Welcome to our new blog series Experts Expecting where we ask influential women who just happen to be expecting for insider knowledge in their field.
Born in Puerto Rico to a Mexican mother and English father, Mariel has lived in Connecticut, England, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Italy, Argentina, Malaysia, Mexico, India, NY, and LA. Currently she resides in London.
At 31 Mariel took the brave leap to leave what many would consider as her dream job on a quest to improve her health and take control of her life. The day she left her job she also quit taking her attention deficit medication after 10 years of using it to “perform” better, and the effects of this were crippling. Following several blood exams and an endoscopy, it turned out she had Hashimoto’s (a problem with her thyroid known as hypothyroidism), a 3cm hernia in her stomach and alkaline gastritis with excessive bile build up.
Making this decision to take control changed her life as if by magic. She is now a certified yoga instructor and life coach with a passion for health and nutrition. She uses this wealth of knowledge and experience to help others take control of their lives too.
Founder of Bump & Mind Retreats, Tahnee asked Mariel some questions from our readers and some of her own. Here’s what she said;
1. Was your pregnancy planned and if yes, did you make changes to your daily routine/practice while trying to conceive?
Our pregnancy was planned (we had decided to wait until after our honeymoon hike up Kilimanjaro to start). Once we decided to start trying, I spent a couple of months taking my temperature to figure out when I was ovulating and I started to take prenatal vitamins. Other than that I didn’t change anything in my daily routine or practice. If anything, I think I perhaps found myself getting deeper into my practice. I got quite frustrated after the first couple of months and decided to stop taking my temperature and just see if things could happen naturally. Being a bit older (I turn 35 next month), I asked my husband if in the new year we could get fertility tests – just to know if we were up against anything. As fate would have it, I got pregnant in December 🙂
The first trimester I was so sick I couldn’t do anything. I had non stop nausea from morning until night and it was quite a miserable time for me. I also had commitments I couldn’t cancel on, including a yoga retreat in Mexico so I continued teaching as much of my regular schedule as I could. In Mexico (and later back in London) I was given medication to help ease the nausea, which managed to get me by. As tends to be the case for most, the nausea gradually subsided by the second trimester, but although I was teaching yoga, I found I couldn’t really do much yoga myself. I knew staying active was important so I instead started taking pilates, did a couple PT sessions a week, and was introduced to Barre. About half way through my second trimester I found I had more energy and started to get back into regular yoga classes, though with my growing bump I modified the practice to avoid deep twists, deep backbends and anything on my stomach. Now that I am in my third
trimester and the belly is much larger, I continue to do a mixture of exercises but modifying all to ensure I am not straining my core in particular. For me it has always been important to strengthen my back chain to help support the added wait on the front of my body and protect my lower back. I also wanted to maintain arm strength even though I could no longer do things like chaturanga – we tend to forget how important arm strength will be for when the baby arrives as well as there will be plenty of lifting and lowering to do! I have been very fortunate up until this point to remain pain-free, which I attribute entirely to staying active – while also ensuring I am getting sufficient rest and a well balanced diet.
3. How do you keep a positive mindset with all the hormonal changes pregnancy offers?
I have been incredibly lucky with this for three reasons: 1. my job requires me to do my best to maintain a positive mindset, and the positive messages I share throughout class become constant reminders for me as well. 2. I have a very flexible schedule that allows me to rest when I need to, helping me maintain a rather stress-free environment. 3. I have not experienced very strong hormonal changes in this pregnancy. Don’t get me wrong, I still cry watching random commercials and find myself at times more sensitive than usual, but for the most part I have been very surprised by how well balanced I feel mentally and hormonally. There are obviously some big challenges that come with pregnancy – one for me was the fact that it really takes over a woman’s life, whereas for men it’s pretty much life as usual. It can be hard for both sides to understand the other because we are experiencing such different things, and that is a real adjustment that requires a lot of support and open communication. Your body also changes in incredible and at times really gross ways! It is a daily practice to embrace these changes, the miracle happening inside of you, and the fact that though things may never return to what they were, they may in fact end up being different, but better.
4. What are your ‘go to’ restorative poses for pregnancy?
I find child’s pose really uncomfortable and have for some time but I love puppy pose. I also love ALL side stretches! The torso area can really cramp up as the baby pushes organs up and stretches out the abdominals, plus acid reflux gets quite uncomfortable so side stretches have felt amazing for me to create space and stay open.
5. How have you prepared for birth and what is your top tip for other expectant mothers?
I am doing my best to prepare for birth, especially as I am hopeful for a home birth. My top tip would be to just educate yourself on the possibilities. As much as we have a plan for our birth, you will often hear it rarely goes according to plan. Should things take a different direction, it is good to be prepared in advance with how you would like handle the situation in order to not be caught off guard, causing more stress/distress to the body. We are so fortunate to have the rights over our bodies that we do in the UK, which is why it is important to understand your choices to make the right decisions for YOU every step of the way. I also encourage expectant mothers to find positive birth stories. We are so often confronted with the not-so-great stories that it creates fear before we have even had the opportunity to experience it for ourselves. Our ability to connect with our strength, with the knowledge that we were made to do this, with calming energies, will vastly impact the type of experience we have – I strongly believe that. I did a hypnobirthing course with Katherine Graves that I strongly recommend – more than anything for the vast amount of information they share with you on what to expect when your time comes.
6. Finally, what piece of advice would you give to a yoga beginner wanting to start practicing during pregnancy.
If you are new to yoga and coming into it pregnant, though the classes seem much “slower” I would stick to only doing pregnancy yoga. As you will have heard many times before, you probably shouldn’t start anything more strenuous that you were not accustomed to doing prior to becoming pregnant. Pregnancy yoga is a beautiful way to connect with your body, with your baby, with other pregnant mothers-to-be and to be in a safe space to discuss and hear about what to expect during pregnancy and birth. Though there are plenty of wonderful teachers in London, I can personally recommend Tara Lee and Lulu Winfield.
A huge thanks to Mariel for taking the time to answer our questions.
Check back next Wednesday for no. 2 in our Experts Expecting blog series.