Seven Down, Seven to Go

Andrew just finished his 7th quarter of chiropractic school. He had lab finals last week, and lecture finals this week. It has been a long, hard two weeks, to say the least. I am SO GLAD it’s behind us. And we are one quarter closer to going back home to Nashville. Praise Jesus for getting us this far!

Since Andrew has all of next week off from school (although not off from work) I am taking a week-long break from the blog to spend time with my family.

Before saying farewell for the week, I thought I’d share some of my favorite recipes from the week, since I did not share my meal plan with you all on Monday (instead, I shared a giveaway, which you can still enter by hopping over to Jessi’s blog.)

1) Andrew and I both loved these low-roasted sweet potatoes:

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2) Tuna salad with apples and pumpkin seeds. This has been my go-to lunch a couple days this week. I would happily eat it EVERY day, except that the experts tell us we should only eat tuna a couple times a week…

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3) I really wanted an easy pumpkin bread recipe that I could throw together with ingredients I had on hand. I ended up going with this cinnamon raisin pumpkin bread recipe. I will definitely be making this recipe again. Probably, like, tomorrow, since this loaf will likely be long gone by then. Seriously. It’s that good.

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Grain-free diet for PCOS

Exactly ten days ago, after being inspired by a friend, I decided to stop eating grains. I’m always trying things that I think might increase my energy, help my focus, help me reach my happy weight, decrease bloat, and of course, improve my PCOS symptoms. I’ve tried cutting gluten out of my diet twice over the past several years, and both times I came to the conclusion that, although I noticed small improvements, the tiny improvements were not worth the big lifestyle change.

Cutting out grains has crossed my mind before, especially in light of having PCOS, but I’ve always dismissed the idea, thinking it was unrealistic. For some reason, (and maybe it was a God-thing) when Calista mentioned that she and her husband had decided to cut out grains, something in my mind just clicked, and I thought, “That is not an unrealistic goal. If she can do it, there is no reason I can’t at least give it a try.”

I really think everyone has an ideal diet that works best for their own bodies and minds. And I’ve struggled with finding my perfect diet over the past many years. But, I am here to say, with certainty, that I HAVE FOUND IT.

It’s about time.

I feel incredible, both physically and mentally… better than I have felt during any other time in my adult life. And it’s only been ten days.

My daily energy slumps that usually roll around by 2 or 3 pm seem to be gone, or at worse, greatly improved. I’m thinking this must also mean that my blood sugar levels are more stable, which makes sense since carbs can exacerbate this, and grains = carbs.

More accurately, for women with PCOS: If our diets are rich in grains and carbohydrates, they can overstimulate the pancreas’s production of insulin, and contribute to our problems of insulin resistance and other PCOS symptoms. Plus, consuming too many calories from carbohydrates in the presence of high levels of insulin is associated with increased fat storage (aka: weight gain.) Furthermore, some researchers believe that 85% of women with PCOS are gluten intolerant. Whether you are intolerant to gluten or not, a grain-free diet could still help improve insulin resistance.

But don’t our bodies need carbs? Of course! So I have been eating lots of starchy vegetables, and eating fruit. You could also get carbs from legumes, but my husband won’t eat most legumes, so I don’t buy them. Dairy is another source of carbohydrates, but I have not had any dairy in the past couple of weeks either. And I really don’t miss it the way I thought I would.

As I said before, I think there is an ideal diet for everyone, and eliminating grains may not be for you. If you think it’s something you might like to try, here are a few PCOS success stories to help get you motivated:

It’s only been ten days since I cut grains out of my diet completely. Since I know that’s not much time, I will give you all another update in a few more weeks. And I am hopeful that the best is yet to come!

Oh, and the icing in the cake…. My MASSIVE sweet tooth has all but disappeared. I never thought I would be able to say those words, so that alone is huge.

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The PCOS Diet Plan: A Giveaway

A long while back, I read the book The PCOS Diet Plan, by Hillary Wright. I even wrote a little blog post about it, which you can find here. The book is great because it provides practical, easy-to-follow suggestions and guidelines for healthy eating and lifestyle habits. All of the information can be a bit overwhelming if you read too much of the book at once, but if you take it bit by bit, and take the author’s suggestions bit by bit, you will find that her ideas really are doable and beneficial.

Here is a quick sample of what you will find in the book:

Rules for a happy PCOS plate:

  • Cover half the plate with non-starchy vegetables (ex: salad, or vegetable soup.)
  • Cover 25% of the plate with lean protein.
  • Cover the remaining 25% of the plate with a high-quality starch.
  • Include two servings of healthy fat per meal (ex: a pat of butter.)

In honor of September being PCOS Awareness Month, a friend and fellow PCOS blogger, Jessi, over at Life Abundant, is hosting a giveaway, and the winner will receive a copy of The PCOS Diet Plan. The book has been so helpful to her and to me. And I think there is something in this book for every woman who wants to learn more about managing her PCOS naturally, and achieving the highest possible quality of life. I recommend that everyone with PCOS read it, whether you were just diagnosed recently, and wanting to learn things for the first time, or you were diagnosed ages ago and just need something to help you get motivated and inspired to take charge of your health again.

So, if you’d like a chance to win a copy of the book FOR FREE, head on over to Jessi’s blog. There are several ways you can enter, and of course, be sure to spread the word to anyone you know of who might benefit from the book! The giveaway will be open for a week, and Jessi will announce the winner on her blog on September 29th.

Click on the picture below to be re-directed to Life Abundant, and to enter the giveaway!

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PCOS Awareness

We know all about PCOS. We spend the month of September being even more aware of PCOS than usual, and making sure that others are aware of it too.

That’s all fine and good.

But there are a few things that we need to make PCOS aware of too.

PCOS needs to be aware that we have…

Doctors who are really smart. 

Support systems that are really incredible. 

Bodies that are still amazing, in spite of PCOS. 

And a God who is really BIG. 

And while we are busy being aware of PCOS this month, let’s not forget these things ourselves! Let’s spend this month praising our God, because we were fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). God’s works are wonderful… our bodies are wonderful.

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PCOS Awareness: Essential Oils for PCOS

Even though essential oils seem to be all the rage these days, I only started learning about them when I was pregnant with Bonnie. And I did not start using them regularly until the end of my pregnancy and after she was born. While I was pregnant I did lots of research on essential oils for newborns, babies, and children. When I was so ready for Bonnie to get here, I did research on using essential oils to help induce labor, and of course, using essential oils during labor and delivery. But I did not think about researching the use of essential oils for PCOS until after Bonnie was born.

Someone asked me recently if I know much about the use of essential oils for infertility, so even though I’m still wrapping my head around it, and don’t quite understand the ins and outs of using oils for PCOS, I thought I’d share what little bit I have learned! If you have additional question, or want more information, just click on the resource links at the bottom of this post. I have a feeling the women who wrote the original articles/posts know much more than I do! (:

It’s important to note that, if you are going to use essential oils for healing purposes, they need to be medicinal rather than synthetic. Synthetic oils cost less, but they do not have medicinal qualities.

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Lavender- used for stress relief and relaxation

Geranium- used for hormone normalization and as an antidepressant

Use a combination of these two oils to create a detox bath: 

  • 2 C. Epsom salt (helpful because the magnesium it contains absorbs through the skin, which can create a calming effect)
  • 1.2 c. baking soda
  • 10 drops lavender
  • 5 drops geranium

When used properly, lavender and geranium can also be used to aid in fertility. Simply combine the following oils in 4 ounces of a carrier oil (such as Vitamin E oil, for example) and rub them on your tummy for a fertility blend: 

  • 10 drops Clary Sage (uterine tonic)
  • 10 drops Sweet Fennel (regulate menstrual cycle; may help reduce hormone fluctuation)
  • 7 drops Geranium (uterine and ovarian tonic)
  • 3 drops Lavender (circulatory stimulant)
  • 3 drops Rose (relaxes the uterus)

Along with infertility, hair loss is also something that many women with PCOS struggle with. If this is you, I highly recommend THIS BLOG. But for now, here is an essential oil blend for hair loss: 

  • 3 drops Thyme
  • 3 drops Lavender
  • 3 drops Rosemary
  • 3 drops Sage
  • 3 drops Cedarwood
  • 1/8 c. grapeseed oil
  • 1/8 c. jojoba oil

In addition to the oils listed above, I’ve read that frankincense can be used for the treatment of, or prevention of, fibroid cysts. Frankincense can also help balance the endocrine system. It’s easy to use too! Just put two or three drops under your tongue every morning and night.

I have also seen this Progessence Plus Serum floating around the internet lately, and am completely intrigued after reading a few testimonials. Apparently, this is a serum derived from wild yams, combined with Vitamin E, frankincense, bergamot, and peppermint essential oils, to help balance and improve progesterone levels in the body.

Click here for a Progessence Plus success story. 

According to this post,  everyone with PCOS should use Progessence Plus, along with EndoFlex, and Ocotea. 

EndoFlex is a blend of essential oil blend that helps balance and nourish the endocrine system. It contains geranium, spearmint, sage, myrtle, nutmeg, and German chamomile.

Ocotea can help stabilize insulin levels. This particular blend sounds incredible when it comes to leveling blood sugar.

Bear in mind that I’ve not tried all of these oils and blends myself yet, so I don’t have any experience with how well they do or do not work. But I say, anything is worth a shot!

References:

http://pcosdiva.com/2013/02/ask-amy-essential-oils-and-pcos/

http://essentialsurvival.org/3-must-have-essential-oils-for-pcos/

http://frontierblessings.com/2013/07/essential-oils-for-pcos/

http://www.drfostersessentials.com/store/Q_polycystic.php

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Breakfast: The Most Important Meal for PCOS?

I recently read an AWESOME blog post explaining some new research which suggests that, for women with PCOS, mealtime helps improve fertility. The premise is this: Increased caloric intake at breakfast can lead to lower testosterone levels and increased ovulation frequency.

It is important for women with PCOS to focus on insulin management, rather than weight loss. Based upon this understanding, a study was conducted in which sixty women with PCOS were randomly assigned to one of two 1,800 calorie maintenance diets with exactly the same foods. The only difference in the diets was when the foods were consumed.

The first group ate a 983 calorie breakfast, a 645 calorie lunch, and a 190 calorie dinner. The second group had a 190 calorie breakfast, a 645 calorie lunch, and 983 calorie dinner. After 90 days, the researchers tested participants in each group for insulin, glucose, and testosterone levels as well as ovulation and menstruation.

Women in the “big dinner” group maintained consistently high levels of insulin and testosterone throughout the study, while women in the “big breakfast” group experienced a 56 percent decrease in insulin resistance and a 50 percent decrease in testosterone. This reduction of insulin and testosterone levels led to a 50 percent rise in ovulation rate, indicated by a rise in progesterone, by the end of the study.

Here are some bits and pieces from the study.

And here is the complete study. 

This might be tough news for all of you breakfast-skippers out there. But personally, I think it is great news. Breakfast is my absolute favorite meal of the day. BUT… a big breakfast is NOT an excuse to eat badly. Our big breakfasts need to consist of good, whole foods, and be packed with nutrients that can keep us going all day. In other words, a jumbo cinnamon roll is just not the best choice. Obviously.

Since cinnamon rolls are out, here are some better breakfast ideas!

1) Paleo Eggs in a Hole

2) Twice Baked Breakfast Sweet Potatoes

3) Paleo BLT Frittata

4) Hearty Paleo Breakfast Skillet 

5) Baked Eggs in Avocado

6) Taco Wannabe Mexican Breakfast Bowl

7) Huevos Rancheros 

8) Apple, Pecan, and Bacon Butternut Squash Hash 

9) Paleo Pumpkin Protein Pancakes

10) Avocado and Egg Breakfast Pizza

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Meal Plan Monday: PCOS Style

Since we had Bonnie, I have really dropped the ball when it comes to planning our meals and prepping our food each week. There are several excuses I’ve used: My free time is more limited than it was before Bonnie arrived. When I do have free time, there are about a thousand things I would rather be doing than spending time in the kitchen…. I could continue, but enough with the excuses.

I realize that even though spending a few hours of my weekend in the kitchen is not what I want to be doing, it’s what I need to be doing. I need to do it for Andrew’s and my health, but I also need to do it for Bonnie, so that she can grow up with healthy eating habits. My hope is that she will develop an appreciation for, and maybe even a love of cooking, planning, and preparing meals… a love that I’ve never really had. While I do not want Bonnie to obsess over food, I do want her to realize that part of being a good steward of the bodies God has given us means eating well and wisely. I do want her to realize that food is powerful, and that choosing the right foods is an important part of life!

My parents came for a visit over the weekend, and were an ENORMOUS help. We spent Friday running errands, including a trip to both Costco and my regular grocery store. It had been several weeks since I’d done any major grocery shopping, so it was time to stock up while I had help here! Since having Bonnie (here I go again, blaming things on her!) I’ve had an irrational fear of grocery shopping with just the two of us. I am afraid she will have a breakdown in the middle of the store at a time when I won’t know whether to drop everything and tend to her, or even take her home, or fight through it and finish what I am doing. I mean, what if she starts screaming while I am standing in line at the register, surrounded by people who don’t think her cry is quite as precious as I do? I know this fear is silly, especially since her breakdowns are soooo few and far between. Even so, it’s nice to be able to save big grocery trips for when I know I’ll have a bit of help. (One day, I will get over this.)

Although having help with my shopping was great, what’s even greater is that my mom spent a lot of time helping me prep our meals and snacks after we got done shopping. When I actually take the time to do this, Andrew and I eat so much healthier, and I feel so much less stressed when mealtimes roll around. Plus, we save money, and no food is wasted. When I list all the benefits of meal planning and prepping, like I just did, I cannot believe I let it go undone for so long!

But moving on…

I’m planning only for Monday through Friday, because the weekends are so unpredictable these days.

Dinner

Monday

Meat and veggie Paleo chili

Tuesday

Baked salmon, low-roasted sweet potatoes, Brussels sprout salad

Wednesday

Spaghetti squash spaghetti, toss salad, garlic bread (on gluten free bread)

(I will make my spaghetti squash in the crock pot, and use homemade spaghetti sauce. The recipe is at the bottom of this post.)

Thursday

Chicken and wild rice slow cooker soup

Friday

One-Pan chicken burrito bowls

So while my mom was here to help me, here is the prep work we did to get ready for the week:

- Made a big batch of spaghetti sauce

- Made a batch of brown rice (for lunches)

- Made a batch of quinoa (for lunches)

- Baked 6 chicken thighs (for lunches)

- Hardboiled a dozen eggs (for snacks)

- Scrambled eggs with kale (for breakfast)

- Cooked sausage (for breakfast)

- Froze the extras sweet potatoes we bought (Here’s how to prep sweet potatoes for freezing)

For our lunches: 

The reason we made so much brown rice and quinoa is so that we can toss some veggies, meat, and dressing with either the rice or the quinoa, and have quick, filling salads.

I also love a simple tuna salad, served with celery sticks, crackers, as a sandwich, or over greens. YUM. If you aren’t comfortable using store-bought  Mayo, you could use Greek yogurt instead, or if you don’t eat dairy, you could make your own mayo.

Snacks:

Apples, bananas, carrots, 3-ingredient protein bars (recipe coming shortly), nut butter, gluten free granola (I like this kind, because it is gluten free, and because the sugar content is reasonable. Oh, and because it has lots of fiber!)

And here is that spaghetti sauce recipe I mentioned earlier: 

  • 1/2 pound – 1 pound ground beef or turkey
  • 2 small zucchinis, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • Mushrooms (as many as you feel like)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1, 28oz can crushed tomatoes (look at the ingredients and pick the one with the fewest… obviously)
  • 1, 15oz can tomato sauce (do the same with this can)
  • Dried basil (to taste)
  • Dried oregano (to taste)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

My sister gave me this recipe. It is great as it is, but it’s also very versatile. If you don’t want or don’t have meat, just add extra zucchini and/or mushrooms. If your husband won’t touch mushrooms with a ten foot pole (like mine) then just leave them out all together. If you like your sauce a bit spicy (like I do) then add some red pepper flakes. Basically, take this basic recipe and run with it. Or don’t. It will still be good!

Needless to say, it was such a productive weekend, and I am thrilled to have gotten the week off to such a great start.

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Three Months with Bonnie

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Every day for the past three months, I’ve had to ask myself, “Is she really here to stay? Is this beautiful girl really ours?” I know that she is ours. But I know that, truly, she belongs to Christ. And some days it is hard for me to believe that He has entrusted her to us. In a few weeks, Bonnie will be baptized, as a way of proclaiming God’s covenant over her life and heart, even now, when she is too young to recognize or understand it. And my biggest prayer for her is that God’s light will shine in her heart at a young age, and that she will live her entire life according to her love for Christ, and according to the love she knows that He has for her.

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My days with Bonnie are still so sweet, but they are already so different from when she was a newborn. Whereas she used to sleep and cuddle with me for hours each day, she is much more alert and independent now. She is awake more during the day than she used to be, but sleeps more at night! She goes to bed between 7:30 and 8:00 each evening, and sleeps until 5 or 6 the next morning. During the day she loves to play on her mat, lying on her back instead of her tummy, and she loves to sit up… with help, of course! She has allegedly rolled over from her tummy to back, but I MISSED IT!!!

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She and I both love breastfeeding, and she is on a pretty predictable schedule, which makes life much easier for both of us. She also still loves her baths, and will usually sit in the tub for as long as I will let her, or until the water starts to get cold. I think she has started teething, because she is slobbering everywhere, and constantly chewing on her hands. Something else she’s doing with her hands now is trying to touch and grab things. It is so fun to watch her develop and grow and learn!

She is becoming more and more vocal all the time, which I think is so precious. I could sit and listen to her “talk” all day. I like to think she likes when we read books, and when I sing to her, but I have a feeling I enjoy those things more than she does.

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My parents recently gave us a video camera, so we’ve been filming Bonnie like crazy, and of course, I can never seem to take enough pictures of her! She is such a light and joy in my life. Every time I look at her my heart swells with such gratitude to my Savior for His glorious blessings in my life. The gift of life is a miracle. Babies are miracles… each and every one of them. And Bonnie is my very own miracle.

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PCOS Awareness: How to Improve Egg Quality

In the good ole’ days, fertility experts believed that the only factor that determined ovarian and egg quality was age. Based on newer studies, we now know that is not true… And many of us with PCOS know from personal experience that that’s not the case!

To be perfectly honest, I’ve never given much thought to my egg quality until recently. Even though I have PCOS, I had always assumed that, since I was young and relatively healthy, my eggs were young and healthy too. It was not until our egg retrieval during IVF, when I learned that my eggs were poor in quality, that I even considered them at all… Ironic, since our eggs are obviously crucial to fertility.

There are several factors that impact egg quality and ovarian health, including environmental factors, hormones in the diet, and stress. Since egg quality plays such a huge role in our fertility, it’s important for us to protect the eggs that we have, through diet, herbs, supplements, and increased circulation to the reproductive system.

The cycle of an egg is about 90 days, so anything we do to help support our ovaries and eggs needs to be done for at least 90 consecutive days if it is going to have any chance of being effective.

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So, here are the factors that can affect our egg quality:

1) Blood Flow and Proper Oxygenation 

Oxygen-rich blood flow to the ovaries is essential for our eggs’ health. In order to ensure that we are getting both adequate blood flow and proper oxygenation, we can do the following:

  • Drink LOTS of water… the more, the better! Dehydration can cause the blood to become thick, which decreases circulation in the body.
  • Exercise. This increases blood flow and improves oxygenation.
  • Get abdominal or fertility massage (massage of the uterus and ovaries.) Start the day after your period has ended, and continue all month long, about 4 times per week. Click here to learn more about this, and to learn how to give yourself a fertility massage.

2) Hormonal Balance

Hormonal balance is necessary because if the hormones are out of balance, the eggs may not respond, and ovulation may not occur. Many of us with PCOS are painfully aware of this!

  • Follow a proper fertility diet. If you have PCOS, follow a proper PCOS diet.
  • Avoid xenohormones. Don’t drink out of or microwave out of plastic. Avoid toxins and chemicals, in favor of natural, homemade products instead.
  • Consider using Maca, which helps control estrogen in the body, and increase progesterone (and progesterone is essential for a viable pregnancy.) You can use Maca in powder or capsule form. 

3) Nutrition

Simply put, our eggs depend on our diets in a HUGE way! Here are some top foods for egg health:

  • Royal Jelly (should be taken daily)
  • Maca
  • Broccoli (cooked)
  • Berries
  • Dark, leafy veggies
  • Halibut
  • Salmon
  • Turmeric
  • Sesame seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Ginger

***It is important to avoid non-organic meats, as the added hormones can throw ours out of balance. Also, if you have PCOS, you may want to consider cutting out gluten and/or dairy.

4) Supplements 

Supplements can also play a key role in improving egg quality. At the very least, we may want to consider taking the following:

  • Prenatal multivitamin
  • Antioxidants 
  • CoQ10 (improves egg health and fertilization rates)
  • L-arginine (shown to increase ovarian response, endometrial receptivity, and pregnancy rates in IVF patients, when taken in large quantities)

5) Stress

Stress can be detrimental to fertility. Women who are under constant stress produce prolactin and cortisol, both of which can interfere with, or even prohibit, ovulation. Do what you need to do in order to reduce your stress levels. Here are some of my favorite stress releases:

  • Read a book.
  • Go for a walk, or do some yoga.
  • Take bubble baths.

Of everything on this list, the things I’ve decided to concentrate on right now are nutrition and avoiding toxins/chemicals/xenohormones. I recently cut gluten out of my diet, AGAIN! And I should probably eliminate dairy too. Buying only organic meat is difficult financially, but based on everything I’ve read, it really is necessary. I’ve also started using my own skin products and household cleaning products in an effort to avoid unnecessary chemicals.

I’m feeling really motivated to get my health on track… eggs and all! (:

 

 

 

 

 

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Belly Dance Maternity: A Quick Review

Shortly after Bonnie was born, Belly Dance Maternity sent me a couple of nursing tops to try out, and to review. After having a baby, and having so many internet/computer issues, I’m finally getting around to posting my review!

Let me start out by saying that I have worn the heck out of this black tank top. At first glance, it may look like just a plain, black tank top. But in fact, it is the absolute best black nursing tank top ever. Initially I was really taken back by the price, and although I know I never would have paid $50+ for a shirt, I am so glad I gave this one a try. It’s worth every penny. I wear it multiple times per week. It’s simple to use, and does not have any complicated buttons or clasps. And it’s stretchy, so it makes nursing in public both easy and modest. Modesty while breastfeeding is not of great concern to me (I don’t think breastfeeding is sexual, inappropriate or shameful,) and I will feed Bonnie just about anytime, anywhere, which is exactly why this top is so nice. It makes feeding her SO EASY. Because the top is so stretchy, and because it has snaps in front (instead of buttons,) I can be situated and ready to feed her with almost no effort. And since this particular top is so plain and simple, it is also really versatile. I can wear it by itself, or layered with other tops, sweaters, or jackets. It can be dressy or casual. This means I can wear it constantly without actually looking like I’m wearing the exact same outfit constantly.

Here’s what I mean:

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Another great thing about this top, as well as the dress they sent me, along with many of their other pieces, is that they are maternity clothing and nursing clothing. This is significant because maternity clothes do tend to be a bit pricey, but Belly Dance Maternity allows you to stretch the life of your maternity clothing by making it practical and pretty for nursing as well. And since I plan on nursing Bonnie until she’s at least a year old, and since I was pregnant for nine months (duh,) that means that I will wear their maternity/nursing clothing for nearly two whole years… and that’s just for one pregnancy!

Since their prices are a bit high, I suggest buying a few staples/basics from here, and then mixing and matching those with other, cheaper maternity items, or even non-maternity items you already have in your closet. Belly Dance Maternity offers incredibly comfortable and high-quality clothing, so if you buy basic, versatile pieces that you can easily mix with clothing you already have, you will get LOTS of wear out of them, and you will really feel like you’ve made a wise investment.

Some of my fall favorites are: this maternity/nursing poncho, this tunic, and this black and white tee. 

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