7 Things I wish I had known about giving birth

Giving birth seemed like the scariest thing on the planet to me. I was worried about it for years, well before I became pregnant. It used to disturb me so much it made me feel ill just thinking about it. I tend to blame the graphic birthing video that was forced upon us in 6th grade. I just haven’t been the same since. Even still, I knew that I needed to be educated about the process before I went into the hospital. I took the classes, read the books, and heard the horror stories. I hate to tell you, but nothing can really prepare you for delivery day. It’s the eventuality that all moms-to-be face, and it brings a lot of experiences that are impossible to understand otherwise. Even still, there were a few things that I wish someone had told me. Here are some tidbits I wish I had known going into labor and delivery…


1.  Your birth plan goes out the window.

No matter how prepared you think you are, I can almost guarantee you the birth of your baby won’t go according to plan. It’s nothing that you can truly prepare for. I didn’t have a stringent birth plan, mine was basically “Give me the drugs and get it out of me.” Regardless, after taking the birth class through my hospital, I had ideas of how I would handle pain while in labor and things that I might want to happen while pushing. My sweet angel decided to arrive four weeks early. What is it that they say about the best laid plans? Right. Every mom I have talked to so far has said the same thing. My advice is to be flexible and go with the flow, it makes it a lot easier on everyone, especially you, mama.

It is important to have written requests, though, if there are certain things you do not want to compromise on. Allergies, particular pain management procedures, who you want in the room, and post-delivery wishes (such as immediate skin to skin contact or trying to breastfeed immediately) should be written in advance and discussed with your doctor before you get to the hospital. It helps for all parties to be on the same page, and you will be able to find out whether your doctor can accommodate certain requests, such as skin to skin contact after a c-section or allowing your partner to help during birthing.

2.  You won’t give a damn who sees what part of you.

When you go into labor, you are chalk full of emotions– anxiety, excitement, fear, happiness—and a healthy dose of adrenaline. I was so amped up during labor that I had no embarrassment about anything that day. I didn’t care what nurse came in to check my cervical dilation, who helped me to the bathroom, or who saw my boobs or butt as my hospital gown flapped in the breeze. I just wanted the process to be done, and I was willing to let anyone who was there to help do their job. In fact, any sense of bodily embarrassment or discreetness I used to have disappeared after having gone through birth. I’m not quite sure why, but even now I don’t care who sees me whip out a boob for breastfeeding or if someone sees my stomach rolls as I hunch over to play with my baby. It’s actually quite freeing!

3.  You will feel like a science experiment.

I never realized how much monitoring would happen while I was going through labor. As soon as I arrived at the hospital, I was hooked up with two belly monitors—one for me and one for baby. These monitors were strapped around my pregnant belly and the cords were connected to a machine so I could watch two screens: one that showed my contractions, and one that showed the baby’s heartbeat. I also received an IV that the nurses administered fluids, anti-biotics, and pain management medication. I then had my epidural, which meant more needles and cords around me. This was all particularly fun when I had to go to the bathroom. Everything had to be unplugged and I waddled to the bathroom, cords draped around my shoulder, toting my IV pole beside me.

4.  Getting an epidural doesn’t hurt as much as you think (and makes the birthing process a hell of a lot more pleasant, if that is even possible).

I’m terrible with needles. I have to lay down to get my blood drawn just in case I faint and drop to the floor. The idea of getting a big needle shoved into my spinal canal made me want to throw up. So much so in fact that the nurse gave me a fun little expandable plastic bag that looked like a windsock; instead of catching wind, it would catch my barf. I was already a bundle of nerves that day, so it took everything I had not to shake with anxiety while getting prepped for my epidural. The anesthesiologist first injected a numbing agent, which was none too pleasant itself, but it wasn’t that bad. The actual placement of the epidural catheter felt more like an intense pressure rather than pain. The anticipation hurt worse than the procedure. The doctor was so good at his job, it was over before I knew it.

The actual numbing felt like when your leg falls asleep and is numb. I could still move my legs; they just felt heavy and dull. The nurse and I looked at the belly monitor, seeing wave after wave of contraction. “Do you feel that?” she asked. “Nope,” I said, “not a damn thing.” “Huh,” she replied, “great!” Miraculously, as soon as the medicine kicked in I could no longer feel my contractions. Not one. For the whole birth. HIGH FIVE.

Added bonus: I didn’t feel the urethral catheter insertion or removal (necessary with having an epidural), which I hear hurts like a b. At least you don’t have to worry about peeing during labor.

Pushing still hurt, but it was a new kind of hurt I’d never experienced before. It felt more like an intense pressure, so much so that it registered as pain. Still, I cannot even fathom how women undergo a natural birth with no pain management. The added pain and stress of going natural was not worth it to me, and I am so glad I chose the epidural. It wore off without an issue, and I had no follow-up problems in recovery related to having had an epidural.

Fun fact: Epidurals can actually help your delivery go faster. When you are in that much pain, it can be harder to dilate and be relaxed enough to push your baby out. I can’t recommend the procedure enough.

5.  You might poop while pushing.

When it came time to push (Dear God.) the nurse said “Okay, PUSH.” I sucked. I couldn’t really understand how you are supposed to push from your vagina. It’s not really something I had practiced before. Needless to say, nothing much happened. It all clicked when the nurse told me to “Push like you’re pooping.” OH. Got it. The next round went a lot better, and each time we made progress until Baby T emerged wailing.

I wasn’t lucky enough to poop on the table while pushing, but many women do. And the nurses and doctors don’t care. You probably won’t even know if you poop. The experts get you cleaned up quickly and keep moving on. It’s all part of the process. Don’t be embarrassed, not that you will care by that point anyway (refer to #2. HA. Number 2.)

6.  The day is over in a flash.

Many women, including myself, dread D-Day. It is probably the most terrifying part of pregnancy. But the baby’s gotta come out somehow. One mom said that labor and delivery is just a miniscule part of the whole process, it’s over before you know it. She was so right. I went in to the hospital early that morning, and before I knew it, it was evening and time to push. I felt like I had just been admitted! Even though it is a long day, the anticipation and adrenaline make the time fly. You’ll be glad it does.

7.  It is so incredibly worth it.

It’s an odd relief when you feel your baby slide out of you. Even though he or she will be coated in blood and vernix and you are beyond exhausted, you will want to have that baby in your hot little hands immediately. I almost pulled T out of the nurses hands I was so desperate to hold him. I think it is mama instinct; I was clamoring and anxious to hold my baby straightaway. I didn’t care what he was covered in, he was mine and I was elated.

In the end, all that hard work brings forth a sweet little miracle. Ten perfect fingers and ten perfect toes. I haven’t wanted to put my baby down since the moment he took his first breath. You won’t want to either.

How pregnancy made me a better person

8-29-16 How pregnancy made me a better person

“God damn she looks fat.” “Why are you letting your f-ing child scream in the middle of Target.” “She’s a terrible friend she never calls me.” “This party isn’t good enough.”

Pregnancy does a lot of funny things to a woman. She might go batshit and be crying one minute and raging the next about how the dogs never have any water in their bowl. Or maybe she just vomits multiple times a day for days on end. Yeah, just. Or maybe she’s one of those lucky b’s that breezes right through pregnancy with that glow everyone talks about (and secretly envies).  The funniest thing that pregnancy does is allow for a lot of introspection.

About four months into pregnancy, basically when the morning sickness began to recede, I saw myself with new eyes. It was not just about coming to accept and appreciate my new body that was rapidly dividing cells into fingers and toes. It was also about realizing what a judgmental person I often was. This came as a bit of a shock to me. I had always considered myself a nice person. But here I was, hearing mean-girl-style thoughts cross my brain waves that were unsolicited, and I realized that I wasn’t as kind as I wrote myself off to be. How disappointing. It was time to start mentally changing, since the physical part was already underway.

As my belly grew, so did my newfound softness of heart. I softened around many topics, but none so much as my attitude towards others. Especially women, it seemed. I judged less and cared more. Instead of judging that curvy girl running, I silently cheered her on. Instead of rolling my eyes at the mom with the out of control two year old, I prayed that wouldn’t be my baby one day and empathized with her. Instead of shutting out my friend that never called, I started calling her. Instead of being ungrateful that not enough was done to celebrate, I appreciated that people even cared that much about me in the first place.

Unfortunately, being a little softer means that you also are a little a lot more susceptible to getting your feelings hurt. Instead of firing back angrily, I found myself, to my surprise, reflecting on the words said about me to make sure they weren’t true. When I found them false, as I usually did, I felt pity for the angry heart that the words came from, instead of letting those words define me.

Pregnancy did a lot of things and caused a lot of changes, but I am so grateful that it did. I like the person I have become: a softer, kinder, gentler soul. Not that I don’t still have a lot of ass-kicking vibes. They’re just redirected a lot more productively now.

When to put the book down: Recognizing when we’ve taken on too much and how to step back.

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Hey sister, cut yourself a break.

I see you over there, feeling guilty that you are taking time to surf some blogs and read quietly to yourself. You are probably feeling like there are a lot better things you could be doing, and mentally ticking off all the tasks on your to-do list. I know you. I am you. But I’m suggesting to take a week to just “be,” and not “be doing,” and see how it feels. Drop a few things off of your list, and refocus your priorities. Focus on your health. On your partner. On your child. On your dog. Anything that might get a little lost in the shuffle. This is why I am telling you to start cutting back …

If there is one thing that pregnancy has taught me it is that I take on way too much—and beat myself up about not taking on more. I decided that it would be the best idea ever to give our house a make-over, including paint, new furniture, and some slight remodeling to a few rooms. My brilliant plan also had a hard deadline—my June 4th shower, when family and friends would arrive. Add that to a full-time job, morning sickness, daily fatigue, and other daily responsibilities and my husband and I quickly felt like we were drowning.

Nothing ever goes as planned, and projects got delayed and took longer than we thought. My changing body and chemical exposure restrictions meant I was more and more limited in what I could help with, so my husband was left to captain most of the projects. I have since then realized that we had taken on way too much, but I couldn’t help but feel that I wasn’t doing enough. The house was a mess, my blog neglected, and I wasn’t taking the steps I was planning on to grow an independent business. I was feeling majorly disconnected from my husband. I was feeling like a failure.

My wake-up call happened after I had traveled to two back-to-back work conferences and a bridal shower in just two weeks, and I was experiencing extreme exhaustion. My body wasn’t responding well. My OB looked at me and said “You are seven months pregnant. You need to slow down.” She was right. I was pushing myself so hard, just trying to get to June 4th, and I wasn’t taking good care of myself.

You don’t have to be pregnant—or anywhere near it—to be feeling overwhelmed. As women in today’s society, we are expected to be everything—plus more—to everyone. We need to be high-achieving professionals, doting mothers, good family members, attentive lovers, participating society members … the list goes on and on. I don’t know if other women experience this, but no matter how hard I work I feel like I always have to do more and am never doing enough. Maybe it is just my hard-wiring to be an overachiever. Regardless, my mom helped bring my ambitions back into focus—“You are a human being, not a human doing.” Read that again please: “You are a human being, not a human doing.” It was time to change my mental tape to just being as a woman, expectant mom, and wife, instead of telling myself to do, do, do, do. I needed to take some steps back and realize I mentally, and physically, just couldn’t do it all. And that is okay.

It is okay to just be great at a few things, and say no to the rest. The world won’t fall apart. Your future won’t be doomed. In fact, I am willing to bet you’d be a lot happier and feel more fulfilled when you put the book down. Just let go. Let go of your expectations and enjoy your reality. It can definitely be uncomfortable, and feel downright wrong at first. You almost have to re-train yourself to run a new mental tape and live in a different state than you had been living before. Take a step back, and just be. I’m think you will thank me.

5 Things Pregnant Women Don’t Really Want to Hear

Uncomfortable questions pregnant women get asked frequently… and we wish you wouldn’t.

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Pregnancy is full of changes. Obviously, right? I knew myself that things would change and be different, but I wasn’t really ready for the magnitude of changes that I would be going through. It’s a whole new experience and something you can never prepare for once your body starts changing, inside and out, and is doing things it has never done before. For me, it’s actually quite unnerving. It’s exciting to be creating a life, but it is scary to say goodbye to the body I knew and experiencing rapid changes as a little being is growing in there. Going into pregnancy imagining the movie Alien (complete with some little being clawing its bloody way out of my f-ing body) didn’t help either I’m sure. I had lost a lot of weight a few years back, and am not even close to being back up to my heaviest weight, but the entire shape of my body is changing. Things that would fit when I was at my heaviest don’t fit anymore. It’s hard to be confident sometimes when your hips are wide, feet are swollen, and skin is in crazy mode. I’m sure the hormones have a large impact on self-esteem and moods, too!

I am very lucky to have an extremely supportive husband, family, and friend circle. I feel even more supported by women now that I am pregnant than I had before. Pregnancy brings a new community around you that you never had before, and is almost like being initiated into a sisterhood. It’s a beautiful experience. With that being said, there are also those who, I’ve experienced, don’t really have a filter when asking pregnant people questions. Even more surprisingly are the ones that have been through pregnancy and still ask silly questions. They may not mean any harm, but it isn’t any less hurtful or detrimental to a pregnant women’s state of mind. Here are the worst questions I’ve been asked so far, and here’s why:

“You’re in your second trimester, shouldn’t you have more energy/not feel sick/not be tired/etc?”

Oh, you’re right. I don’t actually know how I’m feeling, but the books and websites do. Okay, being a little snarky, but it’s very difficult in any situation when people assume they know how you should be feeling instead of understanding how you actually feel. Yes, the second trimester is a lot better for many women. Yes, I do feel better overall than the first trimester. However, growing a human takes a lot of resources, and everyone responds to pregnancy differently. For me, I am tired very often, it’s hard for me to exercise at anywhere near what I was used to doing, and I still don’t feel well first thing in the morning. And that’s okay. It is important for pregnant women to set their own boundaries and limitations, and is equally important for partners, friends, and family to accept it and be just as supportive. Instead of asking the question in the former way, why not just say “How are you feeling these days?” or “Tell me about that experience.” I am always touched when someone asks how I am doing, and actually means it.

“Wow you look so big. You’re only [X] months?”

Does any woman, pregnant or not, like being told that they look big? Hell no. No one I know would appreciate any comment like that. Pregnant women are no exception. It’s a delicate time for them, with their bodies growing– exponentially at the end—and even though a big belly might mean a healthy baby, many women are still uncomfortable about themselves. Every single woman carries a child differently, and a lot of factors go into that: height, starting weight, bone structure, weight gain, diet, genetics, etc. The person might have meant something else, but all the woman hears is “You look large.” Ouch. Instead, try to just give a compliment, or saying “I love seeing that baby belly!” Women are typically excited that they have a baby belly, because it means baby is growing! They just don’t love thinking of themselves as large, or how large they might potentially get.

“Are you sure it’s not twins in there?”

Oh you mean am I sure that the human I have been growing for months and have seen on an ultrasound is singular? Yes, actually, I’m really damn sure. I was expecting to get this question, but wasn’t expecting to get it at only 5 months. Even though I thought I was prepared, I was hurt. I felt embarrassed. I felt like I looked large and unattractive. It was way too early in the pregnancy to start feeling like that. I should definitely not be giving anyone enough power to influence how I am feeling about my body that is growing organs on a cellular level, but it is hard not to sometimes. Again, the speaker may not have meant any harm, but it’s hurtful. Just don’t ask the question. Don’t act surprised at the belly size. Just be kind.

“Are you planning on breastfeeding?”

Usually, if I am asked this question it is from family or close friends, and I don’t mind discussing it at all. Usually, in that case it is just out of curiosity, especially from friends who don’t have kids yet. When it becomes awkward is when strangers or coworkers ask you about breastfeeding. In that case it is usually because they are being nosy, or want to tell you why you should breastfeed. I am a strong believer in a woman doing whatever is best for her and best for her child. Sometimes women cannot breastfeed, or need to do a combo of breastfeeding and formula, and that is perfectly fine. As long as the woman is informed and her doctor is guiding the process so that baby is getting whatever s/he needs, it should be no one else’s business what her plan is.

“Are you just loving being pregnant?” 

No, actually. I’ve heard about and read experiences of women who love being in the state of pregnancy. They feel great, they love the little kicks, and feel just dreamy for ten months. That is perfectly wonderful. I am not one of those people. I don’t hate it; far from it. I just don’t love it. It is a unique female experience, and I find it fascinating, wonderful, and frightening all at the same time, but I wouldn’t describe my feelings towards it as adoration and love. I love creating a little individual that is one half my husband, and one half myself, and I do feel reassurance and wonder at the little kicks I feel. The experience is not likely to prevent us from having more children (God willing), but I doubt I will look back on it and say “Oh I just adored being pregnant.” And that’s okay, too. Some people respond to this answer with blatant confusion and disapproval, which always induces feelings of shame at my own pregnancy experience.

It appears, among other kinds of shaming of women, that there is a lot of shaming involving pregnancy and the expectations that go along with it. It’s okay to not love being pregnant, it’s okay to be terrified of birth and not want to go through it, it’s okay to not want to be told you look huge, and it’s even okay to be disappointed when the baby’s gender isn’t what you hoped it would be. This is an individual’s experience, and absolutely no one should be judging anyone’s experience of pregnancy. Women should be supporting each other as sisters, and defending each other to judgmental outsiders.
So next time you see a pregnant woman, just tell her that she looks great and super adorable with that baby bump. No questions asked.

Dealing with identity loss during pregnancy

8-23-16 Dealing with identity loss

I am officially 30 weeks pregnant and am all the combinations of overwhelmed, anxious, excited, joyful, and terrified. I am about to enter one of the most exciting and joyful journeys of my life thus far. It is also a huge change. We will be family of three now, not two. We won’t be free to just get up and go as easily (but I guess we weren’t really anyway since we are dog parents, right?). There have been so many things to think about, that thinking about yourself kind of gets lost in the paint colors, bottle brand options, and birthing classes. One of the things I have deciphered as a source of my anxiety is struggling with being able to recognize and conform to my new identity.

Everyone tells you “Your life is about to change so dramatically” and I get that, I didn’t think that it wouldn’t. Everyone also says that you won’t be you anymore, you’ll be mom, you won’t want to do all the things you used to enjoy, and you won’t have time to do them anyway. This is the part I am struggling with. Do you have to give up who you were just because you have a baby? Christ, I hope not. I in no way doubt that I am about to lose whatever free time I might have had for a while, and that all my priorities will change. This can happen in any major life change– which is why it is good to be flexible and be adaptable. However I don’t anticipate that I will lose interest in the things I like to do. I would expect that I would still want to celebrate Halloween with costumes and extravagance (and booze). That I would still like to go out dancing (with booze). That I would still like to take tropical vacations (with booze). Okay, okay, not everything in my pre-pregnancy life revolved around booze. I don’t need it to have fun. You don’t need running shoes to run either, but they are as hell help, don’t they? I bristle a bit at the insinuation that I will suddenly stop caring about these things and more simply because there is another little body in our house.

I agree that there will be new things that I love doing, too, and I’m sure most of them will be centered around the new little joy in our lives. I also recognize that I will need to add “mom” to the descriptive list of woman, spirited individual, wife, dog mom, artist, scholar, etc. But I also think women get into trouble when they throw themselves into motherhood and don’t leave anytime for themselves. From my experience, when I throw myself into anything and neglect self-care it takes a physical and emotional toll. I soon may not have the flexibility to take care of myself the way I used to, but I also don’t agree with the fact that you just can’t anymore. Making a little “me time” is important in any aspect of your life. It’s important in relationships, when you’re in school, when climbing the corporate ladder, or dealing with heavy family issues. The best part of you is you, and it is important that this identity remains throughout.

I can hear some of you moms right now. “ARE YOU KIDDING,” you are saying, “Just wait till you’re a mom and see how much time you have for yourself.”

I hear you. I’m listening. I’m not going into this new journey blindly optimistic. I am anticipating the tiredness, the selfless giving, and that time will fly by before I know what is happening. I have heard stories. All I can tell you is that this mom-to-be is going to try her best to keep all of these things in mind, and attempt to find some kind of balance between self-husband-baby. There are going to be three of us soon, and I couldn’t be happier. I look forward to evolving into my new identity, a complex being of many roles, but still being the best woman that I can possibly be.

How pregnancy changed my body image

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It’s a terrible feeling. Staring at the mirror day after day, not looking at my face but staring at all other parts, wishing that this was smaller or that was tanner or this was flatter. You should go to the gym more, I would tell myself. You shouldn’t be eating that, my inner critic would scream at family dinners. Your face looks a lot better if you wear more make-up, she would say. I would say I’ve spent the majority of my teenage to adult years being body insecure. I fear this is the song of many adolescent girls in America.

There was one year, one great year, that I lost thirty pounds and felt amazing, beautiful, unstoppable. I was at the gym most days of the week, ate well, and carried myself proudly. Then once I settled into marriage and a job that started creating anxiety, the lbs started sneaking back up on me and my old friend, insecurity, returned. The compliments I received never seemed to stick. They were something I just could not believe.

Today, my belly is starting to get bigger, and I’ve never been so excited. The contradiction of my excitement over growing bigger and wanting to gain enough weight often makes me giggle. The idea that our baby is growing strong and healthy and is starting to create a body shape I’ve never experienced is a feeling that I wasn’t prepared for. I still my (hormonal) down days, but overall I experience a host of positive emotions—joy, excitement, love. I often feel overwhelmed, but am okay with that, too.

I now stare into the mirror, not looking at my thighs but at my belly, hoping that it has grown, that today might be the day I start looking like a pregnant woman. I don’t worry now about my size or the muscle tone of my limbs, I only worry about eating right for the developing baby.

I look at my face and see a different person looking back at me. I feel calmer and more collected. I’m no longer wound so tight or so anxious. I don’t worry as much about crumbs or spills. I’ve even been causing a few myself due to some newfound clumsiness.
I wear less make-up these days. I don’t feel the need to put on the same mask I wore when I was younger. I am okay with letting myself shine through. I feel like I’m evolving as a person, a female, a woman.

I know that this may change. I read about how women in their third trimester start to experience discomfort and pains. I hear about how women in their final weeks just want the baby to come. I don’t know how I will feel months from now, but I hope that I am able to read this and recall the feelings of positivity and excitement that will carry me through those tough days.

I hope that, many months from now, I am able to wear my badges of motherhood proudly. I hope that I am able to carry myself with pride and not embarrassment. Creating a new life from the most basic cellular level is an incredible experience and nothing short of a miracle. I still plan to lose the weight and exercise and eat healthy. I want to be the fittest mom that I can be. But I pray that I can hold onto this newfound woman. She is secure, she is proud, she is beautiful. She is the me I always wanted to be.