? My Thoughts On Baby Number Two

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Warning: This will be a long one, guys! It's probably the most personal blog post I've ever written.

If you've been following my blog for awhile, you know that my pregnancy with James turned out to be a really challenging and scary one, leading up to an even more frightening birth experience.

To summarize, I was given an emergency cerclage and put on bedrest at 20 weeks due to having a shortened cervix. Being on bedrest for the next 16+ weeks was the most challenging experience of my life, both mentally and physically. It was 16 weeks of being terrified for my baby's safety, my body deteriorating, and being bored and antsy and...it was just a really really emotional and hard time.

I ended up having my cerclage removed at around 36 weeks and I was taken off of bedrest at that time. At 39 weeks 3 days, I went in for my weekly check in with my doctor and he noted that my right leg was waaay more swollen than my left leg. He said he wanted to have me induced and to check for a blood clot. I was sent right over to the hospital where I was admitted and was told I would be given an ultrasound on my leg to check for blood clots. The doctor on call who would deliver James came in and basically told me that there was a good chance I would die suddenly and that she was very very concerned. When I told her I was scared she said "I think that's reasonable, I am too." Um. Without going on and on too much here, what AWFUL bedside manner. It REALLY messed me up, to put it lightly. I burst into tears and was horrified (read more details here). Bottom line, I DID NOT have a blood clot. They went ahead and broke my water and I went into labor and delivered James without any further complications. (Click here to read our birth story)

I haven't opened up too much about the mental aspects of how all of this affected me. I'm not sure I really want to. I have shared with my close family, because I DEFINITELY had (and still do have) a lot to work through. It was a traumatic experience from the moment I was told my cervix didn't look right at the anatomy scan. Then after all of that and being told I would die, I was thrust into the throes of new motherhood which is a huge life-altering experience on its own, let alone after all I had been through. I still struggle with everything that happened. I'm scared. My anxiety is through the roof. I'm more emotional. I'm more aware of how very quickly life can be taken away, and how fleeting and fragile and precious life is. I'm still healing emotionally, and probably will be for a long time. My experience, without trying to be too dramatic, has forever changed me - has forever changed my mind - and it will haunt me for the rest of my life in some form. BUT I ended up with the most beautiful little boy, and I am absolutely so grateful for how everything turned out!!

At first, Ben and I were pretty scared to even think about the possibility of having another baby. We both want more kids, but we are also SO SO SO VERY happy with just James. James is EVERYTHING. He is our perfect blessing - healthy, happy, strong, whole, beautiful, smart... we are so thankful for him and for the fact that we were blessed with a son and that we all came out of that pregnancy and labor and delivery SAFE. We are so thankful to be parents, and we thought "why mess with what we have?" Because what we have is perfect. Why risk having to go through that again? Why risk me dying? Why risk losing a baby if all didn't go well? I was suffering from PTSD and so so unbelievably scared to even consider doing that again.

As time went by, and James turned a year old, I began to feel a pang of baby fever. My little boy was becoming a toddler and babyhood was slipping away so quickly. I pictured having another little one close in age with James for him to play with. Ben and I talked, and decided that I should sit down with my doctor and talk about if it was a good idea for us to get pregnant again, or if it was NOT recommended. We didn't want to be selfish by getting pregnant again just because we wanted another kid, and then put the new baby at risk because of a shortened cervix, or risk me dying, or upset James' perfect, happy, charmed little life.

I met with my doctor and laid out all of my thoughts, concerns, fears, questions... he looked at me, smiled and said "have a baby!" He explained that bottom-line: I DID NOT HAVE A BLOODCLOT. Bottom-line: Nothing happened to the baby. Bottom-line: Everything turned out FINE and I made it nearly to my due date, and maybe would have longer if they hadn't moved things along. Bottom-line: we will NEVER know if I even NEEDED a cerclage and bedrest at all, because my cervix never changed and I maybe would have made it full term even without all of those precautions. Bottom-line: I may not even have any issues with my cervix next time around. My doctor said, "If you were my wife, we'd be having a baby. Hopefully I'll see you back here soon pregnant!"

I was relieved, but still skeptical. My doctor recommended that I meet with Maternal Fetal Medicine, since high risk pregnancies and all of that are their specialty. So I did. I met with ANOTHER doctor from MFM, and he basically told me the EXACT same things that my doctor had. This doctor told me that if I get pregnant again, I wont be put on bedrest because it has been found to do more harm than good in most cases, because of inactivity and how it can increase the risk of blood clots, and also how bad it is for a person mentally. He said I also wouldn't have a cerclage again. He explained that there is no scientific evidence that a cerclage or bedrest do any good or make any difference. He told me to get pregnant.

A number of emotions went through my head after my meetings with the doctors. I was relieved and excited. I felt a bit angry that I had been through a cerclage and bedrest for maybe no reason, but then quickly I felt guilt for feeling angry because God knows I would have done ANYTHING ANYTHING ANYTHING in the entire world to keep my son safe inside of me until he was able to survive in the world. I felt confused. I felt a LOT of skepticism. These doctors were not the doctor that did my cerclage and put me on bedrest and monitored me up until I was around 30 weeks pregnant - did they REALLY know??

Ben and I have discussed everything at length. Most of all, we don't want anything to negatively impact James. But having received such adamant and confident assurance and encouragement from two separate doctors, we feel very encouraged and excited that we have the option of trying for baby number two, if we choose to do so.

A lot of prayer is going on over here. Prayer for guidance and for strength and for the right decision to be made and for God's will to be made known. We will see what happens. We will see what we decide to do. But for now, I am clinging to the words of each of my doctors, telling me that I have to remember that EVERYTHING TURNED OUT TO BE OK. My son was born full-term and healthy, and I did not have a blood clot. I wouldn't be considered high risk going into another pregnancy.

I'm ok. James is ok. I am ok to get pregnant again.

But I'm still scared.

So we'll see. But that is where we are at. We have been given the go-ahead by two different doctors, and Ben and I would both love to have more children. But we'd also be SO SO SO fine with just having our bright, sweet, shining little boy! I am an only child and I loved it.

Whatever we decide to do and whatever happens, I pray that it is God's will.

So that's where we're at!

Have any of you had another child after having a scary or hard pregnancy and/or birth experience? I'd really love to hear your story if you have.

 

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One Year Old Update...We Have A Toddler!

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Hi friends!

Long time no talk! Life has been so crazy busy/wonderful lately, and I have SO much to fill you all in on (life update blog post coming soon!!)!

But, in today's post, I'll be focusing on one of the biggest things that's happened recently: James turned one year old! Isn't that so crazy?! The past year has gone so fast.

His birthday was July 23rd, so he will be 14 months old here in a week or so. He started walking around 13 months, and now he walks EVERYWHERE! It's so much fun! He seems to love the freedom that walking gives him and he always has the most proud look on his face when he is toddling around. It's so cute!

He has 10 teeth, including two big molars, and his hair is getting longer although it is still blonde and whispy. :) Just like mine was! I didn't have real, substantial hair until I was two. It was so blonde you could hardly see it, and that's how James' is.

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James LOVES water. Ben was away in Idaho hunting for elk the first two weeks of September, so James and I stayed at my parents' house on the lake. James had so much fun playing on the beach and wading, and he even stuck his face in the water and splashed around as I held him out in the deeper water. He loves it!

He is fearless and SO curious about everything. It's so different from how I was as a child and am today...I've always been timid and scared of getting hurt or getting in trouble. James has no fear...he charges ahead with enthusiasm and bravery and excitement, and it is so inspiring!

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Next Tuesday, James and I are starting a music class at the local children's museum! He really enjoys music and clapping and dancing, so I think he is really going to love this class! It's every Tuesday morning through December and I'm hoping we can make some mommy and baby friends!

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A year later and I FIIIINALLLLY feel like I have this mom thing figured out! I've totally fallen into stride and I've got a handle on things and life is just so beautiful and fun and relaxed now! :) I love being a mom so much, and James is just the most fun, wonderful, smart, sweet little boy. I'm so lucky to be his mommy! I love trying new things with him and watching him learn and explore. He is so friendly and bold, and it pushes me out of my comfort zone. Every time we go out in public, he makes friends! He waves and smiles at and chats with EVERYONE we pass, which forces me to come out of my shell a bit, because I'm so shy and like to fly under the radar, normally. It's good for me to be around James. I have a lot to learn from him! :)

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Anyways, I'm happy to be back blogging again. It was a much needed and very nice break, and like I said, I'll tell you ALLL about what I've been up to and why I stepped back from blogging/social media for a bit in my next post! Look out for lots of newness in the next few weeks, and LOTS of exciting collaborations and projects which I've been working on!

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Mommy Monday: 10 Month Old Baby!

James is 10 months old tomorrow...how did this happen??

This is for sure my favorite age so far! James is so much fun!! He has the BEST personality and has quite the sense of humor. He laughs and giggles and gives me a sly smile when we're in on a joke together. He makes funny noises and cracks himself up. He feeds off of my laughter, which in turn makes me laugh more until we're both a big pile of giggles.

He's CONSTANTLY exploring and on the move. For a few months, he was army crawling and scooting around on his stomach, pulling himself around by his arms. He was FAST doing this!! But now he officially crawls, and oh my goodness, the kid can cover some serious ground!

James has been pulling himself up to stand for a couple of months now, and has recently started letting go of whatever he is holding onto. He falls pretty much right away, but always pulls himself right back up. He'll be standing on his own and walking before we know it. His pediatrician guessed within the next month or so.

Speaking of his pediatrician, he went in for his 9 month check last month. All is well and on track! But it was hilarious: they couldn't get a measurement for his length because as soon as we set him on the table and tried to get him to lie down still, he would start screaming and thrashing around. The minute I picked him up and he would grin and giggle and give us a sly look. hahaha It was hilarious. Then we tried to get his weight, and again as SOON as I set him down on the scale he was screaming and thrashing and rolling around. We had to weigh him by having me hold him and then having ME get on the scale. Then I set James down and they weighed me along and THEN subtracted the two weights. Not super accurate, but according to that he was almost 20 lbs.

Anyways, when the doctor came in she said, "so I see here that the nurse put that the patient was combative and we couldn't get a length for him." HAHA Ben and I are pretty proud that our nine month old was labeled "combative" in his medical chart. So freaking funny! And James was just grinning and laughing at us...he knew exactly what he was doing. We're going to have our hands full!!!

James eats pretty much everything that we eat. He eats "table food" and has never eaten baby food. I've always prepared everything he's eaten. I made our own purees out of fresh fruits and vegetables and meats, and now I cook him healthy, whole foods for his meals.

Would you guys like more information on the types of foods and meals that I make James? I could do a sample menu post or something like that, just let me know!

James loves music, playing peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake, walking around non stop holding onto his walker or our hands or the furniture, playing with Gunner (he throws the ball for him, it's SO cute to watch them play together!!), being outside, playing with blocks and buckets, and he LOVE LOVE LOVES BATHTIME!! He sticks his face under the water and giggles and splashes and just has the best time! :)

As far as how things are going for me 10 months postpartum, here's an update:

I feel like my old self. My tummy is tightening up more and more as I continue to focus on exercise and healthy eating. I still have stretch marks and my belly button is all droopy, haha, but I've learned to love those parts of me because of how I got them!

The one main update is about birth control! I have been on the mini pill since my postpartum exam at 7 weeks pp. Over the past few months, I've gotten HORRIBLE ACNE, which I have never had an issue with before in my life!! It's been so frustrating, and I tried everything - different cleansers, new makeup, NOT wearing makeup, changing my diet, supplements ...everything! Then after doing some research, it hit me: THE MINI PILL. My HORMONES were the issue, and the mini pill is the culprit. So, I went off of the mini pill a couple of days ago and switched to a new birth control pill. We'll see if things start clearing up!!

I'll keep you guys updated. I was also having SUCH irregular periods...like, having one for three weeks off and on, then skipping a month, then only having one for a day, etc...seriously messing with my body. I've read horror stories about the mini pill...any of you have any experiences with it??

OH! And I had my first Mother's Day!! Well, first one with James out in the world, that is! :) It was so special, and we got to spend it with my parents too! It was fun to celebrate my mom AND me being a mom this year!

Alright, that's it for our 10 month update! Let me know if you have any questions!! I'm planning things for James' first Birthday already. I don't think we'll have a party...maybe just a SMALL get together with close family. I definitely want to bake him a healthy smash cake (let me know if you'd like me to post the recipe!!) and I have a few other things planned for him!

Have a great week, friends!

Core Rehab, Part 2

"Is the Core Rehab Program worth the money?"

I get asked this A LOT.

I have shared a lot on the blog and on Instagram about how I had diastasis recti postpartum, as well as my ELATION over finding the Core Rehab Program. You can read about my experience during the first few phases of the program in my Core Rehab, Part 1 post - click here to read it.

To refresh, diastasis recti (abdominal separation) is a SUUUUUUUUPPPPERR common thing that so many women have after pregnancy. The scary thing is that there is a shocking lack of information and awareness about it, and often times it goes un-diagnosed and therefore, untreated. Here is a video you can watch that shows you how to check yourself for diastasis recti postpartum. Additionally, many women who ARE informed that they have it are told that surgery is the only way to repair it, which is NOT TRUE!! The Core Rehab Program helped me to heal my abdominal separation, and it can help you too.

First of all, let me say that this post is not an ad...I just genuinely am so passionate about this program because it seriously helped me to feel SO MUCH BETTER. I also get SO MANY QUESTIONS about my experience with the program, so I KNOW that there are other mamas out there who are interested in learning more and in finding a solution to their postpartum aches, pains, and misalignments. So, now that that is out of the way, let me update you now that I have finished all six phases of the program.

After completing the Core Rehab Program, I have definition in my abs and core, my diastasis recti has all but completely closed up, and I FEEL like my old self...the way I am SUPPOSED to feel.

While recovering post-baby is NOT all about looks or physical appearance, that is important in its own regard. When you like the way that you look, it's good for your head.

And mental recovery is JUST as big a part of the postpartum journey as is physical recovery!

The Core Rehab Program is slow-moving, which at first you don't necessarily feel like you are doing much at ALL. But that is the beauty of it, because Erica Ziel (the creator of the program) breaks it down slowly, step by step and helps you to re-form those deep connections that are needed to rebuild your core and heal abdominal separation the CORRECT and SAFE way.

After finishing the six phases of the program, my core feels strong, toned, and my whole body feels more aligned and centered. My posture is back to how it SHOULD be - pregnancy does a number on your spine, back muscles, neck, etc... and this program walks you through re-training your body into proper alignment. It teaches you how to pick things up properly and safely, protecting your back and abs while doing so. It teaches you how to do squats and arm work safely, how to lie down safely, and eventually, how to do "crunches" and additional work that uses your core.

It can be SO overwhelming, discouraging, and stressful trying to figure out where to begin to help your body heal and recover postpartum. I felt so un-like myself after giving birth and I was worried about my abdominal separation. I didn't know how to go about trying to fix things and heal my core.

The Core Rehab Program gave me to tools, and walked me step by step through it all. It's like Erica is a good friend, holding my hand, and gently guiding me through the process of healing and feeling like myself again.

So, is the program worth the money? In my opinion YES YES YES.  100% yes. Us mamas deserve to feel good postpartum. You deserve to give healing your diastasis recti without surgery a try. If you don't have abdominal separation, then you STILL deserve to re-learn how to properly stand, sit, walk, move in a way that is comfortable, safe, and right.

If you have any questions at all about the program or about my postpartum journey and my experience with diastasis recti, don't hesitate to ask! I'm here!

You can sign up for the Core Rehab Program and learn more about it here. Enrollment for the program closes on May 22nd so don't miss out on being able to sign up if you're interested!!

How To Be Happy: Lessons From My Son

His little face is still all chapped from his cold, but I lovelovelove these photos of my sweet, blue-eyed boy. James is such a joy - always smiling his big, bright-eyed, tooth-y (he has FIVE teeth now!) grin that lights up the room, as well as the hearts of everyone who sees him. He is a happy baby...people tell us that everywhere we go. He loves life and loves people and just always has so much fun, no matter what we are doing.

It's contagious!

Watching my happy, cheerful, bright baby boy, I can't help but admire his optimism and joy. I want to capture some of it and infuse it into my own life.

Everything is new and interesting and exciting and wondrous to baby James. As we grow and have more and more experiences, some of that newness and wonder unavoidably and inevitably fades away. We discover that, along with the amazing and fun and beautiful, life also holds many unpleasant things. We learn what it means to feel pain, betrayal, disappointment, and fear. We become disillusioned, losing that innocence, blind trust, and curiosity.

But watching James, I see that he is the perfect example of how to be happy. Here are some things that I've learned from my son:

  • Try new things, new foods, new places, new activities. Step outside of your comfort zone - new things challenge us, thrill us, scare us, and teach us. We grow mentally and physically by doing new things. The mundane can be depressing, discouraging, boring...no growth takes place there.
    But to try something new...that is what puts the excitement in life. That is the adventure of it.

  • Trust. Dare to trust. Dare to give people the benefit of the doubt. With age comes wisdom and intuition and good judgement. Use those. But also, try to let your guard down and trust. Take a leap of faith.
    Time can harden our hearts...try to let yours soften and see what happens.

  • Ask for help. When James wants a toy that he can not reach on his own, or when he wants to go somewhere that he can't get to, he turns to me and makes it clear that he would like help. He has no pride that gets in the way of receiving help when he needs it. Our pride often stands between us and our goals, and at times, even our needs. We become so intent on independence and self-sufficiency, which are important things, without a doubt. But it is also important to recognize the times when we would be better off and more successful by asking for help. There is no shame in acknowledging that we can not or should not do something on our own.

  • Appreciate the little things. My son takes such pleasure from the very littlest of things. Tickles on his tummy, a funny sounding voice, a silly word, birds chirping, a squirrel standing on a path, splashing water, a spoon banging a pot, his dog licking his face... watching him giggle and experience SO MUCH GENUINE JOY from the simplest of things makes my heart swell and yearn to be so easily HAPPY. We should remember that happiness, joy, and grace can be found in the little things...the things and events and items and experiences that maybe we have come to take for granted.
    Try to be consciously and intentionally grateful for the little things.

  • Show more affection. Cuddles, slobbery, open-mouthed kisses, gentle caresses of the face and arms and chest, a warm bright smile, holding hands...these signs of affection are second-nature to James. He shows his love so openly and so honestly. That kind of love is so rare. Life lends itself to heart-ache and each of us has - or will probably - experience betrayal, hurt-feelings, or heartbreak at some point. Experiences train us to be guarded with our emotions and with our feelings. We hold back, even at times when maybe what we should really do is rush into someone's arms and give them a big smile and kiss. Sometimes it is right to be unashamedly in love, enamored, and infatuated. Sometimes we need to cuddle, to touch, and to openly, genuinely adore...in all of the vulnerability that that entails.

My son is honest, kind, grateful, curious, loving, vulnerable, trusting, and brave. He has so much joy and happiness in his heart, and he has already, in his short little 8 months of life, been the greatest teacher I have ever known.

Mommy Monday: Balancing Exercise, Health, and Motherhood

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Ok, let's be really really honest here for a second: making time for exercise and health as a mom is hard. It takes work and it takes a lot of mind power. Being a mom is such a rewarding and challenging task in and of itself, that sometimes the thought of doing a workout when I could instead be taking a few minutes to relax seems crazy.

But, then I remember how much BETTER I feel - both physically and mentally - when I get in a workout. When I break a sweat, it makes me feel proud and strong and like I am doing something to further my progress towards my physical goals.

It's far too easy to let a day slip by without squeezing in a workout. From there, it is a slippery slope. One day turns into one week...then one month... The next thing you know, it has been months since your last real workout, and your body feels weak and you don't know how to dive back in. Where to start? How to get that strength back? You are so much further from your goals.

Believe me, I get it. I get how it can happen. I've certainly gone a week or two without getting my exercise in, and man, is it hard to get back into a routine. You know what I've found to be the ONLY way to start working towards your goals again? To just simply start. Even if that means a short walk the first day, squeezing in a 30 second plank when you can, powering through 50 squats while your child plays, and then turning on a Yoga or workout video on YouTube during nap time.

Slowly but surely, squeezing in what you can each day, you will start to build up your strength - physical AND mental, because half of it...no, even MORE than half of it is mental.

As mothers, it is so important for us to be healthy...to not only take care of our bodies, but of our minds.

Our little ones see what we do to better ourselves. They watch as we make healthy food choices, and as we meal prep and prepare nutritious food for the week ahead. They see when we spend our free minutes doing lunges or jumping jacks or burpees. They see a woman, strong and proud and conscious of her physical condition and doing something to further her progress towards a goal and towards a healthy life.

I remind myself that it is not just for me that I make the (sometimes very difficult) decision to do a workout rather than sit down and put my feet up. It's for my son. It's for my husband. It's for my mind. It's for what I want to look like and feel like. It's for wanting to be healthy and strong and able to do all the activities that I love to do.

So, one step at a time, little by little, day by day, as mothers, we make the choice. We choose to be healthy. We choose to be an example. We choose to be strong. We choose to eat healthily. We choose to do what it takes. Is it easy? Nope. Important? Very. Worth it? Yes Yes Yes.

What are your tricks for staying fit, strong, and healthy as a mama? How do YOU make time for a workout and for healthy food choices? Be sure to share in the comments below!

What topics do you want to see on the blog? Send any ideas, questions, or comments to info@annamcohen.com! And be sure to subscribe below to be notified whenever there is a new post up!

 

Mommy Monday: Core Rehab, Part 1

If you've been following me for awhile on my blog and on Instagram, you know that I have diastasis recti (abdominal separation) since being pregnant with my son.

Diagram of diastasis recti - mine wasn't this severe at all, but this shows kind of what happens with abdominal separation!

Abdominal separation is very common postpartum. However, there is a shocking lack of information out there for mamas who have this. In fact, many women have abdominal separation and aren't even aware that they have it (learn how to check for it here), OR they have been told that the only way to FIX it is by having surgery. Which is NOT TRUE!!

When I was first pregnant with James, I was searching the internet for some exercises that I could do while pregnant. That's when I first came across Erica Ziel. Erica Ziel is the founder of Knocked Up Fitness and Core Athletica Inc.. She is an EXPERT in helping women to strengthen their deep core muscles in order to have a safer and easier pregnancy, delivery, and recovery. 

Erica Ziel

Now, Erica has developed the Core Rehab Program for postpartum mamas! The Core Rehab Program is designed for mamas who are interested in "rehabbing" their cores after all that they have been through with pregnancy and delivery. This includes working on posture, techniques for safely picking things up, and how to properly engage your deep core muscles to strengthen your core and help to repair abdominal separation.

Pregnancy can do a number on a woman's body, especially her core. Muscles and connective tissues are weakened, stretched, etc... It is important to strengthen your deep core and connective tissues postpartum in order to properly heal and to feel better. But, if you're like me, it can be overwhelming and even a little scary because

...where do you even BEGIN??

Erica was kind enough to let me do the Core Rehab Program in exchange for reviewing it. And I certainly hope you all know that I will ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS be honest in my reviews. I would never recommend something that I wasn't totally excited about or impressed by or that I didn't genuinely believe in. So, with that said, let me dive right in:

THE CORE REHAB PROGRAM HAS BEEN THE MOST LIFE-CHANGING, GREATEST THING FOR ME. And I truly mean that. 

The program consists of six phases, each broken up into two weeks. I am through the first two phases, and oh my goodness, the changes are so incredible. And I'm not just talking about physical changes, although I've certainly seen some. I'm talking about changes in the way that I feel.

After giving birth to James, my back KILLED me. I have scoliosis, so my back has always hurt me. But pregnancy and delivery just really really messed it up. Plus, being on bedrest didn't help because I basically lost all of the muscle tone that was helping to support my back. Add in the abdominal separation and weakened core, and I was basically a hot-postpartum-mess of pain, discomfort, and consequently - stress

My abdominal separation was minor: just about a finger tip and a half wide, and not very deep (only about to my first knuckle). My doctor told me to just take it easy and refrain from doing core exercises or anything other than cardio for two months or so and it should close up. Well, two months came and went and if anything, when I re-checked, it seemed like my separation had not closed up at all. (Granted, I probably hadn't been taking it as easy as I should have been...) In fact, I think my separation had even gotten a little worse. I was very stressed about this and just wanted my body to be fully healed so that I could get back into my regular exercise routine (exercise is SUCH a huge part of my life!!) and so that I could start building up my back muscles again to help with my scoliosis and pain management. 

I had seen some buzz about Erica's Core Rehab Program floating around the internet and social media and I was really curious about it. Then, I saw one of my friends on Instagram, Kristen Suppa (@well.balanced.home) post something about the program. I messaged her about it, and she connected me with Erica, and the next thing I knew, I was diving into the program with so much excitement and hope. (You can read Kristen's story at the bottom of this post!)

Within the first week of the program, I noticed a difference in how I felt. I was standing taller. I was feeling more supported through my core. I was making changes in the ways that I held my baby and in the way that I picked him and other things up from the floor. I was moving and standing and sitting differently. Even breathing differently!

I finally was being given the tools that I needed to begin to heal myself and FEEL BETTER. 

Now, I've finished phase two and I am so excited to say that when I re-checked my abdominal separation yesterday, I can no longer stick ANY of my finger in AND my separation is less than a finger tip wide, which is normal!! I am blown away with how quickly the program has helped me to heal, and I know that these quick results probably aren't the norm. I also know that I still have a long way to go. I'm going to be continuing to work through all of the phases, and I'll be writing a follow-up blog post once I've completed phase six so that I can update you all, so check back for that in a few months! I can't even imagine how amazing I'll feel once I've finished all of the phases!! 

Again, these are my honest opinions. I am not being paid to say any of this, I just genuinely am so excited about the Core Rehab Program and I want to tell all of you about it in case you are suffering from discomfort, or abdominal separation, or the stress of not knowing where to begin healing your core postpartum like I was. Whether you are three months postpartum or twenty years...Erica shows that it is possible to repair your diastasis recti, strengthen your core, and MOST IMPORTANTLY...feel better. 

The Core Rehab Program opens for enrollment tomorrow, on January 3rd. You can sign up here to receive more information and to be notified when enrollment is open. I don't get anything out of your signing up, other than the joy of knowing that you are going to receive the same loving guidance from Erica that I have. 

If you are a postpartum mama who has abdominal separation, OR even if you DON'T have abdominal separation but just feel like you need some help in strengthening your core, please consider this program, because it has seriously made such a difference for me. I could cry I am so thankful for the Core Rehab Program and Erica Ziel. I want you to feel better too. 

If you have questions, feel free to ask! And follow me (@annamcohenblog), @well.balanced.home and @knockedupfitness on Instagram for more daily updates! 

Here's to taking care of ourselves and to feeling GOOD postpartum!! :)

Kristen's Story:

I'm Kristen, and I'm a Mama of 2 little guys in New Jersey. My oldest is almost 2.5 and my youngest is 10 months. I got pregnant the second time around when my oldest was just 9 months old, and unfortunately I still had some ab separation from that first pregnancy. I was nervous that it would get a lot worse the second time around, and I actually reached out to Erica Ziel to ask about her Prenatal Workouts. She was super encouraging and suggested her Prenatal Sculpt Workout DVD and I was consistent with that (especially the core routine- which is gentle and safe for those with ab separation) throughout my pregnancy. I am thankful for those workouts because I had a very quick labor (3 hours from the first contraction to holding my baby!) and a smooth, easy recovery. As expected, I still had some ab separation postpartum, but I believe it would have been a lot worse (and my labor not as easy) had I not been proactive during my pregnancy and committed to those workouts. 

I ended up having a 2 finger gap from a few inches above my belly button, all the way down to my pubic bone, also the depth of my gap showed that my fascia was weak (something I learned about from Erica's tutorials)- the depth was almost to my second knuckle. I jumped on the opportunity to participate in Erica's newly released Core Rehab Program, and I just finished Phase 4. I am thrilled with how my body is feeling. I am a firm believer in doing what you can when you can and practicing patience with yourself during this season of motherhood where the babies are little and you don't get much time for yourself. Easier said than done (and I'm forever working on maintaining that mindset!), but that being said, it has taken me about 6 months to complete the 4 phases, and I am ok with that! The workouts are all under 20 minutes, and usually there are 1 or 2 videos to do each day, so you can split them throughout your day when you find a pocket of time. You stream them from your phone, iPad, etc. or follow PDF printouts, which is helpful as a busy Mama! I'll be starting the New Year with Phase 5, and I can't wait to see how I feel after I complete the final 2 phases! 

This program did more for me than almost closing my ab separation- it has given me more awareness in my everyday movements and posture than I ever had before, and I'm so thankful for that. My gap is now just localized to about 1 inch above my belly button and right at my belly button, and it is about 1 finger or less in width. Under my belly button, my gap is closed! The depth has improved significantly as well- it is about as deep as my first knuckle at this point and just localized to right around that small belly button area, so I am proof that the program can help to strengthen your fascia as well! Erica gives us so much valuable information in all of her videos and her excellent cueing during the workouts and tutorials that I can now truly connect to my core during activities in everyday life, and I just feel stronger and more intentional with my movements throughout my busy days. Of course, the bonus is how much flatter my tummy is and how much better my posture is. My husband even noticed my posture, so that's a win too! 

My advice to other Mamas and Mamas-to-be is that it is so important to practice self care and find some time for yourselves. Erica's programs are designed in such a way that they're very manageable and they will give you that time for yourself, while giving you your body confidence back! 

I love connecting with other Moms on Instagram (you can find me @well.balanced.home)- we all have SO much in common and can and should lean on each other for support when we need it! I'm so thankful to have connected with Anna through this community of Mamas- her Instagram account and blog always brighten my day! Looking forward to seeing her progress with this awesome program, and hope to connect with some of you as well! Happy New Year!