Friday, 28 August 2015

Sad News

I went for a regularly scheduled ultrasound today and was told there was no heart beat. 

There were no signs or symptoms that something was wrong. And I was completely blindsided.

I am scheduled for a D&C Monday. And I am completely heart broken.

1 and 5 pregnancies result in miscarriage, so I know I am not alone. 

But I have spent much of the past 4 year picking myself back up again, so I truly believed that this would be a struggle for someone else. I thought I was done fighting for a little while, and that I was just meant to experience this for what it was - pure joy.

So here I sit, feeling completely ridiculous as the universe knocks me down again. And I feel stupid for allowing myself to embrace this excitement and share my news so freely. I should have known better - that is not how my life works. It is rarely easy or straight forward.

Today I am tired. I am tired of being the girl with tragic news that perseveres. I am tired of being "the one" that these things always seem to happen to. I am tired of struggling while everyone seems to be thriving. Today I am just tired and I don't want to fight anymore.

I will pick myself back up again, but today I need a break. So things will be quiet around here for a little while.

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Let's Talk About Breastfeeding

I recently shared this article - "Here's What's Wrong with National Breastfeeding Month"- on Facebook and it created quite a dialogue. Not so surprising, since I am learning Breastfeeding or Not tends to elicit quite a passionate response. This has prompted me to write a more detailed post for the blog to share my personal experience with this debate.

Now if you are thinking this is odd topic for a girl who has had a double mastectomy - then I couldn't agree more.

But I have been stunned by the number of people who still what to discuss breastfeeding with me, despite the fact that I have no breasts. Literally.

I have found myself feeling shocked as I try to patiently explain the realities of my circumstances.

But realistically the fact is, I shouldn't have to.

There is no doubt breast is best. And I admire the women who are able to do it - it is a beautiful thing. For the record I actually enjoyed all the Breastfeeding Posts that have been filling up my instagram feed for the last month.

But for a lot of women breastfeeding isn't an option. Some because they share similar circumstances to myself. Others because the demands of work means it's not possible to maintain the necessary schedule. Other still because they simply struggle to produce enough milk or to get their babies to latch. And some simply because for their own sanity, formula is a better option. Whatever the reason - consider this your PSA that it ALL Okay.

Unfortunately with motherhood comes a lot of judgment. So today I am sharing my reality, in hopes that it may help provide a new perspective. Give you some food for thought and change the conversation.

I realize to look at me, it may appear like I have a normal chest, I assure you I do not. The breasts that were once there were removed (nipples and all). The surgeons left enough skin to cover my chest muscles and close the incision leaving two 4 inch scars that run across the middle of my chest. I have 2 implants underneath the muscle that gives me the illusion of a normal breasts - but that is all it is - an illusion. (for more information about the procedure click here) Everything that makes a breast a breast is gone.

I made the decision to have a double mastectomy at 26 before I had children consciously. If you carry the BRCA gene pregnancy actually increases your risk of developing cancer, unlike the rest of population. The huge spikes in hormones you experience over those 9 months can encourage abnormal cell growth and many BRCA+ women find out they have cancer while pregnant or soon after.

This wasn't something I wanted. My 20s were a shit storm. And I wanted to be able to freely enjoy motherhood.

Early on in my diagnosis and screening process I remember walking past the chemo therapy section in the breast ward at Princess Margaret. Right next door was a daycare/nursery and my decision became even clearer. I would act preventatively and that would not be my experience.

And looking back now, knowing what recovery truly looked like for me. I continue to be grateful for the option to act early.

I do not often speak about the recovery process, and I have never written about it in its entirety since it was an on-going experience. But now I can say that I spent 12 full weeks recovering and in a lot of pain. I couldn't lie down for 10 weeks. The pressure of gravity was too much. I slept in the living room sitting up on the couch for almost 3 months. And I struggled to do even the most basic of tasks - walking the dog, washing dishes, driving. And then I spent the next two years dealing with subsequent complications of this surgery in conjunction with my pacemaker/defibrillator. In less than 3 years I have had 4 surgeries. And I am just now in a place when I am regaining strength in my upper body and healing properly.

Imagine having a baby throughout all of that. Imagine not being able to lift your child. Imagine not being able to do the things a mother does every single day for her child.

It was an incredibly difficult experience, and one that would have only been that much more stressful if I was also trying to parent at the same time.

So I made my decision, and I am grateful for it.

Early on in my decision making process I asked about Breast Milk Banks. Would I have an option to provide breast milk to my child? At this point, there are no regulated options in Ontario.

I have heard of Mommy Groups who will provide milk for mothers need it. Some people have sent emails chains to friends/their community with a call to action and have experienced great success. But none of these options are regulated, so there is no guarantee about the quality of milk you are provided. And it is not something I am personally comfortable with (unless it becomes necessary for medical reasons re: allergies).

I have chosen formula.

It's not a decision I made lightly. I have explored other alternatives. But formula is what I feel works best for me and my baby.

My point is simply that everyone's circumstances are different. Everyone has their own struggle and their own story. Different things work for different people. Every mother is doing the best they can with what they have. Let's support each other. Simply being a women in this world is hard enough, so as a community our goal should always be to encourage one another. We should cheer each other on, because after all as women - We Get It.

Instead of beginning with judgment, let's come from a place of compassion.

The goal should always be Happy Healthy Mamas creating Happy Healthy Babies - whatever that ends up looking like. For some that will be breastfeeding for 17 months. For others it will be formula from the start. For others still it will be mix and match of both. At the end of the day we are all just doing the best we can!

So high-five to all your amazing women out there! I think we are all pretty awesome!

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

I get it. Waiting for Baby.

I shared my pregnancy news last week. And while I must confess it has felt good to finally be able to share something immensely positive with people. I want you to know, that I get it.

I get the other side of those excited and glowing pregnancy announcements

I wrote about the pressure and expectations I experienced here almost 2 years ago.

As women, babies and pregnancy are often the elephant in the room. And the pressure I have personally experienced to have children and then to justify my decision to wait is something that I have definitely struggled with.

My husband and I married young, but neither of us were in any great rush to have children.

Kids are great and we excited for this next part of our journey. But let's be honest and admit that they change things. Your time is no longer just your time. Your priorities change. Life is undoubtedly different.

There is part of me that will miss the simple routine I have with my husband. I definitely spent extra time this year savoring our long runs together. Embracing those quiet moments when we could just sleep in and binge watch Game of Thrones. I know that a little one changes all of that. So the last 7 years of just us two were something I cherished.

We were conscious of all of this. And we made different choices.
I went back to school. We traveled. We trained for races. I navigated my many medical misadventures. We both worked on our careers.

And despite it all, I was still asked about kids often.
Typically at least once a week. Sometimes as often as once a day.

I took it with a grain of salt - most of the time.

People knew we wanted kids... eventually. People just wanted something nice for us. There were those innocent questions about our plans and those not-so-subtle hints about the length of time that we had been married. But always, I felt a certain amount of pressure.

I tried to be candid. I tried to be honest. But often my honesty only led to more invasive questions. Were there problems in my marriage? Was I having fertility problems? All things deeply personal, suddenly seemed perfectly acceptable when we were talking about children. When and how I was going to use my uterus was for some reason everyone else's business.

Kids were something we wanted. But there was a lot going on and we weren't ready.

I also worried about my ability to have children. I drew the short end of the stick genetically, so I wasn't convinced that getting pregnant would be so easy. And as we got ready to begin trying, my anxiety surrounding these questions and this pressure increased exponentially.

Each pregnancy announcement, baby shower, first birthday party became a reminder that we weren't there yet.

You are always excited to celebrate those milestones with the people in your life. But there is the other side that tugs on your heart strings.

So I want you to know that I get it.

The pressure is real and hard to ignore. But it is okay to just do what is right for you.

Maybe you want to wait like me. Maybe you haven't found that person you want to start a family with. Maybe fertility is something you are struggling with. Maybe you don't want kids at all.

Whatever the circumstance and whatever your decision, just remember it is YOURS to make. And yours alone.

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Hoping for Defiance

I am a self-described genetic hot mess.

And now with a little one on the way, I have been thinking a lot about the genes and traits I will be likely to pass on. And admittedly, I am praying that our little one gets the lion share of their genetics from my husband.

I realize you don't really get to pick. But if I did, I would probably ask that they get my eyes, my skin tone, and my Defiant Attitude.

I can already hear my mother laughing as she reads this.

She has long described me as a "willful child". I was stubborn right from the start. I had opinions about when, where, and if I should do something. I was that kid.

I was the kid that had million questions about just about everything. I was that kid that was passionately writing letters to the government when they tried to close our local hospital. I was the kid asking my Sunday School teacher why we should believe that our religion is any better than anyone else's or how we could even know we had it right in the first place. I was the kid who stuck her finger in the electrical socket, because even though my mother told me not to do it, she did not explain WHY I should not do it. Yes, I was that kid.

I wasn't a bad kid. I always tried to listen and to behave. In fact I would say I probably listened better than most, but just because you said it out loud doesn't necessarily make it right. And I didn't often accept things at face value.

And while I know there were moments that my mother wishes I could have been a more obedient and docile child - that defiant attitude has served me well over the years.

The defiance that probably drove my mom to the brink, is the same defiance that has helped shape me into the person I am today.

That defiant attitude led to an independent spirit and eventually to a resilient soul

The last few years have not exactly been easy. In fact, I would go so far as to say, there have been a lot of moments that have been down right hard. But that defiant streak has always been strong.

So for each moment that could have swallowed me up, there was always a little voice in the back of head whispering "you are stronger than this", "you will get through this", and "you will be better for it".

Being defiant has meant that while the past few years have changed me, I have not allowed them to define me. And while life has certainly been full of challenges - there is very little about it that I would actually change. Those experiences have built strength and given me courage. They have taught me gratitude. I have gained perspective. I have learned self-acceptance. And I embrace life in a completely different way because of it all.

I cannot predict what kind of adventure our little one will face in the coming years. But I do hope that no matter what - they face the world with a healthy dose of defiance.

So remember little one...

Life is complicated.
Ask questions.
Think critically.
Challenge yourself and others (even is the other is me).
Believe in yourself.
Only amazing things will happen when you do.

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Darwinian Success Due March 2016

Friends, I must confess, I have been keeping a secret the past few months.

We are expecting our own little Darwinian Success in March 2016.

It is surreal for me to sit here and write this. For those of you who have been following along with me for the past few years, you know that I have not exactly always had an abundance of good news to share with you. So much of this year has already been blessed beyond measure. And this, this something we have wanted for a long time, but have simply been waiting for the right moment. Excited is an understatement. It has been very difficult to keep it a secret this long.

Pregnancy and Babies have been something I have wondered about since I was originally diagnosed with my Heart Condition over 13 years ago. And I promised myself that I would share this part of my journey for all those other Darwinian Fail's out there worrying and wondering about pregnancy and motherhood.

I know genetically speaking I am a Hot Mess. But apparently these genes are not so bad after all because Mother Nature feels they are worthy of being passed on.

I am currently 11 weeks pregnant.

How Did You Feel during the First Trimester? What types of symptoms have you experienced?

It was shockingly uneventful.

I was sure that I would struggle with morning sickness given my long standing issues with acid reflux and regular tummy troubles. But I have been lucky, and have felt really good. I have had some waves of nausea during weeks 7-9 if I went too long without food or if I was starting to feel worn down. But that is as bad as it's been.

I do however feel like I had a mild form of narcolepsy. As soon as I would sit down I would fall asleep. It was kind of embarrassing. Especially for someone that typically has a lot of energy and is usually really busy, I felt completely exhausted after doing even the most basic of tasks. I fell asleep in front of the TV every night. And I have been going to bed at ridiculous times - like 8:30pm on a semi regular basis. That seems to have a calmed down over the last few weeks though, and my energy is coming back.

I also have the skin of a pre-teen. Except even as I pre-teen I didn't have this problem. So this has been a shocking a distressing side effect.

Have you had any Food Cravings?

Not really. But I have been craving more sugar than usual. I am not typically a sweets person, but lately I have really been enjoying Jujubes and Doughnuts. I am not convinced that's a craving though, since Jujubes and Doughnuts are just good!

But I have had a slight aversion to coffee. Which is shocking for this regular coffee guzzler. I can usually drink about half of 1 small cup. But even that is often a struggle.

What does this mean for you from a Medical Standpoint?

I have been talking with my doctors about this for the last 3 years. What should I expect? When is a good time? So after my last surgery in November and our move in January, we knew that if everything was going well health-wise this year would be the year.

Having Long QT and a Pacemaker/defibrillator means that my pregnancy is considered High Risk. My cardio team have referred me to the Special Pregnancy unit at Mount Sinai. And I will be followed there for all of my prenatal and post-natal care.

It also likely means that I will be having a scheduled C-section.

My medical history is complicated and labor and delivery can be unpredictable, so we are just going to do what helps eliminate a lot of the unknowns. A pre-planned C-section means that the medical team involved is well informed of my medical considerations and is prepared for the type of specialized care I may require.

I have no strong feelings about ideal birth plans/experiences. So I am happy to add another scar to my growing collection to ensure that both baby and I stay healthy.

Are you still Running?

At this point - Yes.

I actually did my Spontaneous Triathlon while pregnant - I just didn't know it yet. I took a pregnancy test two days later. I was shocked when it read positive, because I felt so strong and comfortable on race day. So Baby Bishop and I have already done our first race together!

I am not convinced I will be able to run for my whole pregnancy. But I would like to strive to be active throughout, as long as my medical team approves.

My goal right now is sweat 3-5x a week. I have been running a couple times a week usually around 5km. I have also been doing regular strength training at Goodlife Fitness. The AC has been very much appreciated. I typically do 30-40 min of cardio to warm up, followed by 20-30min of strength training. Jess from the Blonde Ponytail has a whole bunch of great Prenatal Fitness Routines, and I have been using those on a regular basis.

Weight Gain and Physical Changes?

So far I have gained 5lbs and everything looks a lot softer all over. My little abs are gone. And I generally feel like I have eaten too much Chipotle all the time. I am in that awkward stage where I don't really look pregnant, I just look like I am getting kind of chubby. All of my clothes still currently fit, but flowy tops are my friends.

Mostly we are just so excited for our next great adventure and are looking forward to meeting our little one in March!

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Workout Wednesday - Killer Legs

I am not sure what it is like in your neck of the woods, but here in Toronto, it is freaking HOT! The past few weeks have been absolutely crazy. It has been hot, humid, and sticky. With several severe heat warnings in effect.

Making the idea of heading out for my usual run or bike ride very unappealing. I have gone out a few times, but I never make it very far in this heat. So I have been heading to my local air conditioned Goodlife and taking this opportunity to do more strength training.

Anyone who knows me, knows I am not big on Strength Training. I always say I am going to do it. But skimp on these workouts in favour of a run instead. So I am using the fact that running isn't all that pleasant right now, to up my strength training game.

I created this workout a couple weeks back and I spent the next 2 days limping around, so I decided it was effective enough to share. (*please note I am not a personal trainer, this is just a routine I made up on my own*)

I did 3 rounds:
10 x Squats
10 x Sumo Squats
10 x Plank Leg Lifts (each side)
10x Kettlebell Dead Lifts (I use a 20kg kettlebell)
10x Grasshopper Plank (each side)
10x Lunges (each side)
10x Burpees

With 30-40 second rest in between rounds

I must admit I have been pretty lax about my training over the past few weeks. As I mentioned earlier this week I have just been feeling kind of run down. Thankfully my Staycation was just what I needed, and I feel ready to get back into a more regular training plan.

My goal for this week is head to the gym and complete this workout 3x. And then also squeeze in 1 run and 1 bike ride.

I am also looking for a really good upper body workout. If you have one you really like please let me know. I am hoping to alternate weeks - 1 weeks lower body, followed by 1 week upper body, and repeat!

Happy Training!
Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Monday, 10 August 2015

A Staycation and Another Commercial

Hi there friends,

I was off on a Stay-cation with my husband last week. I had every intention of setting aside some time to do some writing and some blogging, but to be honest I just needed a bit of break. Since May my schedule has been really jammed packed with work, extra projects, weddings, family, racing, and the whole shebang!

So last week ended up just being about pushing the reset button. The hubby and I got caught up on somethings around the house. We also just spent sometime relaxing, riding bikes, and running. It was good to take a breather.

This Monday was one of the first days in a while where I actually felt fully rested and ready to tackle the week. I think it is safe to say the break was necessary.

Especially since this week is another busy week.

I am heading to Canfit Pro this weekend. I will be working at the Expo on Friday and Saturday. So if you are going to be at the event, definitely come see us at the Polar Booth. And Congrats to Tiffany Williamson who was randomly selected as the winner of my Canfit Giveaway (**I have sent you an email last week with all the information - please contact me if you have any questions**)

I mentioned that I have been working on some extra projects this year. And one of those projects is with Goodlife Fitness. I have been working with Goodlife for a while now and am a member. I have always loved their inclusive environment, so I was honoured when they asked if they could share my fitness story as part of their new Begin Campaign. (**I am also not sure why I am suddenly so popular these days either**)

We spent the day filming at my place back in March and now the final product is live.

I actually really love how this turned out. I wasn't sure what to expect, because it wasn't scripted and I just spent some time chatting with the crew. I was fairly convinced I rambled on quite a few times, so thank goodness for editing! And yes Clark (as always) makes an appearance in this one too.

You can also visit the Begin at Goodlife Fitness Page for a 3 day trial at your local club. I personally do a lot of my running and training outside, but having a Goodlife Membership has been a lifesaver for me this year while traveling. There is always a gym I can pop into and grab a quick workout while on the road and it definitely beats the inadequate hotel gyms I am typically subjected to. So I definitely recommend giving it a try. The atmosphere is always welcoming and there is something for everyone.

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,