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.

33

Last year I shared a list of wisdoms I’ve learned over the years on 32.

This year has been a crazy, wild ride. Between selling our beautiful home, moving during a blizzard, traveling a thousand miles to a new home in an unknown location, meeting new people, new jobs, new living situations, and growing a life.

I’m continuously grateful for how far I’ve come. I’ve shared some of my past wisdoms as well as new ones.

1- Make room in your heart for the unimaginable. Always believe in miracles.

2- Do what scares you. I say this all the time. I’ve longed to speak on a special needs platform and finally submitted a proposal on a whim. Stay tuned.

3- Don’t let the bad outweigh the good.

4- Change is good! Just look on the bright side of the future.

5- Life is really too short and precious. Never take anything for granted.

6- Take pictures. Always. Be notorious for random ones. They’re the best.

7- Never stress on the tiniest stuff. Let it go and see what kind of magic returns in its place.

8- It’s okay to have emotions and be vulnerable. Never bottle them up and always remember it’s okay to cry.

9- Stop comparing yourself to others. You are who you are and always have been. Just believe it.

10- Do take care of your mental health.

11- Date night in doesn’t have to be boring. Be creative. Order Hello Fresh in, cook it together and put on a movie while you eat.

12- Keep exploring and see what the world has to offer. While this might be on hold for a while, more research and saving for us!

13- Do check out the local restaurants. If you’re a fun foodie like me, I’m always checking out the new flavor in town! And no, fast food chains don’t count.

14- Technology is amazing. Keep in touch with your friends and family near and far. Always keep them close to your heart.

15- Do take social media breaks. In fact, take several.

16- Be passionate about something bigger than yourself. It inspires growth.

17- Know that there is always light out of the darkness. Whatever rock bottom you hit, the top is just waiting for you to shine. When the time is right.

18- I truly believe everything happens for a reason. It will always work out because it’s meant to be. When it doesn’t, know that there’s always something bigger for you, just need to close the door for the next one to open.

19- Always remind yourself how far you’ve come. Be proud of the fact that you’re taking the path that was paved for you.

20- Please floss. Daily.

21- Never let grief take over and always choose hope.

22- Let mean people be mean. Life has a way of bringing them into your life to challenge you and make you a better person out of it.

23- Always trust your dog when it doesn’t like a person. For real.

24- Kindness alway goes a long way. Treat others how you would want to be treated.

25- Don’t let your disability define who you are as a person – Even though it may seem like denying the power and overwhelming significance of the experiences in my life, you’re not insulting yourself, not weak, not asking for sympathy. You’re you. See the person first, disability second.

26- Aspire to inspire others. Whether it’s sharing your story or smiling for no reason.

27- Trust your gut.

28- Keep chasing that dream of yours and don’t be afraid to share it. Here’s mine. I always aspire to keep auditioning and one day model for Sports Illustrated. It will be on hold for quite some time. Until then, keep reaching for the stars.

29- Be picky about vibes and energy you surround yourself with. You owe yourself that much.

30- Sarcasm and cursing is always okay in my book. Keep being you.

31- Keep smiling. I mean it. It’s always a good day when you see others smile.

32- You are not required to house someone else’s feelings. Take it easy on yourself.

33- Always love and love hard.