Food and Pregnancy

Food and Pregnancy

Food at PregnancyFood! It can be our greatest medicine, our worst poison, or somewhere in between. When I became pregnant in November 2017, out of the blue, I developed a huge sensitivity to many foods. I took a food sensitivity test because I had an extreme eczema breakout, and found out I was highly sensitive to malt and gluten, and many other foods. Eating gluten my entire life with no problem, then all of a sudden, my body hated it! Then, I stopped eating those foods and instead ate lots of probiotic rich foods. Slowly, after several months, the eczema fully disappeared.

Any food sensitivities that may have been dormant could escalate into severe sensitivities or allergies during pregnancy. The body is putting its nourishment to grow and nourish the baby, so the immune system is not as strong as it is normally. When I get a cold during pregnancy, for example, it seems to last forever! I can usually knock a cold out in 5 days, but during pregnancy, it’s usually 10 days or longer. Anything that is a slight problem, will come out during pregnancy because our bodies are just focused on building our beautiful babies.

Therefore, eating healthy is super important during pregnancy! If we eat the right foods we can fuel our bodies and fuel our growing babies. In addition, since I sing and perform, I need to maintain a super healthy diet so I am able to outpour my energy to sing. As any professional mom, whether it’s singing, athletics, office work, or anything else that requires us to use our mind, bodies and souls (so basically every single mom out there!) we need to maintain a healthy diet so that food can become our greatest medicine.

Eating the right portions is tricky when pregnant. Everyone says “you are eating for two”, but my modo is “listen to your body”. For me, it feels like eating for one and a half. I eat just a bit more than I do when not pregnant. For example, I might have an extra tuna sandwich in the afternoon or an extra hearty breakfast. Not eating enough, or overeating, can cause problems. The best way to gadge this is to eat healthy foods and count calories (I don’t, but some people do to make sure they are getting 1800-2400 calories per day). Stop eating when you are full and if your meal didn’t fill you up, add some extra protein like almond butter or hummus.

As a singer, I must always take care of my body and especially during pregnancy since the baby’s health is directly related to my health. Also, don’t worry about gaining too much weight. Trust that your body is gaining just as much weight as it needs to grow your baby. They say a woman should gain 25-35 pounds during pregnancy. I have gained 40-50 pounds during pregnancy and my babies have been beautiful and healthy. And I lost the baby weight within a few months postpartum! (Of course, always listen to your doctor.) A pregnant mom just needs to eat healthy and eat wholesome foods.

My Recommended Diet during Pregnancy

Some of the most important things that I recommend be included in a pregnant woman’s diet include:

Vitamins and Minerals

An excellent prenatal vitamin is key! I use Perfect Prenatal by New Chapter:

https://www.amazon.com/New-Chapter-Probiotics-Wholefoods-Ingredients/dp/B00WJW9DXM

I also take the fish oil by New Chapter:

https://www.amazon.com/New-Chapter-Fish-Oil-Supplement/dp/B002FU6I9K?th=1

The probiotic by MegaFoods:

https://www.amazon.com/MegaFood-MegaFlora-Intestinal-Vegetarian-Gluten-Free/dp/B0160DN3X6

 

Protein

I find that protein is so important! When I don’t have enough protein when pregnant I can feel it! The symptoms can be lightheaded or dizziness. My solution to this is a protein shake in the morning. Here is an example:

Blend together (I use nutribullet):

  • A handful of dark leafy greens
  • Frozen fruit
  • Protein powder
  • Sweetener (I use agave)
  • Avocado
  • Yogurt
  • Almond milk
  • Water

 

I also make sure I include eggs, beans, and hummus in my diet.

Iron

Iron is extremely important in pregnancy so that one does not become anemic. Dark vegetables, red meat and fish are great. A good prenatal vitamin will have the daily recommended value of iron in it as well.

Fiber

Fibre in food will help the digestive system. I prefer to have shakes that I make (see above under Protein)  which keep the fibre in the vegetables instead of fresh juicing, in which all the fibre is basically thrown out. Fresh Juicing though, is incredibly healthy, and I try to have a fresh juice once a week.

Whole Grains

Whole grains are an important part of a pregnancy diet. I love oatmeal during pregnancy cooked with fruit. Blue oatmeal is what I call it when I cook oatmeal with frozen wild blueberries. It’s delicious! Other great sources of whole grains are 100% whole wheat bread (if you can tolerate gluten), quinoa and brown rice.

Dairy Products

Calcium is necessary to maintain healthy bones. If you don’t eat enough calcium your body will start taking vitamins from your own teeth and bones to feed the baby! Yikes!  I recommend milk, cheese, and yogurt. Yogurt is great because it also has tons of probiotics in it. If you were to add only one dairy product into your diet, let it be yogurt, or even better Kefir (which has even more probiotic power)! If you want to make your own kefir (this is the best way) here are some ways to start:

https://www.culturedfoodlife.com/the-trilogy/kefir/how-to-make-kefir/

https://bodyecology.com/digestive-health-kefir-starter.html

Water and Coconut Water

Water and coconut juice

Water is so important! Hydration is so important. I personally find the taste of water really boring! When I add a splash of cranberry juice or a squeeze of lemon into my water, I drink more of it daily. I also find I drink more water when I use a great water bottle. It’s crazy but somehow we drink more during the day if we use an efficient water bottle. I use this one by contigo: https://www.gocontigo.com/24-oz-autospout-ashland-limited-release-water-bottle.html

Coconut water is also great; it’s very refreshing and hydrating.

Fruits

I love fruit! The sugar in fruit (fructose) is actually great for you. It’s nature’s dessert. During the summer my favorite fruits are cherries, peaches, plums. Bananas are great for potassium. I go to a local farmer’s market once a week to buy organic, fresh fruit.

Vegetables

Vegetables are what we were meant to eat. Unfortunately, most of us eat far far less than what is optimal. Culturally, it’s just not part of our society to eat vegetables all day long. However, our bodies thrive on them. Carrots, kale, avocado, celery, spinach, leeks, tomato, cucumber, beetroot, mushrooms, etc, you name it! There are so many vegetables and every one is good for us!

Dates

Studies have shown that eating 6 dates a day during the last four weeks of pregnancy can significantly improve labor and make labor go faster. More information here: https://www.mamanatural.com/dates-during-pregnancy/

Dates - pregnancy food

With all that being said, I must admit, when I’m pregnant I crave a good old fashioned meal from ‘In and Out’! I love my double double with a vanilla shake and fries! I don’t feel guilty about it either. It’s all about a balance. We have to have some fun. Everything in moderation. Ice cream, cookies, cake, etc. are all fine, but just make sure you aren’t eating these things all day, every day.

An occasional trip to ‘In and Out’ isn’t going to harm you or your baby. Just keep in mind whatever you are eating, your baby is eating. Imagine your baby is 18 months old, sitting next to you, and waiting for you to feed her/him. Would you give your baby a glass of wine, for example? I wouldn’t in a million years! So I don’t drink alcohol at all when pregnant. Would you give your baby a bowl of yogurt, strawberries and granola? That’s definitely much better! Keep in mind you are your baby’s cook. Feed her/him and you well.

You are awesome, mama! Keep on cooking, eating, and enjoying this special, amazing time in your life! I give you a virtual high five for your amazing self-care!

 

Xoxo,

Leandra

 

Disclaimer:

This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional. This information is not intended to provide diagnosis, treatment or medical advice. Products, services, information and other content provided on this site, including information that may be provided on this site directly or by linking to third-party websites are provided for informational purposes only. Please consult with a physician or other healthcare professional regarding any medical or health related diagnosis or treatment options.

Singing during pregnancy and labor

Singing during pregnancy and labor

Leandra Pregnant Singing

I’m currently 7 months pregnant with baby number three due in August! It has been so fun to feel the baby moving in my tummy as I sing and as she hears a large symphony play. It often feels like popcorn popping in my belly!  She moves a lot when I sing! I can tell that I’ve woken her up if all of a sudden when I sing a loud phrase, I feel a big kick out of nowhere. To be a mother and a singer is a constant balancing act, but if you love what you do everything becomes gratifying and rewarding. Every time that my oldest son James, who is 3 ½ says “mommy sings for work” and wishes me luck as I leave the house on weekends to perform, is uplifting to my soul and inspires me to do my best.

From a vocal technique standpoint, I have to pay extra attention on my breath support when I am pregnant. Although each pregnancy has been different, all three times I have had to have extra focus on my breath support and control. It’s a great reminder to have the breath be ones foundation. Not only does it give one the power to sing with strength, but it also has a relaxing effect and helps ground the performer. I have found I feel an extra weight while I am pregnant (for obvious reasons) so I find it helps to be very grounded. I take an extra moment before I sing to make sure my breath is supported.

Singing for pain management

During labor, singing is an important technique I have used for pain management. I have successfully had two births with no drugs; quick and easy labors. I highly recommend hypnobabies (https://www.hypnobabies.com), which I am using on my pregnancy. During contractions, I also use long vocal tones. When we are in pain, it is a natural reaction to make a sound. When you hurt yourself you say “aaoou” or “ouch” but a high-pitched scream will just make your body tense up more. I have learned that a low pitched long sound on “haaaaaaaaa” will keep your body relaxed and let you sink into the contraction instead of fighting it. It helps me feel that the contraction is my baby giving me a big hug instead of a pain I am fighting against. During every single contraction from active labor until pushing in my last two pregnancies, I phonated on these low-pitched sounds. Believing that my quick and natural labors were due to the combination of using hypnobabies and these lows vocal tones. I plan on using these same techniques for my upcoming labor this summer.Leandra Pregnant Singing

Planting the seed of Music to children

This season I was blessed to have a lot of performances. One of these is performing for children with the San Francisco Opera Guild. We performed La Cenerentola (Cinderella) in the Fall of 2017. I was Cinderella, and my colleagues were other major roles; and the students played smaller roles (such as the evil stepsisters). I also played the Mama in the opera for children Lucinda de las Flores de la Nochebuena; which I will perform again with the San Francisco Opera Guild in December of 2018. Knowing my colleagues and I are helping to plant the seed of music in student’s hearts is so rewarding. As a singer and a mom, I know the importance of introducing children to the arts; it’s great to know my baby enjoys live music even before she is born.

Singing is healing!

I want to encourage other pregnant singers to continue singing during their pregnancies. Singing while pregnant also helps to develop the deep relationship between mom and baby. The baby will recognize the voice of the mom after they are born and singing while pregnant just makes that connection even stronger. If you are pregnant or plan to be soon, let me tell you it is the most gratifying thing to sing to your baby while you are pregnant (even if you are not a professional singer!). Your baby will love your voice no matter what, even if you just enjoy singing for fun in the shower. And singing helps so much during labor! So add some humming on your walks, or sing your favorite song while you are driving. Singing is healing and is great for everyone, professionals and non-professionals.

Here’s to all of you singing mama’s!

Xoxo,

Leandra

A Brief Eclipse of the Soul in Ordo Virtutum

A Brief Eclipse of the Soul in Ordo Virtutum

I am getting ready for my first performance of Hildegard von Bingen’s opera, Ordo Virtutum (Order of the Virtues). I play the lead role of the Soul, alternating the role with my wonderful colleague and friend Alice del Simone. My first performance is this Saturday, August 19th in San Francisco at 4pm at the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation at 1750 29th Avenue, San Francisco. Tickets can be purchased HERE. This has been a very spiritual and uplifting journey for me in learning this role. First of all, it has been the hardest thing in my whole career that I have ever had to memorize! Hildegard von Bingen writes in chants, and this was way before key signatures and time signatures were invented to organize music as we know it today, or even as we knew it in the classical period. So our brains (or at least my brain) had a hard time putting together the patterns in a way that I could memorize. But eventually, with repetition and better understanding of the composer, I was able to understand her amazing composing style and become one with the music. As one of my colleagues said to me, singing and learning this music is like yoga. You need to become one with it and then it just flows out of you. Each chant has its own style, its own rhythm, its own spirit, and its own heartbeat. Once that chant gets inside your mind and body, our job as the singer, is to just bring it to life. It’s almost like channelling from a time, back in the 1100’s, and connecting to it on a spiritual level and then here it is, now, these gorgeous heavenly chants. My character of the Soul goes through an incredible journey. As an etherial soul, her young spirit yearns to see the world that God made and leave the spiritual plane; leave her virtue sisters and explore. The devil notices her curiosity and lures her in, promising her that the world has everything she is looking for. After seeing how difficult and hard the world is without a connection to God, she returns to the virtues, in utter despair and eventually becomes one with God again and beats her daemon. What a wonderful message that is always relevant. The light is always stronger than the dark, and the light after going through the dark and then shining again, is even stronger. How timely also with the upcoming solar eclipse on Monday, August 21st! Even after the sun gives up its light to the dark moon for a bit of time, the sun (light) will always prevail and become even stronger after cleansing the dark and become brighter after winning over the dark. Even when we go through hard times, the light will always prevail. We just need to get up again and keep shining. A similar message that came to me is the beautiful phrase, “this, too, shall pass.” This east-Indian infused production is joined by the beautiful San Francisco Renaissance Dancers, and heavenly music: Deepak Ram, bansuri master & Diana Rowan, Celtic harper, Todd Jolly, percussionist, with San Francisco Renaissance Dancers under the direction of Jennifer Meller with guest choreographer Kaveri Seth I hope to see you at this uplifting and inspiring performance! Leandra