The Tarpleys are moving to Texas

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Here we are standing under the sign that Troy engraved and painted when he proposed to me four years ago. On the other side, the sign reads: “Will you marry me?” We’re celebrating our third wedding anniversary next week and are excited about our next steps as a family of three.

Troy and I have some exciting news: we’re moving to Austin, Texas!

Ever since Madelyn was born, we’ve wanted to live closer to family. This move makes that possible. Troy, who’s from Texas, has accepted a great new job at a hospital north of Austin. He’ll be starting in early January. I’ll continue working for Images & Voices of Hope — a job that affords me the flexibility of working from anywhere.

We have a lot to figure out between now and mid-December when we move. We’re in the thick of a time-consuming transition, and the weight of it all has admittedly left us feeling overwhelmed. But we’re making progress. In the past week, we’ve found a daycare for Madelyn and a home that we want to buy. Next up is trying to sell our townhouse and figuring out how we’re going to pack and move our stuff and ourselves cross-country.

I love St. Petersburg and will miss it dearly. It’s the city where I launched my career, got married, and started a family. It’s my home. Lately, though, I’ve gotten the same feeling I had my senior year of college — the feeling that it’s time to step outside my comfort zone and establish new roots in a different place. Time to embrace all the beautiful uncertainties that inevitably come with big life changes.

Doing so takes courage.

It helps knowing that Troy and I are making this decision together — with and for our baby. We want to raise Madelyn in the company of family members instead of having to travel 1,000+ miles to see them. We want Madelyn to grow up playing with all the other kiddos on Troy’s side of the family. We want more built-in babysitters so that we can go on date nights and occasional weekend getaways. It goes without saying that we love being with Madelyn, but we need “us time,” too.

The move to Austin doesn’t bring us any closer to my family (I miss you, dad!) but we’re going to make it a point to visit Massachusetts a couple of times a year. Madelyn may be a southerner, but we can’t let her forget her New England roots. We don’t want her to forget her friends in Florida either, so we’re expecting y’all (did I just say that?) to visit once we’re settled in Austin.

The next few months are going to be crazy and fun. Kind of like parenting. We’re hoping for a smooth-ish transition, and we’re excited about writing this next chapter in our family story. It’s my favorite story — one that’s marked by auspicious beginnings and audacious love.

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A note to my sweet daughter

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I have a feeling I’ll be writing lots of letters to Madelyn, and journal entries about her. I always wish I had more letters from my mom, who passed away when I was 11. My hope is that Madelyn will find comfort in them when she’s older.

My dear Madelyn,

Your due date is quickly approaching, and Mom and Dad can’t wait to meet you.

For nine months, you’ve rested under and in my heart. You’ve been my source of inner strength, my motivator for eating healthy and treating my body with respect. I find myself rubbing my belly all the time; it makes me feel closer to you and reminds me that the mother/daughter bond is already very much formed. Lately, when I’m sitting on the couch at night, I’ve been able to feel your little hands (or are they feet?) pressed against my skin. I grab dad’s hand and hold it against my belly so he can bond with you too. Every morning before he goes to work, he talks to you.

“Hello cutie,” he says, kissing my belly. “You and mom have a good day, ok? I love you.”

You wriggle at the sound of his voice.

As the days pass, it’s getting harder to sleep and stay active. I finally stopped going to prenatal yoga this week at the 36-week mark. But I still go for walks along the water every day. I’m preparing for when we’ll get to go for walks together — you in your stroller, me pushing you and introducing you to dolphins, ducks, and flying fish in Tampa Bay. For now, I’m focused on pushing through all the stretching, pulling, and squeezing taking place inside my belly. I like to think that the aches and pains are the result of you tugging at my heartstrings, making me fall more in love with you each day.

Sometimes you move around so much that my belly turns into a mini roller coaster, moving up and down and all around. You’re preparing me for the ride of motherhood — and all the ups, downs, fears, and thrills that will accompany it. As I toss and turn in bed at night, you move with me.  A lot of moms-to-be say that their babies kick when they’re resting or sleeping. You tend to sleep through the night, then begin kicking and moving once you hear mom and dad’s voices in the morning. (We’re secretly hoping you keep a similar schedule after you’re born!)

I feel like I know you so well already, and yet I still have so many questions. What will you look like? Will you have hair? Blue eyes? A button nose? What will your cry sound like? Will you recognize my voice and your dad’s? What will it feel like to finally hold you in my arms?

You’ve already given me so much — most importantly the gift of motherhood and a greater sense of gratitude. As much as I’ve struggled with the expectations that come with being a woman — especially when it comes to body image — you’ve given me a newfound sense of confidence and a renewed appreciation for womanhood. It’s remarkable that my body has enabled me to carry you, nourish you, and get you to the point where you’re healthy enough to enter this world.

“To be pregnant is to be vitally alive, thoroughly woman, and distressingly inhabited,” Anne Christian Buchanan once said. “Soul and spirit are stretched, along with body — making pregnancy a time of transition, growth, and profound beginnings.”

Your dad and I are ready for this new beginning. You may be here in one week, or two, or three, or four, depending on when you decide to make your debut appearance. As the nurse in one of my childbirth classes said, “Only your baby knows her birthday.” I’ve taken birthing classes and have read lots of books about pregnancy and baby care over the past several months. I’ve learned plenty from the experts, but I know you will be my best teacher — showering me with new lessons that I can’t find in books.

You, me, and dad will learn together, as a family. We will give you all the love we have in hopes that you will grow up to be a strong, confident woman with a generous spirit and a desire to always keep growing and stretching in new ways. I hope you’ll sing in the sun and run in the rain. I hope you’ll appreciate the satisfaction of solitude and the comforts of company. I hope you’ll inherit your dad’s affinity for taking risks, and that you’ll embrace failure as an important ingredient for success.

One of my favorite authors, Anna Quindlen, writes: “Failure is terrifying to the young. So is unpredictability. They’re afraid they’ll get it wrong. You have to use cookbooks for a long time before you realize that you can leave out the beans, throw in some tomatoes, substitute rosemary for basil, jettison the formula, try something different. Sometimes the improvisation is better than the original recipe, sometimes just as good, and sometimes you pour it down the disposal and make a nice fettuccine Alfredo, which never hurt anyone.”

My dear Madelyn, may you stray from the original recipe when creativity calls for it, and may you grow to love life as much as mom and dad love you.

See you soon, sweet pea.

xoxox,

~Mom

Taking a break from running during pregnancy

Earlier this year I ran my first marathon. Now I probably couldn’t even run a mile. It’s been seven months since I last ran – the longest stretch I’ve gone without running in 15 years. Running has always been an integral part of my adult life. It’s been my outlet for stress, my connection to the outdoors, my time to reflect.

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Feeling strong during my marathon at Walt Disney World earlier this year.

Soon after I found out I was pregnant, I tried to go running. Something about it didn’t feel right, though. Maybe it was my first trimester nausea or my motherly instinct already kicking in and telling me to slow down, to stop sprinting through life.

Early on, I realized I was embarking on a new marathon of sorts, a nine-month one that would push my body and mind in ways they had never been pushed before.

I’m seven months pregnant and people still ask me, “Are you continuing to run?” I’m often surprised by the question, especially when I look down and see my growing belly — a protrusion that sometimes makes it difficult to walk, let alone run.

“No,” I tell them matter-of-factly. “I haven’t really run at all during my pregnancy. It just never felt right.” Surprisingly, I haven’t felt any shame or guilt when admitting this. I thought I would, given my tendency to cling to my identify as a runner, a marathoner.

I think I'll be eager to return to running after Madelyn's born. Already looking forward to using my new BOB jogging stroller!
I think I’ll be eager to return to running after Madelyn is born. My aunt and uncle bought me a BOB jogging stroller, which I can’t wait to use around St. Pete.

Pregnancy has been an ongoing lesson in learning how to be more gentle and patient with myself. Instead of running, I’ve been walking, swimming, and taking prenatal yoga classes. Exercising every day helps me maintain part of my routine in the midst of so many physical and emotional changes.

Sometimes, I get frustrated during prenatal yoga. It’s a flow class, so the instructor keeps us moving throughout the entire 75 minutes, with the exception of a few minutes at the beginning and the end.

Some nights, my belly feels huge, my body heavy.

Another downward dog??? I’ll think to myself after the 10th one in class.

I don’t want to bend down and touch my toes again; my belly won’t let me.   

Is it shavasana time yet? 

Despite my frustrations, I’ve been thinking a lot about how yoga and pregnancy have helped me to become more accepting of my body’s limitations. I’ve learned to embrace modified poses, realizing I don’t have to fuel my ego and my competitive side by always doing the fullest expression of every pose.

Madelyn seems to like yoga; she kicks a lot after each class.
Madelyn seems to like yoga; she kicks a lot after each class.

So what if my dancer pose isn’t quite as graceful as it used to be? Or if my tree pose is a bit lopsided? Instead of lamenting my imperfect, sometimes wobbly poses, I’ve embraced other ones. During every class, I channel my inner goddess, warrior, and happy baby.

I’ve sunken into child’s pose, not with guilt but with gratitude for a pose that gives me a temporary reprieve. I’ve also challenged my body, doing poses that strengthen my arms, my legs, and my pelvic floor (a body part that becomes a greater part of your vocabulary when you’re pregnant!)

“Breathe into the discomfort,” my yoga teacher says, reminding me that discomfort is not the same as pain. I know that in two short months, I’ll have to breathe into a lot of discomfort during labor and push through pain.

I’m almost 30 weeks into my pregnancy and I wonder how much longer I’ll be able to go to yoga. I plan to go for as long as I can, so long as I feel safe and (mostly) comfortable. Everything I’m doing now is preparation for the big day.

This nine-month marathon is challenging, but it’s the most rewarding physical endeavor I’ve ever endured. The finish line is getting closer, and I’m walking toward it with more excitement each day. 

We can't wait to meet Madelyn!
Troy has always been my cheerleader during my races. That’s now the case more than ever during this nine-month marathon. This isn’t the best quality photo, but I love how happy we look in it.

Three months to go before Baby Madelyn arrives

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Today marks the beginning of week 27, also known as the start of the third trimester! (Some measure the start of the third trimester at week 28, but I’m sticking with week 27.)

With each passing week, I feel more confident about Baby Madelyn’s health. She is at the age of viability, meaning survival outside the womb would be possible. At 27 weeks, she’s the size of a rutabaga, or a bunch of bananas. She’s about 14 inches long and a little over 2 pounds.

Her tiny lungs are developing, and she’s practicing breathing by taking in amniotic fluid. She has just started opening her eyes at this stage, and her eyelashes have formed. Her brain is rapidly developing, too, and will nearly triple in weight during the third trimester. (Can you tell I’ve been reading a lot about her development?)

I recently finished the book “Brain Rules for Baby” by molecular biologist John Medina. It’s a fascinating read that’s filled with scientific research and practical advice about how to provide the best environment for your baby’s brain development, inside the womb and after birth. (Here is a roundup of related tips.) It’s a pretty easy read, so I’d recommend the full book. It’s the one baby book I’m encouraging my husband Troy to read.

Thinking about Madelyn’s brain development and growth motivates me on days when fatigue follows me around like a shadow, and when my protruding belly makes it uncomfortable to walk, sleep, or eat a hearty meal. Despite these and other not-so-fun symptoms, I’ve loved being pregnant and haven’t had too many aches and pains. (We’ll see how I feel at the end of the third trimester…)

My desire to have a healthy baby motivates me to make better choices — about how much rest I get, what I put into my body, and how much I work. I still have to watch my stress levels, and I need to make a conscious effort every day to not let weight gain distort my body image or my relationship with food. But overall, I’m amazed by how my pregnancy has helped me to be healthier and happier. It has also helped bring me and Troy even closer together.

“We’re going to be parents … eeeeek!” is a common refrain in the Tarpley household these days. I’ve always wanted to be a mom, now more so than ever. I recently learned that I’ll be able to take 11 weeks of maternity leave once Madelyn arrives. I love knowing that I’ll have so much time to focus on my daughter — to care for her, to get to know her. Until then, I’ll keep playing her music, reading to her, and patting my belly when she turns it into a punching bag.

Less than three months to go, my little one…

A quick 20-week update

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It’s hard to believe that I’m 20 weeks pregnant and officially halfway through my pregnancy.

My friends who are pregnant or who have kids tell me that even though I’m at the halfway mark, the real growth is just beginning. “Get ready, mama — exponential growth is coming for you. Grow, Madelyn, grow!” one friend remarked earlier today.

At this stage in her growth, Madelyn is around 6.5 inches long and weighs about 10 oz. Most of my pregnancy apps tell me that she’s about the size of a banana. (One app says she’s the size of a Belgian endive. That doesn’t really put it in perspective for me, though!)

I can tell she’s growing because none of my clothes fit anymore. After rotating through the same four dresses and pair of spandex pants, I decided the other day that it was finally time to invest in some maternity clothes. I’ve started wearing them and already feel more confident and comfortable.

I’m beginning to feel Madelyn kick more, and Troy has been able to share in this experience as well. He’s been putting his head on my belly while talking to Madelyn and has felt her kick in response a few times. I like that Troy can feel our mini pugilist’s kicks from the outside looking in and that he can interact with her this way. The more Madelyn kicks, the more at ease I feel; it’s a comforting sign that she’s alive and well.

I’m looking forward to the next 20 weeks — or 18 or 19 or 21 — depending on when Madelyn decides to arrive. Mom and Dad are eagerly awaiting her grand entrance into the world!

How Baby Madelyn and the parents-to-be are doing at 18 weeks

How is Madelyn?

Madelyn is about 9 cm — the size of a sweet potato. The doctor tells me she’s healthy; her brain, heart, and other organs are functioning properly, and her heartbeat is about 155 bpm (normal for this point in her development). I got to see her in action during my level two/anatomy sonogram this week. She was moving all over the place — and she moved me to tears! I was eight weeks pregnant when I had my first sonogram, and Madelyn was a little blob at that point. Fast forward to 18 weeks, and she’s so much more grown up.

Here are a few photos of her sweet face and tiny foot…

Ultrasound

How is mom?

My bump is starting to be more visible!

I’m grateful for everyone who has recently asked me: “How are you feeling?” It’s a simple question, but it holds more weight when you’re pregnant. Some pregnant women get annoyed by it; I like it.

I’m feeling strong and healthy. The daily queasiness has subsided, and I have more energy than I did during the first trimester. It’s becoming harder to get a good night’s sleep, though, and some days I feel exhausted as a result. I look at it as my body’s way of preparing me for the even greater lack of sleep that will come with having a newborn!

I’m feeling so reassured after this week’s sonogram; hearing that Madelyn is healthy so far was a huge relief. When I got home from my sonogram appointment, I was able recognize Madelyn’s kicks for the first time. It was as if she was telling me, “Yes, mom, that’s me you’ve been feeling!” When I feel three taps, I take that as a sign that Madelyn is saying, “I love you.”

How is dad?

Troy’s doing well. He talks to Madelyn and tells her he loves her every day in hopes that she’ll learn to recognize his voice. He’s always there for me with open arms, which I find especially comforting on days when I’m feeling emotional (thanks, raging hormones!). He cooks on nights when I end up working late, and he’s been equally excited about the pregnancy and Madelyn’s growth. I couldn’t ask for a more supportive husband/dad-to-be.

Nearly every weekend, Troy has accompanied me on window-shopping trips to baby stores. (This weekend, we’re actually going to buy something — a crib!) It’s been fun seeing the kid in him come out, especially when he’s in the stuffed animal section of a baby store. He apparently has a fondness for cute lions, monkeys, and elephants…

Troy

Troy’s facial expressions capture his silliness and sweetness — and the excitement we’re feeling these days. There’s so much to be grateful for, and so much to look forward to.