Posts Tagged ‘pregnancy’

The Truths We Never Talk About

Friday, October 31, 2014
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Becoming a mother is by far the hardest thing I have ever done. I’ve mentioned some of the ways in which it is hard here and here. But recently, some of my mom friends and I were discussing how difficult becoming a new mom can be and why no one seems to talk about it. So I’m going to talk about it.

There is really nothing that can prepare a new mother for the shock of caring for a newborn. This can be a challenging time for women – besides having a fragile, small person completely dependent on us, we have to balance extreme lack of sleep, recovery from the birth, the pain and struggle of trying to breastfeed, and the Baby Blues. It’s no wonder the thought, “I can’t do this,” crosses our mind every now and again.

Here’s the truth – taking care of a newborn is not fun. There are fun moments, yes, but in those first few weeks there are, for many of us, many more un-fun moments. We look forward to the moment we get to bring home our baby for nine months, only to have our expectations shattered. In the first weeks the future looks bleak. “Will she ever stop crying? Will I ever sleep again? What am I doing wrong? Maybe I’m not cut out for this.” These are just some of the thousands of questions and thoughts that cross our minds. We are unsure of ourselves yet afraid to ask for help lest we should admit that we have no idea what we are doing and feel like we never will.

Why are new mothers constantly surprised by this truth? Why don’t we ever talk about this?

Mom guilt kicks in the second we start to think any thought of frustration towards our new baby. Every time I mentioned that I was struggling from lack of sleep or that AJ was crying a lot I felt extremely guilty immediately afterward. I didn’t want people to think I didn’t love my baby, and even worse, would she somehow be able to pick up on the fact that I was “talking bad” about her and hate me forever from birth? When I start to feel mom guilt now, I console myself with the fact that I know my own parents felt frustration when I was a newborn and do I blame them? Heck no! Did I turn out okay? Yes!

We also forget oh-so-quickly how hard it actually was to take care of our newborn. I’m already to the point where I can look back and think, “Maybe it wasn’t so bad. After all it was only a few weeks.” But when you are in the thick of it, it is that bad. Three weeks can feel like an eternity.

Another reason new moms are unprepared is that when mothers do share their struggles, we as pregnant women have on our pregnancy blinders and don’t believe them. I had people tell me I wouldn’t like my newborn or that it was okay if I cried. I thought, “Ha! Not me! I will LOVE being a mom.” And I do, now. Those wise women who went before me knew what they were talking about; I just didn’t want to listen. Can you blame me though? What pregnant woman wants to hear that the baby they’ve been dreaming about will terrorize their life when it arrives? As a pregnant woman, I wanted to think about all the good times ahead.

Here’s the second, and wonderful, truth – it gets so much better. Quickly. There is a light at the end of the newborn tunnel! For me, it took about six weeks for things to finally feel good, for me to finally feel like I was getting the hang of things. For some moms it takes only a few days, and for some moms it takes months. It’s all normal and it’s all okay. And once your baby is able to acknowledge you, able to smile and coo and laugh, you realize it was all worth it. Every tear, every sleepless night, every moment of hardship was worth it. There are still tough days, there will always be tough days, but before you know it the good days way outnumber the bad.

She has arrived!

Friday, August 15, 2014
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According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)’s preliminary data, 3,957,577 babies were born in the United States in 2013.

Using that statistic, we can estimate that around 10,800 babies are born every day in the U.S alone, more or less. Having a baby is a common thing.

That doesn’t make it any less extraordinary when you have or adopt one of your own.

It’s amazing how something so normal is so special when it happens to you. Having a baby is nothing short of a miracle, even though it happens to thousands of people every day. Every story is unique, every baby special.

My heart is overflowing with joy as I type this – our own special miracle was born Tuesday, August 12 at 8:10 in the morning. Our little AJ is finally here, and we are captivated by her perfection.

Please forgive me for the short post this week, it’s been a busy one for us. I have so many thoughts running through my head, and yet I’m speechless. I can’t wait to share more about her birth, lessons learned in our first days at home and adjusting to life as a mom. Right now, we’ve been home for less than 24 hours, and I’m still taking in everything that has happened in the last couple days.

I reached the end of a journey on Tuesday – pregnancy – only to begin one incomparably wonderful and challenging – motherhood.

Late nights (part 1)

Friday, August 8, 2014
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I look over at the clock – 1:30 a.m. I slowly finagle my way out of bed and head to the bathroom. I’m not remotely close to tired and hunger pains have set in, so after washing my hands I go downstairs for a glass of milk and a few graham crackers. I then head to the nursery, sit back in the recliner, and open a novel. It’s going to be another sleepless night.

No, I have not had my baby yet. But I’m already losing sleep. For several weeks it has been an endless cycle of waking up every hour, if I can get to sleep at all. I’ve never struggled with insomnia or trouble sleeping before, so this is all new to me.

Finding a comfortable position with a bump this big is next to impossible. Lying down also causes heartburn and my nose to get stuffy. Since my bladder is squished, I have to use the restroom constantly.

In addition to all the physical discomforts, my mind races every night. All I can think about is baby. I think (okay, worry) about labor and delivery, bringing her home, taking care of her, what it will be like this time next year, what I need to wrap up at work before I take off, and countless other thoughts.

Our recliner/rocker in the nursery is the most comfortable place for me to half sit/half lie right now, so I’ve been spending a lot of time in that room. Which is wonderful, except I’m trying to get my thoughts off of baby as much as I can, and sitting in her room doesn’t really help. I go almost crazy thinking about when she will arrive during the day, the last thing I need is to think about it all night too.

Many people like to joke and say, “Get your sleep in now while you can!” If only we could store sleep…we’d all be a lot more energetic and happy. But that’s not the case. I like to say the sleeplessness of the last weeks of pregnancy is your body preparing itself for when baby comes (might as well look at things positively). One big difference between now and then is now I am able take naps and relax in the evenings; I know I won’t be able to do that once the baby arrives.

Our baby girl is expected to arrive any day now. I’ll probably look back on this post and laugh at myself for thinking I wasn’t getting enough sleep. Late nights (part 2) will come once baby is born; I’ll share how they compare.

Until then, I’ve invested in several good books to keep me occupied during the sleepless spells.

A look back – my two cents on pregnancy

Friday, August 1, 2014
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When a woman announces her pregnancy, she is immediately flooded with advice from all angles. Family, friends, coworkers and strangers all have their opinions. Websites, books, blogs and apps feature infinite articles on various aspects of the journey to have a child. And of course, a woman receives the most important and valid instructions from her doctor.

Well, I’m here to throw my two cents in, since I’m basically an expert at this now (ha. ha. ha). After almost nine months of receiving advice, I want to share some of my own. It can get overwhelming, even annoying, to hear everyone’s opinions on pregnancy, but after going through this journey, I do feel a certain responsibility to share my “lessons learned” with future mamas. I think everyone likes to give advice and share stories because they’ve been there, whether through their own pregnancies or watching someone they loved, and know that it can be a confusing and intimidating time.

So here’s my select pieces of wisdom for the newly pregnant:

Remember that pregnancy is natural

It’s a simple concept that can get lost in all the doctor’s appointments, warnings of what to watch for, eating restrictions, blood tests and more. Women’s bodies were made to do this. Pregnancy is a natural thing. When you are pregnant, you are not sick (although it certainly might feel like it at some times). We are lucky to live in modern times, where pregnancies can be closely monitored and problems can be resolved before they affect the health of the mother and/or developing child. But don’t let all the tests, monitoring and warnings get to you – you will most likely have a normal, healthy pregnancy. Even if something does raise a red flag, most of the time it will turn out to be nothing.

That said, don’t be afraid to call the doctor if you do think something is wrong. I called my doctor several times in tears for one reason or another; every time things turned out to be perfectly normal and fine.

Read a pregnancy book

Those times I just mentioned where I called my doctor’s office in tears – if I would have opened my pregnancy book first, I would have found whatever was ailing me listed right there as a normal symptom. I learned so much from reading my pregnancy book. A pregnancy book can help you learn about what you should be expecting, what you should look out for, and why your body is feeling certain symptoms. I felt empowered knowing what was going on inside of me and why it was affecting me in certain ways. Not to mention some weird things can happen to your body and mind when you are pregnant, and if you don’t know it’s a normal symptom, you might get freaked out.

Take a good child birth class

My husband and I took two child birth classes, one at the hospital where I will deliver and one separate from the hospital. We got a lot out of both classes. As someone who has never spent the night in a hospital, I was extremely nervous about my hospital stay. At the hospital class, they walked us through what our stay will be like, what procedures I will go through and hospital policies. We got to tour the hospital and see the rooms where we will be staying. I’m still a little nervous about the hospital, but I’m definitely more confident now that I know what to expect.

Our other child birth class has been great for many reasons, the main one being it’s gotten us excited about the whole experience. A good child birth class should help you look forward to labor and delivery, not dread it. It also goes back to the whole “pregnancy is natural” concept – there were many things that scared me about labor and delivery, but now that I’ve been through this class I know what’s natural and expected.

Take everything with a grain of salt

We’ve all heard some of the crazy things people say to pregnant women. I thought most were exaggerations until people started saying them to me. On a bad day, it was (is) easy for me to get upset when someone asks if I am having twins or points out how huge I am. I found the best thing to do is just to laugh it off when someone makes me uncomfortable with an awkward question or a rude comment. Every. single. person. you encounter will say something or ask something about your pregnancy, but you’ll receive enough compliments and congratulations to make up for any hurtful comments.

Take advantage of this time

I’ll be frank – people are nicer to you. Not as much is expected of you. Take advantage of this! Let a stranger hold the door open for you; take up your coworker’s offer of help on a project; let your significant other fold the laundry or cook dinner. If you aren’t feeling up to snuff, take a sick day. You are growing a human being after all. Despite my above comments about people saying crazy things, I’ve really enjoyed the friendliness of strangers during this time. I like making people smile just by walking by. I learned to take people up on their offers of a seat or to skip line. I really believe people are just trying to be nice; so don’t take their gestures as them thinking you are weak or unable. And when people want to share, listen to their stories of their own children. It’s inspiring to hear the love in someone’s voice when they speak about when their children were born. Listen closely and let yourself be moved.

An honest answer to a common question: How are you feeling?

Friday, July 25, 2014
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“How are you feeling?”

It’s the question I’ve been asked by at least one person every day since I announced my pregnancy. A simple question that shows the asker’s concern and that they care. Although it’s a logical question to ask a pregnant woman, it perplexes me every time it is directed my way.

I think there’s a few reasons why this simple, seemingly straightforward question always makes me pause before I respond.

My first thought is always, “Do you really want to know the answer?” I could talk for hours about how I’m “feeling” if someone really wants to know. So I try to gauge – does this person really want to know how I’m feeling or are they just trying to be nice? Are they really interested in my pregnancy or just making conversation? The answers to these questions can significantly affect how I answer their question, or more likely how scared the person is after I give them a 10-minute answer involving phrases like “dropped” when all they really wanted was a quick, “I feel fine!”

Next, I move to, “How am I actually feeling?” A pregnant woman feels a thousand things at once. Her mental feelings often do not match her physical feelings either. Unbeknown to the asker, their question can set off a string of thoughts that can totally change my mood. I don’t like to say “bad” or “good,” because most of the time it’s a little of both.

So for those that really want to know, this is how I’m feeling:

My hands are so swollen that my skin is burning; my head hurts; my mind is scattered and I can’t focus on one thought; I need a nap after walking from the basement to the upstairs; I kind of feel like crying but have no idea why; I could use something sweet; I have to pee; I feel like there is a ball of fire in my esophagus; the inside of my stomach is sore from a small person kicking me; I’m so excited I don’t know how to contain myself; my legs are sore for no apparent reason; and I’m not quite sure how I’m going to make it several more weeks.

As you can see, asking me this question could get you way more information than you bargained for. I guess a shortened answer would be, “I feel like I’m growing a baby.”

Asker beware: If you ask a pregnant woman how she’s feeling, make sure you’re ready to hear the honest answer!

A wonderful preview

Friday, July 18, 2014
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There are a few things I’ve learned about having a newborn from the many blog posts, articles and books I’ve read. These insightful tidbits of knowledge include:

  • I will be up all night for endless nights and basically turn into a mix between a vampire and a zombie
  • My baby will cry all the time and nothing will soothe her
  • I will not be able to take a shower except for maybe once a week
  • I will not have the time or energy to do anything – cook, clean, talk, breathe
  • Breastfeeding will be terrible and make me want to cry
  • I will not leave the house for weeks on end
  • Basically, I will go crazy

As you can see, the typical “Five Things I Wish I’d Known about Having a Newborn” articles don’t paint a pretty picture. In fact, these articles make it sound quite miserable. So when I went to visit my good friends and their newborn baby this weekend, I expected the worst. I figured I would find my friend in a zombie-like state, barely able to form words. I thought her house would look like a tornado had come through, and that she and her husband would be weak from not being able to cook dinner or grab food. I thought their baby would start screeching the minute I tried to hold her. I expected to hear a labor and delivery horror story (since it seems everyone else that shares theirs with me had a horrible experience.)

So, armed with a few grocery bags of snacks and a mental attitude of “whatever I see I will not let it scare me,” I went to meet the newest member of their family. What I found when I got there could not have been more different from my expectations, or more wonderful.

I found my friend looking the most beautiful I’ve ever seen her. I’ve heard of a pregnancy glow, but there must be a new mother glow, and it is radiant. I found the new parents energetic, talkative and relaxed. I heard a normal story of labor and delivery that lessened my own fears instead of increasing them. And I found the most beautiful, sweet little baby, contently napping in whoever’s arms were holding her at the time. I didn’t see red eyes, fights, dirty hair or tension. I saw so much love, beauty and happiness in this family that it made me cry right then and there.

I get why there are so many articles about the difficulties of bringing home a newborn. It’s important to portray reality so a new mom can know it’s normal to be tired, frustrated and confused. I’m sure I’ll have a few of my own posts about the unexpected difficulties I will face. But lately it seems I’ve read and heard so much of the negative and none of the positive. There is nothing in the baby books that could have prepared me for the joy I found in my friend’s home. That’s the joy I imagined I’ll have when my time comes.

Thank you friend for sharing your experience with me. Thank you for giving me such a wonderful picture to look forward to.

Ready, but not quite prepared

Friday, July 11, 2014
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It started around 2 a.m. I woke up in pain. It took me a few minutes to gain my focus before I realized I was having contractions. I didn’t panic right away – the doctor had explained to me that this was normal and I should expect it. I tried to remember what I was supposed to do: time them to see if they were coming in regular intervals and move positions or walk around to see if that would make them go away. I did both and the results told me that I was simply experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions, a way my body is preparing itself for the birth process.

But there was a short moment when I thought, “What if this is it? What if I’m going into labor?” and subsequently, “I’m not mentally prepared to go into labor yet; the baby’s not ready to be born; I haven’t finished my childbirth classes; am I prepared to bring a baby home?” I was having these thoughts while looking at the time, so I quickly realized nothing was happening at regular intervals, and I was not going into labor.

Lately I’ve been having a reoccurring dream that I haven’t had since college. It’s a common dream – the kind where you show up to a class on finals day only to realize you have never attended the class before, or it’s the end of the semester and you just discover you were enrolled in classes but never attended a single one. The night of my “practice” contractions it dawned on me why I’ve been having this dream – I’m scared I’m not prepared to have and take care of a child.

I’ve read the entire “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” book. I follow countless pregnancy and parenting blogs and forums. I’m currently reading a guidebook on baby’s first year week by week. I’ve already told you about my nesting phase. My husband and I have taken not one, but two childbirth classes. Even my body is preparing itself, as I learned through my late night experience.

And yet, despite all these preparations, I still feel an overwhelming sense of heading into the unknown. I didn’t realize I had these feelings until I felt the Braxton Hicks contractions, but my recent dreams tell me these thoughts have probably been in the back of my mind. I have a feeling I’m not the only soon-to-be new mom who’s felt this way. I also realized that I can read guidebooks and take classes and set up baby gear until I pass out, but there is nothing that will truly prepare me for motherhood. It can be scary, but it’s also exciting. I’m ready for the test, even if I feel a little unprepared.

Dreaming of a Double Shot Espresso (and other Pre-Pregnancy Luxuries)

Friday, July 4, 2014
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I probably shouldn’t be thinking about this yet, considering I still have a month and a half (or more) to go; but I’m sitting here with my swollen feet and face, in one of the few items of maternity clothing that fits me anymore, and I’m daydreaming about all the things I miss from my pre-pregnancy days.

In the beginning, it was almost fun to have to give up things. Since I didn’t have morning sickness and wasn’t showing yet, it made the pregnancy seem more real. I felt special saying, “I can’t eat deli meat” or “What ‘mocktails’ can you make?” I was happy the first time my clothes didn’t fit me, because it meant I was finally getting a bump and my baby was growing.

Those feelings have passed, and I am definitely looking forward to enjoying certain things a pregnant woman cannot. Here’s what I’m looking forward to doing and enjoying post-pregnancy:

Normal body positions and movement

It really is amazing how limited you become in movement and the ways you can position yourself when pregnant. I never knew how much I liked to lie on my stomach until I couldn’t anymore. And there’s something wonderful about being able to flop onto a couch or a bed – now it’s a careful maneuver with several groans as I try to find a comfortable position. Although I can technically still tie my shoes, it’s not a pretty sight. It will be nice to be able to lie on my stomach and tie my shoes with ease again.

Being able to run and exercise

Every doctor, baby book and website will tell you it’s important to stay fit through your pregnancy. But “fit” takes on a new definition when there is a baby pushing on your lungs. I had to stop running pretty early on in my pregnancy because it became too painful and uncomfortable. So I moved to spinning, which also quickly became painful. Then I stuck to Pilates, walking and weights. My body cannot do the Pilates positions anymore, the heat makes it almost unbearable to take a long walk, and even light lifting makes me lose my breath. I’m still trying to get in as much activity as I can, but I’m looking forward to getting back to my pre-pregnancy workout routine (happily knowing that I will now be pushing a jogging stroller on my runs).

Sushi, runny eggs, deli sandwiches

I think I might have my husband bring me sushi to the hospital. And eggs over easy. And a turkey sandwich. The food restrictions haven’t bothered me that much, but these three items are some of my favorite things to eat, and making lunch will be so much easier when I can eat deli meat again.

Alcoholic beverages

I miss them. I do. I know once the baby comes I won’t be downing margaritas every Friday night, and I don’t want to do that. But I do want to come home from a long day at work and enjoy a glass of red wine with dinner, or drink a beer while watching a football game.

My old clothes

It’s a little weird, but I miss throwing on my favorite t-shirt or sundress. I guess I just feel comfortable and confident in some of my favorite outfits, while I’m still not used to the awkward shape of maternity clothes. I actually had to put my pre-pregnancy clothes in another closet because it started to make me sad every time I looked at them. Not to mention I am so sick of stripes (everything maternity is striped it seems). I’m hoping once I can wear my normal clothes again they will feel brand new because I haven’t been able to wear them in so long…

Regular coffee

The general consensus is that it’s okay for pregnant women to have limited amounts of caffeine, and one cup of coffee a day is said to be fine. I made a personal decision to not drink caffeinated coffee while pregnant, so I’ve stuck to decaf in the hopes that I can trick my mind into thinking it’s regular. It doesn’t work. I’m convinced decaf coffee tastes different (and not as good) as regular coffee. August might be sweltering hot, but once I deliver I’ll be ordering a large vanilla latte.

I am loving the journey of pregnancy, the ups and the downs, but I’m looking forward to getting back some simple pleasures like sushi nights and long runs.

The Nesting Phase

Friday, June 27, 2014
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Watch out world – my nesting phase is here. I’ve heard it described by many: the time in your pregnancy when you want to clean and organize everything possible in your home. I didn’t know if I would go through this phase. While I’ve always liked to keep things neat, I really hate cleaning.

But now, my whole outlook has changed. Where I once saw a neat and (mostly) clean house, I now only see dust and animal hair. When I walk into a room, my first thoughts are on what needs cleaned and organized. I’ve started to notice places and items I want to clean that I didn’t even know could get dirty.

One of my first nesting accomplishments was cleaning out and organizing our closets. I also cleaned out my office at work. I have a huge “to-do before baby” list that includes everything from “clean carpets” to “print pictures and put in photo albums.” Nothing is off limits.

I’ve been the most focused on getting the nursery and other baby items ready. Even though I still have up to two months to go, I get panicky when I think of things we don’t have ready. It’s taking strong willpower not to go ahead and install the car seat – you know, just in case. I’ve washed all the baby clothes, blankets and towels, opened and put all my shower presents away, cleaned out a shelf in the kitchen for baby items and more. These have been the most rewarding nesting tasks but also the most surreal. I’ll be putting away baby shampoo and like a brick, it hits me that another living person will be moving in with us soon.

My husband and I are making room in our lives for someone new. It’s going to be a wonderful but overwhelming experience. Even though our new person will be small, she will demand that we change everything from our daily schedules to what movies we watch to what vacations we take. My nesting phase is helping me prepare our home, and my mind, for our new, tiny roommate. Or maybe the phase is just meant to keep me from going crazy in the home stretch of pregnancy. It’s helping with both.

This weekend, my plan is to deep clean our entire house, from top to bottom. My pre-pregnancy self would have dreaded this task, but I’m so excited I might even start tonight.

Pregnancy does some crazy things to your mind and body…nesting is definitely one of them.

Sitting, Waiting, Wishing

Friday, June 20, 2014
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Sitting, Waiting, Wishing – the title of a Jack Johnson song and an accurate description of the third trimester of pregnancy. Here’s a peek into what’s going on at this point in the journey to have a child:

You’ve come so far in the past seven months. You’ve made it through the emotional and physical rollercoaster that is the first trimester. You waited weeks and finally got to see an ultrasound of your baby, and if you chose to, find out the sex. You’ve looked at baby names, registered, and maybe even had a baby shower. If it’s your first (like me), you’ve probably been planning, preparing, researching, painting, purchasing and more. Most of your to-do-before-baby items are completed, except for the ones that you need to do in the couple weeks leading up to your due date.

So now, in weeks 30-35, the first half of your third trimester, your life pretty much boils down to sitting, waiting and wishing.

Sitting often, because you get out of breath from just walking to the bathroom. More than likely you are actually lying down, because even sitting can be pretty uncomfortable. Not to mention you need to keep your feet raised as much as possible to keep down the swelling. Sitting because your legs are not used to your additional load and they wear out easily. Sitting, then standing, then lying down, then sitting up again, because it’s impossible to find a comfortable position.

Waiting for baby. At this point, you’re probably going to the doctor every two weeks, but not every week. You count down the days until your next doctor appointment because it means the progression of time. But nothing really happens at the doctor visits – which is a GOOD thing, but leaves you feeling like nothing has changed. You can see the finish line, but it’s still in the horizon. Even though you try not to, you look at the calendar every day.

Wishing for so many things. Wishing for time to pass faster, while at the same time wishing you could simply live in the moment and enjoy this time. Wishing that your baby will be healthy. Wishing that your delivery will go smoothly and quickly. Wishing you could eat sushi. Wishing you could distract yourself. Maybe wishing that something was going differently in your pregnancy. Wishing that you will be a good parent to your child.

The baby will be here before you know it. But for now, it seems like even further away than when you found out you were pregnant. Yes, you could find something productive to do, but getting through a normal day is exhausting enough, and at the end of the day you can’t muster the energy to do anything but sit, wait and wish.

I’ll be sitting, waiting and wishing for a few more long weeks. When I’m at week 39, I’m sure I’ll look back and wonder how time passed so quickly. But for now, I’ll just try to enjoy the calm before the storm.