I didn't bond with my baby.

Our youngest turned two last week.

There are a million things about sweet Caroline that I adore.  I love her ringlet curls, long eyelashes, inquisitive nature, free spirit, gravelly voice, and willingness to try any food put in front of her.  I love the weird habit she has of chewing the noses off of her favorite stuffed animals.  I even love that she loves to make messes.  I could go on and on.  If you know Caroline, you could, too.

I fell in love with my daughter the moment that she was born.  Not a moment before.

I didn't bond with my baby while I carried her.

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I couldn't say that out loud for a long time.  

I so wanted to feel some sort of attachment to the little wonder inside of me like my friends did with their babies.  

But I didn't.

When I found out that I was pregnant with Caroline, the feeling was euphoric.  However, my elation settled after a few days and was replaced by an underlying worry that all was not well.  Because so many things had gone awry in the previous 4+ years of infertility, I was sure that disaster would strike this baby.  Subconsciously, I distanced myself from my growing fetus in an effort to shield my heart from disappointment.

As a former gymnast and recovering calorie counter, I struggled to accept my ever-changing pregnant body.  The desire to care for my unborn child constantly grated against my fear of gaining weight.  Often, I gazed into the mirror and cried, resenting the babe who was making me "fat" (a lie straight from the devil himself).  I continued running, if you could call it that, throughout my pregnancy, but I was frustratingly slow and angry that my body could not obey my mind.

Furthermore, I never was able to reconcile how such a tiny clump of cells could cause me to be so ill that I vomited over the kitchen sink multiple times a day for 20 weeks and hated coffee and prime rib.  I knew that I should be grateful for the opportunity to carry a child, and I was, but pregnancy itself was a generally unpleasant experience.

I thought that discovering Caroline's gender and giving her a name would help me to bond with her.  

It didn't.  

I continued to see her as a miracle and a blessing, but I could not see her as the person that I knew her to be in my head ... until I could.

On August 4, 2015, at 1:38 a.m., I fell in love with the daughter who I had carried for 40 weeks.  The idea of her became a reality, and as I took in her tiny toes and full cheeks, I thought I might explode with joy.

I am a visual and auditory learner.  Much to my husband's dismay, I connect very little through physical touch.  This explains how I could feel Caroline's kicks and hiccups in my belly and simultaneously feel nothing.  It also explains my lack of enthusiasm toward breastfeeding.  (Maybe more on that another day.)  But show me my kid's face or let me hear her tiny baby noises, and I'm undone.

I'm not less of a mom because I didn't bond with my unborn baby, and you're not alone if you don't, either.  No need to fake attachment or carry guilt over a feeling that isn't there ... yet.  Love will come.  

It may just need a face.

 

Food Freedom Forever: My Whole 30 Reintroduction Experience

In March, I did my first Whole 30 and wrote about my journey here.  Today's blog is a follow-up to share the details of my post-Whole 30 diet.

Thanks to Whole 30, my skin is clear, I'm happier and more confident, my relationship with food is healthier, I'm sleeping better ... and the list of "non-scale victories" goes on.  Determined not to return to my former mediocre eating habits, I was strategic about reintroducing food groups throughout April.

The tricky part, I found, was reintroducing only one food group without inadvertently introducing another with it.  For example, reintroducing strictly dairy was a challenge because 98% of yogurts also have added sugar.  

In this post, I'll break down exactly what I did to reintroduce specific foods, how my body reacted to each (keep in mind that this part is totally individualistic), and how I'm choosing to eat now.  My hope is that these details will help someone else who is trying to figure out this slightly insane but life-changing diet.  Friends, you can totally do this, too.

Disclaimers: {I did my reintroduction on a different timeline than the Whole 30 book delineates.  I didn't feel that ten days was long enough for me to clearly discern which food had which effects on me.  You do what works for you.}

{Also, I am hypoglycemic, so my blood sugar is super sensitive.  Most people probably don't have as many blood sugar issues as I do.}

Day 1: Alcohol

How: Most alcoholic drinks have sugar in them, so don't try a fruity cocktail as your first post-Whole 30 adult beverage.  Some good options with low sugar are dry wine (Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon), extra brut champagne, or pure tequila or vodka.  You could make a sugar-free margarita with tequila, lime juice, and club soda (though I'm not sure why you'd want to because, gross).  Beer is not a great choice because most beers also contain gluten.

My reaction: Horrible.  I had one drink and my blood sugar was whacked. out.  I wanted to eat all the junk food, and I did not sleep well.  I had a slight headache in the morning, and my face broke out.  All of this makes sense, because alcohol is a toxin.

Now what? I may have a glass of cab or a regular margarita (give me the real deal, if I'm going to have one) on a rare special occasion, but the effects for me are generally not worth the momentary good vibes.  

Days 2-3: Back to Whole 30

Day 4: Legumes (minus peanuts) 

How: This one is pretty self-explanatory.  Black beans, pinto beans, hummus, lentils, black eyed peas...

My reaction: Generally fine.  I have since noticed that I am a little bloated if I eat a whole bowl of beans, for example, but I feel totally normal otherwise.

Now what? Bring on the beans (in moderation).  They help me stay full, I like them, and small amounts seem to have no effect on my body.

Days 5-6: Whole 30.  {I should note here that I moderately continued eating positively reintroduced food groups, such as legumes, on the Whole 30 days.}

Day 7: Corn

How: I separated corn from other non-gluten grains because I eat a lot of corn and wanted to see its isolated effects.  Food choices other than canned corn or corn on the cob include organic corn tortillas and tortilla chips, these breakfast corn fritters (substitute coconut flour), corn chowder, or Texas Caviar.

My reaction: Generally fine, thank goodness, because I love me some Texas Caviar and tortilla chips.  

Now what? I eat corn, on occasion.  I don't let myself have tortilla chips at home because I can chow down on so many of those guys once I open a bag.

Days 8-9: Whole 30 + legumes + corn

Day 10: Peanuts

How: Again, I separated this out from all other legumes because I'm basically obsessed with peanuts, and I (used to) eat more of them than all other legumes combined.  Food choices include dry roasted peanuts, peanut butter with no sugar added (great with apples or bananas), orange chicken, and ants on a log.

My reaction: Big bummer.  Headache, achy joints the next morning, and janky blood sugar.

Now what? PB&Js, it's been so nice knowing you.  People sometimes ask me which food group has been the most difficult to give up, and peanuts is the one.  However, there is no food that tastes better than feeling good feels.  Also, almond butter is a pretty tasty substitute.

Days 11-12: Whole 30 + legumes + corn

Day 13: Non-gluten grains

How: I chose not to reintroduce gluten at all, since I gave up gluten last November and already knew that it wrecks my skin and joints.  Good non-gluten grains include rice, quinoa, oats, gluten-free pasta, and buckwheat.

My reaction: Eh.  Nothing drastic, but I felt bloated and sickly full.  I don't love this food group enough to try to work it into my diet, so I decided to eliminate it forever.

Days 14-15: Whole 30 + legumes + corn

Day 16: Dairy

How: Minimally processed cheese, grass fed yogurt with no sugar added (very hard to find), cultured butter, cottage cheese.  I really wanted to reintroduce ice cream at this point, but ice cream is loaded with sugar, so I waited.

My reaction: Another big bummer.  My stomach hurt, and my skin broke out.

Now what? So long, brie cheese, blue cheese, all other scrumptious cheese, ice cream, and pizza.  You were a very delicious part of my life for a very long time.

Days 17-18: Whole 30 + legumes + corn

Day 19: Sugar

How: I knew that I didn't want to reintroduce refined sugar, so I stuck with foods that contained only coconut sugar, honey, agave, extra dark chocolate, and maple syrup.

My reaction: Right up there with alcohol (basically terrible).  My skin looked like a teenager's, and my blood sugar was nuts.  I could not fall asleep.

Now what? The more sugary things I eat, the more I want to eat.  Even though Paleo treats are generally healthier than regular desserts, sweet potato brownies are still brownies.  They are too much like the real thing in the sense that they awaken the Sugar Dragon that I had slain during Whole 30, but they are not enough like the real thing to make me disappointed and wanting the real thing.  This seems so crazy, but I've given up sweet treats and added sugar ... forever!  I made an exception during my birthday weekend and immediately regretted my choice.  "Desserts" now are limited to almond butter baked bananas, banana "ice cream", this hot cinnamon tea, and mug brownies.  Surprisingly, I'm 100% okay with these options, 95% of the time.

In summary, I am choosing to live a loosely Paleo lifestyle.  My one critique of a strict Paleo diet is that it eliminates some foods, such as legumes, which have nutritional value, while giving the green light to other lesser categories, such as bacon and alcohol.  "Clean eating", to me, is more balanced and attainable.  Also, there are very few restaurants that serve strictly Paleo dishes, and sometimes, I want to go on a fancy date with my picky husband or take my kids to Chick-fil-A without also taking my own salad dressing.  So sometimes, I'm not going to worry about what oil my meat was cooked in and I'm not going to be the annoying girl who asks specifics about every menu item, though, in general, I do like knowing exactly what ingredients are in my food.

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I also had to decide that I will be an "abstainer," as opposed to a "moderator".  One isn't inherently better than the other; you have to decide what works best for you.  Abstaining is all or nothing: I'm not going to have half a piece of chocolate cake; I'm just never going to have it.  This sounds restrictive to moderators who might indulge in a half (or whole!) piece every now and then, but it has been freeing for me.  I don't ever have to make decisions about what I am going to eat or not going to eat, and then I don't walk around with guilt hanging over my head when my body reacts poorly.  I really like rules, and I am great at following them.  I am not great at making decisions.  

For the larger part of my adult life, I have battled an eating disorder from time to time and have never known how "food freedom" feels ... until now.   For the first time ever, I'm not compulsively restricting calories or running to burn off whatever I just ate.  I'm putting good food into my body, and this knowledge has empowered me to enjoy what I'm eating, to love exercise for what it is, and to pursue health over a particular image.  Those are all kind of a big deal to me.  

What does "food freedom" look like for you?