Learning to Tolerate… I Mean LOVE My Post Baby Body

To be completely honest, when Emmett was born, I was so exhausted and just trying to survive those first months that I didn’t pay much attention to my new body. It was still really cold, so I kept the sweatshirts on and decided I didn’t have the energy to pay any attention to my postpartum physique. At my postpartum checkup, I hopped on the scale that showed I still had about 10 pounds to lose to get back to my pre-baby weight. I thought to myself, hey, it could be worse, I’ll get there and honestly I’m not in any hurry. It took 9 months to make this baby, I shouldn’t be expected to bounce back in a few weeks. Then spring started to melt into summer, and I thought I deserved some new clothes. I was 10 weeks postpartum at the time and I carefully selected a few cute summer dresses that would likely suit my pre-baby style and my post-baby body and hit proceed to checkout. When the box arrived on my doorstep, my Grandma was here and my husband had just gotten home from a deployment. I optimistically told them I’d model my new outfits for them!

LOL. That’s not what happened.

I had ordered these dresses with visions of cute, Instagram worthy pictures of me in Cape Cod this summer with an adorable baby on my hip. I made sure to select more forgiving flowy summer styles and left the fitted numbers where they belonged—saved for later. The flowy floral number I was so excited about zipped up, and I thought to myself, “Hey, it zipped! That’s a good sign!”

But the woman that stared back at me in the mirror looked like a stranger to me. She looked so tired. I could see the anxiety around her eyes, and she clearly shouldn’t be wearing anything relatively low cut or that doesn’t have an elastic waist. I think what really hit me was my breasts. I don’t use the word breasts, so I’ll call them what I normally call them; boobs. The dress was lower cut, and guess what else was lower? My freakin’ boobs. Before baby I never wore a bra. NEVER. I had silicone stick-on nipple covers I’d replace every few months as I rocked those low-cut sun dresses that flaunted my perky cleavage and cheeky side boob. Clearly, I can throw those out now… The nip covers and the cheeky dresses. My new boobs look like I tried to breastfeed a rabid grizzly bear and lost the fight. Within seconds I was in tears, with flashbacks of just how horrible my experience breastfeeding was. Not only was it the worst experience of my adult life, I now have a permanent reminder of it every time I look in the mirror.  A saggy, stretch-marked reminder of the constant pain, sobbing, bloody nipples and the sound of the breast pump’s aggressive buzzing as it tugged away at my raw nipples. A dainty scar left behind from Mastitis like a tattoo you regret but can’t get rid of.  I felt the defeat of screaming “I can’t do this anymore” through bloodshot eyes wash over me all over again. I felt the fever and chills from Mastitis return. I felt the sobbing in the shower as the warm water hit my tore-up nips. It all came back and it sucked just as much this time as it did when it was really happening. A true flashback of a time I’d rather never, ever revisit.

I also saw my tummy. That needed work too. Although it had somewhat deflated back to normal, the loose skin was definitely visible. My belly button looked like it was frowning. Kind of like the flower towards the end of The Beauty and The Beast—wilted AF. I thought to myself, thank goodness one-piece bathing suits are back in style. My hips were wider. My stance, less confident. Everything just seemed foreign and unfamiliar. Softer. I just stared at myself as the tears continued to well up.

I heard my eager audience say from the living room “I guess we don’t get to see the show!”… I wiped my eyes, folded up the dress and put it back in the box. I slipped back into the maternity leggings I still rocked and emerged from the bedroom explaining they weren’t worth showing. I picked up the baby and went into his nursery and sobbed as quietly as I could as I rocked him and put him down for a nap.

When I was pregnant, I cried over the most insignificant things and whined how I couldn’t wait for it to be over so I could get my mental stability back. HA! After baby, everything is new, and the tears certainly didn’t slow down. Your life, your schedule, your body… Everything. But at that moment, I sat there staring at my baby who was now sound asleep in napland, and I took a deep breath and I thanked him. First, I thanked him for not fighting said nap at a time that Mama really needed him to be sweet and cuddly. I thanked him for making me a Mama and giving me this job. I assured him I wasn’t crying because of him. I whispered to him that I loved him more than any sundress. Then I thanked him for my new body. I wiped away my tears, turned off the tear spigot (righty tighty y’all), and promised I’d try to do better at respecting this body that gave me him, and not get so angry at it.IMG_7410

This is something that will be a constant struggle and will take some work, but I’ve promised to do better. Although I still joke about my body and say things along the lines of it being Emmett’s first apartment, I’m trying to not me mean to myself. I actually wrote this 3 months ago, and have never been brave enough to share it, because it’s weirdly personal and emotional. I’ve started working out again. But I’m not doing it “to get my body back,” I’m doing to for me, and for me time. I’m doing it as a little something good for myself. To thank my body for being strong during tough times.  I’m working out to stay healthy and strong for my baby who will soon be a toddler that needs chasing. Honestly, as much as it sucks, the endorphins really do a body and mind good.

This body, as much as I’m not a super fan of it’s appearance, worked really, really hard to give us this healthy baby, and so what if it’s hard work shows. The phrase “bounce back” needs to be retired. You can get back into a healthy lifestyle, but there certainly is no bouncing into anything… Especially because new moms are likely afraid of wetting their pants in the event of bouncing. With that said, you can find me in my yoga pants and one-piece swimsuit for now. And if you have a problem with that, then that sounds like your problem, doesn’t it.

How becoming a mom showed me gratitude

Becoming a mom is one of the most incredible things to ever happen to me. It has been such a roller coaster of emotions that I’ve had a tough time processing them at times. It’s hard yet awesome. It’s exhausting yet most exhilarating thing ever. It makes you happy and sometimes sad, and sometimes I catch myself crying for no reason other than my brain is trying to keep up with all the emotions swirling around in my head.

But if there’s one emotion that has become the star of the show, its gratitude. Anxiety is a close second, but we’ll save that puppy for later. It may seem like I’m always whining about how hard it all is, but that’s because, well, it is hard. And by the way, hard does not always equal bad. But as hard is at may be, my son has single handedly showed me what it feels like to be hashtag blessed. I just stare at him in a complete awe and wonder how this tiny person that’s a mix of my husband and I is real. How his chubby cheeks and butt chin wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the miracle that is procreation.

I know, I know. I used to hate those bitches who said that their hearts were just exploding with love. Or said having kids is like feeling your heart walk around on the outside of your body, but it’s freaking true. Damn. I hate when those bitches are right.

Going out to eat with a baby can be a little stressful. Sometimes your baby will cooperate through dinner, and sometimes they won’t. They’re babies. They cry sometimes. And generally the people around you are not super pumped about being near your crying baby. But sometimes when your baby cries in public, you don’t get rude looks and death stares, but instead, looks of empathy from grandmas who are missing their little ones, or a waitress who has been there.

Recently, I was out to dinner and my baby had a full diaper blow out. He was crying. I was sweating. I was trying not to cause a scene as I snuck away from the table (just as the food arrived of course, because #momlife). As I approached the restroom while holding a poop grenade just waiting to be detonated, I prayed to the good lord baby Jesus that this restaurant had a changing table. Thankfully it did. As I laid my baby out on the changing table, hair in my face, poo that resembled spicy mustard just waiting to make it’s great escape, baby cries echoing through the marble bathroom (those bathroom acoustics!), I struggled to get wipes out of the diaper bag that swung from my elbow. With one hand on the baby at all times, I exhaled as I finally finagled some wipes from the swinging trapeze of my diaper bag. And in that moment, a woman came up to me and offered a hand. I didn’t know this woman. I politely declined her help and genuinely thanked her. She looked me in the eyes and told me I was doing a great job and she remembered how hard it was like it was yesterday. I went home later that night and thought, I wish there were more people in this world like her. To the kind strangers in the world who make up for all the not so kind ones, I’m grateful for you.

Also, can we just say I’m grateful to public places with changing tables? No matter how gross, at least there’s a safe place to clean up your babe.

When our son needed an emergency grand entrance to the world during his birth, the doctors and nurses made sure he and I were safe and healthy. They also made sure we felt safe and healthy. Even though I know it’s their job, the way they treated me with dignity and respect will never be forgotten. I feel forever grateful to these humans.

When our son had surgery at 5 weeks old, the skilled surgical team carefully operated on our tiny newborn with care and precision. His doctors and nurses cared for him and even myself with such grace and kindness, I felt like we were a part of their family. Each time we left the hospital as a healthy family of three, I thought to myself—thank God. I am not super religious. But there are times you just have to look around and thank the universe or the powers that be for your happy ending. I was bursting with gratitude. I still am.

When our insurance covered our baby’s operation in full, and then assigned a registered nurse to call and check up on him and answer any questions I may have, I felt so grateful to have such wonderful healthcare coverage. Not having to worry about a stack of medical bills piling up allowed us to focus on the health of our son, and I never once took that for granted.

When I struggled transitioning into my new role as a mother, with sleepless nights and a fussy newborn, my friends and family that checked in on me meant more than I ever thought possible. I was fighting that good fight of staying afloat as a new mom. Everyone has their own busy life, their own struggles, their own good fight to fight, but the daily calls, texts, cards and even gifts we received, made me truly realize how loved we are. My friends and family love our baby like their own, and it shows. For that, I am so freakin’ grateful.

When I watched the news and saw a segment about a mother living out of her car with her babies, it made me appreciate the walls around me and the roof above my head. Our house is not a mansion by any means. It’s not featured in Better Homes & Gardens Magazine. There is plenty of updating my husband and I would love to complete eventually, but it’s our home. The first home our baby will know, the house that turned into a home the second that baby came home with us. The one small bathroom is the one I found out I was pregnant in. The same bathroom that has become “Bubbie’s Spa” during our baby’s nightly bath. Our house that won’t be home forever, but it’s filling up with memories by the day. For this humble home that keeps us warm and safe, I am so grateful.

There’s so much more I’m truly grateful for every day, but this post would be 15,000 pages long and likely get cheesy enough to cringe. I’m grateful for the gift if being able to have a child, the gift of health, the gift of feeling safe and protected and loved. The gift of feeling supported when I needed it most. I’m grateful for my husband who loves both me and our son unconditionally. Grateful for this postpartum body, no matter how I struggle with it, because it gave me my baby. I’m grateful for the bad days, because they taught me just how good the good days are. Not to say that I used to be an ungrateful person, but the little things are just a lot bigger now, and the big things, well, they’ll figure themselves out.

When it’s not just reflux; my newborn had pyloric stenosis and needed surgery

As a new mom, the word “scary” gets tossed around a lot. Because honestly, it’s the best way to describe it. Everything is new and unfamiliar, and every poop, grunt or squeak from your baby gets observed the way a resident on Grey’s Anatomy observes a patient who has been admitted for Ebola. “Does this look normal?” is also just a part of a new parent’s love language.

But when something doesn’t feel right, or in fact feels very wrong, it’s all consuming. I’m a brand-new mom to a brand-new baby—a baby who had been diagnosed with reflux. Reflux in babies is common. Their tiny tummies aren’t mature enough to hold their feeds down, so sometimes a little comes back up as “spit up”. I was told it’s usually more of a laundry issue than a medical one, but to monitor and call the pediatrician in the event things seemed to get worse.

By week 5 with my newborn, spit up was everywhere. It was in my hair, it was on my clothes and every surface of my home had a burp cloth ready for clean-up. I switched from breast milk to different kinds of formula. We kept him elevated after feeds. We tried it all. But when the burp cloths transformed into full on beach towels, and the “spit up” turned exorcist-style projectile, I knew in my gut it wasn’t just reflux. It couldn’t be.

The morning we found out that it wasn’t “just reflux” still haunts me. I brought my 5-week old baby back to the pediatrician, spit up in my hair, apologizing profusely for being a paranoid first-time mom. But my worry was valid. I wasn’t over-reacting. There was something wrong with my baby. They found he had a milk allergy and for a brief moment, that diagnosis was a relief. I assumed that explained all the vomiting and constant fussiness. We would change his formula, and everything would be better. Right?

Wrong.

The doctor also said they wanted to have him looked at for something called pyloric stenosis; a condition where the pylorus muscle in babies becomes thickened, preventing food from leaving the stomach and entering the small intestine, causing them to forcefully vomit up their feeds. She explained that this condition usually presents itself in babies around 4-6 weeks of age, causes forceful vomiting, and is most common in first born males. We checked all the boxes and were immediately sent for ultrasound at Hasbro Children’s Hospital.

When the ultrasound tech left the room to get the radiologist so he could take a closer look, my heart sank. It kerplunked so deep in my gut that I couldn’t breathe. I sat there, holding my breath and my 8 pound, 5-week old baby, when they returned with the news I already saw coming.

The radiologist said “Your son does in fact have Pyloric Stenosis and he will need surgery. We will be admitting him now.”

*Starts frantically googling pyloric stenosis*

No matter how good the bedside manner, or how many times a doctor calmly tells a mom that the surgery her baby needs is a “simple, straightforward one” or that “everything will be fine,” it does not ease the blow. At that moment, in that room, dried spit up caked to my scalp, eyes so heavy and tired from weeks of spit up filled nights, I lost it. I sobbed while rocking my baby, in shock that this was happening, yet saying over and over I knew something was wrong. My baby was so tiny, born just 5 weeks prior, at only 37-weeks gestation and already needed an operation. Why my baby? Why our family? Why did he have to be the one in a thousand babies who get this diagnosis?

We were admitted right away, to the children’s hospital that would become home for the next 3 days. They explained that the operation would not take place until morning, but they needed to keep him overnight on an IV drip to keep him hydrated, as the most dangerous parts of pyloric stenosis is dehydration. Several nurses were needed to place the IV in his tiny foot. I had to leave the room. I would have rather been pacing the halls of a children’s hospital with tears streaming down my face than see my baby get poked and prodded. I felt an enormous amount of guilt about this, but my husband stayed with our baby, holding his tiny hand while they placed the IV. The compassionate nurse signaled for me that it was safe to come back in.IMG_3029

We were not allowed to feed him until after the surgery, which was nearly 30 hours after first being admitted. Listening to your newborn baby cry his “hungry cry” and not be able to feed him, is a torture like I had never experienced. My body was so tense that I was physically sore for days after. My breastfeeding journey had ended about 2 weeks prior, and yet by the time we left the hospital, I had mastitis (a painful, clogged, infected milk duct) from my body physically trying to respond to my baby’s cry.

The hours spent in pre-op, rocking my infant son as he wailed, IV lines and EKG cords dangling from his foot, were the worst hours of my entire life. As we waited for him to be taken back to surgery, in the pre-op room with other parents and their sick kids, I looked around with blurry eyes. My eyes met the gaze of other moms, eyes filled with the same dread and worry, waiting for their turn to follow their kids out of the pre-op room, just to take their detour to the purgatory of the surgical waiting area.

When the surgeon came to take our son back for surgery, I was filled with dread—a dread that was almost tangible. My husband and I took our own personal journey to the waiting area. We were ready for this mess to be behind us, and to be reunited with our baby who would now hopefully be able to keep his feeds down.

A long hour and a half later, the surgeon came and told us our baby did wonderfully, and we’d be able to see him in recovery soon. When we finally got to see him, all bandaged up, monitors beeping, I exhaled for the what seemed like the first time in days. After some recovery time, and plenty of worry, our baby was going to be okay. Being in a children’s hospital has a way of making your issues—no matter how great—seem small. Looking around at the other recovering children and their worried families made it very apparent we were lucky. Our baby was going to come home with us in a few days, and some of these kids had a much longer journey ahead of them.

When we got home, there were a few more weeks of vomiting episodes. This was normal, but that didn’t make it easy. I had hoped the surgery would have been a quick fix, but it wasn’t. Every time he vomited or spit up from that point forward, my entire body would tense up and I’d be thrown into a full-blown hysterics. I honestly think I had a mild case of PTSD (self-diagnosed obviously). But as weeks went by, and he adjusted to his new milk-free formula and Zantac prescription to manage his reflux, things got better. It just took time and a lot of trial and error.

To all the mamas out there going through a rough patch and possibly a sick baby, I feel for you. It’s the worst feeling in the world. But always trust your gut and know that doctors and nurses are there to help, and they are truly miracle workers.

Preeclampsia, a get to the hospital now story

As I have mentioned in previous posts, the last few weeks of pregnancy were not fun for me. I was wildly uncomfortable and full of anxious nerves. Each day seemed to last a week and I felt like I was trapped in my own body with symptoms getting more uncomfortable by the day. And to my poor husband, I apologize. I know I was not pleasant to be around.

Around week 36 of my pregnancy, I started having what I called “vision spells,” where out of nowhere I would start seeing stars or “auras” and lose almost all vision in one eye and only be able to see out of my peripheral in the other. It would last about 20-30 minutes and then dissipate. The first time it happened, we were at the Olive Garden—leave me alone, I had a craving for breadsticks—and I couldn’t read the menu. I was trying not to freak out and cause a scene amongst the crowd enjoying their unlimited soup, salad and breadsticks, but I was truly frightened.

Visual disturbances are a symptom of preeclampsia—a serious pregnancy complication that affects roughly 5% of pregnancies, that is often characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine, that if left untreated can lead to very serious and even fatal complications to both mom and baby. Other symptoms of preeclampsia include swelling, headache, nausea and shortness of breath, which to be honest are all symptoms of a normal pregnancy too, so don’t freak out mamas. When I saw my doctor for my 36-week checkup, I talked to her about the scary visual disturbance that had happened, and just as I began to talk about it, it happened again. Right there in her office… I mean, that never happens! (You know… Like when you’re driving around for months with a check engine light on, but as you pull into the dealership it turns off?) I started crying—the usual at that point in pregnancy—but honestly, I was really freaked out. I mean, I was having temporary bouts of blindness, that’s scary AF.

I did not have high blood pressure or protein in my urine to indicate preeclampsia, so they sent me to the lab to see if there was anything else going on with my bloodwork that could make sense of the vision spells I was having. The bloodwork showed that my blood platelets were low. They weren’t low enough to worry at that point, but they wanted to check again in a few days to monitor. Blood platelets are what helps blood in the body clot, which is very important during childbirth, because, well, there is so. much. blood. during childbirth. I had bloodwork done 2 more times before my 37-week appointment and continued to have the visual disturbances off and on every day or so. I had also stopped driving at that point because the visual issues happened randomly and without warning.

On the morning of my 37-week checkup, I still had no typical signs of preeclampsia (high BP + protein in urine) but my doctor ordered a rush panel as my platelets had continued to drop over that week, and she wanted to test one more time. She explained to me that she would call as soon as the panels came back, but if my blood platelets had dropped again, it would be cause for induction.

Now, as much as I did not want to be pregnant anymore, this was frightening. Pregnancy is considered full term at 37 weeks, but I did not see this one coming. I was sure I’d be an overdue mama. I called my husband at work and told him what had transpired at the appointment, but told him not to worry, and that I was pretty sure if I were to get induced, it would probably be scheduled for later in the week. When the doctor called a few hours later, she informed me that she didn’t like what she was seeing, that my platelets had continued to drop, and now my liver levels were elevated as well. She then said she felt it was time to end the pregnancy.

Wait. What?

The phrase “end the pregnancy” hit me like a ton of bricks, well, it was more like I ran into a brick wall and got slapped into reality real quick.

With a shaky voice, I asked, “Okay, when?”

Her response, “Now. I’ve already sent your charts over and spoken to the doctor on call. They’re waiting for you. You’ll be induced tonight. You’re in good hands.”

Even though she delivered that news calmly and in the most reassuring way, it left me trembling.

She explained that although I don’t have the typical symptoms of preeclampsia, sometimes it presents itself in strange ways. She classified it as “atypical preeclampsia” which is typical of me to get a rare pregnancy complication and then make it even more rare by not even getting the standard, run-of-the mill preeclampsia.

Suddenly, I wasn’t allowed to whine about being uncomfortable and pregnant anymore. My placenta previa-turned low-lying placenta seemed like the most minor of issues, even though just a month or so prior it had me very worried. If I would have known this would have transpired the night before, I might have laid off the theatrics of sobbing for an hour after I realized I had lost a button to my duvet cover. (Pregnancy hormones and nerves will really make ya loco, y’all). But I felt guilty. Like I had somehow willed the universe into giving me a scary complication so that I could have the baby sooner, and now we were both at risk. It was a real “be careful what you wish for” moment for me.

I had now been slapped with a scary diagnosis and it was go-time, I didn’t have too much time to think about it honestly. I called my husband and let him know he needed to get home ASAP. Luckily, we had packed our hospital bags two weeks prior so we were ready to go, but we hadn’t put the car seat in yet as it had been snowing non-stop. He rushed home, and with the help of YouTube got the car seat installed, grabbed our bags and we headed to the hospital. We began calling and texting friends and family to let them know what was going on and shortly after we arrived, we were admitted. To be honest, even though I was shaking violently, I was oddly calm. I knew I had a job to do, and that the best treatment for preeclampsia was delivery of the baby. I knew we were in good hands and we were going to meet our little boy soon. This wasn’t at all how I had expected things to go, but pregnancy is weird like that. It was very surreal that what had started as a routine 37-week prenatal appointment landed me in the hospital, but there we were.

As I got changed into what would be the backless gown I’d wear for the next three days, I couldn’t help but notice my husband pacing around the room. We were going to be parents soon. This was it. This was how our story started and how my pregnancy ended. No dramatic water breaking in public, rush to the hospital story. No middle of the night “I think I’m in labor” moment. My labor would be started artificially, here in this room, by a doctor I was about to get to know very well.

I watched the monitor that was tracking the baby’s heartbeat as I waited for the doctor to come and begin the induction. I listened to the beeping of the machine and looked away winching as the nurse placed the IV in my arm. My phone buzzed with text after text, call after call from family and friends sending their “you got this” messages and well wishes. When the doctor walked in with a full cart of medical devices, I knew this would be the moment that started it all, my life was about to change forever.

Why The Last Month of Pregnancy is Brutal AF

Hooray! You’ve made it to the third trimester. At the beginning of trimester 3, around week 27, You’re more than halfway through baking that little bun in your oven. You’re probably feeling pregnant, but excited. Your bump is on display. You’re amazed how the baby is growing and look forward to checking your baby tracker app each week to see what fruit your baby has grown into. You’re working on the nursery. Nesting is in full swing. You’re excited for your baby shower and if you found out, you know the gender of your little one by now! You may feel even more confident that this is really happening and overall, unless you have had a difficult pregnancy with complications, you’re probably feeling pretty good.

As you enter the 9th month of pregnancy (PS-  40 WEEKS IS LONGER THAN NINE MONTHS, DO THE FREAKIN’ MATH PEOPLE) you feel rested, excited, never felt better right? WRONG! So, so wrong. I am speaking from personal experience here, so please just stop reading if you were one of those mythical creatures who just felt like a magical pregnancy fairy floating through your ninth month of pregnancy farting glitter that cleans itself up. Because the only mythical creature I felt like during those final weeks was a fat, fire-breathing dragon.

Every month lasts about 30 days, except your final month of pregnancy, that month lasts 985 years, or at least it feels like it. The waiting game is the most brutal of all. I don’t think I’m alone here when I say by month nine, I was OVER IT. I just so happened to be pregnant through the dead of winter in New England. My coats didn’t fit. Trying to squeeze my wide load into layers of clothing was like running a triathlon. My gigantic belly made me so unsteady on my feet that I was afraid to go outside for the fear of slipping on ice. I became a hermit that lived in flannel pajamas. My hip hurt so badly I’d shriek like a puppy who’s tail just got stepped on with almost every step. My husband had to help pry me out of bed 15x a night so I could get up to pee. I couldn’t breathe and I had to sleep upright or else my throat might have caught on fire due to horrendous heartburn—just another reason why I felt like a fire-breathing dragon. Every time I looked in the mirror my body looked more and more like an orangutan. Everyone and everything annoyed me. And don’t even get me started with the hemorrhoids. My doctor confirmed I had hemorrhoids—yes, I made her take her headlamp down there and confirm, these were new to me and I wanted to make sure they were normal. She confirmed they were an unfortunate but totally normal symptom of late pregnancy  (so. much. pressure. down. there) but lucky for me, they didn’t seem “too angry.” Um…to the pregnant ladies with the “angry version” of hemorrhoids, I commend you. TMI? Not on this blog.

To prove that I’m not alone, I asked some friends who have been through it to tell me how they really felt when they were in their last month of pregnancy, and their answers did not disappoint:

“I felt like a manatee. I was always thirsty and searching for an air return to cool off my vagina which was so puffy and swollen it looked like a sea urchin. I basically was an aquatic sea witch in heat. Also, I sat on anything cold from the freezer. Sorry honey, can’t eat those peas, I sat on them” – Anonymous Friend 1

“No matter how thankful I was to be pregnant, the end was rough.  Imagine trying to prep for baby knowing everyone in the room is going to see your va jay jay so you try to shave but can’t see down there. I felt like I was carrying around an 8 lb Butterball Turkey pressing on my bladder. But THE WORST though, was they say to rest before baby comes but trying to sleep was awful. Baby was pressing on my nerves and my hips and thighs would go numb. I would toss and turn all night because if it. Plus pelvic floor? What pelvic floor? Better have that panty liner in. Fun times.” – Anonymous Friend 2

“I felt like a beached whale. Do beached whales cry a lot?” – Anonymous Friend 3.

On top of all the physical ailments that tend to plague women in their final month of pregnancy, the one thing that was most bothersome to me was the anxiety and nerves. This was my first pregnancy and therefore my first labor & delivery and I was terrified. Terrified of the unknown, terrified of when and where I’d go into labor, terrified of how delivery would go and if I would get the epidural in time—because YES CHERYL I PLAN TO GET AN EPIDURAL , NOT LIKE IT’S ANY OF YOUR DAMN BUSINESS HOW I BIRTH MY CHILD. (See reference to everyone and everything annoying me, above.) I also had an irrational fear of going past my due date, because I was just so uncomfortable and anxious, the thought of crossing my due date off my calendar and moving to the next seemed like some messed up kind of torture.

When bi-weekly check-ups with my doctor turned into weekly around week 36 and my doctor began checking me for any signs of labor, I weeped when she told me no. She handed me a tissue and said “all babies come out, one way or another.” Not really what I wanted to hear, but she was right.

Now that I’m on the other side of pregnancy and type this as my baby naps outside of my body, I still remember very clearly how much those last few weeks sucked. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that. But I do know that motherhood really is a sacrifice in so many ways, and pregnancy is just part of the journey. As crazy as it sounds, I thought people were insane when they told me I’d miss it, but I kind of do. Feeling those little kicks—even if they were straight to the bladder—is a feeling that you truly can’t explain and I guess it is kind of magical in a glitter fairy kind of way.  So, to those mamas out there in their final month of pregnancy, you got this! Soak up the last weeks of those baby kicks, because your little one will be here soon and it will have been worth it, promise.

Pregnancy Part 2. Hey There Placenta Previa.

Once I emerged from the dreaded first trimester, I was feeling a whole lot better and whole lot more confident that this was real. The chronic nausea was behind me and onions were no longer something out of a horror film for me. A baby bump had emerged and so had the maternity leggings. Things were really moving along!

My second trimester of pregnancy was mostly uneventful, and for that I am grateful. I still cried all the time, but I would soon learn that the tears would stay with me long after the baby was born. Cooking became a thing of the past pretty much from the beginning of my pregnancy. I used to love to cook but while simultaneously cooking a new human in my oven, it just seemed like an exhausting chore. And although I wasn’t nauseas anymore, raw meat still made me queasy. Also, when I did attempt to cook, I would ruin every meal I attempted, or I’d burn myself! I swear, has this happened to anyone else? Where you just totally lose all cooking ability or the desire to? It was a very odd symptom I didn’t expect.

In your second trimester, you are still only seen by a doctor once a month, unless there are any issues that require you to be seen more often. At my 19-week anatomy scan, they confirmed we were having a boy (we had found out at 13 weeks via NIPT blood screening) but they also found that I had something called placenta previa, just another one of the many terms I would learn over the next 9 months.

Placenta previa is essentially a condition where the placenta (the organ that is connected to the umbilical cord and provides oxygen and nutrients your baby) is too low in the uterus, therefore blocking the cervix, AKA baby’s exit door. A normal placenta rests above the baby, but mine was below him. Placenta previa is somewhat rare yet not totally uncommon. It’s said to effect less than 200,000 pregnancies per year; however my doctor was confident that my placenta would move upward before baby was due for his exit. In an effort to learn more, I spoke to a lot of friends of mine who had given birth before, and found a few of them also had placenta previa and it did in fact correct itself. To me, this was just another example about how being open about things that are going on in your motherhood journey can help make you feel less alone. If placenta previa does not correct itself, it means the baby has to be born via c-section. Which is not the end of the world, but ultimately was not my first choice.

What happens if you’re diagnosed with placenta previa? The answer; not a whole lot. I was put on “pelvic rest” at that doctor’s appointment and was scheduled for another ultrasound a few weeks later to check on the placenta’s progress. What is pelvic rest you ask? Basically, it means you can no longer work out, lift heavy things, have sex, or put any foreign objects in your vagina—ya know, in case you were planning to. The reason for this is because the placenta is so low (how many times can we say placenta? Placenta, placenta, placenta…The limit does not exist) that there is a high risk of bleeding. Bleeding during pregnancy = no bueno.

While I was grateful to not be on full bed rest, it was also discouraging to be given limitations. I was only halfway through my pregnancy and already I was being slapped with a list of can nots in addition to the can nots of coffee, wine, soft cheese, deli sandwiches, the finer things in life, etc. It was about 6 long weeks until I was seen again to check on the status of my placenta. I scheduled that appointment for the same day as my glucose test—the test every pregnant woman dreads that checks for gestational diabetes. You drink a horribly sweet syrupy drink, wait and hour, and then have your blood drawn to check how your body responds to the sugar. If you “fail” this test, you have to do it again, and the second time, you have to wait three hours and get your blood drawn every hour on the hour for those three hours. I do not handle blood well—something I’d have to get over as my pregnancy continued—more on that later. So I did not anticipate handling the glucose test well. I was right, I fainted in the waiting room of the lab and had to lie down on the table adorned with puppy posters and reserved for pediatric patients (see main photo in this post, thanks for the pic, husband!)  As embarrassed as I was, somehow I passed the test.

After the glucose test, and after assuring the nurse I did not need a wheelchair escort, I went into the ultrasound room to check on the placenta. I was confident it would have headed north by then, but my confidence was quickly squashed when they pointed to the screen and told me it had moved slightly, but not enough to be in the clear. The placenta needs to be a minimum of 2 cm from the cervix to no longer be considered a previa, and mine had only moved 1 cm. It was really disappointing, but it was out of my control. We continued to monitor my placenta well into my third trimester. Eventually I was told it is the most stubborn placenta the doctor had ever seen, but it had moved  the 2 cm it needed to (although they had hoped for a lot more) and she felt confident I wouldn’t need a c-section. Since my placenta was still considered “low lying” there was still a risk for bleeding, so I was kept on pelvic rest for the remainder of my pregnancy. Hey, at least I had an excuse not to workout, although my initial pregnancy goal was to stay as fit as possible to help make delivery easier. I was also very worried because I was told there is a higher risk of bleeding during delivery, but because I had planned to birth at a hospital, I would be closely monitored in the event bleeding did happen. *Spoiler* placenta previa ended being the least of my worries during the delivery of my little one, and caused no complications.

On a positive note, placenta previa gets you way more sneak peaks of your little bun in the oven as many more ultrasounds are needed! A normal pregnancy usually only gets 2-3 ultrasounds in its 40 weeks, but I got at least 8—enough to fill a whole album with ultrasound pictures!

Did you have placenta previa? Did it correct itself or were your required to have a c-section? Share your story in the comments!

 

Pregnancy, Part 1. Shock. Relief. Onions.

Anyone who has ever been pregnant will never, ever forget the moment they first found out. I can say that with a great deal of confidence. For me, it was about 11 months ago but I remember it clear as day. I am a military spouse, so my husband and I move to a new state, territory, or town every few years. In July of 2018, we had just relocated to Rhode Island from North Florida. When I say “just” I mean, we had arrived in Rhode Island a mere 10 days prior, our recently purchased home was bare as can be and our household goods (military move term for furniture and all other worldly possessions) had not arrived yet. We were splitting our time between a mediocre airport hotel and our barren house, when I began to notice my emotions were really, really out of whack. Moving is a stressful time, but I was a hot mess express. My period was also late, but that wasn’t really uncommon for me. I decided to take a pregnancy test. It was negative, so I chalked it up to PMS and legit just being a basket case who doesn’t handle stress well. 

A week later, I was still super emotional, so tired and still no period. It was a Friday afternoon, I had left the hotel to visit with our geriatric cat in our unfurnished home when I decided maybe I should take the second test that had come in the box. Totally expecting it to be negative again, I took the test. To my complete and utter shock, a second, although very faint line appeared.

HOLY. S*%T. I said over and over and over again, while pacing the empty house (empty aside from a half-deflated air mattress and empty Starbucks cups) we had just purchased sight unseen. HOLY. EXPLETIVE. I was elated, I was scared, but mostly I just couldn’t believe it. I had taken my fair share of tests and that second line has NEVER appeared. And here I was. Completely alone (aside from my Hubby & elder feline friend) in a new state, in an unfurnished home, and now, NOW the second line appeared. I was so nervous to tell my husband, but once I finally did he couldn’t quite believe it either! We were going to be parents. Times were changing…

Those first weeks between the time time you see the second line and the time you’re seen by a doctor are completely nerve racking.

*Note to future self; EVERYTHING is going to be nerve racking from this point forward. Get used to it.*

Generally, your OBGYN (oh yeah, just moved so had to find one of those too) will not see you until you’re estimating to be about 8 weeks along. So, from the time I took the test to the time I was seen was about 3 weeks of agony. Pregnancy is really just a 9 month waiting game. You just want to know what’s going on in there. Is this really real? Will there be a heartbeat? Was this a false positive, even though I took 4 tests? Eventually, we were seen and I remember the moment well. I was squeezing my husband’s hand, ultrasound probe lodged well up my lady bits, when the ultrasound tech pointed to the screen and showed the little blurb and the tiny fluttering of a heartbeat, and said “Congratulations, you’re pregnant”. I let out the longest exhale and realized I didn’t even know I was holding my breath. I just felt so relieved and so grateful. Everyone asked me if I cried; I didn’t. I saved the tears for completely ridiculous moments that shouldn’t warrant tears, but the feeling of relief in that moment was like I had just lost 15 pounds off my chest.

The tech assigned me a due date of March 30, 2019, which in late July of 2018 seemed like a million years away. I went into that appointment thinking I was 8 weeks along, but they told me baby was measuring 6 weeks 6 days, meaning I likely ovulated later than a woman with a regular cycle, so the conception was later than we had thought. So, I got to start week 7 over again. And let me tell you, starting a week over again when you have pretty terrible morning sickness is not fun news. Everyone says by 13 weeks you should start feeling better, so every day you cross of your calendar gets you one step closer to the light at the end of the 13-week tunnel of hell. Luckily, I never vomited, but I was nauseous 24/7 with MAJOR food aversions.  I mean, MAJOR. I would gag and sob uncontrollably at even a cartoon illustration of an onion, and pre-pregnancy me loved onions.

To this day I’m mortified about an incident that happened involving onions being served to me after begging the waitress to please hold the onions. One of the hardest things about the first trimester is you don’t look pregnant just yet, so it’s hard to blame being a picky eater or an emotional basket case on your pregnancy, at least to strangers. I looked down at my plate and saw some red onions casually laying on my plate and totally lost it. I had to shove my husband out of the booth so I could frantically run to the ladies room like bat out of first trimester hell. Let me paint you a visual… I slid out of booth as dramatically as possible, tears streaming, one hand covering my mouth in case of vomit, one handle flailing in hopes of building more momentum/speed to the bathroom. Like a pregnant road runner. When I returned to the table about 20 minutes later, my plate had been replaced with an onion-free version, but the damage was done. My ego and my nausea needed to go home. My father-in-law was there, I’m sure completely mortified to be in the presence of such a lunatic. From that point forward, all I could eat was plain cheese pizza. Like, garbage pizza, the kind that doesn’t show a spec of a real basil leaf or tomato or I’d cry some more. Saltines were found in every purse and on every surface of my home, crumbs always in my bra, and ginger ale was my only saving grace.

Those first 13 weeks were brutal. I felt terrible every waking moment, and I was a nervous wreck. On the few days I didn’t feel bedridden, I worried something was wrong. The sickness was almost something tangible to tell me things were okay in there. The first trimester is known to carry the highest risk of miscarriage, happening to about about 1 in 4 women. And although miscarriage is fairly common, it doesn’t make it easier, or less scary. Many women, myself included, did not publicly share our pregnancy news until we had emerged into the second trimester, as to not have to share the news if we had lost the pregnancy. At the time, it seemed like the right thing to do for our family, it’s what society told us to do. Struggle through your nausea and fears alone. Even though we were blessed with a healthy, full-term baby in the end, and I did not suffer a miscarriage, it makes me think how isolating it would have been if I had. Many women and families out there suffer in silence and it breaks my heart to think about.

Shock, Nausea and the fear of onions did subside as we emerged into the second trimester. By week 15 I was feeling much better, slightly more confident that this was real, and overjoyed that I was finally able to share the news.

I want to hear what your first trimester of pregnancy was like! Were you sick? Were you surprised? Were you scared? Share your story in the comments below!

The First Post, Why Aren’t Moms Honest?

The first post of many, the question that sparked this whole blog, a question I asked myself every day for the first 8 weeks of my baby’s life; why aren’t moms honest? I mean, brutally—hold the sugar—honest?

I remember the first few weeks as new mom, feeling incredibly lied to every day. The advice I remember receiving was “sleep when the baby sleeps” and “it will get better.” But why did no one tell me how truly brutal life with a newborn was? The truth about the time between the sleeping when the baby sleeps and when it gets better. Did they not want to scare me? Did they tell me and I blocked it all out? Was I a bad mom?

So there I was, thinking back to how miserable and uncomfortable I was those last few days of pregnancy, how eager I was to meet my little boy, I couldn’t wait! But now I had done it. I had given birth to my very own new human! I had my brand new minature soulmate wrapped up like a perfect little burrito in my arms. I was a superhero. And… I was postpartum. I emerged from the dreaded third trimester into the trimester I didn’t even know existed—the fourth. A time I had no idea would be so incredibly difficult to navigate. I looked in the mirror at my swollen yet hallow face, eyes so sunken in they looked like they needed a lifeguard to rescue them from drowning in my skull, boobs so engorged they felt like they might actually explode off my chest, nipples cracked and bleeding through my milk-stained robe (hello new mom uniform!). I threw back a cocktail of ibuprofen and stool softeners that I washed down with my oversized hospital cup, while rocking an adult diaper with an icepack stuffed inside. I was panicked that I wouldn’t have time to shower (for the 3rd day in a row) before the baby woke again, before I needed to attempt to breastfeed or pump again, before the cycle of keeping a tiny human alive started all over again, and said to myself…

What. The. Actual. Fuck.

To me, it was insanity. The things no one shares. The exhaustion, the love, the tears. Dear Lord the tears. They just streamed down my face like a broken fire hydrant. I was prepared for love. I was prepared to be tired. But not this. This. Was. Survival. I know parents don’t walk around bragging about how rested they are with a newborn, but the level of exhaustion is unparalleled to anything I’ve ever experienced. I had a hard time not thinking that there was something wrong with me—that I must have been weaker than most. That I was a bad mom because as much as I was grateful for this gift, that even though I loved my baby, I was struggling. But of course I was struggling. I was figuring out my new role as a mom right after my body had worked harder than it ever had in its 31 years of life. My body was screaming at me to rest, but nope, not today. Not tomorrow either. Or next week, or the week after that. An hour or two here, 20-minute naps there, but each time I woke up from said naps I would panic. How long was I out? Where is the baby? Baby was either with Dad or sleeping beside us in Rock ‘n Play (the only thing he would sleep in those early days) of course, but that new mom panic is a jolt like no other. 

The point of this blog is not to complain about the messy-beautiful journey that is motherhood, or to scare moms-to-be for that matter, it’s to start a conversation. An honest one. I can’t say I would have listened if someone told me about the rough reality of postpartum and new motherhood before I got thrown into the mom pool. And really, nothing can fully prepare you for what it’s going to be like until you’re in it. But I noticed when I was honest (I mean, really honest) about how things were going with other moms, during pregnancy and beyond, more and more started sharing stories of their own about how tough it all is. No one likes to feel alone when they’re going through some incredibly challenging life points, and I’ve never understood the phrase “it takes a village” more. 

I’m new here in mom town, as I write this, my “newborn” is now 3 months new. I’m a different version of the mom I was 8 weeks ago. I’m finally able to sit down (comfortably) and put pen to paper (or finger tip to macbook). I’ve gotten some of that sleep I missed so much. I’ve cooked a meal, although not many or anything beyond the skill level of tacos. If you haven’t gathered, it hasn’t been easy, but it’s getting better every day. That is one piece of advice many parents told me in the beginning— it gets better. And guess what? They were right.

If I thought the first few weeks were hard, I can only imagine the challenges I will face for weeks, months and years to come. And those challenges are what I want to share, because something tells me I’m not alone in the challenges of motherhood. To all the moms out there, seasoned and new, I just want to hug ya because damn we’re good. But guess what? We’re better together.