How putting my baby on a schedule saved my sanity — and my sleep

I always thought I’d be a chill mom. I didn’t really know what my parenting style would be, but I assumed I’d play it by ear and see how it went. I knew I’d likely put my baby on a schedule at some point. I’d done my research and it seemed that babies that were on a some sort of schedule slept better, and lord knows I love/need my sleep. So, I figured once we were ready and baby was here, we’d eventually work our way into some kind of schedule but probably just see how it went.

Life with a newborn is straight chaos. The sleepless nights, the feeding issues, the sink that is constantly full of bottles and pump parts, the “does this look normals”… Especially if it’s your first baby, it may seem like everything is out of your control. Then add in severe reflux, one infant surgery and several months extreme sleep deprivation, and that chill I thought I’d have was long gone. I felt like my whole life was spiraling out of control. I was desperate to get some significant sleep and regain some control of the every day. “Some” being a key word here. That’s when the book Moms on Call SAVED MY SANITY.

Let me preface this by saying this worked for our family, but I am no means telling you what to do. You do you girlfriend.

Moms on Call is a series of books written by two pediatric nurses who had 8 children between them. It does not sugar coat a thing (FINALLY!) and straight up tells you if you follow the schedule provided in the book, your baby will sleep. I needed this kind of short and sweet direction. There are a lot of books that preach a similar method, but I found this one to be easy to read, and straight up said “do this”— which was exactly what I needed at that stage of motherhood.

When Emmett was about 2 weeks old, I started to implement the schedule. The “schedule” is basically a routine of eat/play/sleep times that fall on the same time each day. I guess it is considered “sleep training” but I don’t like that term. Getting a newborn on a schedule is nearly impossible. However, I did my best to nail down the feeding times and implement the practices they preach in the book. The book has a section titled “typical days” that gives you an hour-by-hour schedule of feeding, sleep and wake/play times. It changes as they get older, and for the most part, I followed it RELIGOUSLY. Like, to the freakin’ minute. Every night, there was a bath, bottle and “quiet time” routine. There was loud white noise and very dark rooms. Night after night, day after day, I followed this routine. Ask anyone that came near us in those early weeks. The schedule was taped on the fridge and NOTHING was important enough for me to mess with it.

 I WOULD GET MY CHILD TO SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT. I HAD TO IF I WANTED TO SURVIVE THIS.

For weeks I didn’t think it was ever going to work. I was doing everything the book told me to do, but he was still waking every 2-3 hours and I was a zombie. But I kept trying. I followed the tips and pointers for nighttime wakings. I stuck to the daytime schedule. Something had to give. I had to get some sleep at some point. And sure enough, at around week 11, we started to get somewhere. I put him down at the scheduled time, and he began getting 6 hours of consecutive sleep. Then 7, then 8! The first few nights of him sleeping longer than 3 hours, I woke up in a complete panic thinking something was wrong. How had I slept until 4am? This hadn’t happened in months! By the time Emmett was 14 weeks old, he started sleeping 12 hours a night—7:30- 7— independently in his crib.

When he started sleeping through the night, his daytime naps also improved. Suddenly it all clicked, and my chronically fussy baby barely ever cried. I’d get him out of his crib around 7am every morning, and he’d just be in there smiling and happy, waiting for mama. A complete 180 of the baby I was waking up with a few weeks prior. I started to gain some control of the day-to-day because I knew what to expect. If it was approaching his scheduled nap, and he was fussing, there was no more guessing what was bothering him. He was tired. I now knew when it was a safe time to schedule an outing with a happy/content baby instead of an overtired cranky one. We also had a better handle on his reflux, milk allergy and he had healed from his Pyloric Stenosis surgery, so there was a combo of things finally working in our favor. Sure, we have dinner at 5pm now, but we had consistent nighttime sleep and after not having it for months, nothing else mattered.

To this day, I have been afraid to share this, because I don’t want to jinx it. ($10 he’s up every 2 hours tonight!) When people ask me if he’s sleeping through the night, I always knock on wood before hesitantly answering “yes.” We still have our off days and nights and I know teething is coming and that’s going to throw a wrench in things. I know sleep regressions and sick babies are real and I know we’re not immune. But I wanted to share my experience with Moms on Call in the event someone else is desperate for some guidance.

Having our baby, and therefore our family, on a schedule has been an adjustment, but it’s working for us. If we go out to dinner, you can find us at the early bird seating. If we have dinner at home, its usually not until after 8pm once the baby is in bed. The days of spontaneity are behind us, at least for now. This is our new normal. But the cheeks on that baby of ours, well, I’ll do whatever it takes to to keep them smiling.

Traveling with baby; must haves, must nots and lessons learned

IMG_8319In my little one’s 6 months earthside, we’ve now taken 3 trips together! Two road trips with Mommy and Daddy and one airplane trip with just Mommy. Gone are the days of impromptu trips and traveling light. But that doesn’t mean the days of traveling are gone altogether. Am I taking my infant on a sailboat in Croatia? Uh, not a chance. Does that mean it can’t be done? Not at all, but my mom anxiety isn’t ready for that. I’ve had a lot of people ask me for feedback on traveling with baby so I figured I’d do a post on it!

For the sake of honesty, I will tell you traveling with my baby has had moments of complete joy and also moments of crippling anxiety, exhaustion and the feeling of losing all control. Every parent has their own parenting style, but keeping my baby on a eat/play/sleep schedule has saved my mom sanity over the past few months.  He’s now an excellent sleeper and barely ever fusses. THANK YOU Mom’s on Call.  When he does get fussy, it’s usually because it’s passed his scheduled nap or feeding time. When you’re on the go, it’s difficult to keep the schedule in place, resulting in a fussy baby (usually in public) and a panicked mom trying to hold it all together. The anxiety and panic of it all is something I’m REALLY working on and I feel I’m getting a better grip of, but motherhood is an ever changing, ever evolving progression. So, stay tuned on that one.

Roadtrips and airplane trips are two different animals. Depending on the size of your car, you have a little more leniency with how much baby stuff you can bring if you’re driving. A weekend trip can easily look like you’re moving a family of 8 to Africa, but tiny babies need lots of stuff to keep them safe. I think the best way to share the tips that worked for us would be in a list format, so I’ll go ahead and get to it!

Traveling with baby – things to consider:

  • If you have the option, I’d recommend booking a place that has a washer & dryer if you’re traveling for longer than a few days. We recently spent a week in Saratoga Springs, NY and booked a wonderful Airbnb with space for baby (he had his own room) and it also had a washer & dryer. Babies generate a TON of laundry so that made it a little easier to pack lighter in the clothing department. I bought Dreft laundry detergent in powder form and put in small ziplock bags. If a washer and dryer isn’t possible and you plan to be away from home longer than a few days, I recommend these for hand washing in the sink! Dreft Single Packs for hand washing in the sink.  *Note, this is coming from a reflux mama and my baby spits up all the time. Your baby may not generate as much laundry as mine does!*
  • If you’re flying to visit family or friends consider using Amazon Prime to ship a lot of things to your destination. Think diapers, wipes, formula, etc. Diapers take up a TON of space so that will save you a lot of valuable room in your suitcase! And unless you’re going off the grid, you can also buy a lot of these things once you reach your destination so you don’t have to pack them.
  • If you’re flying to visit family that you know you will be visiting again in the future, consider purchasing a second car seat / pack and play to leave there. One less bulky thing to deal with at the airport will be a huge help, and I’m sure Grandma and Grandpa will be excited to see a carseat in their rearview!

Must-have travel items:

A few items that were great on all 3 trips!

  • Boon Travel Bottle Drying Rack – Check it out here
  • Inflatable infant bathtub. This is great for bath time (Spa Time!) if you don’t know if the destination has a safe space to bathe baby. Our first trip was just 3 days in a hotel, so I got in the tub with him every night, but that is really not convenient after a day or so.  Plus, Emmett LOVES splashing in this thing! Check out the one we use here.
  • Clip-on high chair. This is great IF the destination has a good place to clip it on for baby food feeding times. If not, I recommend strapping them into their stroller and doing it there! With feeding them bites while seated on your lap as a 3rd but totally doable option. The clip-on highchair we use can be found here.

 **Notable mention for feeding baby on vacation –  one silicone bib like these. This will help reduce the amount of laundry! **

  • Portable video monitor. If your video monitor at home is not mounted, you can just bring that one! But ours in mounted so I got a second one to bring with us on trips and it’s been such a lifesaver. That way, we can put baby down and still enjoy a glass of wine in the other room while still keeping an eye on him. This one has worked great, it’s small, super easy to set up and gets the job done at a more affordable price than many of the others.
  • Pack and Play. We chose a pack and play that was considered a “travel one” so it’s SUPER easy to set up and break down and it comes with a carrying case for easy travel. We use the 4MOMS Breeze Go – you can find it here. It would be easy to check with your checked luggage at the airport, but my mom had one she borrowed for our visit, so I did not need to fly with it this time. It did come with us on both road trips though.

Flying tips:

  • Pack as light as you possibly can. I know this statement is pretty much laughable, but as I mentioned above, try to ship things ahead of time, or purchase when you get there.. If you can do laundry, do it. Plan outfits ahead of time so you don’t over pack.

** Notable mention for help packing, use packing cubes! I’ve been using cubes like these for years. I allowed myself one cube and baby one cube for our clothes. It also helps keep things tidy and organized in your bag.

  • Pack your patience and grace. Someone told me this travel tip and I took it to heart. As mentioned above, I tend to let anxiety get the best of me when I feel I am not in control. I did my best to stay calm and stress free. Babies feed off your energy so I did my best to be cool as a cucumber. It could have been luck or coincidence, but baby stayed calm pretty much the whole trip!
  • Try to book flight times that work with baby’s schedule and even if it’s a little extra, try to book direct.
  • Wear pants with back pockets – I cant tell you how helpful this was when I had a baby strapped to my front, a diaper bag on my back and a stroller in hand. I shoved phone and boarding passes in my back pocket in a pinch.
  • Put your hair in a mom bun and rock it. Once that baby is on your lap on the plane you wont have two hands to put your hair back, and babies like to pull hair.
  • Ask for help. I asked shamelessly for help with my stroller and both airline employees and fellow passengers were both eager to help. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the human race. They’re not as nasty as you think and many have been in your shoes before. (Minus the one nasty witch who looked me in the face and rolled her eyes before she scoffed about there being a baby on her flight.  Ps- I gave her a big smile and kissed my baby on the head as I cut in front of her in the boarding line *babies board first* Plus she was wearing stilettos at 8am on a Sunday so I know she was some kind of psychopath anyway) .
  • Ask for an empty seat next to you (if possible) This. was. HUGE. This goes along with asking for help but it was MAJOR. I very kindly asked the agent for mercy and help getting an empty middle seat when checking in. If the flight isn’t full, they’ll be happy to accommodate. I got lucky both ways, and honestly it would have been a lot more difficult without that extra space.
  • Bring a small stroller, but baby wear during boarding and de-boarding. I was traveling alone with my baby, and I found that having a small travel stroller (we use this one) was super helpful to keep me hands free in the airport. For those asking, I did not get a stroller bag and we did not have any issues (this time at least). Having the stroller and not just the baby carrier allowed me to use the restroom comfortably, feed him and have a safe space to put him down and it was much less cumbersome than the travel system I use at home. During the boarding process, I wore him in the baby carrier (we have this one) so my hands were free to fold and gate-check the stroller, get my diaper bag stowed away, etc.IMG_8796
  • Limit your carry-on items if you’re traveling alone. I boarded the plane with an overstuffed diaper bag, my baby and the baby carrier. Nothing else. Any more bags would have made things a lot more stressful.
  • Bring sanitizing wipes and wipe down your whole seat area. Tray tables, windows, arm rests, your seat mate (kidding)…Baby will touch EVERYTHING and it’s so gross.
  • Download some baby shows to your iPad or phone. My baby LOVES Little Baby Bum so I downloaded a few episodes to my iPad so they worked without service. It was a lifesaver during the last hour when he started to get restless.
  • PACIFIER. Keep that thing in baby’s mouth as much as possible, I’ve been told it helps their ears and little EJ seemed unfazed during takeoff and landing.
  • In the event of an in-flight diaper change, leave the bulky diaper bag at your seat and only bring a diaper, wipes and a disposable bag to the lavatory. It’s no surprise that those bathrooms are tiny.

*Things to ALWAYS keep on you even for an overnight. Thermometer, infant Tylenol, diaper rash cream and any medications*

What was in my diaper bag at the airport:

  • Tons of diapers and wipes + bags to dispose of the poopie ones.
  • Change of clothes for baby and an extra shirt for me.
  • Pacifier + Paci clip. Clip it onto baby so they don’t spit it on the floor.                         This is Emmett’s favorite Paci                                                                                                This is the clip we use – Paci clip  – the clip can double as a toy.
  • 2 burp cloths (again, my baby is a spitter and drools a ton)
  • Baby’s birth certificate. Some airlines need this, but they did not ask me for it.
  • 1 bottle plus MORE than enough formula pre-measured into servings.
  • 1 small toy – don’t bother with more. They just throw them on the dirty floor.
  • iPad preloaded with Little Baby Bum
  • Wallet / Phone
  • Small swaddle blanket. I laid this on my chest on the plane for him to sleep. *Probably wasn’t necessary.
  • Room temp bottle of water purchased at the airport for mixing bottles.

I hope these tips are helpful. Traveling with a baby is no doubt a lot of work. Vacations will not be as relaxed as they used to be. My main take home is to give YOURSELF some grace.  I’m a huge hypocrite for saying this because I’ve given myself very little since becoming a mom. I’ve struggled with anxiety and am trying very hard to be more relaxed.  I want to be in control of every nap, bath, bottle and burp but thats just not always possible. I’m working on my chill y’all, and honestly I think Emmett feels it. He was much less fussy on this trip than my last, and the only thing I did differently is control my anxiety a little bit more, and let go of my control freak mom attitude.

Happy Travels! You got this!

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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.

Why breastfeeding was the hardest (and quite frankly the worst) experience of my life

Whoever invented the phrase “breast is best” must have been a man. A man with worthless nipples. The title of this entry may seem harsh, but it’s true. Breastfeeding was the single most difficult thing I’ve ever done (or attempted to do). It was harder than giving birth. It was harder than being pregnant for 9 months. The physical and emotional toll of breastfeeding, well, it SUCKED for me—pun not intended but do what you want with that. If I could have fed my child with my tears, he’d be in the 100th percentile for weight.

I want to start this off by saying I think breastfeeding truly is incredible. I wanted to do it, I really did. It just didn’t work out for me and my baby. I’m not here to bash women who choose to breastfeed. Honestly, I’m in awe of you. Whether you breastfed for one day, one month or one year, you should be very, very proud of yourself. It’s a sacrifice no matter how your journey pans out. I know not everyone’s journey was or will be as difficult as mine, I know this because plenty of people found it helpful to tell me how easy breastfeeding was for them.

Disclaimer. This comment is not helpful.

I wanted to breastfeed my baby but did not set high expectations because I’ve heard it can be difficult. I figured if I didn’t set the bar high, it wouldn’t be as upsetting if it didn’t work—turns out it was still devastating. I wanted to give it my all and hopefully be successful. Deep down I thought we’d have some trouble getting started but in a few days we’d be golden. Before having a baby, I thought the most difficult part of breastfeeding would be not being able to enjoy wine even after I’d already given it up for 9 months. I told myself I’d give it three months, and if I felt like I was done breastfeeding at 3 months, I’d stop.

I made it three weeks.

My baby and I began our breastfeeding journey shortly after he was born. My baby was born 3 weeks early by force evacuation—meaning I was induced. It wasn’t his choice to come early. My little 5lb baby was rooting (that’s a term for the sucking motion babies do) so I shoved my nipple in his mouth and thought, oh my gosh, look! We’re doing it!

*Cue Morgan Freeman’s narration voice*

We were not doing it. We were doing nothing of the sort.

The magical picture I had painted in my head of my baby being born and feasting away on my boob within hours of birth was far from our reality. It’s far from any mom’s reality. There is no feasting right after birth. There is nothing to feast on. Your true milk supply does not come in for a few days, so in the first few days you’re dealing with a drop of colostrum here and there. Which is normal. I knew it was normal, I read the books. But because my baby was so small it gave me a lot of anxiety that he wasn’t eating when he desperately needed the calories.

We had several visits from different nurses, lactation consultants and doctors while in the hospital. Each one with a slightly different technique on how to get my baby to latch.  Each one squeezing my breasts with their rubber gloved hands trying to express just a drop of milk. This one suggested the football hold, that one suggested the pillow prop, and her? She suggested stripping baby down to his diaper every time I tried to feed as to keep him awake. Newborns are sleepy creatures and tend to fall asleep on the boob. None of them were successful in getting him to latch, but encouraged me to keep trying.

When I was evicted from the hospital 2 days later, with my baby and my aching nipples, I went home with a 24-hour supply of “just in case” formula and a breastfeeding pamphlet with a very happy mama on the front. The lactation consultant suggested I start pumping often to stimulate my milk supply and to continue to try working on my baby’s latch.  I did everything she told me to to get my baby to latch properly. I booped him on the nose with my sore nipples, I caught him mid yawn and shoved my nipple in his mouth like a sneak attack nip. I stripped him naked and blew on his face to keep him awake.  I football held and crossbody held and pillow propped him. It was 38’ outside and I was always topless and ready to strike if he seemed hungry and ready to feed.

My baby did not want to latch.

He was too small.

He did not have the energy and his tongue was always on the roof of his mouth.

He was losing weight.

And I was frustrated, exhausted and my boobs were really starting to hurt—bad.

When my milk supply did finally arrive and my boobs looked like they were about to explode off of my chest, I made yet another appointment with a lactation consultant. My baby still wasn’t latching right after days of endless attempts, tears, lanolin, ice packs, heating pads and dreaded pumping sessions. After that visit, we seemed to be getting somewhere, but she encouraged me to keep pumping eight times a day to keep up my supply while me and baby figured it out.

Let me paint a picture of what pumping your sore boobs eight times a day while being more sleep deprived than you’ve even been in your life, all while simultaneously keeping a newborn alive is like. It’s a living hell. Honestly, this is hard for me to write. I have such PTSD about pumping and breastfeeding that I have a physical reaction to the thought. That buzzing and sucking and whizzing sound a pump makes sends chills down my spine. The feeling of two plastic cones tugging at your already screaming nipples is the most confining, unnatural, horrific feeling in the world. Plus, you have to sit up straight (and slightly hunched forward) to catch the milk when you just want to lay down, and you can’t care for your newborn when you’re strapped to a breast pump either. It’s a recipe for a total mama breakdown.

But, I continued. I persevered. I tried. Society told me I had no choice. Everyone told me I had to give him my breastmilk, it was best for him. I wanted what was best for my baby. I was pumping and bottle feeding him my expressed milk 8x a day like I was told. I spent the time I wasn’t pumping or feeding cleaning the pump parts and bottles. I felt terrible when I supplemented with formula, because “supplementing” implied the work I was doing wasn’t enough. I wanted so badly for it to “click” like everyone promised and for it to work out. I would try to get him to latch before each session and for a few days, he was doing it. But still, his latch wasn’t quite right, and my nipples paid the ultimate price. After a few more days of bad latches and constant pumping, my nipples began to crack and bleed. When I say this was painful, it’s an understatement. I had to bite a kitchen towel when it was time to feed him because the pain was so great I’d scream and I didn’t want to scare him. I can’t even begin to describe the pain. Once your nipples start to crack, they then start to scab. But scabs can’t heal when those nipples aren’t allowed a break. They’re needed every three hours.

The song Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked was actually written about nipples, did you know that? Kidding, but maybe I’m not. I’ll have to look into that.

One evening, when I noticed the 2oz of milk I had worked hard to pump was tainted pink with blood, I completely broke down. No one else seemed to have these problems. No one else was screaming out in pain, no one else feared their baby’s next meal because you knew the pain that was about to happen. Well, at least they weren’t talking about it. Every time I’d hook up to that pump, the tears would stream and stream and stream down my face. I wasn’t sobbing, but the tears would just flow uncontrollably as I looked around with a defeated, exhausted, glare, just listening to the whooshing and buzzing of the pump.

I was doing what I was told was best for my baby. But what about what was best for me?

Around week 3, I woke up from one of my less than 3-hour sleep intervals in so much pain. My right boob hurt so badly it took my breath away. I had chills and my whole body ached. I didn’t think too much about it, I was too tired. So I grabbed my heating pad and popped more ibuprofen. That next day I didn’t leave the couch. I felt as though I had been hit by a bus. The baby laid next to me in the rock’n play while I continued my around the clock pumping. That’s when I thought, could this be mastitis? When I finally took my temperature, I found I had a 102 fever. I had a red, hot patch on the extremely painful breast. I had mastits. I had the boob flu. I don’t wish that nonsense on anyone.

Mastits is a clogged milk duct that becomes infected. It’s very painful and causes fever, chills and body aches along with the breast pain. You need a ton of antibiotics, and also you have to massage out the painful clogged duct. Oh what fun that was!

It was that night that I looked at my husband and said I can’t do this anymore. I am living in a hell I don’t wish on anyone. I’m in an endless cycle of pain, bleeding nipples, pumping, cleaning pump parts, popping ibuprofen and antibiotics and straight up trying to survive. All while trying to care for my newborn on zero sleep. I was absolutely miserable. Everything hurt. It was not a bonding experience with my baby. It made me fear him.

I didn’t want anyone to tell me to keep going at that point. I didn’t want anyone to tell me I was doing such a great job and they were proud of me. I wanted someone to tell me it was okay to stop.

Please, just tell me I’m not an awful selfish mother if I choose to put an end to this hell. The guilt I felt was so heavy on my heart that I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

The moment I said out loud I was done, I immediately felt some relief. Mostly guilt,  but some relief that I was putting a stop to the madness. I could now focus on bonding with my child and not fearing him every 3 hours. You can’t stop breastfeeding cold turkey, so I’d continue my pumping hell for a few more weeks until my supply dried up. During my weening, I’d get mastitis yet again. This time, with an abscess that would protrude out of my breast and cause a nice scar that I still rock 4 months later. It adds some flair to the deflated, stretch-marked bags that hang from my chest now.

It’s a nice daily reminder of my breastfeeding journey.

I truly hope that others do not have as hard of a time with breastfeeding as I did. But if you do, please know you’re not alone and you should not feel any guilt about stopping. 4 months later I still feel guilt, but my baby is thriving with formula, and I’m much more relaxed mom knowing I can feed my child without pain.

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.

What the days in the hospital after giving birth are REALLY like

You’ve done it. You’ve added another human to this earth. You baked that tiny new human INSIDE YOUR BODY for nearly a year, and then, one way or another, you got that human out. You should be so, damn, proud of what you’ve accomplished, and probably in awe of how badass women are. You know what else you probably are?

Tired. So. Damn. Tired.

I’ve had one baby. Just one. A 5-pound 13-ounce teeny tiny little boy, and a few months later, I look back on those days in the hospital and shake my head. Not in a terrible way, just in a way that makes you say… Wow, that was really something, from what I can remember.

What I had envisioned the post-birth days in the hospital to be like, and what they actually were, were significantly different.

I envisioned a few blissful days, cuddling with my newborn, who would be swaddled up in a chic new swaddle set that would coordinate perfectly with my robe. We’d take pictures for Instagram in our matching ensembles. I’d hate the pictures, but decide the happiness that radiated from every inch of my being overshadowed how haggard I looked, and I’d post them anyway. I’d use a basic caption like “my little one is here, and I couldn’t be more in love.”

I’d be sore, but just so relieved labor & delivery was behind me that it wouldn’t matter. I’d be on cloud nine, euphoric. I’d have a plate of sushi and rosé on ice on my side table, I’d enjoy the things I’d been without for 9 months as a treat for crossing the finish line. I’d watch the latest episode of Ellen on the TV mounted above a dry erase board that had baby and I’s names on it. Nurses would help care for my perfect angel baby while I caught up on my rest. Baby and I would both recover in our little love bubble of a room, with Daddy by our side on the sleeper chair. I’d probably have to wear a pad because I had been told there’s some bleeding after birth. We’d figure out breastfeeding together, and if it didn’t work for us— no sweat, we’d switch to formula. After a few days, we’d go home to some sleepless nights, but we’d be so smitten it wouldn’t matter.

Sounds like pure magic, right?

Now let’s talk about how our postpartum stay in the hospital really went down.

I’d be wheeled into that room after 23 hours of induced labor, holding my little angel baby in my weak, trembling arms. I wouldn’t even know what day it was at that point because I was so exhausted and overcome with emotion that everything was just a delirious blur.

My husband would nervously scoop our tiny baby from my arms and have some skin to skin time on the one chair available in the tiny, sterile room. Meanwhile, I’d fall asleep sitting up, drool running down my face, only to be woken up to a nurse (who was a freaking saint) spreading my legs and changing the blood-soaked bed liner I was sitting on. She’d tell me “that’s totally normal sweetheart” when I panicked about just how much blood I saw. I’d ask 1,000 more times if the amount of blood soaking through the postpartum diaper situation she made for me was normal — it was.

She’d show me recipe for a classic “postpartum diaper” so I could prepare this beaut myself as to save the sliver of dignity I had left.

It was such a hit, I’ll go ahead and share it:

Classic Postpartum Diaper Recipe
Ingredients:

  •  Mesh hospital undies – Steal these—ask for more, steal those too.
  • (2) Giant maxi pads – I don’t even know where to find ones this big, I looked
  • Perineum Ice packs – the kind you crack to activate – steal these too
  • (3) Witch hazel pads
  • Dermaplast spray – for garnish

Preparation:

  • Sit on the toilet while a nurse watches
  • Hold your hospital gown up so it doesn’t fall in the toilet
  • Slip on mesh hospital undies, one leg at a time, be careful not to fall off toilet
  • Stack 2 mind bogglingly long pads lengthwise to make one SUPER PAD inside mesh undies
  • Crack, shake and activate perineum ice pack, place on top of pads
  • Place 3 Witch hazel pads on top of ice pack
  • Finish with a spritz of Dermaplast
  • Carefully pull up this concoction like a toddler in training pants
  • Repeat every 1-2 hours or as needed

I’d giggle when I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, wearing nothing but my postpartum diaper situation. We’d joke about how mommy and baby were both in diapers.

I’d pee into an upside-down plastic sombrero fitted into a toilet bowl to show my nurse I peed on my own, so my IV could be removed and I wouldn’t need another catheter. Apparently adult potty training is a thing after giving birth.

Nurse after nurse, doctor after doctor would visit both me and baby, making it nearly impossible to sleep. Blood would be drawn from my arm every 6 hours to check on my blood platelet levels due to my atypical preeclampsia. My arms would be so sore and black and blue from all the blood draws that each new nurse would make a comment like “Oh my gosh sweetie who did that to you”… My arms were black and blue from wrist to armpit.

I would happily scarf down whatever plastic tray of garbage hospital food would land on my side table, and chug water from a mauve pink hospital mug like I was lost in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights. I wouldn’t even think about sushi or wine for weeks.

Lactation nurses would visit, manhandling my engorged boobs trying to help get just one drop of that “liquid gold” colostrum (the first, thick, sticky milk to be produced) to drip out, and {attempt} to show me the proper way to get my baby to latch. I’d get really, really frustrated when it didn’t work. One rather aggressive lactation nurse would scrape my nipples with a plastic spoon trying to collect the aforementioned “golden droplets” of colostrum.  I’d think they were legitimately insane when they told me newborns only need a drop to sustain their first few days of life. I’d shamefully ask for a bottle so I could feed my baby.

I’d pop ibuprofen, Motrin and stool softeners whenever they arrived in a tiny clear cup. I’d fear the first post-birth poo.

I wouldn’t even dare to put on the adorable robe I got specifically for the hospital because I knew I’d just get blood on it. Instead I’d stay in the same, sexy, backless hospital gown for 3 days. It was easy access for everyone checking out my naked, swollen body anyway.

I’d leave my strategically packed hospital bag almost completely untouched.

I’d be able to count the hours of sleep I got on one hand. I’d stare at my baby in his clear bedside bassinet.

I’d take the cute picture, but refuse to be in it. I’d later regret it.

I’d finally shower on day three (only after asking my nurse if I was allowed to, I needed to be told how to do life) in a tiny, outdated shower that was shared with the recovering woman in the room next door. I’d be extra careful washing myself because lord knows what was going on down there after giving birth, and I didn’t want to find out.

I’d stare at my perfect little baby in complete awe and also just want someone, anyone, to tell me what to do next. I’d pray that the nurse would tell me how to take care of my baby and that I wouldn’t let on that I felt clueless.

Baby & I would be cleared to go home and be so excited to leave, yet petrified to not have the nurse assist me with every little thing.

But, we’d go. We’d take one last look around what was our family of three’s first little abode. We’d nervously get in the car, and ask the hospital valet to check the car seat (they were certified for this) to make sure baby was snug and secure in the car properly. We’d check again, and I’d ride home in the back seat, with my weight on only one butt cheek.

And then, we’d be home. Home to a place that wasn’t the way we left it 3 days prior. Home to our new life as an exhausted, anxious, can’t stop staring at this little life we created, family of three.

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 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!