That Deaf Dancer…

Dancing has saved my life. Period. I had been dancing for nearly 23 years. From that tiny basement to professional level. Yah, professional! That’s when it all finally paid off. Go me!

Why, you say? Well duh. Growing up was not always easy. Countless days of bullying and taunting allowed me to be free in a dance classroom. Also allowed freedom of expression and interactions with fellow dancers. The thing is, I didn’t really have a voice at such a young age and had a hard time defending myself. When young kids see your hearing aids, take it from me, they’re cruel as hell.

I had a voice in the dance world. Countless hours dancing and going to dance workshops, classes by top name dance professionals before they became big today, trips to NYC to attend dance classes at Broadway Dance Center, huge dance conventions such as JUMP, Shake The Floor, etc. I attended a performing arts high school, even started out as a dance major in college and participated in a pom squad. With a minor change in my career choice when the economy dropped, I decided to try out for the Baltimore Ravens at the time. Which also led MTV to follow me and do a story. If you ever feel so inclined to, google it, I’m sure it’s on YouTube as well. And no, I don’t watch it. Seriously.

While finishing up my degree, I was also fortunate to join the Baltimore Blast Cheerleading Squad which encouraged me to try out for the Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleaders upon graduation. What a freaking fun ride. I went into the audition with no clue what I was getting myself into. I’ve met some amazing ladies who I still talk to this day. I got the experience of my life that I would’ve never imagined. I still look back and remember the chills I get when the fighter jets fly over the stadium during the national anthem or performing to the Eagles Fight Song. Goosebumps man.

But dude! Let’s rewind. That was a tough audition. The most nerve racking part of it was the live stage interview. Also! It was live on the internet too. Could you believe that? Me? That deaf girl has to ask for help? My god. There’s a panel of 10 judges in front of you and when your turn was up, they randomly pick a question and you have to answer it as best as you can. Hell no. Have you heard my alien voice? And it’s dark as hell. So dark you can’t even read their lips! What if it was a former NFL player mumbling something and you’re forced to ask him to repeat it multiple times? What was I supposed to do? Seriously, just save me the agony and just let me do what I do best. Dance and strut across the floor in my bikini ok? Please please?

Fortunately, I got my shit together and talked to the director about my situation. Now, if you know me, I flipping HATE asking for help. Like why does this have to be so damn HARD and yet it was something I needed to do. She was kind enough to let me in on a few questions. Yup the secrets out. If they couldn’t help me out especially after making it this far along, then BYE Felicia! Not worth the embarrassments and sacrifices I had to make which included missing exams, skipping classes and traveling 4 hr round trips from school to attend all this hard earned work that could possibly never happen. Hey, I was not going to let this opportunity go. (Cue Eminem rap) One thing I learned from my mother is perseverance is key.

perseverance: steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement. 

http://www.dictionary.com

To get what you strive, eat, sleep and breath for, you’re going to do EVERYTHING you can to make this happen. Looking back, this accommodation was so MINOR, man. It can be so embarrassing especially when you’re about to be part of a major NFL organization.

It’s finals night. (Not the exams stoopid). I do my thing, telling myself, no one gives a shit if you don’t make it or not. (Truth is, I had a ton of people behind me on this. So thank you. You all know who you are. Especially you MOM!) Finally, the next day my number was called and it hit me that all these years of sweat, tears, hard work finally paid off. F yes! My mother knew I could do this and because of her, none of this would’ve happened. I followed my dreams. Basically. I’ve experienced so many rejections and this was now my moment to shine….

Time to wrap this up. We’re heading up to the mountain to enjoy a conjoined bachelor/bachelorette weekend! 🙂

Oh yeah and Go Eagles!

My Birth Journey | Omphalocele Awareness

Hello January 31st due date.

While you came into the world 4 weeks earlier, it’s very fitting to write this in honor of Omphalocele Awareness Day.

Justin and I went to his coaches’ holiday dinner January 5th. We had discussed taking our pups to doggy daycare for the next day to get them tired for the week. I remember somehow coming across three random strangers asking the same question, “When are you due?”, feeling annoyed with the same response, “Are you really having a baby in two weeks?” (January 20th was our scheduled delivery date.)

I had no symptoms of this baby coming but was exhausted from being pregnant as usual so we went to bed soon after dinner only to wake up 11:30 that night with a huge kick to my bladder thinking she had me wet the bed. (TMI) But it was odd. I didn’t know what to think of it and crawled back in bed, woke my husband up and said “I don’t know what’s going on but I’m either peeing myself or my water is breaking.” “Okay, keep me posted.” And we were back to sleep. This happened again twice over the course of night with no labor symptoms or contractions. I remember getting up for work that morning thinking I better call out sick to be safe. I mean, I can’t be going to the bathroom in between patients constantly! Justin had said “Maybe you’re having urinary incontinence.” (Cue LOL) and called my doctor right away.

I was googling water breaking symptoms, remained very calm, hoping it wasn’t the case. I had my “Natural Mama” book opened to week 36-37 making sure I wasn’t missing anything. I forgot to eat or have my coffee.

My doctor called back and we were instructed to go to the labor and delivery floor at Harris downtown. We had our bags packed ahead of time and left them in the garage in fear of the dogs next-level-freak-out. Since we were already putting the dogs in daycare, I told the sweet lady at the front desk they might be staying overnight. Little did we know they ended up staying the next 5 days.

The drive downtown was very quiet. They checked us in, my water breaking was confirmed with a closed cervix. Still no symptoms. Only the baby moving around as usual with a good heart beat on the monitor. The nurse had warned us about my on-call delivery doctor who has a dry humor and sure enough he did, “Okay, we’re having the c-section today.” My face was blank. I was totally unprepared. Not because of his jokes but because of how early she’s coming and being the OCD person I am, I felt like nothing was done at home, I didn’t even get a chance to “nest”. I’m just crazy like that!

Justin and I had a heart to heart as it was our very last moment before we were parents. We knew we were having a baby with a condition but didn’t know what to really expect.

Strangely, because I forgot to eat or drink that morning, I was able to deliver her right away via cesarean. Within a couple hours of checking in, I was already in the operating room getting a spinal block and prepped for surgery with my husband who was allowed to come later. Thankfully, I had Communicator Mask samples which enabled me to stay comfortable and read his lips to know what’s going on. The anesthesiologist also had one as he was by my side the whole time relaying on what’s happening during the cesarean and making sure I’m stable.

Communicator Mask

Our baby girl screamed into the world January 6, 2020 at 12:01 pm weighting 5 lbs 14 oz. “I hear her!”, I said behind the drape. Tears welled up in both of our eyes as soon they clamped her, I told Justin not to let her out of his sight. She had a medical team of 15 people due to her omphalocele. My wish was to hold her before they transferred her to children’s hospital NICU. And we both are so grateful for that opportunity. Soon, they put her in a box and whisked her away with her daddy.

I recovered by myself with a nurse for the next couple hours before transferring to the next floor up where I would be staying the next few days, without my daughter. That night, I walked to my wheelchair and got to see sweet Annie again in my arms before her first surgery the next day…

This may be cliche, but Annie changed our lives. Nothing can prepare you for being a parent. The emotions, pride, fears. Being a NICU parent is even harder. Words cannot describe what it feels to come in every day with excitement and leave empty handed. Not knowing what the next day could bring. We’re grateful for every small moment we get with her, even if we’re not allowed to hold her.

We’ve struggled so bad (still do) with our emotions about sweet Annie being in NICU and missing a ton of her newborn moments without her home. To other moms and dads out there, you think I’d know what to say to everyone right now standing over their isolated box or crib, I don’t. It would be super selfish of me to say “hang in there” and give you a peace of mind. I hate when others try to be an “optimism bully”. No pep talk could make the situation right. Everyone has their own story. You’re looking at your own heart outside of you and it’s so vulnerable at this point or any point in your life.


|Omphalocele Awareness Day|January 31|

January 6th, 2020, our daughter Annie came into this world with this condition. An Omphalocele is when the liver, intestines and sometimes other organs do not migrate back into the stomach cavity around the 12th week of pregnancy like they should. This condition affects 1/4000 babies, the cause is unknown and the rate of them occurring is rising for unknown reasons. Many times Ompalocele’s are an indicator of other center line defects and potential chromosomal issues some being fatal. When Annie was born, her liver and intestines were in a translucent sac where her belly button should have been. We were lucky to learn that her “only” complication was this and she was not affected with any other issues stated previously.

On her second day with us, she went in for surgery to place her organs where they belong and get her belly closed using a bio mesh that will allow her muscle to grow together. Over the coming weeks, we watched her fight through not only healing but also near pulmonary and respiratory failure due to the pressure in her belly, blood pressure in her lungs and lactic build up from working so hard. With the great team at Cooks Children’s Hospital behind her, she recovered over the course of a week and should have her breathing tube removed again soon!

In honor of sweet Annie and other Omphalocele Warriors out there, my husband dedicated a WOD.

31 min AMRAP of:
1 Clean and Jerk 225/155#
6 Chest to Bars
20 Bar Facing Burpees

As you all participate, we ask that you not only think about Annie but also the other little warriors who are fighting in NICUs across the country. Think about the parents who basically move into the hospitals and have to learn way more about the medical field than they could have ever imagined. Who get scared by every bell, whistle and alarm they hear. They are more tired than they could ever imagine and feel more useless and helpless than ever before. All they have is hope and trust that the doctors and nurses know what they are doing is right. Lastly, think about the families who never get a chance to bring their baby home and now are forced to give up all they thought they were going to do with their child. Always remember that you are lucky to be able to do things like Crossfit and everything can change in an instant. You quickly learn how little you actually control. Thank you for your love and support and sorry about the burpees.
Much Love,
Justin and Amanda

Staying Healthy During Pregnancy

I originally had this titled “Staying Fit”. I realized later into this pregnancy it’s really about mindset, staying healthy, adjusting movements, the power of sleep, etc.

We won’t talk about muscle tone and abs. The weights are much lighter. There’s a ton of breathing. Everything you’ve worked so hard for previously is pretty much nonexistent.

So, please remember, everyone and every pregnancy is different. I’m no expert, a first time mama-to-be, but sharing a few tips I’ve learned along the way.

1- Oral Health. Okay, I’m a Registered Dental Hygienist. This one, I cannot stress enough, how healthy it is to floss and brush for two. It is so important and good for you and baby to go get your teeth cleaned regularly as part of your routine preventive care. Why? Studies have shown pregnant women are more prone to pregnancy gingivitis due to heightened hormonal changes. Symptoms of this include swelling, tenderness, bleeding, and redness of the gum tissue. I know that routine preventive care may seem like the last thing on your mind. If you’re experiencing morning sickness, avoid brushing your teeth. Simply rinse with water. Give your enamel at least 30 mins to recover from the acid in the vomit. I even experienced sensitive gums (still do) even though I practice what I preach. And you know what I did? I got a waterpik and switched my toothpaste to a stannous fluoride ingredient such as Gum Detoxify, Paradontax or Crest Prohealth. Either will do the trick. My other tools I use to attack this issue are thread floss (Cocofloss is the best), Waterpik, and Philips Sonicare Diamondclean toothbrush. I cannot stress enough to go to your regular dental cleanings. Your baby will thank you later. Yes, fluoride is fine.

2-Exercise. I had been doing CrossFit as my workout regimen before I got pregnant and got the okay from my doctor to continue it with modifications. In fact, they WANT you to continue to workout. It’s so good for labor. Whether you’ve been doing CrossFit, marathon running or another workout regimen, please continue to do so. If you’re not a workout junkie like me, it’s okay. Daily 30 minute walks are great. Remember, there are definitely days where you may prioritize more sleep over exercise. Girl, please sleep if that’s what your body is telling you. Some of my modifications include: biking more often and has been comfortable so far, rowing has stopped after 18 weeks, running got harder after 25 weeks, step ups for box jumps, modified core work that help keep it strong and won’t cause as much abdominal separations, and lighter weights for lifts. As my belly grew, I’ve had to stop certain lifts such as snatching and cleans because of the direction of the bar path and that’s totally okay. I pretty much stopped these lifts around 8 weeks. My workout regimen is may not be for you. Factors that can affect yours is previous intensity level reached, cardio endurance, strengths, but really it’s highly dependent on the fitness level prior to becoming pregnant. I love the benefits of what it’s doing for my body during the pregnancy. It’s done a lot such as relieving pregnancy symptoms and discomfort, improve sleep, reduce swelling, reduce pregnancy complication risks, control weight and boost mood, but seriously the list could go on and on. Not to mention postpartum benefits such as speeding up recovery and what it can do for your child’s academic and athletic future and reduce her/his risks of chronic diseases later in life! As always, listen to your doctors regarding exercise, rest, when to get back to your workouts, and what you can do.

3-Nutrition. I’ll be extremely honest here. I have not been the best at nutrition and I decided very early on not to beat myself up for it. I was strictly primal/paleo before getting pregnant and noticed my body felt so deprived. When your blood sugar is low, you tend to get more nauseous. If you asked my husband about it, I probably scared him with the dark circles, looking like I never slept. Truth is, the baby was sucking everything out of me. I added oatmeal, rice and gluten-free staples to my diet and started feeling better. Early on, I even learned I craved beef, potatoes and could only handle smoothie bowls and drinks. I couldn’t stand smelling chicken or turkey. It was very odd. And now I hate Brussels sprouts, a previous staple. Even eggs made my skin so inflamed with cystic acne. I avoided it for so long and have now added it back towards then end of my 2nd trimester. Nowadays, I’m completely content with soup! My body went through different stages with food and continues to do so. All you can do is listen to your body, try your best, but don’t kill yourself over a candy bar, a donut, or ice cream. Enjoy the process while it lasts. As long as you’re gaining a healthy weight per your doctor, you’re doing great.

4-Sleep. I was napping a ton in my first trimester and have started to prioritize more sleep towards the end of my second. Working out came last. You may be different but as someone who is on her feet all day, seeing multiple patients, holding a demanding full time job, I’m worn out. Napping during lunch is also became my new normal towards the end of 2nd trimester. So I decided to do a quick workout after coming home, before making dinner, that way I can take my bath or shower before bed for better sleep. However, sleeping at night gets very uncomfortable towards your third trimester but more sleep is better than none.

5-Mental Health. Postpartum depression is probably not talked about enough. I know several women who have struggled with this and I know I’ll never be prepared for what’s about to come in the beginning of next year. No matter how much family support we will have, it won’t justify the feelings you can’t ignore. What I can do is talk to someone about it. Before pregnancy, during, and after. It’s totally okay to have empty feelings such as guilt or blame, anxiety of growing a life, the uncertainty of what’s to come, especially when you know your baby may be in the hospital for a long time. Take care of yourself mentally and know you’re not alone in this. Mamas, we’ve got this.

6-Chiropractic. This was probably one of the things I cannot thank myself enough for. The same week I found out I was pregnant, my back suffered so much. I was in agnozing pain. It hurt to sit any way shape or form. I was performing stand up dentistry most of my 1st trimister. Until I found a prenatal chiropractor, my back was saved. It’s actually common for your body to expand to make room for the baby. My body took a big beating from it. Getting regular care for your pelvis/back can help you recover from giving birth faster. Be sure to find a Webster Certified chiropractor. It’s non-invasive and safe throughout your pregnancy.

What are some tips you have?! Comment below.