15 First trimester must-haves

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Now that I have some quality hindsight on my first trimester of pregnancy, (which for me, was riddled with motion sickness, fatigue, and migraines)… I want to share my ultimate survival items for the first 12 weeks.

These are the things that got me through the tough times, things I couldn’t live without. They saved my ass, they saved my sanity, they made the dark days brighter. I hope they bring you comfort, too!
first trimester must-haves

Sea-Band Wristbands: I had about 6 weeks of general nausea early on in my pregnancy, but worse was the motion sickness that started at 3 weeks! Whether I was the passenger in a car, or just scrolling through facebook – I was miserably queasy. But it was made much more bearable once I got a pair of Sea-Bands acupressure bracelets. They apply consistent pressure to localized points in your wrists that help abate nausea – whether from motion sickness, morning sickness, chemo side effects, and other causes. It’s great drug-free relief from queasiness, whether you suffer only in the morning hours or all day, every day.

Prenatal Vitamins: There are a bazilliony choices on the market for pre-natals, and everyone has their own favorite… but after substantial research, I found that I could just keep taking my regular daily vitamin, Optimum Nutrition Opti-Women Women’s Multivitamin and then supplement it with a solid DHA pill like this one from Nordic Naturals, which afforded me the best ratios of the vitamins I needed for pregnancy. With the bonus that they weren’t giant horse pills, which I loathe.

Instacart: For me, the first trimester fatigue was crippling. I’ve had mono before, and wasn’t even this tired! Combined with the 6 weeks of nausea and motion sickness, and then the migraines that replaced my nausea… there were days on end that I literally could not fathom leaving the couch, much less the house. Instacart’s on-demand grocery delivery service saved my ass more times than I can count. For just a few dollars per order, their friendly “shoppers” will pick up everything you need from your local market of choice (everything from premium grocers like Whole Foods, to Costco, and everything in between) and deliver it to your home within 2 hours flat. Your first order includes free delivery, and if you sign up through my link, we both get $10 credit to use! I can definitely see Instacart coming in very handy once the baby comes, too, in the early days where I’m too tired or overwhelmed to get us both to the grocery. It’s a brilliant service and I’ve had nothing but great experiences using it!

Leachco Snoogle Total Body Pillow: Even before your belly pops, your body is going through some serious adjustments as your baby begins to grow, and finding comfortable positions for sleeping gets increasingly challenging, early. Plus, you’ll want training for side-sleeping because shortly after your first trimester ends, sleeping on your back is not recommended. The Snoogle will seem absurd when you unpackage it, but once you discover it’s myriad position options and snugggle into it for the night, you’ll be sold. My only beef with the Snoogle is that I found the default cover it comes with to be a bit scratchy and a huge hassle to remove for washing, so I give bonus points to the Snoogle Chic Jersey Replacement Pillow Case which is easily removable for washing and as soft as your favorite t-shirt.

Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Stretch Mark Cream: The only protection us women have against stretchmarks is prevention. Genetics play a large part, and given my family history, I know the odds are stacked against me. So I moisturized early and often with various stretch mark creams – and Palmer’s is a fave. It’s natural, it smells great, and it’s super affordable. And, it seems to work. Knock on wood, 23 weeks and no stretch marks yet!

Corded Digital Cooking Thermometer: If you’re a bath person, the tub can be a sweet retreat throughout your pregnancy. But for safety’s sake, you must keep the temperature at or below your body temperature – you don’t want to boil that baby! A corded digital thermometer like mine, by Polder, is a great way to monitor the temperature and have the peace of mind necessary to allow that bath to be truly relaxing.

Epsom Salt: Speaking of baths, throwing in a couple cups of Epsom Salts is a wonderful, inexpensive treat. It helps soothe aches and pains as your body grows and joints shift. It soothes nausea. It softens skin. It helps soothe and heal hemorrhoids (oh honey, that shit is real). I truly can’t imagine where I’d be without my salts!

Rice Paper Blotting Tissues: At about 8 weeks, my skin turned into a straight-up oil slick y’all. It was so greasy, all the time. I always had combination-to-dry skin, and this was unknown territory for me. But blotting papers saved the day. They gently remove oil without adding product build-up, and have a plain side or powdered side in case you need extra mattifying power. Thankfully, the grease blast only lasted about 6 weeks before clearing up, but I still use the blotting papers for maintenance, as needed.

Ingrid & Isabel Bellaband: Ah, the ubiquitous Bellaband. A mainstay on everyone’s pregnancy survival lists. In early pregnancy, they work as elastic safety-nets, holding up your unbuttoned pants so you can wear them longer before having to shell out the dough for new maternity wear. Later in pregnancy, they’ll provide support and coverage to your belly as it grows, acting as a sort of belly-bra and providing modesty as your shirts begin riding further up your tummy. Truth be told, the way I bloated in early days made even my unbuttoned pants too tight, so I didn’t get much use from my Bellabands then. But as I near the 3rd trimester, I can see how they’ll become more useful very soon.

Long & Lean Tank Tops: Oh Target, how I love thee. I’ve lived in these tanks through my whole pregnancy. They’re exceedingly comfortable, and stretch comfortably around my expanding belly. Their the perfect under-layer as your temperature varies greatly from moment-to-moment, thanks to your hormones running wild. My first trimester uniform consisted of these tanks, with yoga pants and a flowy cardigan cover. Now, through my second trimester, they’ve served as the perfect pajama top. The dark colors are quite slimming, and I’ve washed them a billion times to find they last forever. And they’re CHEAP! Just fantastic.

Cardigans: The perfect overlayer for the tanks described above, and a comfortable, effective way to mask a growing belly before you’re ready to make your pregnancy public.

Yoga Pants: Invest in a high quality pair of yoga pants and they might be the only pants you wear your whole first trimester. My Lululemons were just that. T’was a sad day when I finally outgrew them, but I know they’ll come in wonderfully handy in postpartum days as well.

KLOUD City 17 pcs Assorted Colors Bra Extender Strap: The first hint that I was knocked up came in the form of major bewbage. My funbags grew quite considerably in the early days of my pregnancy, and while my bra cups could handle the overflow, my bra strap started cutting into my back quite quickly. This 17-pack of multi-colored bra extenders work with all my bras, and add a few inches of relief as easy as pie, for a fraction of the price of a new bra.

Acupuncture: Getting needled in the first trimester can help alleviate a lot of those pesky new symptoms that are popping up every day. They helped me deal with my nausea and headaches, and generally helped calm me down and relax – which is definitely a good thing for baby! Acupuncture can even help regulate your hormones to keep your emotional roller coaster to more of a smooth ride. Make sure your professional has experience with acupuncture for pregnancy, because like exercise, the approach must be modified to best protect you while you’re being treated. If you’re in the LA-area, I can’t recommend Laurie Binder highly enough.

Variety in the kitchen: Early pregnancy can truly test your relationship with food. From aversions to cravings, it’s hard to know from one minute to the next, what will sound good or what will make your stomach turn. Our best defense was to have a super-stocked fridge and pantry, with a little of everything I might possibly want. That way, when a strange craving for fresh carrots and celery hit me mid-day, I was prepared. And the same for a late-night jello craving. It’s worth the splurge to make sure you’re prepared, and avoid hunger meltdowns when you inevitably “don’t know what you want, but you know what you don’t want… and you have nothing you don’t want in the house!” (Cuz that’s a real thing, friends. And it ain’t pretty.)

WHEW. That was far from exhaustive, but a pretty good round-up of the items and services which brought me the most comfort and relief during that first 12 weeks. Your body is going through a LOT during this time, sister. So beyond these things, my best advice is to take it easy on yourself. If you need to nap, do it. If you need to eat, do it. If you can only stomach saltines and chocolate milk, lean into that. You can make up the rest later. Do what you need to in order to get through and keep yourself calm and comfortable. Your baby and your body will thank you!


Supplementally Speaking…

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For most of my life, you couldn’t pay me to take vitamins on a regular basis. My aversion to their size and taste had me reaching for Flintstone’s chewables or Emergen-C in the rare instances that I actually would cave in and allow them past my lips. And oh, how times have changed.

In the past year, I’ve made my health much more of a priority… partly because I know I’m headed toward motherhood, partly because my adulthood has been wrought with unfriendly wake up calls about my health and habits, and partly because I met Paul – who already had a strong vitamin routine of his own and could help educate me about what I might consider taking.

My supplemental needs break down into a few categories:

1. To offset our insane dining habits (aka we eat way too much, y’all), Paul and I have an equally insane workout schedule, that keeps us strong underneath the extra cushion that our many meals have provided. So, supplements to support my metabolism, my endurance in my workouts, and the strain they put on my muscles, was definitely an essential.

2. My immune system is… unreliable, at best. It has a mind of it’s own, but I’d like to “brainwash” it and bend it to my will. So, strengthening immunity was definitely a must.

3. Balance. My system had none. I needed lots. Supplementing my diet and hormonal structure provides balance, and I likes it. Also, my mental health is rickety at times, and while I’m on an anti-depressant to manage my illness, supplementing with natural boosters can only help keep my blues at bay.

4. Vanity. I’m getting older every day. Anything that can help my skin and hair stay youthful, I want. I especially want things that will not just help me stay youthful, but even improve the situation. Vitamins can do that, yo. SCIENCE!

5. Fertility. I need all the help I can get in strengthening my reserves in the ladybits department, so I’m taking anything I can to support my hormones and fertility through supplements and diet. My future babies will thank me, I’m sure.

Now, witness the daily insanity!

Daily Supplements copy

Aooooga, am I right? Dudes, I know this looks excessive. But taking them has left me stronger, healthier, more consistently energized, and vibrant than I ever was before I made them part of my daily routine. It takes some time (around 21 days) of regular use for your system to adjust to any new supplement, so don’t expect immediate results. But, they’ve changed my quality of life for the better, so I wanted to share them here.

Now, here’s what they are, and why I take them:

Optimum Nutrition Opti-Women Women’s Multivitamin
Just your every day multi for us ladies. I love Optimum Nutrition, because they come in tidy capsules that are pleasantly sized, easy to swallow, and don’t have the vile vitamin-y smell or taste that have kept me away from most multi-vitamins until now.

Turmeric w/ Bioperine
Turmeric is credited with helping prevent cancer, improve digestion, boost immunity, among other things. But it’s most notably known as a powerful natural anti-inflammatory, which is my primary reason for taking it. And it works! I no longer require prescription-strength Aleve to manage my arthritis pain! I never thought that would be possible. It’s kind of a miracle drug.

Nutrigold CoQ10
This is an enyzme that supports heart function and promotes energy production in cells. It is also said to boost energy and speed recovery from exercise, improve gum health, and have anti-aging properties. All good things, yes?

Natrol DHEA 25mg
DHEA is a naturally occurring hormone that the female body converts into androgens (mainly testosterone). I take it because science suggests that it can be very beneficial for women with low ovarian reserves and increase the likelihood of pregnancy through IVF. Yes please!

Viviscal Extra Strength Hair Renewal System
I met the Viviscal folks at Blogher last year, and was thrilled when they offered me a six-month trial. It features a deep sea vitamin complex that helps nourish thinning hair and promotes existing hair growth, resulting in thicker, fuller hair. Paul and I been taking it for 3 months now and can absolutely tell a difference. I have tons of new hair growth and more volume than ever, and Paul’s hair is noticeable thicker too. I’ve always struggled with my fine hair, and I’m so thrilled to have found something natural that helps! It’s brilliant.

Macro Greens Nutrient-Rich Super Food Supplement
Paul and I start every day with a protein shake containing the next 3 products. The Macro Greens contain 38 nutrient-rich superfoods and 18 billion probiotics, along with some herbal anti-oxidants. It supports immunity, provides part of our daily servings of fruits/veggies, and fills our bodies with lots of good stuff in one little scoopful. And it doesn’t taste bad, either! Especially when mixed with…

Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey Gold Standard Natural Whey (Chocolate)
Now, I’ve always given protein powders the side-eye because they’re often so gritty or thick I can’t stand the texture. This one dissolves beautifully without barely augmenting the texture of the water you blend it with, and has a really nice, light, clean chocolate flavor that reminds me of old school Carnation Instant Breakfast. (Does anyone remember that stuff?) It has no artificial colors, sweeteners, or flavors, either, which I love.

Miracle Reds Nutrient-Rich Super Food Supplement
This tasty powder features 19 anti-oxidant rich fruits and berries, and a ton of plant sterols, which help keep cholesterol low. It boosts immunity, combats aging, and is a great workout recovery complex. Together with the greens and protein powder, it lends a slightly fruity flavor to the shake, which is super yummy.

20oz Sundesa Blender Bottle
These little babies are what we use to mix up our morning shakes. Super easy to use, easy to wash, and inexpensive. I love ’em.

Natrol Melatonin
Melatonin is a naturally-occurring that helps regulate your sleeping and waking hours. Taking it as a supplement helps me get to sleep, when my mind is churning. Fair warning: it can cause super vivid dreams if taken in too high a dosage, so if you try it, stick to 2mg each night and no more. I learned that the hard way!

Optimum Nutrition ZMA
Zinc, Magnesium, and B6, in the right dosage, are shown to increase speed of muscle recovery, as well as boost their growth, in people who are athletic or who do weight training. It’s also shown to increase the quality of REM sleep, so I take it at night to help my body recover from the day’s workout and help me sleep a little deeper.

WHEW! That’s a LOT right?

And that doesn’t even take into account the foods I’ve also incorporated into my daily diet, or the herbs my acupuncturist recommends!

Do you have a supplement regimen? Or am I alone in my crazy, pill-filled world?


Splurging on skincare, saving face.

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Early into our courtship, Paul took me to the fabulous Hotel del Coronado for a long weekend, and treated me to an afternoon in their spa, which included a luxurious professional facial. Up to that point, my skincare routine consisted of using my body wash as face wash, and slathering on some coconut oil as moisturizer. It wasn’t very, shall we say, refined. *cut to me lackadaisically washing my face with (gasp) body wash in the shower*

And being in my mid-thirties, it isn’t such a bad idea to get with the program and start treating my face with a little more respect than that. I’ve been pretty lucky, in that (so far) I’ve managed to stay fairly wrinkle-and-acne free. My biggest problems tend to be an oily T-zone, and sporadic deep zits along my jaw line. So, the nice lady who gave me the facial of a lifetime recommended some products, and I bit the bullet to splurge a bit on keeping my face more clean, balanced, and healthy.

Skincare splurges

Eminence Organics is a phenomenal brand. They are, as implied by their name, organic as all get out. No creepy additives, no testing on animals, all handmade and natural goodness that makes me feel safe and responsible. Their probiotic line offers the same thing to my skin that yogurt does for my belly. It keeps the healthy bacteria in good balance, so they can fight off the nasty bacteria more efficiently. The lactic acid helps provide gentle exfoliation, and a host of vitamins, active ingredients and nutrients generally calm and nourish my skin. It’s not too drying, which is nice since I do have combination skin and sometimes my cheeks are on the drier side. And it smells nice, too.

I follow the cleanser with the moisturizer in the mornings, which I mix with my tinted moisturizer that serves as my foundation. In the evenings, I follow the cleanser with a 10% glycolic lotion from Epicuren, which uses Alpha Hydroxy Acids to exfoliate and bolster support of collagen and elastin, while clearing pores and battling wrinkles, spots and scars. This one is a bit more aggressive in the anti-aging part of my routine, and I love the tingle that I feel when I lay it on. Epicuren is another lovely, natural and healthy line of skincare products that I feel safe using.

Once a week or so, I slather on the Eminence probiotic masque between my evening wash and glycolic lotion. It boosts my routine with extra exfoliation, moisturization and nourishment. Paul has periodically noticed on days that I use it, claiming my skin looks brighter and healthier. Then he kisses me all over. BONUS.

I definitely feel as though my skin is better off for having this routine, and it makes me feel like I’ve made more informed choices about what’s healthy for my skin. I’ve noticed that my oily/dry spots seem more balanced, and there’s more overall vitality to my skin. Buying so many specialized products felt like a huge splurge, but honestly, I’ve been rocking the same pump of cleanser, glycolic lotion, and tub of masque since April, and I’ve only had to reorder the moisturizer once since then. This stuff packs a lot of bang for it’s buck, and lasts a long-ass time. Worth every damn penny.

What are your favorite skin care products?


My Pits Don’t Stink: Homemade Natural Deodorant

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“Oooh, that smell! Can’t you smell that smell?” Listen closely, chickens. I’m about to let you in on what has been a life-changing recipe for me. See, my quest for the perfect deodorant ain’t because I’m scared of my own smell, or even, that someone else might find themselves in the wake of it. Oh no no no, friends, it is that “deodorant” smell that is just as sure a giveaway of a sweaty lady as her own B.O. might be. That awful, damnable powdery smell… or that floral whiff that is forever in contest with your chosen eau de toilette. Whenever I smell it on myself, or another girl, I cringe. Almost all the scents available in commercial deodorant fall into the “I would never choose that” category, the same way 90% of the perfumes at a department store counter do. There was one exception, when Secret briefly offered a “vanilla chai” scented stick, but it was discontinued, and I cursed the heavens for a long time to follow.

And on the other hand, in recent years, there’s been more and more noise about the potential dangers of aluminum, which is present in all antiperspirants, and their rumored cancer-causing properties. There’s the problem of other additives that may not be doing our skin or our health a service, but are convenient, inexpensive fillers for “big B.O.” to use in their products. And the older I get, the more I realize that knowing what I’m putting in or on my body matters to me. I’ve got far too many mysterious, incurable maladies – and the more I learn, the more it would appear that “cleaner living” can benefit our health at all levels.

So, when I learned that it was exquisitely simple to DIY my own deo with only 3 all-natural ingredients that I probably already had in my kitchen, and control the scent, I jumped at the chance to try. After all, I already exclusively use whipped coconut oil as a body lotion, and love it, so why not add 2 ingredients and call it deodorant?

DIY Natural deodorant

It’s that simple, folks. Mix together the ccoconut oil, baking soda, and your choice of cornstarch or arrowroot. Hit it with a hand blender, if you want to ensure a lumpless, fluffy cream, and slap it in a mason jar. If you have an old jelly jar, or spaghetti sauce jar, use that. By all means, recycle. Note: I definitely prefer the texture of the cream made with arrowroot, as opposed to the cornstarch. I find it is a softer touch, and emulsifies better into the oil. But, I recommend you experiment with both, and figure out which suits your taste better.

In this state, it has, and will impart to your pits, a very light coconutty smell. One which will not interfere with your perfume of choice. Nay, in my opinion, it will only enrich any scent it comes into contact with, like umami does for savory foods. But, if coconut just ain’t your jam, you can experiment with whatever essential oil(s) floats your particular boat.

To use it, just dip your finger in the salve, grab a dollop about the size of a dime, and slather it on your skin. But, in my opinion, there are a couple key tips that can improve your experience getting used to this switch, and they are thus:

1. If you can, do a 3-day “detox” before starting on your natural deodorant regimen. Simply trade out your deo for a few drops of Tea Tree Oil for 3 full days. If you can’t, don’t sweat it (ha!), but if you can, it’s a nice way to sort of “cleanse your palate” from commercial, inorganic ingredients it’s been force-fed for who knows how many years.

2. If you’re of a more sensitive nature, you may wish to start slow. For some, putting this on immediately after shaving can cause a little irritation, due to the somewhat abrasive texture from the powders in the cream. I’ve also heard rumors of break-outs from applying it to skin just after shaving. So, wait a bit before putting it on. Maybe shave the night before. As time goes on, you’ll acclimate, and it will cease to be a problem. And the bonus is, if you ever suffered from over-pigmentation in your pits, this can actually help fade that, over time!

3. If you can, reapply once, mid-day, for maximum potency. As this isn’t an antiperspirant, you’ll still be sweating, and you’ll want adequate coverage. BUT, the good news is that, once you’re allowed to perspire freely, no longer confined by the chemicals of commercial products, and your body acclimates to this freedom, you’ll find that – over time – you actually sweat LESS. And when you do sweat, it’s much less likely to have as much of a funk as it used to. And that, my friends, is like an alchemical miracle. It’s like how they say your lips can become addicted to balm, because they “forget” how to moisturize themselves. The same appears to be true of armpits, kind of. So by lacquering ourselves in chemically-derived antiperspirants, we’re actually teaching our bodies to fight harder to produce sweat. How crazy is that?

So, sure, it might take a bit of dedication to acclimate your body to a new means of odor control, but not only is it safer, more natural, and infinitely cheaper (at pennies per jar versus several dollars per stick), but it’s absolutely worth it for all the same reasons. I can safely say that I’ll never go back. And if you’re a friend of mine, don’t be surprised when I gift you a small jar for yourself, and try to convert you. ‘Cuz I’m preaching the gospel of DIY deodorant to anyone and everyone who will listen!

What do you think… would you give it a shot? If you do, come back and let me know how it works for ya!