Tilapia or Halibut Black Bean Enchiladas Recipe

6 Aug

Hey lovelies, I must share with you this yummy recipe! It’s simple and will fill your house with a tasty aroma! I introduce to you, Tilapia or Halibut Black Bean Enchiladas!

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Ingredients

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2 tilapia fillets (halibut preferred)

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1 cup heavy cream 

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1 egg

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1 cup Italian style bread crumbs

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1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 

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1/2 cup chopped red onion

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1 teaspoon ground cumin

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3/4 cup salsa (I used medium)

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1 can (15 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained 

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1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese or shredded cheddar cheese (I used cheddar)

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10 corn tortillas (6 inch) 

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1 can (10 oz) green enchilada sauce

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Pepper jack cheese 

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1/4 cup of cilantro to add as a garnish

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1 avocado 

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Directions 

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Preheat oven to 350

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Mix the heavy cream and egg until combined

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Pour bread crumbs in a bowl 

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Place fish fillet in cream mixture covering entire fish and then place in bread crumbs. Be sure entire fish is covered.

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Add a tablespoon to a skillet over medium heat, cook each fish fillet for 4 minutes on each side. 

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When fish is cooked, cut into 1/2″ pieces (thin but enough to add a healthy/generous portion into tortilla)

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Spray 11×7-inch (2-quart) baking dish with cooking spray. In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cumin; cook and stir 4 to 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in salsa, beans and cheese. Remove from heat.

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Heat tortillas in microwave

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Place 1/4 cup bean mixture along center of each tortilla. Add cuts of fish. Roll up tightly, and place seam sides down in baking dish; spoon remaining bean mixture on top. Pour enchilada sauce over enchiladas, spreading to coat all tortillas. Place pepper jack cheese on top to your hearts desire.

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Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly around edges. Garnish with remaining cilantro and avocado.

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Enjoy the yummy goodness! 

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Thanks for stopping by!

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XO

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Valgal 

“And She’s a Mom!”

3 Aug Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Yesterday marked my first run after work postpartum. I set out to sweat but also to quickly return home to be with my babes.

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I woke at 4:30a. Bus to metro to work by 6:45a. Returned home at 6p ish. Showered my baby girl with kisses, squishes, and cuddles (a proven test that my lip stain is indeed a stain as there was no evidence of my smooch fest on her cute little cheekies 💋). Little O fell asleep shortly after so the guilt of leaving her for my needed “mommy time” aka “run” didn’t sting so badly. I returned home around 7:30ish to find my little rosebud giggling with daddy. 

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Seriously peeps, coming home is the sweetest gift ever!

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But let’s get real about some things…

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The Monday-Friday grind, the commute, and wanting to spend every waking minute with little O while also training for a marathon, training to get my body back, and making sure my relationship with my better half continues to thrive is a challenge.

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The transition to motherhood has been blissful. But the transition trying to find the time to connect to my mind, body, and soul as well as trying to connect with my partner is nothing shy of a taxing adventure. It’s an adventure plagued by my own heavy guilt (because of societal standards) coupled with the subtle microaggressions from others and the ubiquitous endorsements, advertisements, and stepford-esque wives evangelizing the glory of motherhood and condemning any other activity that taketh your attention away from it. 

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Not all dialogue centered around motherhood is riddled to make you feel guilty. But my point is, some dialogues about motherhood actually reject mothers carrying other roles; thus, rejecting women and the whole feminist evolution. The content strikes me as callous because the words scream to me that when motherhood “ails” women it deviates women from their previous multifaceted construction to that of a singular dimension. We are not one dimensional! It’s as if having a child suddenly diminishes a woman to carrying one title only – a mother. Is that all that is expected from us? Being a mother? Anything on top of that role is an attaboy moment – “She managed that project, delivered her pitch, ran a marathon, and she’s a mom!” Why is there the qualifier, “and she’s a mom!”? What purpose does it serve? We are whole without it. We should not be typecast as if being a mother abates us of all competencies. (Thanks to Lauren Fleshman for pointing that out in her podcast with Dr. Melody Moore.)

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I’m a mom. A new mom! I was a runner first. And people still don’t understand my desire to run, especially post pregnancy because it means I leave the house and my babes after being away all day for work. I think it makes people uncomfortable because they couldn’t fathom leaving the house and their newborn. Maybe it’s a fear of separation anxiety from their baby (I did experience this). Or maybe it’s their fear of being criticized for putting their own needs first. I don’t feel the need to repent for continuing to put my needs first. I’m on call all day and night – a little time etched out of the day for me is reasonable, not selfish.

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Yet I’m criticized on the daily – I’m sure of it. Some days I feel assaulted by negativity because of the opinions of others about how I “mom.” No one explicitly criticizes me but their comments are back-handed. Do you know what I do? I smile and nod. I play dumb. While it’s hard to ignore the undertones of chastisement, I pretend I’m not competent enough to understand their insults because hey, I’m a mom – remember – all competencies were removed with my placenta – part of the deal.

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Why is there this brazen epidemic to mommy-shame? I question if I’m a bad mother because I’m trying to do it all. Intuitively, I know I’m not a bad mother. But yes, I leave the house after working all day to run. And yes, I’m a breastfeeding mom who drinks wine with dinner. At least it’s not the bottle! I’m not a bad mother.

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But do I need to explain myself so that my actions make others feel comfortable? No.

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I still have a commitment to myself while also holding the torch of motherhood. Becoming a mother doesn’t dissolve me of my identity. Rather, it highlights it. 

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So there you have it. In a culture that pretends there is equality among sexes, why is it that we celebrate motherhood but impose insidious maternity leave policies? Why is there gender inequality in the workplace? Why do we celebrate men who become fathers with a pay raise but women who become mothers don’t see that same jump in income? Why is it that our culture preaches women can do it all but then women are ruthlessly assaulted and shamed when they try to {cough cough} and do so successfully? For a culture that is so politically sensitive about the most paltry of matters, why is it so crass towards women and women’s rights? The whole empowering women movement is just a dog and pony show. The kicker, why are some of the hardest critics of women those that share my gender – women? It’s pitiful. We can’t rise when we are anchored down by our own kind! Come on ladies!!! 

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Years of false paradigms have flooded our minds with what it means to be a woman, a wife and a mother. It’s such a narrow definition of success. We should stop expressing concern about a woman’s (a mother’s) well-being because of a false idea of what she should be. 

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I am a woman. A mother. A daughter. A sister. A granddaughter. A niece. A cousin. A wife (soon). A friend. An employee. A runner. A lover of all (especially my Boston terrier, Mika). A pseudo chef. A wine lover – bring on the Malbec. A tequila nut. A frozen gummy bear spaz. A book worm – I can never have enough books. A terrible singer. A shoe fanatic. A luster of the new Garmin Fenix 3. A woman who loves dressing up my sass but equally loves to be accessorized in sweat. Whether I’m in stilettos or my laces are tied, in conference rooms, or starting lines, or singing lullabies, you can’t define me. I don’t fit in a box. 

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And so, I will continue to defy the norm. I invite you to do so as well. If you’re reading this and you are a mother, I ask that you acknowledge that you are more than just that, albeit being a mother is a privilege and a gift! The only qualifier I want referencing me as a mom is, “and she’a badass motherrunner” – because let’s get one thing straight, I’m am!

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Thanks for stopping by!

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XO

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Valgal, badass motherrunner 

Postpartum Expectations from a Runner Girl – Reclaiming My Body Through the Onset of Emotions

26 Jul img_3505

Hello lovelies!!!

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Happy Weekend! Yay!!!

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Today I am 73 days postpartum. I was given the green light to start running, I mean training, for a fall marathon by my OB on July 11. It took a whole 8 weeks to be cleared to run after our baby girl debuted. But as you know I’m stubborn and determined so I began running the week-ish prior (hey, my doctor was on vacation and my appointment was delayed!)

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After having been patient for close to 40 weeks to meet my little rosebud, how on earth did doctors expect me to hold off from running for 2 whole months? I ran my entire pregnancy and then they put a moratorium on it?! Not okay.

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Anyway, I took it easy with doctor approved light cardio. I engaged in walking, the elliptical and mini weights beginning at the 4 week postpartum mark. I started running again around 7 weeks (I may be a liar). But I’m not lying about taking it easy. It wasn’t until July 11th that I started to run farther and faster. 

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I wanted to run farther and faster because shoot, I have had my eyes set on a fall marathon. But I also wanted to run farther (not faster) to engage my fat burning furnace to melt the lingering pounds that made themselves home to my thighs, hips, stomach and back. Maybe in my breasts, too, who am I kidding. I definitely don’t need the weight there. If I had a say in its allocations I’d rather see that weight in my boot-tay. Am I right!?! (Squats all day don’t do me any favors…I’m just saying.)

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But because I’m not on an episode of Botched I can’t have anyone rearrange my ASSets how I see fit. I’ve been working hard reclaiming my assets through sweat. Today, more than ever before, I have been focused unremittingly on my core. I have not only engaged in core circuit training, but also legs and booty circuit training, and now, marathon training!!!!!!!

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I’ve been feeling ah-mazing! I feel like I can come back and come back stronger and faster.

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But before feeling ah-mazing I was feeling really discouraged. Don’t misunderstand what I am saying – my having a baby girl has been the greatest gift ever, but being forced to “recover” and recover longer than normal because of a c-section really shook me. That on top of the imminent (and grave emotional) loss of our mother. My little family was paralyzed by pain and forced to accept the bitter dichotomy of life – birth and death. Anyway, that’s another matter… What I’m saying is I was active my entire pregnancy and then boom – no sweat sessions were prescribed for 6-8 weeks. I had to handle my emotions, both postpartum and grief, without running. That was brand new territory for me.

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Speaking of new, I was also a brand new mom who was losing a mother (my fiancé’s). The wave of emotions felt like oil and vinegar – how could one be so blissfully happy with grief and despair rising in the horizon. They didn’t mix well. The onset of emotion overtook me (us). We found ourselves faced with the highs and lows of the reality we were in. We felt guilty for being happy then guilty for being enveloped with grief.

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We traveled by plane 7 days postpartum to visit Andy’s mom before she passed. We had begged for time to spare us so that she could meet her newest granddaughter. I traveled back home, alone, only 10 days postpartum. I was a wreck. I bravely accepted the fate of our mother on my journey home while dodging insults of having such a new baby on a flight, let alone in an airport. I was shuffling between whether or not to spew my circumstance with strangers or smile and embrace the mommy shaming. I did the latter. The judgement only amplified my emotions.

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We lost mom shortly after I returned home. I had emotions storming through me. My mind was in a turbulent capricious state. All I wanted to do was run it out but my body ached in ways that I cannot describe. My cesarean cut pulsated. My heart was heavy. My heart was light. And it was full of love. In the deep of love. My reaction to life was that love surely does cut you. I was a vat of vehemence smiling through all the pain and smiling through all the joys. 

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But rewind…

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On top of all my emotions, my vanity also played and integral part in my hormonal hurdle to find harmony. To find peace. Sanity. Normalcy.

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Rewind again. When I finally got home from the hospital, I wanted so badly to hop on the scale to witness the miraculous weight loss from this “having a baby” diet.

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And.

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Dun. Dun. Dun.

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The weight I gained during pregnancy was still there. Every. Single. Pound. Yes. Every single pound was accounted for.

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I cried on the inside. 

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These are the things they don’t prepare you for postpartum, especially post-cesarean. The fervent of emotions. The inability to easily pick up your baby from their bassinet because your cut is new and wretchedly deep. The pain. The fear of being a new mother. The weight. Oh my goodness the water weight. But I stress – the emotions. Emotions because as new mom I can tell you expectations are too high. Emotions because I almost had vaginal birth but my baby couldn’t handle the contractions and her heart rate kept falling dangerously low. Emotions because I felt like every single person was overwhelmed with joy over my little miracle and all they wanted to do was meet her but they discarded me. No one (most) thought a cesarean was a big deal. Not many asked how I was. And because notifications of vagina jokes kept coming across my iPhone because… “Hey, it’s still intact!” What the fuck ever people!!!  Hello, I’m in pain!!! Everyone forgot I was the star of the show. But with the birth of my little angel I suddenly became the supporting actress. My glowing beauty transformed to that of a rag doll beat up and ran over by an 18-wheeler that reversed. I looked like 50 shades of SHIT with breasts as solid as boulders that doubled as my serving platter because I could eat dinner off them. Emotions because I was pining for the day I didn’t feel like a dairy cow. Emotions because despite it all, I wouldn’t trade my old self for my new self. Emotions because I thought I was crazy for loving this new role.

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Emotions because of my new body. 

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I remember I stripped off my clothes and looked in the mirror. I stood there for a long time. I poked my stomach. It was soft. I was amazed that the elasticity and muscle memory were not activating!!! Then I saw my thighs. My calves. My legs. I cried hard. Vulgar Tears. I felt disgusting in my skin. How could I have felt like a champion of pregnancy up until birth and return home looking like a foreigner in my skin? I truly didn’t recognize myself. There was no bump but those weren’t my thighs.

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Why hadn’t the doctors sent me home with a “What to expect after you have a baby – cesarean edition” pamphlet that outlines the litany of normal concerns for new mothers (and fathers) who courageously try to navigate through an emotional, sleep deprived battlefield of heightened senses? Mind you it should also detail realistic expectations of what you should anticipate from your body that asserts, “Relax! You don’t have a fever. And no, you did not wet the bed. You are experiencing  hot flashes and night sweats – that is your body’s natural way to flush out all the excess water from pregnancy and delivery.” I had NO pamphlet. I had to resort to Google for this wealth of information to learn that the pregnancy glow alters to a new form…a foreshadowing tale of what I have to look forward to – menopause. WTF.

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I was also patiently awaiting my new form sans baby bump. But I weighed the exact same after having had my 6 pound 5 oz baby girl from the day I was admitted. How was that even plausible even after being forced to fast, too? I drank nothing but water and coffee for days. I made liars of their cleansing characteristics because they surely didn’t act like any kind of diuretic. I was still feeling very pregnant. I was mortified. 

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The pamphlet idea would have been notably helpful at that mile marker. I didn’t know about all the water weight I would gain due to the IVs. I didn’t know my cut would burn, tingle, feel oddly numb but sense pressure for days, weeks, months. I didn’t know about breastfeeding and prolactin.

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I wore long dresses for days to hide my legs but they didn’t cover my newly augmented breasts by milk. People would speculate all my weight went there, and while it made me laugh, I was beyond uncomfortable. I was annoyed and embarrassed by my blossoming bosoms.

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I felt awkward. That’s it in a word. But I was also the happiest I had ever been. It was the strangest thing.

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But now that my little family and I are two months in, I’ve grown fond of my new body and its abilities. I had high expectations of rebounding and I didn’t meet the mark. But I know I will. That’s who I am. I do acknowledge that I’ve snapped back relatively quick but I wanted breastfeeding to be some miraculous cure-all of soft curves and a soft tummy. Newsflash: it isn’t. It’s an old wives tale.

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I am currently working hard at marathon training again and I believe I will get back to where I was before I was pregnant. Perhaps all these months off from intense training have alleviated my hip issues! (Praying!!!)

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Speaking of running, I have been doing speed work, fartleks, tempo runs, easy runs and I’m slowly gaining back my ability to cover distance. I completed my longest distance of 8 miles strong last week! While I’m so fortunate to be logging miles again to gain speed, endurance, and to soon cover distance to chase Boston, I’m finding that despite it all – my running, leg, booty, and killer core workouts – I’m still unable to activate that fat burning furnace I spoke of earlier to shed the last 3 postpartum pounds. .


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I know I sound obnoxious because it may not sound like much weight, but for me, as a runner, each pound adds time to my pace. My inner voice screamed and continues to scream, “WHAT gives!?!?” 

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I told you before, where I once had abs I am soft. Now I assure you I’m not bitching terribly much – I know I’m fortunate to have been able to shed most of the weight I gained without any effort, but these last few pounds have been troubling me, especially with my incessant desire to workout in an effort to reclaim my body! My gosh, I had rented it out for 39 weeks and even provided an eviction notice…can I have it back yet? Please?

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Through all my attempts guess what I discovered?!? Keep reading…This is only another example of the type of content the pamphlet should cover…

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Despite my efforts, mothers who breastfeed, regardless of the old wives tale that breastfeeding helps melt the fat, retain approximately 5-10 pounds of fat to ensure that in the event of famine, we can nourish our littles (so I guess I’m doing well!). The reason is due to the hormone prolactin – the evil but necessary culprit! Prolactin remains incredibly high in your body for up to 6 months postpartum making weight loss a challenge! It is a challenge because it reduces the body’s ability to metabolize fat. BAM! Repeat. BAM!!! It acts like a safeguard to protect a baby’s milk supply. Hey hospital, put that in a pamphlet to help new mothers ward off fatuous expectations! 

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So here I am, I’ve been sweating it out like the badass motherrunner that I am, and I can’t shake all the weight despite clean eating and exercise. I didn’t get it. I was so frustrated! But now knowing that when I decide to stop breastfeeding the weight should come off effortlessly makes me one happy runnergirl. Oh, that on top of the fact that I won’t be carrying melons around that fluctuate in weight every 2-3 hours. That’s right, I’ve been racing against my milk coming in! Maybe that’s making me faster (I can dream). But until I decide I can no longer continue nursing my little rosebud, I will cherish the moments of feeding her while also being proud that my milk is helping her get those adorable little rolls on her legs! That’s right, I’m the reason for my little chubbina (chubby signorina)!

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Thanks for stopping by and reading about my journey – from chasing Boston to chasing baby – motherhood and running – and my life between all those miles.

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XO

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Valgal

Banana Milk Recipe

21 Jul

Good morning lovelies!!!

I just wanted to share a quick, simple, healthy and delicious recipe I found compliments of Instagram – banana milk!

Blend:

1-2 bananas (I used one)

1-2 dates

Vanilla

Water

*I added 1 cup of Light Vanilla Soymilk – Silk

Pour over your favorite granola and top with your choice of fruit! 

For granola I used Nature’s Valley Oats n’ Honey. 

Enjoy!!! (Sorry there’s no picture – I devoured this before I had a chance to snap it!)

Thanks for stopping by!

XO

Valgal 

Running and Life

20 Jul img_3921

Hello lovelies!!!.

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.My days are numbered being at home with my little babe. The longest I’ve been away from her has been during my runs which is about 1-2.5 hours. So with Monday on the horizon, my heart is sinking. How am I supposed to go back to work? How can I juggle work, be a mother, a wife in training, and a runner? .


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During my mini sweat session today (I ran based on how I felt – hello sub 7:00!!! – ran a 7:50 warmup and speedy miles thereafter! I love the way a 6:00 min pace feels- it’s been too long! 🙌🏼) I was thinking about how running is a true euphemism for life – more so today than ever before. What I’m saying is that it takes enormous spiritual strength for me to embrace training for a marathon after 39 weeks of untraining my mind to go hard and push through the pain because of pregnancy. Now I’m trying to build back that grit. But honestly, it takes even more spiritual strength to leave my little on Monday for the first time ever for my workday.

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I’m freaking out that I’m going to miss her more than words. Her little coos, her smiles, the way she cuddles on my chest and grips my hand so tightly. How am I supposed to be away for 9-12 hours without her when she has been all I’ve ever known. “It’s impossible to miss anything before she came into the world.”

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I’m so thankful for running. It has allowed me to run out my emotions. It helps. But I’m still deep in resentment that I can’t have a few more weeks. At least I know what I’m in for. My work day will feel like a bloody marathon – trudging through the pain of her absence – but coming home will feel like crossing the finish line – the reward of embracing my rosebud will be worth it. .

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Shout out to all you badass mother runners, and mamas who must leave the house for work, (because let’s be honest, being a mother alone is WORK), “The world does not benefit from you hiding your bad-assery” so make sure you make it known!  You inspire me!!! XO #badass #motherrunner #runnergirl #sweat #sweatsession

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PS- thanks @nuunhydration for hydrating me!

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Thanks for stopping by!

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XO

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Valgal


A New Affair 

19 Jul

Hello lovelies,

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Notice anything different?!.

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Other than me not having a baby bump?!?

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The shoes!!! Meet Brooks Launch 3!!!

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That’s right friends, #badass #motherrunner was running on clouds today. Clouds of comfort! I literally had an extra spring to my step for push-off and it gave me amazing energy return! For real though!!! Plus, their ultra light and perfect for me (I’m a neutral runner). I’m in love. .

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Newton, we’ve covered a lot of distance over our 4 year courtship, but your discount code for me has since expired and your 5 lugs just don’t comfort me like the 4. You will be my first love, and I will continue to be a fan, and even wear you for feelings of wild-eyed marathon training nostalgia of the past (I have quite the collection)…But let it be known you’ve got some fierce competition these days! And I’m thinking it’s time for a new affair…#runnergirl

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Today marked my marathon training’s request of an easy 3 mile run – which was totally hard to do because I wanted to rocket through my run with these new badass kicks!!! But hey, I’m following protocol – and that’s a first!!!

Thanks for stopping by!

XO

Valgal

First Week of Marathon Training Postpartum

16 Jul

Hello lovelies!!!

Happy Saturday – woot woot! Today marked my longest run postpartum – 8 miles at an easy pace – averaging 7:52/min. My lungs and legs felt fresh. Granted, I could have definitely welcomed speed, but for first time ever, I’m following a marathon training schedule and it told me to go easy. Yup! This mama is ready to BQ!!! And with training I hope to shed the baby weight too. ..

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The hardest part of marathon training post baby so far has been to be patient with miles and time because let’s face it, during pregnancy we’re told not to: run for too long, not to elevate our heart rate, not to exert too much energy etc…Therefore, running for long periods of time is new again – my mental training to tackle distance is lacking. The second challenge is running in between feeding sessions – I’m always racing against my milk coming in 😂. .

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Anyway, I really wanted to go faster and/or longer today but I took a step back and told myself that I am committed to embracing the marathon program that promises speed. If I could run a Mary before (or 3), then I can definitely run one again 🙌🏼!!! I mean shoot, I only missed Boston by 4 minutes before while having bronchitis – perhaps I’m closer after baby? Either way I’m loving the journey! First week of 12 ✔️ done and done! .

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Hello, #Boston! I’m coming for you!!! 💙💛 #bq

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Thanks for stopping by! XO.

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Valgal 


Runnergirls’s Postpartum Update

13 Jul img_3491

Hello lovelies!

Today’s been a really hard and emotional day for me. The ugliness of these feelings crept in my mind last night and I was surprised they were still present this morning. I’m not sure why I’m feeling blue – but I’m crying for no apparent reason. I’m thinking it’s related to postpartum hormones and the unwelcoming truth that I return to work soon.

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To shake these feelings I went for an hour run and covered 7.6 miles – my longest run PP!!! My average time was 7:53. These miles includes a mix of #fartleks and #tempo pace for #marathon #training. I had a few fast miles disguised in my overall pace and that, as well as the sweat, helped clear my mind – but not enough. I finished today’s workout feeling both badass and disengaged with my mind…

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You see, this quote puts it perfectly – “Running is alone time that lets me unspool the tangles that build up over days. I run, pound it out on the pavement, channel that energy into my legs, and when I’m done with my run, I’m done with it.” This may not be the case today, but I’m sure it helped me run some of the funk out.

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Hey postpartum hormones, you’re a bitch! Hopefully, I get back to me STAT. Until then, I’ll be running it out but most importantly, loving on my little rosebud. #postpartumsucks #truth #justbeinghonest

Thanks for stopping by!

XO

Valgal

Celebrating Yoshie – Living Bravely and Boldly with Lung Cancer 

28 Jun img_2510-1

Hello lovelies…this post is about my life between the miles – it is about the celebration of my mother-in-law’s life that came to an early end because of her battle with cancer. 

We celebrated mom’s life this past weekend. We didn’t want this day to come, at least not until she led a long happy life. But we didn’t have a choice. We have been forced to go on without her. And while we all feel the suffering, the pain, and the grieving, we are fortunate mom is no longer experiencing the same. On June 25, 2016 family and friends gathered to remember the light that she was.

Mom was only 60. A fresh new 60. She would have told you she was 37 though. It’s amazing that in a flash backwards we were celebrating her 50th birthday in the same house. She was as magnanimous then as she was during her last days, and remarkably enough, the same age, 37. 

We celebrate mom’s life because that’s what she would have wanted. Nobody has a choice about time traveling on. We just have to. We have to go on without mom. I see the reservoir of pain that the loss has caused in the hearts of her husband and son. I know we are all feeling the suffering and pain of her loss. F*ck cancer. 

During the memorial I realized that the pieces of mom that we keep don’t have to be material. They are memories imprinted on our hearts. Family and friends cheerfully shared stories of her radiant smile and her infectious laughter during the celebration. We learned from others what we have always known, that mom was wonderfully generous and warm. She was always excited to see you and she made you feel like she was your biggest fan. Mom’s boss shared with us that she made sure she was the first to wish everyone “Happy Friday” at work. It was a game! We could picture her enthusiasm at the office and we all shared a heartfelt yet heavy chuckle.
 
In learning of this story I reflected on my Fridays. Every Friday in my inbox I had an email from mom. The subject line was simple, “Happy Friday!” And the content of the email was a “hello, happy Friday, happy weekend. Love you. Miss you. Ciao!” My heart smiled but wasn’t free of pain. I realized in that moment I won’t be receiving any more emails from mom. Our little exchanges stopped when God decided he needed her more than we did. And in those moments I selfishly acknowledged how I still needed her emails. Having mom peppered in my day with a Skype call, phone call or email made everything okay. She gave me peace and made me laugh despite the peripheral chaos. I need happy Friday. And now it’s gone. 

I was sprinkled in and out of mom’s life for 15 years. But in the time I spent with her and her family, I saw how mom had done the best she could raising her family and in being a friend. She, again, gave generously all that she had and more. There was no end to her generosity. Ever. Even during her final days. 

Mom fought cancer emphatically. She knew cancer was a ruthless bitch but she wasn’t afraid. Mom chose to be brave. She fought bravely for 26 months. Her oncologist’s best case was 24 months. Leave it to mom to fight longer! But she didn’t know. She refused to know the prognosis of lung cancer. In a sense, her incredulous disposition allowed her to be jubilantly blind to the unyielding outcome that awaited her. In my opinion, I think it was a blessing because it allowed her to live each day boldly!

Mom was brave her entire life (she took a chance on David – her husband). Brave and equally stubborn (I know where Andy gets it from, thanks mom). This combination of attributes helped her mental grit to stay strong and continue to fight. Not one day did mom reveal that she felt like a victim. She refused. She didn’t take the easy way out and let cancer get the best of her. She stayed happy. It was remarkable. How can one be so incredibly happy when faced with such an untenable and dire diagnosis? She was happier than what seemed appropriate. She really put things in perspective. We can learn so much from her.  

We miss her. I’m so fortunate to have found my way back in her life. Oriana knows her grandma. She used to kick to the sound of her voice and mom’s entire face would light up. Her smile would grow with such exuberance. Oriana will continue to know her grandma. Not in a physical sense. Not by her voice singing lullabies and seeing to it that her granddaughter, who is the splitting image of her son, falls asleep, but because we will continue to speak of mom and share her memory, like they share the same birthday. In a way they are one. 

It’s hard for us to wrap our minds around mom not being here. It’s hard for me to see my fiancé face this reality. The hurt is visible. But I believe Oriana has helped him through this pain. As a mother now, I understand love in another form. And with that, I’m bewildered that with mom being such a soft, benevolent soul, that someone of her own bloodline didn’t make an appearance at the memorial. In addition, she didn’t phone or send flowers. She wasn’t absent because she couldn’t handle the emotional affair, she was absent because over the course of several years, her heart has been completely dissolved of love and forgiveness. She is devoid of feelings. This woman is a mother, too. But clearly she is missing a sensitivity chip, a maternal link that unifies sisterhood and the celebration of women. In addition to her absence, she also neglected to send mom flowers or a card for (her last) Mother’s Day and her birthday. It wasn’t until mom’s husband reached out, again after countless efforts, to inform her that mom’s days were shortly numbered that she finally showed up. The family was happy she made an appearance. Mom was able to see her three grandchildren that were selfishly poached from her for years before passing. 

This person saw her brother but disregarded him as blood. One could speculate that she gives more respect to strangers than to her own family. In her typical tasteless mannerism, she also failed to congratulate Andy on the birth of his daughter and engagement to me (like some other tacky people). 

Anyway, I’ve given this woman too much attention but I bring it up because Andy, despite the history of her wretched behavior, included her in his speech as well as in an exquisite video montage that he created for the service. 

While we scoured through photographs, I couldn’t help but have sheets of tears fall down my face. Picture after picture painted an image of mom holding her first granddaughter. Laughing. Smiling. Dancing. Nurturing. Exactly how I remember mom. In those moments I was forced to accept that mom has three grandchildren that had spent minimal time with her but the time that was documented revealed a history of fun and joy. And here we are with Oriana who will never be charmed by grandma’s silly lullabies, soothed by her gentle touch, or bounced by the rhythm of her dancing. In a very short time going through pictures I had a laundry list of upsets because Oriana was robbed of mom by cancer, and her other grandchildren were robbed of mom by her very own daughter.m. Andy’s sister has no clue what she has done. I would do anything to have Oriana know and love mom in a physical state. I would do anything to have my daughter be embraced by the warmth that was mom – but she never will be. The thought is unbearable. 

What I’m writing isn’t absent of honest conversation. Every family has dysfunction. I’m not airing out dirty laundry – her behavior has been flagrantly evident and witnessed by family, friends and medical staff for years. But the tale of this dysfunction stopped at mom’s death. There were so many opportunities for this woman to make things better, amicable at best. Andy, being the class-act that he is, found that he exhausted his efforts over the years. Any effort made was returned with mute silence. Silence that begged to be undisturbed; screeching evidence that she had long abandoned the family. The disturbing thing is that mom knew she wouldn’t come to her funeral. The only time I saw mom cry was when she spoke of this. Cancer didn’t hurt mom’s spirits – her daughter did. 

The memorial was a success. Andy did not preclude his sister from the service. Family and friends asked where she was and he casually remarked that she couldn’t make it. Interesting. Family from Japan made it out to see mom in March when it was revealed that the cancer metastasized to the brain. That was a 13+ hour journey not including layovers. Family and friends also traveled from Arizona to Wisconsin to celebrate mom’s life. We even drove 13+ hours from DC to Wisconsin (with a newborn and a dog). But she couldn’t make a 3 hour drive. The trek must have been burdened with too much traffic, or perhaps guilt…

She is undeserving of this attention. I digress.

Mom, we will practice forgiveness as you have displayed by example. It was just that her actions were so glaringly dismissive and you deserve more. You deserved more. You deserved the world. 

Your absence hurts but we know you and Oriana share the same spirit. We see you in her smiles and hear you in her coos. Andy, Oriana and I are writing a new story. Oriana Yoshie is your bloodline and she has your charismatic spirit already! Your life is being carried on through our little girl, and that is our sweeping redemptive ending – or beginning. Your spirit goes on. 

The reality that you’re not here though sends an electrical current of hurt through our bodies. Moving forward without you is a monumental task. We celebrate you, every single day. I wish you could be here. We wish you were with us to watch the NBA finals. We wish we could have seen your happy dance when Cleveland won! We wish you could hold your granddaughter today and every tomorrow, but we are eternally grateful you both met each other. I know you’re looking down on us and you can see this, but I want to tell you, your son is an extraordinary father. A generous fiancé with a stubborn streak. Please help me learn to accept this! But honestly, with his stubborn attitude aside (an indication that you’re still very present) you would be so proud. We ask that you continue to guide us like you have through this unchartered experience. 

We will remember to see the beauty in the ugly. We will remember to fight through adversity. We will remember that there is always a reason to smile when things feel heavy and hopeless. We will carry on “Happy Friday!” notes. We will let go of resentment. We will practice forgiveness. We will do all of this in your honor. We will live courageously, bravely and boldly with you in our hearts and your cinematic laughter in our ears. In closing, and with Elton John’s words, we remember “How wonderful life is while you’re in the world.”

We love you. 

Wishing you all unconditional love, the courage to forgive and the strength to fight boldly any battle or heartbreak that you face.

God bless.

Thanks for stopping by.

XO

Valgal


My Type A Journey to a C – A Birth Story

15 May img_0377

Good morning friends! Happy Weekend!!! 

Oh my goodness, this is my first Saturday morning waking up as a mom. Yes. A mom!!!! My heart is melting as I type this on my phone while simultaneously staring at my beautiful daughter all swaddled up and dozing off. I am spellbound by her every movement, face, sound, gesture…

And then it hits me. The sudden reality that I am a mother. Proof that being type A doesn’t mean much as far as game planing goes. Trying to get pregnant at precisely the right time (yeah right), trying to arrange when the baby comes, crafting a birth plan(s)…With planning I’ve learned that something will happen making a muck of your neatly arranged, tailor-made itinerary. (I didn’t have a birth plan but I’m still bemused over my birth story.)

This whole “embracing motherhood” thing started in August 2015. But motherhood materializing into something other than a hashtag on Insta got real on Tuesday, May 10th. 

On May 10th I went to my routine weekly pregnancy checkup. This was the 39th week appointment! The doctor and I discussed how I was feeling and talked about dates for a scheduled induction in case baby girl didn’t debut Sunday, May 15th. 

On my way to my next appointment at Maternal & Fetal Medicine I phoned Andy. I was stoked to tell him that if baby girl doesn’t come on her own they plan on inducing me Wednesday, May 18th. I shared the news in a quick flash as the next set of doctors whisked me away and hooked me up to the non-stress machine.

After 40 minutes of what is typically a 20 minute monitoring session of baby’s heartbeat  and movement I was escorted to the sonography room. This was after the intermittent intervals of nurses coming in and asking me to drink orange juice topped with what felt like aggressive poking of my belly. *Side Note: I visited Maternal & Fetal Medicine weekly due to baby girl’s risk for SGA (small for gestational age). Nothing was ever too alarming. Images and testing always revealed that my amniotic fluid levels were perfect, baby girl was measuring petite but proportionate in the 12th percentile, and her heart rate was top notch. Except on Tuesday, May 10th, something was off kilter. 

When the sonographer wrapped up she told me she’d be back after she shared the images with the doctor. This is normal. Fast forward 10 anxious minutes and the dapper Dr. Akoma greeted me. She was beaming. My panic had immediately frittered away.

Dr. Akoma, again, beaming, had bright eyes with a sparkle. I was admiring her composure. She made me feel settled. Worry-free.

She spoke. “Looks like you’re having a baby!” 

Me: “I know!” In a pitch like a 5-year discovering she’s going to Disneyland.

Dr. Akoma: “Well alright, let’s get you induced!”

Me: “Oh, yes. I am scheduled for Wednesday, May 18th.

Dr. Akoma: “No, dear. You’re going to be induced today. Your baby, although her heart rate is great, she isn’t moving like she should and you don’t feel her enough to reassure us that your pregnancy should continue. At 39 weeks she is term. She is ready. Are you ready? Call your husband and tell him to get here. Your room is being prepped.”

Me: “Oh my gosh, okay. Is she okay? Oh wow, so we are doing this. Today? I get to meet my baby girl?! What do you mean my room is getting prepped? I have to wrap up work. I mean I don’t have to but there are things I need to do. Can I go home and get my hospital bag? ” My furor was extraordinary muffling my speech. Dr. Akoma was probably unable to make a thing out or thought I was delirious.

Regardless, I was about to have a baby!!!! 

I called Andy. “We’re being induced, TODAY!!!” This communication string was priceless. Emotional. Exciting. Inexplicable. It was an exchange of words and enthusiastic cries that will be forever etched in my heart. A private dialogue between two parents-to-be preparing for the best day of their lives.

I was accompanied by a lovely nurse who gave me red carpet treatment all the way to the labor and delivery wing. The experience was surreal. Not at all as I had envisioned. 

Labor and delivery. 

Wow.

Fast-forward a few hours. It was 3:30p. I was intoxicated by my emotions and the realness of “having a baby!” I laughed a bit, too. I was anxious. Nervous. Excited. Our lives were about to change in a matter of hours.

Side Tangent.

Me: “Babe, you know what’s wild?! I’m so happy I ran yesterday! I logged at least one run in in my 39th week of pregnancy! Whoop! Whoop! Which really means I can say I ran my whole pregnancy!”

Andy: “Val, you’re out of control. You shouldn’t have run. You’re done. You can’t run now for 6 weeks. You’re going to listen to me and the doctor.”

Me: “Yeah. I’m well aware. But seriously, I would’ve been so disappointed had I not ran yesterday.

But back to having a baby!!!

At 3:30p on May 10th I was only 70% effaced, 1cm dilated and feeling painless contractions. To begin the induction they gave me Cervidil. It is designed to ripen the cervix to 100% to begin active labor. The process using Cervidil was expected to last no more than 12 hours. 

After several hours my contractions were back to back about every two to three minutes. They were painful. Painful. Painful. I told Andy and the nurses that I wanted to shake the hands and kiss the feet of every woman out there who had a natural birth because these contractions were tempestuous! I recall thinking that I must be 100% effaced and super dilated if they hurt like they did!!! I was ready to keep them coming because each one meant we were closer to meeting our daughter.

Around 11pm three + nurses came rushing in. They were fixated on the monitoring screen. They gave off panicky vibes and were speaking quickly in a language foreign to me. Andy took one look at me and saw my fear. He grabbed my hand to comfort me. He proceeded to ask, “What’s wrong?”

After they assessed everything they informed us that our baby’s heart rate fell drastically with each contraction and it had been too low for too long. She had not yet recovered from the last few contractions.

My heart stopped. 

No tears formed but I was crying on the inside. I was scared. I tried to stay calm. Relaxed. Strong. I was everything but.

Cervidil, although a mild drug, created stronger than expected contractions for me and our baby was distressed with each one. They feared it could be due to prolapse of the umbilical cord. “If this occurs, the umbilical cord may become compressed between the fetal head and the walls of the mother’s pelvis, thereby cutting off the blood supply to the fetus. Unless a vaginal delivery is expected to occur immediately, cesarean section must be performed to save the baby’s life.” The staff couldn’t delineate which one was influencing our daughter’s low heart rate. Was it the Cervidil or prolapse of the umbilical cord? Either reason behind it, fetal distress was not good and the alternatives were looking dour.

They removed the Cervidil. 

That’s all I’m going to write on that.

Roughly an hour later I was given an epidural. Finally!!!

They exercised some caution before administering it. I didn’t give a care that I was only 1cm dilated, my body was in labor even though it appeared I was failing to progress.

Within 30 minutes of receiving the epidural my already low blood pressure plummeted. In turn, baby girl’s heart rate fell to its lowest and was not recovering timely. It was a spectacle. After careful monitoring and continued guests rushing in and out, the doctor on call came in to discuss a cesarean with me. I obliged that if it’s necessary, it’s necessary.

Then our daughter’s heart rate took a turn for the better. Yay! The cesarean was an afterthought, for the time being. But with that being the third time they flirted with it, I began to think it was highly likely.

It was finally dark in the room. The machines weren’t yelling at us anymore. We finally had some semblance of peace and quiet. It was as tranquil as it could be. It was as tranquil as it would ever be. The nurses continued to monitor me. Hours went by with faint beeps in comparison to the alarms. The conversations being held by the medical staff echoed in the room but the epidural helped me zone them out. They told me to relax because I’ll need all my energy for pushing in a few hours. I was beginning to feel reassured that we could have our daughter vaginally. I breathed deep. Looked at Andy. Smiled. 

But there was no chance to relax once they began the IV drip of Pitocin at 7a. I was surprised they were giving me this drug since it was a lot stronger than Cervidil. But who am I to question the doctor? Oriana’s heart rate was steady again at 130 and had been for a while. I didn’t feel the need to challenge them. The first of the Pitocin dosage was small and it was gradually increased.

Then there was a repeat of the noise that flooded the room a few hours prior. Alarms were ringing, medical staff  were avidly speaking in doctor-tongue, and I was being asked incessant questions about my health, allergies, fetal movement…

Our daughter was experiencing, yet again, serious fetal heart rate deceleration. I was still only 1cm-2cm dilated. The Cervidil and now the Pitocin, although they acted catalysts to make the contractions stronger, weren’t working to dilate me. 

Active labor was happening but at slow rate. Despite back to back contractions, transition aka pushing was guaranteed to be hours away. This was not good. With the fetal heart rate decelerations continuing as frequently as they were, baby girl was not getting the oxygen needed to sustain labor. Therefore, the doctors did not want to risk continuing as it would jeopardize baby’s health. In every effort to avoid an “emergency” they wanted to conduct a cesarean for immediate delivery.

They asked me how I felt about it. I had no feelings about it. I was prepared for anything in labor and delivery. My type A personality took a backseat. I did not try to govern the process of delivery. My birth plan was this —> epidural. I was prepared to be game for anything. And I was.

I knew far too well that you can’t plan for labor and delivery. I didn’t plan on being induced. I was told I was going to be induced. I didn’t plan that my body would fail to progress in labor. But my body failed to progress. When vaginal birth was no longer an option, I was already prepared for the invasive procedure better known as a c-section. I didn’t plan on a cesarean. I was told it was medically necessary. 

My type A personality accepted the substandard and dreaded C. Honestly, I would have accepted anything to ensure the health and safety of my unborn daughter.

Within minutes I was being rolled out to the operating room. It was May 11th at 11:15a. I had no time to really conceptualize what was happening. They turned Andy away to another room to change. I was there, in the mix of all these doctors, anxious inside. Crying inside. Thinking my body failed. Thinking I failed as a woman. But then something switched. I couldn’t stop thinking that I’d be holding my daughter in an hour. The crocodile tears fell down my face.

The operation was something else. To be numb but tugged around like a rag doll. Hmm. I held Andy’s hand and griped tightly. In a matter of minutes, literally, the doctor said, “Your daughter will be here in 5 minutes.” 

I turned to Andy. This was the last time I’d look at him as a man not yet a father. My eyes bigger than ever filled with tears. I was Excited. Nervous. Anxious. Already in love. I froze the moment in my memory bank. 

Then…

Doctor: “She’s got so much hair! Congratulations on a beautiful baby girl!”

May 11th, 12:04p we became parents to Oriana Yoshie Shreeve. A bundle of perfection weighing in at 6.5lbs and 19.6″.

Just like that I saw my daughter in a flash of a second while they transferred her from my abdomen to the table behind me. They took her to do the Apgar testing and invited daddy. I was left there on the table alone. I was literally paralyzed from the chest down unable to get her in my line of sight. I turned my neck as much as I could to try and catch a glimpse of her.


Tears were perpetually falling from my face. I was thinking, “I have a daughter. We have a daughter. We have a little girl!” 

My sweet fiancé transformed into a daddy. I watched him in those precious moments overwhelmed with emotions and falling in deeper love with him. This is our family now. I spent 39 weeks waiting to meet this little soul and there she was – a few arm lengths away with her daddy whom was and continues to be captivated by her.

When they finally placed her in my bed, I nuzzled her warm skin. I stared at her. I breathed her in. Life stood still. She was all I knew existed.

The way I felt in that moment was new but familiar. She is my heart. She has always been my heart. In that instant I couldn’t recollect life without her. She fills me completely. She is proof that love is not something you search for. Love isn’t something you dream for. Love is something you do. And she, our baby girl, is a result of the love between her father and me. She is the best part of us. She is our greatest gift. 

Everything in my life like the nonsense, the stress, the chaos, the opinions of others, the friends that have come and gone, the what-ifs, it all became preposterously irrelevant when I met Oriana. She obliterated it all. She has opened me. 

Today she is 3 days old. She’s sleeping peacefully near me. I catch myself staring at her in complete awe that she is mine – all mine. Staring into her eyes and seeing her fixate on me eliminates the pain from the cesarean. Her very being reminds me not to feel ashamed of my body post-cesarean. 

Of all the things I’d done wrong during my journey through life, in getting myself here tells me I’d done something right. The severe swelling (thighs, calves, ankles – entire legs), my likeness to Frankenstein with the wretched staples, the extreme discomfort, the inability to get in and out of bed without it being a 10 minute ordeal, while it doesn’t sound ideal, is something I’d do all over again. Life doesn’t need to be so complicated. Oriana has shown me how simple it all is. And it’s astounding.

I have a daughter. The amount I love her cannot be qualified. It’s all-encompassing. I don’t know who I was before her.

I welcome my new life. I may be type A but the C has taught me to accept all things. You can’t know beautiful without knowing a bit of brutal. The C was brutal. But it is a temporary state of brutal/discomfort. My scar will be a beautiful reminder of my daughter and our time together as one. Oriana is my forever. She is my blossoming soul. She is my kind of beautiful. She always will be.

I love you, Oriana. Thank you for making me a mommy.

Thanks for stopping by!

Valgal

XO

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