We had a baby. Her name was Tanaz.

On February 2nd, Tanaz Rivera Hicks was silently born. At 20 weeks gestation, Rich and I chose to terminate due to a rare neural tube defect that was threatening our baby’s life. Please help to honor her by bearing witness to our story, and acknowledging her short life.

Content Warning: miscarriage, termination, abortion, fetal abnormality.

I found out I was pregnant again on Oct 11, 2017, exactly one year to the day of finding out about my first pregnancy. After miscarrying the previous December, we hadn’t intended to get pregnant, and we certainly weren’t ready. I was upset and scared to be pregnant again.

Within a week of finding out about this pregnancy, I thought I miscarried, and mourned the loss of the baby. A week later, we found out the baby was still alive, but measuring small with a slow heartbeat. A week after that, the baby appeared to be ok, and measuring on target. We were 7.5 weeks pregnant, with a due date of June 18, 2018 (the day before Rich’s birthday). A week and a half later, I started cramping and spotting. I dreamt that I miscarried a baby that was about 18 weeks gestation. This was surely an omen of things to come.

On November 22, 2017, Rich’s cousin Shaquetta passed unexpectedly. She was like a little sister to him. Before flying out to her funeral, I had my first trimester appointment. Everything looked good, and we were cleared to fly. It was the first time we had assurance that the baby was stable and doing well. We were relieved, but torn, as we headed back home to mourn and be with our family.

After we got back, I was reluctant to do genetic testing. With so many unknowns and false positives in early pregnancy, I didn’t want to pile on any more stress for me, or the baby. I decided I’d rather know of any potential issues, so we would have time to research and be prepared to support our baby however we could.

We went to the perinatologist on December 14, 2017. We watched in amazement as our tiny baby kicked and squirmed on the screen. It was the first time we were excited and hopeful. Shortly after, the doctor told us the bad news: there was a mass on the baby’s forehead, which he was 90% sure was a frontal encephalocele. However, he couldn’t confirm a diagnosis because the baby hands were shielding her face the whole time. He recommended a follow up in 2 weeks.

An encephalocele is a rare neural tube defect where the skull doesn’t close properly, and a portion of brain pushes out. The defect is typically life threatening, with most cases ending in miscarriage or infant death. A non-life threatening encephalocele often results in a variety of serious mental and developmental deficits.

We were emotional, and knew that termination was on the table. We took the time to research all possible scenarios, but our options looked bleak. We went home for Christmas and spent time with our families, preparing emotionally for what was to come. On December 29th, the doctor confirmed that it was indeed an encephalocele, and it was more serious than any of us initially thought.

We were crushed, but we had to get as much information as possible. We went for a second and third opinion, and had many ultrasounds, and an amniocentesis. All the information and opinions we received said that it was a really bad case. In our last ultrasound, the encephalocele did not appear to be covered by skin, and the amnio was tinged with blood. She was likely to not make it to term, and if she did, she would not live very long and would be in a lot of pain. We were at worst case scenario.

We decided that termination was the best decision for all 3 of us, but I was still not ready. I needed to bond with our baby first, so we decided to name her. With all that she had been through already, we started looking for names around the word “tenacious”, or “tenaz” in Spanish. We came across Tanaz, an Arabic name meaning “delicate body” and “worthy of praise”. It was so fitting. Within the week, I started to feel her first kicks. It was all so bittersweet. I knew that for my own process of letting go, I need to give birth to her and spend time with our baby.


On Feb 2, 2018, I was induced and gave birth to Tanaz Rivera Hicks. At 20 weeks gestation, weighing 7.8 ounces and measuring 8.5 inches long, she was as small as a baby doll. She was tiny, but so very developed already. She had features just like Rich, same nose and lips, broad shoulders, and long fingers and toes. And as expected, her defect was really apparent, with no skin to cover it. It was heartbreaking to meet her this way. My parents were here for the delivery, and we all got to spend time with her.

We had a small memorial for Tanaz at home. We decided to have her cremated and chose a small, simple, but beautiful urn. We get fresh flowers for her every week, and have lit many candles in her memory. I also donated my breast milk to the Mother’s Milk Bank in her name, hoping that ending her short life would save another baby in dire need. We tried to honor her, and this process of life and death, at every step of our journey with her.

It’s all been incredibly emotional. I think about her all the time, and have been mourning the bond we shared. It has been very difficult, but I am so grateful to have been Tanaz’s mother, even for a few months. And even though I won’t get to see her grow up, she will always be my first born child, and always a central part of our little Rivera Hicks family.


My First Pregnancy Was My First Miscarriage

Trigger Warning: miscarriage, loss, grief.  The content and images below may elicit strong emotional responses.

At least 1 in 5 known pregnancies end in miscarriage (the loss of a pregnancy before the 20th week), but no one ever really talks about it.  At least, not until you share your sad news.  Only then will you start hearing stories from sisters, mothers, aunts, friends…

So I want to share my story to open up the dialogue, to break the taboo surrounding miscarriage, to share real information on the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of the process, and to connect with those who have gone through or are going through this right now.

This. is. real. fucking. life.  Let’s talk about it.



Friday December 2nd.  That’s when it started – at a friend’s house.  I was 12 weeks in.

We found out I was pregnant just before week 5.  Into week 6, I started spotting, which we later learned was when the baby stopped growing.  By week 8, I was diagnosed with a missed miscarriage, and was given options for a natural miscarriage, medical induction, or surgical management.

I knew the best option for me was to wait for my body to miscarry naturally, but I honestly had no idea what to expect.  I opened up to my closest family and friends, but no one had ever been in my situation.  No one could tell me about the agonizing wait, the shocking blood loss, what to do after passing my baby in tact, or how to process it all.

So I turned to the internet.  Here are some resources I used to help me navigate this extremely difficult process:

Below is a raw and deeply personal collection of written word, photography, and artwork documenting and honoring my pregnancy, my miscarriage, my grief, and my body-mind-soul throughout.

Continue reading

6 months, 35 lbs, 1″ of Frosting

My husband and I have gotten into a routine of detoxing after the holidays, especially after visiting home and gorging on all the foods we don’t have access to throughout the year.  So this January was no different.

We had already been exploring Paleo/Primal eating since last year, so we decided to look into to the Whole30.  We did all our homework on the in’s and out’s of the plan: 30 days without sweeteners, grains, legumes, dairy, white potatoes, or alcohol.  Oh, and no weighing or measuring my body either (a big issue for me in the past).

We read through the timeline of typical experiences/symptoms so we knew what to expect.  Since we completed an intense detox in August, experiencing week-long headaches, and horrible mood swings, we were fully prepared for what was to happen…  or so we thought.

The first week, instead of experiencing “The Hangover”, “Kill ALL the things”, and “I just want a nap”, we actually had no ill effects!  The logic here is “the amount of suck you experience in this phase is directly proportional to the amount of crap you consumed before you began the program”.  Because we’ve been cleaning up our diet in recent months, we were able to slide right through this stage.

The following week wasn’t all that bad either.  We had mild cravings for relatively healthy things, like plain full-fat yogurt, or 87% dark chocolate.  Though my husband did have dreams about gorging on pizza and a plate full of bacon.  Other than that, we were coasting right along.  SUPERB!

The third week is where things started getting interesting.  My husband was scheduled for a mild surgical procedure, so his mom and aunt were flying in from across the country for support, and would be staying with us for a week.  We were facing the stress of the pending surgery, a packed (1-bedroom) apartment, and what the hell was I going to feed my in-laws while we were detoxing??

Thankfully my in-laws were happy to try all the food I was cooking!  So that part was pretty awesome.  The surgery went well, but there were some complications afterward that warranted an over-night stay.  My husband was put on a liquid diet, and was refusing the Jell-O and apple juice (10% juice??) they provided.  Luckily, we were able to bring him some raw coconut water to keep him hydrated and nourished.  As for the packed apartment, we actually had a lot of fun playing board games, making meals together, and reminiscing about family times.  All in all, that week was a success.

By the forth week, I began feeling intense cravings and serious food boredom, even though my meals were getting more and more creative, and being driven by the awesome selection at our local farmer’s market.  I was also experiencing some crazy mood swings, more intense then ever.  Was I feeling my symptoms in reverse??  I just bit down hard, and kept on keeping on.

We ended the last few days with a going-away party for a friend that we hosted with nearly all Whole30-compliant food (we just stayed clear of the pancakes and mimosas), and a couple of emotional why-won’t-this-thing-end-already?! days.  But we made it to Day 30 unscathed!!  In fact, by Day 31, I was over the intensity of being so close to the end, and had no cravings, so I made it a Whole31. Woot!

As for results, I lost 5 lbs for a total of 35 lbs since August, and my husband lost 6 lbs for a total of 20 lbs!  My husband took my body measurements back in October, again in November, and then after our Whole 30 in February.  I don’t exactly trust his tape measuring skills, but it’s pretty clear that I’ve lost about an inch consistently from my neck, biceps, chest, waist, hips, thighs, and calves – which a friend aptly termed “an inch of frosting”.

Check out my before and after pictures, and a timeline of what’s happened since I started my health journey last summer.  I know I still have a long way to go to get to a healthier state, but I’m pretty happy with my progress so far, and am so grateful to have the support of my husband, family, and friends.

6 months

July “before” / Oct down 20 lbs / Feb down 35lbs

(read more here and here)


  • 4-week detox using Anti-Estrogenic Diet
  • Focus on lots of fresh produce, whole grains, beans, fish, nuts and seeds
  • Eliminate caffeine and alcohol; minimize dairy and sugar additives
  • Practice mindfulness and acceptance


  • Lost 20 lbs
  • Started hooping and hiking
  • Improved mood/outlook, less bloated, improved “regularity”



Homestead-Blue Ridge Trail. See that path along the ridge behind me? Yeah, I hiked that.



  • Lost 7 lbs
  • Broke daily obsession with scale (read about it here)
  • Stopped mindlessly binge eating
  • Better balanced, more coordinated, and more playful


Hooping in JFK airport!

Hooping in JFK airport!


  • MAINTAIN weight through the holidays
  • Continue hooping while visiting home for Christmas


  • Rocked my annual physical! (read more here)
  • Hooped in airports, and with my family on the east coast
  • LOST 2 lbs during Christmas while visiting home for 2 weeks!
  • Enjoyed holiday treats while balancing with nourishing foods


My creativity at work: chicken chili verde, over-easy egg, and Southwest sweet potatoes.


  • 30-day detox using Whole30
  • Focus on whole foods including meat and seafood, vegetables, fruits, and nuts
  • Refrain from sugar additives, grains, legumes, dairy, and alcohol
  • Refrain from weighing or measuring my body


  • Lost 5 lbs
  • Got SUPER creative in the kitchen
  • No longer need an alarm clock to wake up
  • Discovering healthier ways to self-soothe instead of emotionally eating
  • Extremely mindful of ingredient labels
  • Started attending local hooping classes

Weight Does NOT Define Health!

The changing of the seasons marks my favorite time of year: open enrollment for my company’s heath insurance policies! Um, yay?

As part of enrollment, we are asked to take a personal health assessment that surveys your overall health (diet, exercise, mental health, etc.) and health numbers (height, weight, waist circumference, blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose).  The tool then attempts to quantify your health on a scale from 0 to 100, and offers services to help you with your highest risk factors.  Since I have been focusing on my overall health more recently, I was looking forward to finding out my health score this year.

To my surprise, I was rated a 32 out of 100!

I don’t claim to be in perfect health, not even by a long shot, but I’m certainly healthier than I was last year.  I dropped 10% of my body weight, I’ve increased my activity level, my mood has skyrocketed, and the blood work from my recent physical came back with spectacular results!  My cholesterol, LDL and HDL are well within the “healthy” range, my triglycerides, glucose, and blood pressure are all at optimal levels, and my thyroid function (T3 and T4), comprehensive metabolic panel (including things like sodium, potassium, and calcium), and iron levels all indicate that my body is functioning very well.

In fact, my primary care physician even noted in my records:

Please continue your excellent lifestyle including good nutritional and exercise habits.

So what gives?!  The problem is that all of this data that reflected whatever health I would have victoriously claimed was far overshadowed by this obscure, static number that has very little meaning on its own: my weight.

Ok, let’s get this out the way… I’m obese.  Actually, according to my calculated Body Mass Index (BMI) based on my weight and height, I’m considered morbidly obese.  One BMI calculator even stated:

With a BMI of 40+ you have an extremely high risk of weight-related disease and premature death. Indeed, you may have already been suffering from a weight-related condition. For the sake of your health it is very important to see your doctor and get specialists help for your condition.

(Wow, ok, that sounds horrible, and it’s not fun to admit, but medically, that how I’m classified.  And that’s the “YOU’RE DOOMED!!” box that I, and other obese people are put in because of this fairly meaningless measurement.)  However, in the context of the results of my last physical exam, something doesn’t add up!  How can a person of my weight/BMI look healthy on paper otherwise?

Some researchers say it’s all in the fat distribution.  Because of my genetics, my wider hips, thicker thighs, and bigger behind (I get it from my mama!) help to safeguard me from some of the major killers of obese people, like diabetes and heart disease.  That’s one theory anyway.

The New York Times posted an article last month describing a study done on the “metabolically healthy obese”. Research suggests that one out of every three obese people may steer clear of heart disease, hypertension, and Type-2 diabetes for at least a decade. More studies need to be done to see how environment, exercise and genetics play into it, but this research could just change how we think about obesity.

Either way, the thing to note here is that weight does NOT define health

Yes, we can use weight as a measurement that feeds into our overall health, but by itself, it’s not a very effective indicator, or even a necessary measure of health.  There are far more impactful aspects to consider, like nutrition, sleep, movement, stress management, etc.

While my company’s health assessment tool does attempt to factor these in, its heavy focus on weight tells me how oversimplified our view of health has become.  And this only helps to perpetuate a social stigma around obesity.  How have you judged the health of someone you perceive to be obese?  What do you assume about their diet, fitness, and god knows what else??

Well, I say, “It’s time to stop obsessing about weight, and judging ourselves and others because of it.  It’s time to educate ourselves, and be open to broader definitions of health.  It’s time to break up with our scales, and to listen to and trust in our bodies to tell us how we measure up.  It’s time, isn’t it?!”

Have you seen my scale??

Have you seen my scale??

I have a confession: I have a bit of an obsession with my scale.  I weigh myself daily, often multiple times a day, whether I’m working to lose weight or not.  I like to observe how my weight fluctuates throughout the day depending on the time of day, dietary intake and quantity, digestion and elimination, and fluid retention due to dehydration, sodium intake, and menstruation.  I know that any one weigh-in does not give an accurate view of my overall weight, so I weigh myself often, and gage the average.  At least, that’s my rationalization.

I started seeing a dietician over a month ago, and she turned my world up-side-down!  She asked me to stop weighing myself, explaining that fluctuations on the scale could lead to disappointment and frustration.  After retorting with my explanations above, I conceded that it probably was not healthy for me to weigh myself as frequently, and reluctantly agreed to lay off.  So I put my scale at home out of sight, and resisted for all of 3 days.  It was painful!  I started to think that I might have a serious problem.

I returned to the dietician a few weeks later, and happily reported all my progress with eating more intuitively, getting more consistent with physical activity, building emotional support to avoid overeating and binging, and my overall weight loss.  Then, I shamefully reported on my unsuccessful attempt at not weighing myself (as if that was all that mattered).  I was concerned she would see this as a failure, as I did.  Instead, she simply suggested another approach.  “What if your husband put away the scale?”  Seemed like a good idea, so I ran with it.

That night, after I had gone to bed, my husband put away the scale in a super secret location.  We agreed that he would set it out for me every Tuesday so that I could weigh myself weekly — fair enough.  The next few days were annoying as I was curious of the damage I’d done from the previous weekend after eating out a bunch.  I knew I was bloated, but wanted to see that reflected on the scale.  He refused to get the scale, so I let it go – no biggie.  As the days went by, I started to really think about why I was so obsessed with my weight, and what I could be focusing on instead.  And then, it all made sense!

I don’t need to focus on my weight — EVER!

I realized that my weight is nothing but an external measurement of my body.  It removes ME from the equation altogether.  Instead, I realized that I can trust myself to judge how healthy I FEEL.  I had already been working on body awareness, and could now rely on a wide range of internal cues to measure my progress.  I would no longer have to be a slave to the scale!

Here are some of the ways I’ve been able to measure my progress over time:

  1. Slimmer face, neck, shoulder, arms, and stomach.
  2. Less cravings for sugary or processed foods.
  3. More explosive energy (to run up stairs, to hula hoop faster, or to jump — at all).
  4. Improved balance (when standing on one leg to put on socks, let’s say).
  5. No sign of cold/flu symptoms in well over a year. (Knock on wood!!)
  6. Shortened menstrual cycle. (Very unexpected!)
  7. Less acne, and fewer breakouts.
  8. More regularity, and less stomach issues.
  9. Stronger urges to get outdoors and get moving.
  10. Improved general outlook, less desire for isolation, and more stable mood.

I also realized that not only could I use my body’s cues to track progress, but I could also use it to keep me balanced and centered around overall health.  My body knows when I’m not eating cleanly, when I’m not moving enough, or when I need some soul searching.  I could use the cues from my mind, body and soul as a system of checks and balances to continuously return my focus back to my health.

Here are some of the cues in my body that raise a red flag (and how I might react):

  1. Bloating, cramping, or nausea after eating a specific food.  (Avoid eating it, duh!)
  2. Overeating or binging. (What emotion or activity am I avoiding? Confront it ASAP.)
  3. Headache, dry mouth, or salt cravings. (Drink water. Wait, did I take my vitamins?)
  4. Cravings for sweets. (Am I stressed? Hungry? Or do I really just want a cookie?)
  5. Mental fatigue. (Am I stressed, hungry, thirsty, tired, depressed? Monitor closely.)
  6. Physical fatigue. (Did I sleep well? Overexert my body? Am I bored? Did I eat?)
  7. Depressed mood or need for isolation. (Cry. Mope. Just be. This too shall pass.)
  8. Crankiness/grumpiness. (Am I tired? Stressed? When was the last time I ate??)
  9. Skin problems and yeast infection. (My hormones are wacky! Check all above.)
  10. Hyperactivity, silliness, or excessive talking. (Either get moving, or nap hard.)

***************************************************************************************************************** WARNING: I AM NOT A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL. I am merely observing my own body, and learning to react to it based on knowledge obtained through experience and many, many health articles and books.  If you notice any signs or symptoms outside of the norm for your body, please contact a medical professional as soon as possible.

Though this epiphany is only about a week old, I feel strongly that as I get more in tune with my mind, body, and soul, I can focus less on how much I weigh, and more on what my body can do, how I feel, and my ability to connect and interact with the world around me.  To me, this is true happiness.

I am Whole and Complete


“You are already integrated. Not on the periphery – on the periphery there is much turmoil. You are fragmented on the periphery. Move inward, and the deeper you go, the more you will find that you are integrated. There comes a point, at the very innermost shrine of your being, where you suddenly find you are a unity, an absolute unity.”


I’ve spent much of my life thinking I was “broken”, not really knowing how to deal with my full range of emotions, or how to cope when hardships come to pass.  It’s taken me quite a bit of mental work over the recent years to figure out how to constructively express anger or to just sit with disappointment, or even how to care for myself in a way that feels genuine.

As I align myself with my center, my intuition, my inner guide (my inner goddess even?), I realize how much easier life seems.  As I turn inward, and explore the depth and breadth of knowledge, experience and perspective I already posses, from my own life and from those who have touched my life, I feel a sense of security in knowing that I already have the tools I need to not only deal with life, but to thrive in it.

I now understand that I was never “broken”; I never needed fixing.  I just needed to get to know myself, the me inside, and to tap into this tremendous source of calm, love, and unity.  No matter how shaky life gets on the outside, I am as whole and complete on the inside as everyone else.

Details, Details, Details

A few of you have asked for more details on what I’ve been doing to improve my health. Well, get ready for a novel…

The most important thing for me has been a mental refocus toward my body.  I don’t know about you, but I often feel like a talking head that’s just lugging my body around.  I tend to pay attention to myself from the neck up because that’s the easiest part for me to deal with.  It takes a lot of mental effort for me to even want to pay attention to my body, and even more to actually want to show it some much-needed love.  So I’m working hard on cleaning up my “mental house” and shifting my energy toward self-love.  Kris Carr, author of Crazy Sexy Diet, has been a huge motivator for me in this arena.

Another critical component has been acting from intuition.  I know when I’m tired, hungry, bored, or dehydrated, when I’m craving movement, connection, alone time, soulful nourishment, or sunshine, and when I’m not thinking or acting in alignment with my core values. Unfortunately, like many others, I tend to ignore that little voice inside that tells me what I should, or even want to do.  Listening to and trusting in those signals from my mind, body, and soul to tell me what I need, and how to provide it for myself boosts my confidence, and allows me to feel more grounded, centered, and happier all around.

Once I started focusing more on my body and intuition, I was able to pick up on my body’s messages.  After eating out for 6 months straight (probably more like 7 or 8 months even!), deciding what to eat was becoming more and more frustrating.  The food I was eating wasn’t as tasty as it was in the past, and I no longer had cravings for anything.  My body grew tired of all the highly-seasoned, highly-processed food.   I was eating because I felt like I should be hungry, or because it was “time to eat”.  On top of that, my body was was bloated, my stomach was not happy, and I was left tired and sluggish because of the food.  I knew it was time for some changes.

Enter in the Anti-Estrogen Diet by Ori Hefmelker.  It’s a liver cleansing detox that focuses on whole foods to help balance out the effects of a high estrogen in your body.  My husband and I have done this same detox several times before, usually after the holidays when we tend to gorge ourselves on all the yummy foods back home.  It seemed like the right time to start this up again.  So we followed the plan, and started going back to the farmers markets to recenter our diet around local, organic, sustainable foods.

After eating so poorly for months, and then quickly switching to a drastically different diet, my body was NOT happy!!  I went through very real sugar withdrawal symptoms.  I had experienced some signs of this when we did this diet in the past, but this time was different. The first week, I had a headache every day that drove me nuts.  I went through severe mood swings, and became angry and aggressive.  At one point, my husband told me, “I just want my wife back!”  I was extremely fatigued and napped for hours at a time, and I was constantly thirsty, drinking upwards of 15-20 glasses a day.  That’s when I realized how poorly I had been treating my body.  This food was making me sick – what a wake up call!

After I got over the sugar withdrawal symptoms, the rest of the detox was pretty easy.  Meals were more satisfying as my taste for real food started kicking in.  I was learning how to listen when my body had cravings, when it was sated, and when it was reacting poorly to a particular food.  In general though, my body was responding very well to the detox.  I was feeling less bloated, had more energy, and I had lost quite a few pounds.

However, knowing how adversely my body reacted to the decrease in sugary foods made me want to investigate more about limiting my carb/sugar/starch intake.  My husband and I have eaten Paleo in the past, but I like dairy!  So after a bit of research, I decided to go Primal, and follow it about 80% of the time.  For the most part, I have eliminated grains, beans, baked goods, pasta, starchy vegetables, and sweeteners (except for a bit of honey on occasion).  I thrive on things like kale caesar salad with organic free range chicken, local wild caught salmon with dill yogurt sauce, and organic steak and eggs with steamed broccoli.  When I have a sweet tooth, 85-90% dark chocolate or yogurt with a bit of honey satisfy my craving.  This way of eating makes my body happy.  

I do allow myself to eat grains and such about 20% of time.  So if a food seems particularly enticing, I’m OK with indulging in it.  And I’m learning how to do this in a way that makes sense for me.  If I’m not craving it, I won’t eat it.  If I eat it, and I don’t like it or it doesn’t satisfy my craving, I put it down.  If I want it, and I eat it, and I like it, then I savor it until I’m sated. (Last night I made a curry lamb burger with herb aioli on a pretzel bun with a fennel, orange, and kale salad.  It was DELICIOUS, and I ate until I was no longer hungry.  Simple as that.)

The funny thing is that for me, changing my diet is not that hard (aside from the sugar withdrawal!).  I like all foods, especially fresh, organic produce, so changing my diet this drastically was not as difficult for me as it may be for others.  I encourage you to explore what makes sense for you, and to take as much time as you need to incorporate healthy changes into your life.  You deserve it!