Pregnancy

The Second Time Around

My first pregnancy was tough. Emotionally and physically I’m not sure I was completely ready a little after a year of completing cancer treatments. I spent most of my pregnancy hardly being able to eat and didn’t have a good support network as I was mostly the first/only one in my friend group to be having a kid. At one of the lowest points, I called a dear friend who had also had a very difficult pregnancy the year before and told her “I need you to tell me honestly this is worth it. You’re the only one I’d believe right now.” And she, of course, responded that it was absolutely worth it and that it all faded behind you once you had your baby and that helped me get by.

Now I’ve made it through my second pregnancy and have a one-month-old and a two-year-old. I was warned by some friends with multiple kids that during pregnancy (and after) you’re a lot more tired this time around and in some ways, it’s harder, which is totally true because you can’t be as self-indulgent in your needs when you have a little person with needs. I also continued to struggle with various pregnancy induced ailments that have led me to the conclusion that my body does not like being pregnant and I will not miss that.

However, this is a very different experience of being pregnant this time around and I’ve learned and grown a lot from the first experience.

1. This time I have a village. A lot of that village is remote and that is totally fine. It comes in forms of close friends who have kids/are pregnant now and being able to ask advice from or just understand the frustrations. It also comes from friends forgiving the fact that I’m in a tough friend period right now with my availability and weathering through that with me (thank you so much). I also have an amazing Facebook group this time full of a few hundred parents in New Orleans that has been invaluable with advice, support, and humor around kids, babies, and pregnancies (It’s basically 90% of the reason I have a Facebook account). They’re not affiliated with anything and the tone is very “do what works for you” which is exactly what I need. I also made Mom friends in New Orleans while struggling through newborn and baby life with Nono. This time I don’t feel like A. and I are doing it alone. I closed myself off a lot my first pregnancy and looking back recognize there was a lot of depression going on with that as well and this time around I made the time/effort to see my friends, have phone dates, and return texts/emails even when I was exhausted from pregnancy because I knew when the infant days came it’d be a while before I return to the world again.

2. I got a doula. A. and I decided last time to do it just the two of us and take a really extensive birth class. I don’t regret it at all, but this time around I recognized that I would feel anxiety about being completely reliant on A. with Nono in the picture. We had a plan for Nono when I went into labor, staying with A.’s parents who live a mile away, but what if they’d been sick or he’d been sick? There’s a lot of things that can happen and I didn’t want to be in the position of having to choose between having A.’s full attention and stressing about Nono or being alone for any of my labor. It was absolutely the right decision for me. I went into labor on a Friday night (same as with Nono) and it was perfect having Melanie there to support me and for her and A. to tag team getting a hospital bag packed (she was early!) and coordinate Nono and the dogs without me having to be alone. It was also really awesome to have someone to check in with when I was having a tough time with hospital staff that has been around the block with labor.

3. I got a new job. My last job was not pregnancy/family supportive and I worked long hours and had a lot of stress at the end of my pregnancy, no real plan for coverage while I was out, and then had my team and boss tell me how hard things would be when I got back (while still on maternity leave). It was exhausting and it definitely deprioritized my self-care at a time I needed it the most. This time around I’m at a very pro-family company that I’m able to work from home when I want to which made the end of pregnancy much easier and the hours are significantly better. They also offer 12 weeks of paid leave which takes a lot of stress/burden off and we prepared for me to be gone for months ahead of time, including telling the clients 4 months ahead of time. It enabled me to feel like I could make time to do a lot of self-care things I needed and the peace of mind being part of a strong transition/coverage plan.

4. Self-care! I started going to a chiropractor at the end of my first pregnancy because I was having bad nerve pain and walking was a struggle. It helped, but was limited in what we could do at that point. This time around I started seeing a chiropractor very soon after finding out I was pregnant, Nono and I actually see the same one which helps with cutting down on appointments. One week I was in intense pain whenever I moved and she fit me in that day and I felt so much better after she adjusted me, it was like fucking magic. I actually got adjusted the day I went into labor (probably not a coincidence), but I think it really helped how I felt post delivery. I’ve also gone to yoga on an almost weekly basis for the second half of my pregnancy. It’s meant that I miss some bedtimes and have to make time when I feel tired and overwhelmed, but I think it’s been so good to do something that both physically feels good and mentally makes me clear my head and be present in what I’m doing. I also started seeing a pre/post-partum therapist. Looking back, I badly needed to do this the first time around but was so overwhelmed with appointments and not feeling like I could make the time that I didn’t. It’s been a really interesting experience seeing someone who we just focus on pregnancy/birth stuff and preparing for that and she’s made house calls for my early post-pregnancy appointments so I wouldn’t have to drive. I got incredibly lucky with my referral having space, taking my insurance, and being someone I click with. It is NOT easy finding mental health resources.

5. I made things easier based on experience. First time around we were new parents and had no idea and was also skeptical of “what we needed” (seriously it turns out if your baby is into it that a wipe warmer is a game changer). This time around I knew exactly what things were more difficult and am not trying to power through it now that we’re juggling infant and toddler. Examples would be getting a used glider chair (nursing is so much easier in those but they’re so expensive new), a king size bed so that Noah and baby can fit with ease when we happen to overlap bedtimes, and a dockatot because even though we weren’t co-sleepers with Noah there are times an infant is only going to sleep on/with you and it was incredibly stressful/not conducive to sleep not having a way to manage that with some baby protections in place. I also did a thing I said I WOULD NEVER DO, I got a TV for our room. I was exhausted by 8:30 when I was pregnant and going downstairs to hang out was just often not in the cards for me and now I also have the option of staying upstairs with our infant and not being bored out of my mind if she’s sleeping on me and we’re upstairs. Plus now I go up to bed with her around 7pm and I’m up for the night.

6. I stopped feeling guilty (mostly). The first time around I felt so guilty for how little I could help A. at home because of how sick/exhausted I was (if you can’t eat, you also have no energy). I felt guilty doing things for myself and I felt guilty for leaving him to go do things with my friends that were “girls only”. It was all in my head and it sucked. This time around he did even more with being Nono’s primary caregiver the majority of the time, I probably did 10 or less mornings with Noah since becoming pregnant because my number one focus in the morning was ‘take it slow and try not to vomit’. BUT instead of feeling guilty, I feel empathy. I appreciate everything he’s doing and I empathize with how much he’s putting into work, household, dogs, pregnant wife, and kid which is often at the expense of time for himself. I also recognize that being pregnant is really hard on me and we made this decision together so we each have our sacrifices and roles to play while we get through this. From last time I’m also very aware that in the infant days I am going to be really limited by breastfeeding and exhaustion that’s going to take a really heavy toll on my social life that he’ll have some more flexibility with. So I (mostly) let go of the guilt and I try to find balance with empathy in supporting him when I can to take some time for himself too, and also give myself permission to do things for myself that ask him for more time (such as going to a women’s retreat for a day a few months ago). I read something recently that talked about how it’s rarely 50/50 in a marriage, especially with kids and appreciation is really how to make it work which I completely agree with.

So is it better/easier now that I’m one month in (well technically tomorrow). Yes and No. It is better. I’m not a scared first time parent and the comfort and confidence I have with an infant this time around is soooo much better. I also get to have time with Nono that feels so precious and is a big mood boost that I didn’t have the first time. It is not easier though. It’s still exhausting, it’s still an emotional rollercoaster, and this time we have to divide and conquer rather than take turns. But just like with our first infant go around, it gets better with more sleep from her, big brother moments with him, and I know her first smile is not far away to really change the game.

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The Lasts and the Firsts

The experience of motherhood is rarely talked about without a discussion of the losses it brings. First, there’s the loss of your body as you’re told repeatedly that it’ll never be the same, and entire sonnets are written for breasts after nursing ends. You’re told of the sleep you’ll lose, the connection with your spouse that’ll suffer, and the freedom you once enjoyed being at an end. The friendships you’ll be forced to neglect, the ability to multi-task at work that you’ll lose, and the sense of self that will diminish. With my first baby, I felt weird being happy in the sea of loss. I wasn’t sure how to enter the conversation sometimes with the good stuff. After having a miserable pregnancy, the baby part of it felt amazing, it was tough, but unlike being pregnant, I had an amazing little human that I was falling in love with and experiencing so many new things like his smile.

With baby number 2 I had an easier pregnancy, although it was still tough and not something I’d be eager to do ever again. Part of that was having Nono to distract me and also thinking about the fact that soon we’d be a family four, so our family of three was something to soak up and treasure before that period was over. I made a lot of plans for the end of pregnancy around getting special time with Nono before I entered months of needing to make our new baby my priority. I told my Mom she couldn’t come over Mardi Gras because I wanted those two weeks to just be the three of us to get the house ready and spend some time as our little family of 3 before things changed. I worked over MLK and President’s Day so I could take Mardi Gras and Lundi Gras as holidays and have a 4 day weekend with Nono to enjoy parades and each other. I planned all of this weeks and weeks before my due date to make sure it would work out because I was confident baby girl would be coming earlier than planned.

We had our first mardi gras weekend and it was a little bit of a mixed bag with Nono telling us “time to go home?” before either parade was over, but we still had fun as he enjoyed for the first time the New Orleans kid experience of waving at floats and getting footballs and light up swords and all sorts of random kid treasures. He sat on my diminishing lap for the bands as I covered his ears and we discussed how the drums are loud. He saw the horses prance by and the dance groups sparkle in their variety of styles and themes. I most enjoyed the time after the parades when he would repeatedly bring up the things he saw and experienced in his few words over and over again “Bands?”, “Drums loud?”, “Cover ears?” “See parades?”.IMG-0744

I carefully planned out the parades we’d try to go to for the big weekend, knowing that he wasn’t going to be able to sit through multiple ones and that we needed to plan around nap time as well (he’s pretty militant about his nap schedule). I finished up my work on Friday and couldn’t wait for my four days off to relax a bit and all the Nono time I was going to get.

Then, of course, my water broke. It wasn’t anything dramatic and seemed pretty low key so after some googling and discussing with my doula, I was hopeful that this wasn’t it. It was going to mean I’d have to be diligent about taking it even easier the next few days, but it was still going to be ok. I wasn’t having contractions so I took a bath in an effort to calm things down and hoped this would pass.

It didn’t. 13.5 hours later and baby Pom made her entrance into the world and A. and I cried with happiness when I held her the first time and marveled at her full head of hair.

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But the first hour of actual labor I cried for a different reason. I cried over losing my four days with Nono, knowing that it’ll be quite a while until we’ll have the opportunity to spend time like I had planned together. I was deeply sad to lose that time I’d planned for and looked forward to so easily, right on the cusp of having it. Losing those “lasts” without being able to soak them in was and is hard.

But now we have the firsts. Pom is just beginning so many firsts and having experienced them with Nono I look forward to them in a new way and appreciate the little windows of her newborn behavior while they’re here. And now Nono is a big brother for the first time. I love each day as he warms up to the idea that she is here and part of his life now as he talks about his little sister and being a big brother. He points out her MANY sleeping items (my single biggest lesson from Nono was having baby sleep options is key) and talks about how she was in my tummy before. He smiles at her more and more and wants to look at her and talk about her more and more as he wraps his head around this new world where we are a family of four.

I still grieve a bit for those lasts that will never be, but just like it is and has been with each baby, the firsts more than make up for the lasts and I find myself enjoying where we are so much more than looking back at where we’ve been.

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How We Talk About Being A Mom

(written pre-baby but pregnant 2016)

As someone standing on the doorstep outside this new club, I have some concerns about how we talk about being a Mom.

1. Motherhood is not a job. Why do we call it that? There aren’t set hours, you don’t have a boss (please don’t call your toddler/teenager/tween your boss, you lady are a boss), you don’t get paid (try using hugs at the grocery store next time you check out and let me know how it goes), there aren’t promotions, and you have to pay people to play hooky (depending on how old your kid is). It’s not a job. It’s something much bigger and more overwhelming than a job. When I come home from my job, I sometimes have work to do, but even if I have work there is a big separation between my real life outside of the office and my office life. I also get most weekends off. There’s a professional courtesy I can mostly expect and boundaries, and I can switch jobs if I’m unhappy. I mean these two things have so little in common with each other that it just boggles my mind that we seem to have signed off on this comparison.

2. There is no one-right-way to be a Mom. There was a post in my college Women’s FB Group sharing an article about working Moms and nannies and some women came out swinging, implying the women discussing childcare should feel ashamed for being able to afford it. Can we stop? This is an area where instead of trying to put each other in our place and having a contest of who is the better Mom or most out of touch from privilege we could be having a bigger conversation about access to childcare for those who need it. It amazes me this is still how we discuss childcare among ourselves in a country where MILLIONS are poured into anti-abortion ads and legal fights, that it’s ok that women make less money, don’t have national paid maternity benefits, and have to struggle with childcare costs. Instead of policing each other on how we make being a Mom work let’s work together to improve things for Moms and Dads, let’s build up instead of tear down. Some people have grandparents that want to watch their kids, my Mom was able to work at home as a way to facilitate having kids at home too, some people split nannies with other people to make it work, and some people can have and want full-time nannies. I LOVE the daycare that my son goes to, I think daycare is the jam. And that’s all ok, you’re not a better Mom because you’re tearing down other Moms. Let’s try spending less of our time trying to shame each other about how we make being a Mom work and focus our ire towards equalizing things for all Moms. And while we’re at it, let’s get some changing tables in men’s bathrooms. They’re caregivers too.

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I’m Thankful for Nono

2016 was a rough year for our country. A lot of terrible and tough things have happened and a lot of people are ready to close the books on it and not look back. For me, however, 2016 is a year I will treasure forever. 2016 is when we welcomed our son into the world.

It’s been a tough journey getting to him. It started in 2014 and was derailed by a cancer diagnosis. I had to deal with the risk that chemo brings of never being able to have kids. But I was lucky and got pregnant soon after my doctor gave me the green light this year. That was followed by a pregnancy that was anything but glowing. I had trouble gaining weight due to the nausea that plagued me for almost the entire pregnancy, I was exhausted, sore, and all of the normal pregnancy challenges. I spent several hours in the hospital when I went into preterm labor, afraid and not ready. Luckily Nono decided to wait a few more weeks. We had another scare when my midwife picked up an arrhythmia and there were also concerns about his growth. After hours spent in fear limbo, we were again cleared. Finally Nono joined our family after 32.5 hours of labor, healthy and without needing a c-section.

It was love at first sight. Even though he proceeded to poop on me twice within his first few minutes of outside the womb life. Everything I had been afraid of in becoming a Mom (what about everything I would be giving up? what if I didn’t bond immediately? ) faded away and didn’t matter at all. Being a Mom is like breathing, it doesn’t require thought. My world shifted in an irrevocable way and I didn’t even feel it happen.

There are challenges. I cry pretty much every day. I think the blog “why is my son crying” could have a precursor blog for new families called “why is Mommy crying?” Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s hard, there’s a lot of crazy emotional surge going on post baby. The struggle is real.

There’s a lot of things you can’t prepare for. I understood I wouldn’t be getting much sleep, but it’s different knowing that in theory and living with not knowing how much sleep I’ll get in a night or when I’ll get woken up. It’s really tough. Most physically tough things you have the ability to tell yourself you just need to get through an amount of time and it’ll get better. It may be years before I can sleep in my own bed and get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Luckily the reason that I’m going through sleep deprivation torture has the sweetest face and I love him with all of my heart. Once I manage to get myself up it’s all better, sometimes I sit there at 3am just looking at him as he’s fallen back asleep and marveling at how beautiful he is.

I also have an amazing partner in this that I am thankful for. He continues to take care of me through the good stuff and the tough stuff and he’s also head over heels for our beautiful son.

So thank you 2016 for changing my life in the best way possible.

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Liar, Liar: March 16th

It is super weird when you first find out your pregnant and you can’t tell anyone. Especially when it’s your first pregnancy so your mind is totally blown and you’re trying to act like everything is normal instead of irrevocably different.

So for those living in a cave, people tend to keep things secret first trimester because it has the greatest chance of miscarriage, which unfortunately is much more common than people think. So you’re faced with the thought process of “would I want to talk to this person if that happened” and the answer is usually no. So that fun guessing game you like to play, outing your pregnant friends? You’re being a dick. Stop it.

So anyways, I found myself in the liar camp, which was super hard for me because I’m paranoid, carry a guilt complex, and am normally an over-sharer. Seriously, it’s miracle that I kept this under wraps. (more…)

Nothing Tastes as Good as Skinny Feels

Post written around early May.

I never thought that getting pregnant would make me have more in common with Kate Moss. I’m currently almost 12 weeks pregnant and haven’t weighted this little since high school/early college. Even months of heavy chemo didn’t make me this skinny. It’s darkly funny.

I’m not puking my guts out (although there have been a few times), it’s mostly the hours I spend every day feeling nauseous and mostly being restricted to only being able to eat small meals and then of course having the tiny alien growing inside of me and sucking away my nutrients. That’s all.

A. said I should give Maury a call and pitch a “Pregnancy Made Me Hot” episode. If only my boobs weren’t totally different sizes…

Most of the time I am a sad panda due to the nausea and the inability to even wear a loose waistband because it makes me feel more sick. I can’t wear those skinny clothes I’ve foolishly held onto and let’s be real, post-pregnancy bod is unlikely to go back to hot pregnancy bod. It’s just wasted. I could wear freaking lycra right now and instead of I’m wearing baggie dresses.

I have rare moments where I revel in how skinny I feel. Like 99% of the time I feel miserable, but that 1%! A few moments where I don’t feel completely horrible and get to concentrate on my ANTM prospects. Sometimes it really does feel like good ole Kate really knew what she was talking about. Feeling skinny feels amazing.

I have a flat stomach because of my cancer related surgeries, I’ve never been able to naturally achieve a flat stomach, even when I was a teenager and playing basketball every day. Now it’s even more pronounced due to the baby weight loss. Is there a market out there for this kind of body shaping plan? Botched cancer reconstruction & debilitating pregnancy: how to become the skinnier you! My before photos could be a sad looking healthy person outside and the after photo could be someone posing on a couch (because they’re too sick to stand) in a bikini with the scars out. Instant money maker.

So even though I’ve felt like I’m being tortured, for over a month and a half, daily, at least I look good.

Well other than the occasional pregnancy acne because you know, that’s apparently a thing too.

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At least someone is enjoying my invalid status