To the mama in the thick of newborn life, I’m here to tell you it gets better. So much better.

Anyone who knows me or who has read this blog, can probably guess I did not thrive in the newborn stage. It was hands-down the most difficult time of my life. So many people told me “enjoy every minute, you’re going to miss this…” and I HATED them for it.

I hated them because that statement, although meant to be harmless, made me feel so guilty that I wasn’t enjoying it. Did I enjoy cuddling that tiny, warm little baby that slept soundly (only) when on my chest? Absolutely. Was I in complete awe of him? Without a doubt. Did I love waking up to that tiny baby’s blood curdling cries every 45 minutes – 3 hours for weeks on end? Sure didn’t. There were women who actually told me, “But aren’t the 2 AM cuddles the sweetest?”

Um…No Sharon, as much as I appreciate the sentiment, 2 AM is not my favorite of all the cuddling time slots. Especially when they’re accompanied by 2 AM projectile spit up, wardrobe (and diaper) changes for both baby and I, and attaching my swollen, bloody boobs to a breast pump every night for weeks. Those nights were the nights I questioned everything.

I won’t carry on about the hardships of newborn life, because if you’re in it right now, I don’t need to remind you. But I will tell you that everyone said it would get better. That you will sleep again. That you will heal.  You won’t always need a plastic squirt bottle to accompany you to the toilet. You won’t always have a bag of frozen peas stuffed into your bra while you rock a screaming 6 pound baby that strangely resembles a roast chicken. That eventually, you’ll wash the spit up out of your hair, and you wont always be pinned beneath a (finally) sleeping baby on the couch, unable to move. I truly thought they were all full of shit, and this was my life now, and that they were all wrong.

But here I am. nearly 9 months into my motherhood journey, and I can tell you—things got better. SO. MUCH. BETTER. They were right. All those parents before me. It’s amazing what a little sleep can do for your mental state. Eventually, we fell into a rhythm. My body healed. We worked through kinks and food allergies and medical issues. Our chronically fussy newborn morphed into the happiest little cherub with the most delicious cheeks you’ve ever seen. I look at him every day and cry for a much different reason. It’s just incredible.  He’s just incredible. Watching him grow and change and learn every day, is just….There are no words to describe it.

Now, I’m thrilled to announce that I’m so incredibly happy. A happy, proud, beaming mama. The one I wanted to be from the beginning. It just took me a little bit to get here.

I didn’t love the newborn phase, and no, I don’t miss it. I miss him being that small, but I don’t miss the vulnurable chaos of it all. There, I said it. I don’t miss the exhaustion, or the fear, or how fragile my tiny baby was. I don’t miss how fragile I was either. I didn’t realize how fragile I was at the time, until I look back and see how far we’ve come, and how strong we are now. There is not a single photo of me with a big toothy-smiled grin until my baby was nearly 2 months old. It breaks my heart, but months 3-8 have been such a joyful sweet spot for us. The smiles, the milestones, the first giggles, the first foods… All the firsts… Did I mention the giggles? Although there are still learning curves and challenges every day, nothing compares to those first all-consuming weeks.

If you can survive the first few months—and you will, although you will question it every day—you will come out stronger than ever! adp_9578You’re a lot stronger than you think you are. Hang on mama, motherhood is a wild ride filled with seasons, and before you know it, that tough season you didn’t think you’d survive will be in your rearview.  Some seasons will feel like they will never end, but I’m here to tell you, they won’t last forever—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!