Anna Maria Locke

Life update from the third trimester trenches

2019Anna Locke
third trimester update

It’s July, summer weather has finally arrived, I am sequestering myself in the air conditioning and sitting on my bouncy ball as I type this long overdue life update!

Click here to read my first trimester recap. I never shared an official second tri blog post but all you need to know is that I felt great, it was amazing, etc etc :)

“How are you feeling?” is the question everyone asks me, so in case you’re wondering…

I’ll be 35 weeks pregnant tomorrow, and physically I’m feeling way better than I expected at this point which has been a huge relief! I’ve been trying to get out for a walk almost every day but I can’t make it more than 1-2 miles without needing to pee, and I can’t workout AND go for a 2+ mile walk in one day or I will be too exhausted to function, but I’ve had several months to adjust to my new default state of SLOW so my lack of energy hasn’t really been bothering me.

My favorite part of pregnancy is feeling the baby move inside, allthetime. It started with tiny popcorn pops that felt like a muscle twitch in week 16/17, then stronger and stronger kicks and flutters, and now I can watch my entire belly distend as a little butt and legs shift from side to side. It’s so crazy and surreal!

So far I’ve escaped a lot of the typical pregnancy side effects like swelling and heart burn, but I’ve been dealing with low back pain since first trimester. You know the pinched nerve feeling when you just need to crack your spine? Except I can’t crack my spine and it never goes away. I’m sure this is due to my pelvis and joints relaxing, but I’ve been seeing a chiropractor since week 23ish which has helped a lot. It comes and goes, this week actually has been pretty good. I have to make sure to stay off my feet as much as possible. I’ve gained almost 25 pounds, most of which is concentrated in my belly, so that doesn’t help either.

It’s crazy how much your belly squishes your internal organs. I’m feeling it the most in my bladder, stomach, and lungs. I can’t eat a full meal or I will feel sick for hours, and I can’t take a full breath. I’ve read everywhere about feeling short of breath during pregnancy, but this is different than the winded feeling of the first trimester, when hormones and increased blood volume made me feel like walking up the stairs was a sprint. I’m used to feeling winded and out of breath. This feels like there’s someone constantly putting pressure on my chest so my lungs physically can’t expand. It’s the same feeling I used to get when I had an anxiety attack, which triggers my nervous system to respond by jacking up my heart rate and anxiety levels. Not helpful!

Speaking of anxiety, the anxiety is real. 

I want to be honest about the mental and emotional challenges of pregnancy because no one really prepped me for this, and it’s easy to start to feel very isolated like something is wrong or you should just “get it together” and be grateful and happy to be pregnant.

I’ve been crying almost every day over the last couple weeks.

Sometimes I cry even though nothing in particular is wrong. It’s definitely hormone driven because it feels exactly like I used to feel when I had a PMDD episode back in college.

On top of the hormones, I’m extra sensitive and emotional in that all my emotions are amplified.

It’s like subconsciously my intuition can sense there’s a massive life change and transition happening, and even though I know I am supported, safe, and as prepared as possible for this change, it’s still completely overwhelming.

Overwhelmed is the best word I can use to describe it.

Overwhelmed by love, joy, gratitude, but also by fear of the unknown, stress about money and business, just all the feels.

It doesn’t help that I’m an Enneagram 4, which is the personality type notorious for being overly attached to my emotions and feelings. I FEEL IT ALL! The only way to process is to cry it out and let it pass.

It literally feels like a storm moving through me and I am always calm afterwards, I just have to surrender and not fight it or judge myself.

I’m learning how to fully embrace my emotional side and feel the feels without rationalizing them (and letting go of my fear that everyone I love will leave me if I exhibit weakness/sadness/neediness). Actually, the best thing we can do is fully embrace the feels and let the overwhelm overwhelm us. Emotions always pass, and I always feel calmer and more resilient afterwards.

Life is hard. Change is hard. It’s ok to take space to process it all.

Food and cravings

Still leaning towards sweet foods and dealing with a veggie aversion. Have been eating lots of ice cream and my go-to meal to make for myself for lunch if I feel blah is french toast.

third trimester baby shower

A couple weeks ago we celebrated a baby shower with our Chicago friends, which was really fun to bring all our friend groups together and we were overwhelmed with love and generosity.

Since we don’t have immediate family nearby except Ben’s sister and brother in law (soooo grateful for that!), I’ve been more appreciative than ever of our friends and community we’ve built here in Chicago over the last 7 years.

Up until we started trying to get pregnant I was desperate to leave the city and move somewhere more outdoorsy with a slower pace of life, but I can’t see us uprooting anytime soon now that we are growing our family, and I’m actually getting really excited to raise a kid in Chicago. It’s going to be so different from my own childhood in the valleys and cornfields of central IL! Crazy how life evolves, sometimes you just have to go with it and bloom where you’re planted.

Business and work

The hardest part of pregnancy so far has been trying to figure out how to navigate my business and work to honor my limited capacity, allow me to focus on the pregnancy, but also pay the bills. As a solopreneur, I’m incredibly grateful I have the flexibility to make my own hours and take off as much time as I want to be home with our baby, but on the flip side it’s created a lot of stress around financial stability.

I’ve always worried about money -- it’s how deeper fears manifest for me. Kind of like how some women fixate on the number on the scale or numb out with emotional eating when their weight isn’t the real problem but rather the deeper feeling of being out of control or feeling shame and worthlessness.

I don’t know what life with a baby will look like but I know I’m going to be exhausted and preoccupied especially for the first few months so I’m trying to work ahead as much as I can.

I’ve wrapped up my 1:1 client work, and have created a couple new digital products to offer including my mindset trainings Fear & Flow and Let It Happen, and my signature digital program Wild Synchronicity. I’m extremely proud of myself for creating these, even if launching has been a little slow and discouraging so far.

My plan for this month is to batch create content and blog posts, and schedule a series of automated emails and newsletters so I can still add value and nurture my list, and hopefully make the transition back to work a little smoother once I’m ready to take on 1:1 life coaching clients again this fall. If you aren’t already subscribed to my email list, click here to sign up — I have lots of really great content on mindset, overcoming fears, self care, feminine energy, and navigating life and business as a spiritual entrepreneur lined up!

If you’re interested in working together, you can click here to join my waitlist if you’d like to know when I have client openings for life coaching again. I’m planning to raise my rates this winter, so if you want to lock in my current rates, the waitlist is the best place to be.

Gratefully, I’ve been able to build up a dependable residual income with my Beachbody business, so I know I’ll be able to at least contribute to bills and expenses without being “on” or actively working, but I haven’t been able to save up as much as I wanted and have a bit of standing credit card debt that’s annoying the heck out of me as my life coaching income disappears for now.

The most frustrating part is seeing and feeling my potential for earning, but not having the mental and emotional bandwidth to WORK! Which is triggering feelings of scarcity (I am not doing enough/earning enough/being enough//need to work harder/do more).

Slowing down

Slowing down physically is one thing, but slowing down mentally and energetically is tough.

The way hormones are affecting my brain chemistry, it feels like I’m constantly distracted by something else as if I’m multi-tasking (which makes sense because I am and it’s called 3D PRINTING A HUMAN), so it takes an enormous amount of energy to focus on one thing. Like writing this blog post… I’m letting the words flow stream of conscious style and am not even going to worry about editing it.

Well, Ben is home and it’s time to kick off the holiday weekend! I’m going to make these cupcakes tonight for our 4th of July cookout tomorrow. That’s another great thing about pregnancy — I’ve given myself full permission to enjoy all the not so healthy treats that I want, and have never felt this free in my body and around food!

Have an amazing weekend, and happy summer!

xo Anna

What to expect when you quit birth control

2019Anna Locke
what to expect when you quit birth control

The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images and information, contained on or available through this web site is for general information purposes only.

So, I quit birth control. Surprise!! Kinda obvious now that I’m sporting a baby bump, but I didn’t originally quit the pill to get pregnant.

I shared why I decided to ditch the pill in this blog post, but wanted to write a follow up post to fill you in on what happened AFTER I quit the pill, what I wished I knew, everything I’ve learned since then about hormone health and fertility (spoiler: it’s not just for when you wanna get pregnant).

It seems like every other girlfriend I talk with these days is either considering ditching her birth control, or has recently quit or switched to a non-hormonal option like the IUD and is trying to make sense of her new body as her cycle slowly heals.

Everyone’s body is different. Some women adjust immediately and get their period back immediately. For others, it can take a little longer. Either way, I want you to know that you aren’t alone and most likely nothing is actually “wrong,” no matter what crazy stuff is happening to your body!

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My story

I was on the pill for 9 years in my 20’s, and for most of that time it was fantastic choice in that season of life and I have no regrets. Eventually, after my initial pill Yaz was discontinued by my doctor due to the high risk of blood clots (good times) I went through a variety of generic versions which are not the same thing. My body reacted differently to each generic formula and eventually I started experiencing some pretty major anxiety (read: panic attacks and heart palpitations) and overall felt off and disconnected from my body. Read the long story here!

I knew that the pill wasn’t working for me, my body, and my lifestyle anymore, plus I knew Ben and I would want to start our family in the next couple of years and I wanted to give myself plenty of time before wanting to get pregnant, so it was an easy decision to stop taking it. I told my gynecologist, finished my last pill pack at the end of January 2016.

I didn’t get my first real period until April 9th, almost three months later.

I used the app Kindara to track my periods so I could tell how long my cycles were lasting, which was really useful to know and also to share with my doctor.

My first full cycle post-pill lasted 77 days.

My second cycle lasted 62 days.

At this point, it had been about 7 months so I went back to the gyno to make sure nothing was wrong, but blood work and my first internal ultrasound (joys of being a woman!) all came back normal so at least I knew I didn’t have PCOS or a thyroid imbalance.

My next cycles lasted 61 days, 43 days, 36 days, and this brought me up to one year post-pill.

I continued to have a period every 34-36 days, which is a little on the longer side but not abnormal.

It took me a full year after quitting the pill to get a regular cycle back.

From what I read, this is apparently common.

Side effects I experienced

I was worried I’d suffer from really bad mood swings again since I had been diagnosed with PMDD before originally going on the pill. I definitely felt my emotions and energy shifting and had heavier periods and cramps again, but didn’t have any other major symptoms. I started to journal through my mood swings and that helped me notice patterns and feel less crazy.

The worst part of the whole re-balancing process for me was my yeast infection from hell.

I came down with that dreaded itchy feeling in April, and it didn’t die FOR EIGHT MONTHS.

Yup, it sucked.

Eventually after trying literally every medical and homeopathic remedy under the sun, it disappeared after I started using boric acid suppositories and around the same time my cycles finally started to regulate, so I’m not sure if it was the boric acid or hormones, but if you deal with a medication-resistant yeast infection I definitely recommend checking these out! Shoving acid up my vajay felt like a last resort but hey, desperate times.

Ultimately, I am so grateful I quit the pill when I did even though weren’t ready to get pregnant, because it did take my body so long to figure things out.

Give yourself time, patience, and space.

Once we were ready to try to conceive by the fall of 2017, I had regular cycles and had learned so much about my body which took a lot of stress out of the process.

Making a change is always a little scary, especially when it’s something that could have major ramifications on our health.

If you’ve been on birth control for some time, going off cold turkey can feel a little bit like throwing yourself off a cliff into the great unknown.

Will I get pregnant?

Will my crazy mood swings return?

Will my face break out?

Will I gain weight?

Will I lose control over my body?

Will I have super bad cramps or heavy periods again?

Our culture doesn’t teach us how to honor and appreciate our menstrual cycle.

We’re told it’s a curse, something to keep hush hush, to pop some Motrin and push through when we feel weak or tired around our bleed. We’re taught that it’s not ok to be emotional or sensitive, and we are so disconnected from our own bodies that we usually don’t even recognize that our mood swings, breakdowns, existential crises, relationship issues can 90% of the time be traced back to our hormones and where we’re at in our cycle. But you can learn how to shift your self care practice or give yourself a little extra grace when you need it, to literally go with the flow.

Knowledge is power.

Knowing your body is the most powerful power of all.

The birth control pill was a wonderful invention that has created a lot of freedom for women and I am in no way anti-pill, but once we enter a season of life where we’re ready to get to know our own bodies again, transitioning off birth control can be one of the most empowering experiences of your life.

I believe that educating yourself as far in advance of going off hormonal BC as possible is the best thing you can do to prepare your body and mind.


7 things to know before quitting birth control

1. When you are on hormonal birth control, your body does not ovulate or have a true period.

This is women’s health 101 yet I had never really thought about it. Birth control is like overriding your cycle on autopilot. The synthetic hormones suppress your body’s natural hormones and basically trick your body into thinking it’s already pregnant, so it doesn’t release an egg and if it does by chance release an egg, your uterine lining won’t be thick enough for it to implant.

2. It might take several months for your period to come back.

This doesn’t mean anything is wrong.

Going off hormonal birth control is a transition, not an on/off switch. Just like you won’t lose 20 pounds after working out for one week, your body isn’t going to immediately bounce back.

This can be stressful and discouraging if you aren’t prepared, or if you want to become pregnant right away, but I encourage you to give yourself time and have patience instead of jumping right back into a medication or trying to fix yourself ASAP.

3.  You might experience some crazy hormone side effects, or you might feel fine.

Either end of the spectrum is “normal.” Don’t suffer alone! Talk to your girlfriends, your sisters, your mom, journal it out, and above all remember that you aren’t crazy.

4. Getting your cycle and fertility back is more about ovulation than about bleeding.

Female fertility is defined as a woman’s ability to conceive a biological child. Conception depends on an egg being released from your ovary, then fertilized by a sperm, and then implanted into your uterine lining. If your egg isn’t fertilized, your hormones trigger your uterus to shed its lining and the egg, which causes you to have a period. Unlike menstruation, ovulation is invisible but you don’t technically have your cycle back until you’re ovulating again.

How to know if you’re ovulating? You can track your basal body temperature, your cervical mucus, test your hormones with pee strips, basically turn your body into a science lab. Unless you are actively trying to conceive, are using fertility awareness method as your primary form of birth control (I wouldn’t recommend this until you have a regular predictable cycle again) or are super curious, I wouldn’t worry about it right away. Waiting for your period is a lot easier and less work.

5. Your body is wiser than your brain. Give it patience, time, and love.

Know yourself before embarking on a detox program or 30 day plan, or getting back on medication.

If you are triggered into obsessing over your body or have a history of eating disorders, going off BC can be a wonderful opportunity to practice letting go of your need for control and adopting a more intuitive approach.

6. Your hormones and body are not broken or diseased.

You don’t need to fix or heal them. No matter what the books or diets or experts say. Our bodies are constantly in a state of ebb and flux, and there is no such thing as perfectly balanced hormones. Just like it’s not realistic to expect to weigh the same day in and day out. There are many factors at play - what you eat, stress levels, environment.

I prefer using terms like optimizing your fertility, versus “healing” or “balancing.”

7. You will most likely NOT get pregnant right away.

With a healthy cycle, women are only fertile (aka capable of getting pregnant) 6 days every month. (Whereas men are fertile 24/7!!)

However, your fertile window will be a bit unpredictable unless you ovulate regularly. The best way to gauge your fertility if you’re trying to get pregnant or avoid it is to confirm ovulation.

Even so, “Intercourse during the fertile window is not sufficient to produce pregnancy. Pregnancy depends on the viability of the sperm and egg, the receptivity of the uterus, and other factors that vary widely among couples.” (source)

Basically, getting pregnant is a miracle and is way more complicated than we think, so if that is one of your fears about going off BC, stock up on condoms and don’t stress too much about it.

What to do after you quit birth control

Continue educating yourself, but not to the point of overwhelm. Follow your curiosity.

Start tracking your cycle!

Going off birth control is as much an emotional/mental/spiritual process as it is physical.

There’s no way to predict how your body will respond, but the more self care you practice before you quit, the better chances you’ll have at avoiding the craziest side effects you’re worried about.

Overall, view it as an opportunity to practice letting go of your need to control everything, and trusting that your body will support you and heal itself with enough time and care. Practice self love, self compassion, self care, and give your body incredible respect for all the work it does.

You’re going to uncover so much about yourself along the way!

xo Anna


Recommended Resources:

Join my FREE resource vault, including cycle tracking and journaling guides!

Wild Synchronicity - my signature program on learning about your cycle, and applying it to your life and business as a self care and productivity tool.

BOOKS

  • Taking Charge of Your Fertility

  • Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom

  • Period Repair Manual

  • The 5th Vital Sign

  • Beyond the Pill

  • WomanCode

COACHES

Claire Baker - menstrual cycle awareness and self care, great blog posts and Adore Your Cycle e-book

Amanda Montalvord - fantabulous educational resources, hormone healing programs

Nicole Jardim - hormonal health programs

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How to track your menstrual cycle

2019Anna Locke
how to track your menstrual cycle to de-mystify your hormones.jpeg

“Our lives are composed of countless transitions. The moon passes through a full cycle every 28 days, and a woman menstruates on average four hundred times in her life.

Our cycles carry the code for working with obstacles in creative, skillful, and miraculous ways. All stages are interdependent, and creativity is only complete through the interplay of each of the seasons. Each requires that we adapt our rhythms and shape our lives around it.

As our cycles ask us to oscillate our rhythms and our focus during different portions of each month, they stretch us in bite-size chunks, nudging us to slowly expand our capacity to be with the best and worst of life. They condition us to meet whatever’s there.

They cleanse us of what we no longer need and realign us with how we most desire to shape our futures, from within. When we ride this wave, we optimize our capability for renewal. When we fight it, we feel depleted… how then can we stop working against our cycles and start working with them?”

- Sara Avant Stover, The Book of SHE


When I decided to quit the birth control pill 3 years ago, one of my primary motivations was to regain my “natural” cycle so I could be more in tune with my body and prepare myself for an eventual pregnancy.

I originally started tracking my periods so I could tell how my hormones were healing post-pill.

You might have heard of the Fertility Awareness Method, which is a more in-depth practice of tracking your fertility signs so you know when your fertile window is, as either a method of birth control or to get pregnant. However, I soon realized that cycle tracking goes so far beyond fertility and hormone health.

A few things your hormones and cycle influence: productivity, relationships, emotions, creativity, how introverted vs extroverted you feel, mental energy, physical energy, muscle recovery and flexibility for workouts, sex drive, ability to communicate, on and on…

Hormones control our entire lives!!!

It took me almost a year to get a regular monthly(ish) cycle back, but once I did, I dove into the world of menstrual cycle awareness and it blew my mind how much we aren’t taught about our bodies! We’re left feeling hormonal, crazy, and like something is wrong if we have mood swings or emotions. It’s on us to educate ourselves, and that’s why I’m sharing this post about tracking your cycle as a self-care practice.

The content in this post is taken directly from my signature program Wild Synchronicity


What does it mean to have a cycle?

Sometimes we think of having a cycle as being on or off our period, but in reality our hormones are constantly ebbing and flowing, so our cycle is what is constantly happening to our bodies, just like the actual seasons of nature are constantly shifting on earth. Sometimes a particular season lasts longer or shorter, and there are some climates where the seasons are less pronounced, and so our bodies are unique and different too.

I like using the terms “hormone cycle” as opposed to “menstrual cycle” because there are varying seasons of life and reasons why we may or may not bleed on a regular basis, but our hormones are constantly working behind the scenes, even when we’re overriding our natural cycle on hormonal birth control.

Our bodies are all different and there is no right or wrong way to be. Whether you have missing cycles, clockwork cycles, PCOS, endo, if you’re on the pill, wherever you are right now -- meet yourself where you’re at instead of feeling like something is wrong or you need to automatically balance or fix your hormones. Honor your experience.

Tracking your cycle is even more valuable when you don’t have a clockwork 28 day cycle, because you’re going to be using your body as your guide. Imagine Grandmother Willow from Disney’s Pocahontas,  this wise, all knowing source of wisdom. I believe there’s a Grandmother Willow inside all of us-- the female wisdom that has been passed down to us from generations, and our cycle is a useful tool or pathway we can follow to go inward and tap into that embodied wisdom! It’s like a built in GPS system or blueprint from which we can create more success in our businesses and lives, and one of the most under-utilized and under-appreciated sources of power that no one teaches us about.


What if you’re on hormonal birth control or don’t have a period?

The cool thing about being on hormonal birth control or the pill is that even though you might not have the extreme shifts, your cycle will be regular and predictable. You can still track your energy and notice micro shifts throughout the month.

If you don’t have a period right now for whatever reason, another way to apply this cycle work to your life is using the lunar cycle.

Click here to learn more about tracking via the moon cycle.


So how do we track our cycle?

Tracking your cycle is the foundation of menstrual cycle awareness. It means playing the role of scientist or researcher for yourself: getting to know more about your body as well as how your energy shifts. Once you track 2-3 cycles so you can start to notice patterns such as certain times you can predict you’ll start an argument with your partner or have an existential crisis, and it can be pretty mind blowing.

There’s no right or wrong way to track your cycle, the only important part is that you do it.

Simply mark the first day of your period as Day One, and start numbering the days from there.

You can use an app, journal, or printable worksheets to do your tracking.

I personally prefer using a notebook for tracking my energy, mood, and emotions, since apps tend to disconnect us from our bodies (although they are extremely useful for tracking fertility!

You can use your regular journal or use a special notebook for your cycle. You can mark the date and day of your cycle on each page, or you can try the quadrant method I learned from Claire Baker.

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How this works - each page of your notebook will be designated for a certain cycle day. You’ll make a quadrant in each page so ultimately you’ll have 4 different cycles on each day (e.g. 4 cycles of “day 10”) this is great for noticing patterns. Patterns can be powerful. For instance, I tend to have a breakdown or an existential crisis on Day 21. There’s always a point where i notice, oh hey it’s my Day 21 Breakdown! So instead of feeling like I’m a failure, I can start to view the breakdown as a way to purge and release all the stuff that is not working in my life.

Same thing with inner critic, energy, productivity -- these patterns will help you bring a deeper awareness which we will apply to how you show up in your life, relationships, and business moving forward.

You can also use a circular chart such as this one from Red School. which is cool because you see your entire cycle on one day (this is best if you have really regular cycles).


What to track

The main things to track are:

  • Your cycle day

  • How you feel

  • Where your energy is at

  • Anything else to note, such as travel or stress

It’s best to track at the end of the day to reflect on the day.

Some examples:

-how was my mental energy today? (was I focused, foggy…)

-how was my physical energy? (fatigued, jittery, high energy…)

-what was my inner voice saying? (critical thoughts or positive…)

-how is my libido?

-any food cravings? What was my relationship with food like?

-physical body -- was I bloated feeling lean, hot, cold…

-how did I respond to stress today?

-how was my inner state today? (confident, grounded, sensitive…)

-record your dreams

My favorite “one and done” journal prompt: How am I feeling?

Stream of conscious style writing is a great way to channel whatever is going on deeper inside your mind and heart.

Figure out what works for you and have fun!

Try to track most days. There are times where you might feel less reflective or have resistance around journaling… track that! There is no right or wrong way to be.

Remember that scientists don’t judge themselves. They simply collect data and then reflect and draw conclusions from that data.


How to interpret your cycle

Once you have tracked at least 2 or 3 cycles (which might take a few months depending on your cycle length), you might start to recognize patterns.

For example, maybe you pick a fight with your partner around the same time each cycle. Maybe you have an existential crisis like clockwork, or have a more anxious week, or feel super social at certain times.

This is where the wisdom starts to emerge, as you begin to learn how your body and cycle operate. From here, you can start to anticipate what you will need at certain times of the month.

Remember that life happens too, and no cycle is the same. You might notice you have different feelings or energy on extra busy months, or times you’re doing a lot of traveling or projects, regardless of where you’re at in the cycle. We don’t live inside a vacuum, so allow yourself some variability and see what you discover!

xo Anna


RESOURCES

Access my resource vault with tracking worksheet, journal guides, and Cycle Sync Your Biz e-book.

If you'd like to learn more about living in sync with your cycle, I’ve created my program Wild Synchronicity to empower women to learn how to live in flow with the hormone rollercoaster, and to learn how to take advantage of our unique strengths in each phase of our cycle.

Books

Adore Your Cycle
Taking Charge of your Fertility
Womens Bodies, Womens Wisdom
Period Repair Manual

Apps

MyFlo
Clue
Kindara
Natural Cycles

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