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Published On: Fri, Aug 10th, 2012

Forty, Fabulous, and Having a baby!


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“How healthy eating keeps me feeling young”

-by Erin Macdonald, R.D.

There’s a lot that I’m proud of. I have a happy and healthy marriage of 17 years. I have four amazing boys. I am a Nutrition, Fitness, and Wellness coach who helps others achieve their health and wellness goals. I take time to exercise so I can be mentally and physically strong. I make it a priority to nourish my body with real, clean, whole foods every day. And I can honestly say that eating right allowed a miracle to happen.

When my husband and I got married 17 years ago, we knew that starting a family would be a high priority.  I got off the pill and we tried. And tried. But nothing happened. I never got a period, which means I wasn’t ovulating. We visited different doctors.  One diagnosed me with hypothyroidism and we were hopeful that getting my thyroid working properly would do the trick.  I took the prescribed thyroid medications; but still no luck!  We saw the fertility specialist and ran a bunch of tests. They found nothing remarkable to suggest why we were struggling with infertility.  So we tried Artificial Insemination. Four tries, four failures. Our next hope was In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).  Every day my husband gave me injections to make my ovaries hyper-produce eggs (I hate shots – always have, always will).  I had to have blood tests and ultrasounds to monitor my progress. On the day of the egg retrieval, I was also scheduled to have a laparoscopy so they could see if there were any cysts or other anatomical reasons that I wasn’t able to conceive naturally.  Fortunately, they found something – I had cysts weighing down both fallopian tubes, making it impossible for the egg to be picked up and transported. The doctor cut them out and I was so hopeful that if we wanted more children in the future then our problems would be over. The procedure went well and then the 2-week waiting game was on. That was the worst time ever – waiting and hoping, hoping and waiting. The day after my father’s birthday we found out – we were pregnant!  A few weeks later we found out it was twins.  Not only were we trying to digest the fact that we were finally pregnant, now we were trying to grasp the concept of twins.

It was a difficult pregnancy, marked by early contractions and bed rest, sudden-onset severe preeclampsia, and a pre-term birth.  I was glad that I had made it to 35 weeks and was able to deliver my babies. But with early delivery comes complications. Both weighed less than five pounds and one of them had to be taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for immature lung development, where he stayed for a week. Today, I am happy to say, they are both healthy, thriving boys.

When the boys were almost two, we decided to try again for another baby. Months of unprotected sex hadn’t done us any good, so we went off to the fertility doctor yet again.  This time we cut to the chase and went straight to IVF, where, on our second try, we were successful and with only one baby. Another healthy boy to add to our family. We were done.

Over the past almost 11 years since his birth I rarely got a period. I was thrilled, as this meant no ovulation and no worry about getting pregnant. I had my own built-in birth control. I actually thought I was in perimenopause because I was having occasional hot flashes, a period once or twice, and at 40, I was at the right age for this to happen. I never thought I’d get pregnant. That is until June 2010 when I didn’t feel well for more than a week. I was kind of nauseous all day long. I never got sick, but just felt horrible and tired.  And nothing I normally ate tasted good. I wanted tutti-fruti jelly bellies and cinnamon graham crackers all day long. Not my normal clean, real, whole foods. My girlfriends joked, “Maybe you’re pregnant?” and then we’d laugh and laugh, knowing my history and how slim of a chance that would be.  After 10 days of feeling horrible, I drove over to the pharmacy and bought the cheapest pregnancy test I could find.  I brought it home and took it the next morning.  After a two-minute wait, imagine my surprise when it came back positive! I just laughed and felt my heart start to pound. I slowly walked downstairs where my husband was cooking breakfast for the kids and placed the test in front of him. We just looked at each other and laughed and cried in a state of utter disbelief. I went to the doctor that day who confirmed the pregnancy with another test and an ultrasound that showed a heartbeat. I was still in a state of shock.

I had a great pregnancy and I credit it to my commitment to healthy eating and regular exercise. Once the nausea of the first trimester was over, I was full of energy. I exercised every day, riding the elliptical machine or the stationary bike, lifting weights, and doing lots of core work. I made sure not to let my heart rate get too high or to over-exert myself.  I continued to eat a healthy diet, focusing primarily on fresh fruits and vegetables, oatmeal, and lean protein, like fish (wild Alaskan salmon, black cod, and trout), beans, tofu, egg whites, and cottage cheese. I even went on a guacamole (homemade) and hummus kick early on in the pregnancy. At least I was getting my good fats!

In addition to eating such clean foods during my pregnancy, I was blessed that I didn’t crave any junk foods.  No cookies, cakes, brownies, chips, pizza, or soda. When I wanted something sweet, I stuck to probiotic-rich frozen yogurt and dark chocolate.  My fluids of choice were caffeine-free green tea, herbal tea, and filtered water. And twice a day I took my supplements – in the morning I took my prenatal multivitamin, fish oil, Co Q10,  B-complex,  vitamin C,  probiotics, vitamin D3,  and at night I took my calcium and magnesium.  It sounds like a lot, but many of these supplements are necessary as it’s difficult to get enough of these from just food.

On January 25, 2011, at 38 ½ weeks, I delivered yet another bouncing baby boy! Labor was quick (5 hours) and after three sets of pushes, we welcomed baby Jax into the world. I’m sure that my easy labor and delivery was due to the fact that I worked out until four days before he was born and had such a strong core.


BODY AFTER BABY

One thing that I hear from so many of my female clients is their struggle with regaining their pre-baby body. It can be difficult but it’s not impossible. A continued commitment to clean eating and exercise is paramount to success. Yes, the body is exhausted after delivery; it’s not ready to resume the kind of exercising you did before you got pregnant. But between doing nothing and going full force, there’s a whole lot of middle ground to take advantage of to allow your body to get back in shape.

At three weeks after delivery, I put the baby in the baby jogger and took him for a 20 minute walk. The fresh air did us both some good.  The next day, we did it again.  As I regained my strength our walks lasted longer. I listened to my body and pushed it when it told me it was ready to be pushed. Next I incorporated some running on my treadmill into the mix.  Everything felt good. I took advantage of when the baby slept and used some of that time to exercise. The baby weight melted off and I was back in my favorite pair of jeans.

It’s not always easy fitting in a workout. With three older kids and a baby, there’s still carpool that needs to be driven, errands that need to be run, and meals that need to be cooked. But I have found that multitasking is the key to getting as much done as possible. The baby and I might walk into town to go to the bank, post office, or to pick up a prescription – four miles round trip. Or when the baby is napping, I prep two to three different meals that can be used throughout the week. Then, come dinnertime, it’s just reheat and serve. It’s important to me that my family and I eat fresh, clean meals so that we can all achieve our health and wellness goals.

THE POWER OF GOOD NUTRITION!

I truly believe that my ability to get pregnant at forty after struggling with years of infertility, my healthy pregnancy, easy delivery, and ability to quickly get my pre-baby body back, are all due to the power of eating clean, real, whole foods and getting regular exercise. It’s not hard to do.  Sure, I might have an advantage as a  Nutrition, Fitness, and Wellness Coach, but it’s something that anyone can do.  It’s my privilege to help others achieve their health and wellness goals so they can live a happy and healthy life.

Jackson Samuel Macdonald, born 1/25/11, 7 lbs. 13 oz.

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