39 Weeks: looking back on my pregnancy
Alright, friends, we are nearing the end of this journey!
When I first found out I was pregnant, I looked online for some comfort to assuage the worries I was having:
What would pregnancy do to my body?
Would it ever recover?
How agonizing would these 40 weeks be?
From all the women I spoke to in the “real” world, I heard horror stories of labor and tales of how uncomfortable and difficult those 10 months were.
From the depictions I saw on TV and in movies, pregnancy and delivery looked equally awful.
So, I thought maybe a first-hand account from someone’s blog might be able to provide me the comfort I desired.
It seemed that all anyone wanted to focus on were the negatives!
Aches and pains and swollen ankles, growing feet, bulging belly, heartburn, nausea and varicose veins and the agonizing pain of labor… the list goes on!
It wasn’t even just the tough parts of pregnancy itself, but also the lasting effects:
Pregnancy ruined my body.
It destroyed my vagina.
I will forever pee when I laugh.
My boobs are saggy.
There wasn’t a single article or blog that I found that made me feel like I wasn’t making a big mistake. Honestly, it all had me in tears.
When I began this blog, I had no idea what pregnancy would be like. I’d never been pregnant before!
But, I was certain there would be something positive that I could share with the world.
I wanted to be the light to others that I had hoped to find for myself.
Now that I have neared the end of my pregnancy journey, I can look back with more clarity.
And I can honestly say that pregnancy has FAR exceeded my expectations.
I know that everyone’s pregnancy journey is different. And it’s certainly no cake walk. It’s a challenge on us physically, mentally, and emotionally… but then, so is parenthood right?
I understand why women take to the blogging world to detail their struggles. Pregnancy can be rife with discomfort and it can be cathartic to vent it all onto paper. Even more cathartic to vent it in a public platform where other women can commiserate with you, validating your feelings and emotions. It’s very powerful to know when you are suffering that you are not alone.
I think that, for some women who had a difficult pregnancy, they don’t want to talk about all the rainbows and roses. That’s not realistic for them; that wasn’t their experience. Which is completely valid and those women deserve to have a voice and be heard.
However, these were not the accounts that I needed to read when I first found out I was expecting.
These horror stories and blogs of commiseration terrified me and had me worried that I was making a grave mistake, one that would frankly ruin my life.
What I have come to learn is that while pregnancy can be really hard and full of extreme challenges…for some, it is not as hard as others. And those were the accounts that I needed to hear.
But, no one with happy pregnancies was writing about them!
I am so happy to be able to tell you, with one hundred percent honesty, that my pregnancy has been one of those easy ones.
I know that it’s far more than a positive attitude that has shaped my journey—a lot of it is luck! And, believe you me, I am thankful for this blessing. I do not take it for granted! But, I think a positive outlook went a long way toward helping, too.
For any newly expecting mothers, let me be that voice for you that I couldn’t find for myself.
While no matter what pregnancy will have its challenges,
it won’t necessarily be the worst 10 months of your life.
I have not had any morning sickness. Virtually no nausea. No swollen ankles or growing feet. Not a lot of heartburn. No major aches/pains. I’m still able to be pretty active. And I’ve had no insomnia.
(In fact, I can still sleep on my stomach! Everyone told me that I wouldn’t be able to… but I do.
It’s still more comfortable than lying solely on my side.)
Again, I know that not everyone has this experience.
So, I don’t want to tell you that for sure this is what it’ll be like for you.
But, it can be!
And I know how much I would’ve appreciated hearing that at the beginning of this road.
Looking back on it all, I’d say if I had to characterize what this journey has been like for me, it’d be as follows:
My first trimester was probably the hardest.
Though I had no morning sickness, I was exhausted all the time.
I’d need at least 10 hours of sleep if not more.
I was voraciously hungry and watched my weight gain rapidly,
which only exacerbated my anxiety regarding body changes.
I would get some pretty bad menstrual-like cramps that would lay me up on the couch.
(My midwife called this having a “talkative” or “crabby” uterus.)
And I found that if I did not get enough sleep or food, that this made my cramps worse.
However, though some days were rougher than others,
those first three months still weren’t even half as bad as I had feared.
With the exception of one terrible crying episode at work and a little bit of moodiness from time to time,
I was not the emotional roller-coaster train wreck that I had expected to be.
And, though I was often tired, I was still able to go for daily dog walks,
to exercise, and work as a waitress in the evenings (before coronavirus hit.)
Those first three months were filled with laughter, love, and joy.
My second trimester lived up to its reputation as the “honeymoon” trimester.
My energy picked back up (still not to the levels of pre-pregnancy but WAY better!)
I continued to have an increased appetite, but not as voracious as in my first trimester.
My cramps went away.
And though my belly was growing and this did give me anxiety,
I didn’t appear to be ballooning out the way I thought I would.
In fact, my weight gain tapered off so that it was much less rapid.
All throughout this trimester, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.
For all those pesky pregnancy troubles that I’d read about to hit me with full force, but they never did.
They were another three months filled with even more laughter, love, and joy.
That brings me to the third trimester.
I was sure that these would be the months where I would get the full force of those pregnancy woes.
I’m at my biggest now, so surely this is the time where I’ll be feeling
all the aches and pains, where my ankles and feet will swell, and I’ll toss and turn during sleepless nights.. right?
I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop… but it still hasn’t.
I know I have one to three weeks left, so I don’t want to count my chickens before they hatch.
But, I fully expected to be a whale unable to move from my couch at this point.
And, yet again, I have been happily surprised that this trimester
has been nothing at all like what I had feared.
Now, I will say that this third trimester has seen a return of some of the “symptoms” of the first.
My cramps are back (though, now, they’re probably what’s considered Braxton-Hicks. And I’m much happier knowing that it’s my uterus practicing for the big show!)
I also have less energy than I did in the second trimester, but still far more than I did in the first. I enjoy my daily naps, but I don’t need them in the same way.
In the spirit of honesty, I will also say that my eyesight has gotten noticeably worse throughout my pregnancy. But, the good news is that this will return to normal once the baby is born!
And I do pee when I laugh. That's a legit thing. Only when I laugh hysterically, but my pregnancy has been filled with a lot of laughter sooo... it's happened more than a few times!
BUT, this isn’t because my pelvic floor has already been “destroyed”—which is what I feared when I first read that this could happen—it’s because of the extra weight that my uterus is putting on top of my bladder. So this, too, will go away!
And honestly, I’m not just saying this: none of these symptoms are all that bad.
None of this has been as bad as I first thought it would be when I began this journey.
I can still do my exercises (though of course they have been modified to accommodate my large stomach.)
I still go for dog walks or for a swim every day.
I worried that I would hate my body the larger my belly grew but it’s actually been the opposite.
I hated watching those body changes far, far more in the beginning than I do now.
While I used to obsess over only gaining the "recommended" weight (which they say is between 20-35lbs) I have gained 45lbs and I'm not bothered. I know that I should trust my body more than any chart or graph. My body knows what it needs.
Now that I can feel my baby girl move and stretch and wiggle around every day… I look at this bump much differently.
To me, it’s beautiful and something to be proud of.
So, this is the message I’d like to give newly expecting mothers or to the women who aren’t yet pregnant but maybe one day will be:
Don’t be afraid.
Odds are very good that it will not be as bad as you fear.
And, though luck has gone a long way into shaping my pregnancy experience,
I’m sure that my mindset has, too.
This is just as much of a psychological journey as it is a physical one.
So, stay positive!
Don’t focus on the negative parts. Yes, there will be some.
Pregnancy (like motherhood) is messy and, at times, uncomfortable and inconvenient.
But, it can be as rewarding as you make it.
Shape the experience for yourself. Don’t let outside commentary do that for you.
This may be the end of one journey for me. But it is just the beginning of another, even bigger adventure!
My sincere hope is to keep up this blog as my journey evolves from pregnancy into motherhood.
But, it might be a while before I write again.
In the meantime, I’d like to hear from you!
If you are already a mother, what was pregnancy like for you? Would you have benefited from seeing a blog like this one at the start of your journey?
If you are newly pregnant, how are you feeling about it all?
And if you aren’t yet pregnant, has this shaped your preconceived notions in anyway?
As always, thank you for reading xx
Okay, so I want to talk about the books that have helped me SO much during my pregnancy.
I literally knew nothing when I first began this journey.
I’m the first of my friends to get pregnant. My mom passed away so she’s not here to ask questions. That is why I needed to do a lot of self-educating.
Now, 9 months later, I feel knowledgeable, as prepared as a person can realistically be, and most importantly: READY!
I’m very grateful that my stepmom is my midwife. She has been an excellent resource for information. But, mostly, I’m grateful that she encouraged me to educate myself by recommending various reading material. These are the books I’ve found most helpful:
A Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
Now, I have already written about this book at length. So, I won’t bore you by going back over it all again. Please review previous posts in my archives if you want more detail. Specifically, the posts titled “A Sisterhood of Positivity” and “How I Transformed from a Girl Scared of Childbirth to a Woman Who Feels Empowered.” (Entitled "Why I'm No Longer Scared of Childbirth" in the Categories sidebar.)
Regardless of whether you are planning on having a natural birth or not, this book is (in my opinion) life-changing. The reason why? Because the author, one of the most highly respected midwives in the country, showers you with over a hundred pages of positive birth and labor stories. These are beyond empowering. Especially if, like me, you have never heard a positive birthing story before! I didn't know that labor could be anything but painful, agonizing, and something to be terrified of until I read this book.
Then, Gaskin gets into the specifics of the different stages of labor and the process that your body physically goes through, which is important to know. She also discusses different birthing techniques, both modern and historic, and current hospital methods so that you can be as informed as possible.
She has an extensive background and professional expertise and yet she writes in a very easy to digest manner. I couldn’t recommend this book any more highly if you are pregnant or plan on becoming so.
In fact, if you are only going to pick one book from this post to read, let it be this one.
Real Food for Real Pregnancy by Lily Nichols, RDN, CDE
Okay, so this book is awesome! I’d be lying if I said I read it cover to cover. But, I feel like it’s one of those gems that you can just pick up and flip through and still get so much from.
The premise is that the traditional doctor-prescribed prenatal diet is flawed. Her methodology suggests that a pregnant woman’s diet needs to be very high in protein and vegetables and low on carbs.
But, more importantly, that the focus should be on what she calls “real food.” That means as little-altered as possible. So, no process foods! (Or avoid them as much as you can.) If we buy meat, for example chicken, to cook it with the skin still on.
Many vitamins and minerals, including the ones found in meats or dairy products, are best absorbed with a little bit of fat. I never knew that!
That is why Nichols recommends that each meal be made up of equal parts protein and (non-starchy) vegetables, a little bit of carbs, and a little bit of fat (though again this shouldn’t be anything processed—so no vegetable oils! It should be healthy fat like olive or coconut oil.)
What’s wonderful about this book is that the author explains everything in great detail, backed up by TONS of scientific evidence, but she does this in easy-to-comprehend terms. She has lots of suggested daily meal plans and even dives into many common pregnancy symptoms, like nausea and heartburn, and offers potential dietary remedies.
When it comes to the traditional prenatal diet, I’ll give you a few examples of how she differs in her opinion. Under the traditional recommendations, pregnant women are meant to eat only low-fat dairy products. But, Nichols discusses how, scientifically, your body processes the vitamins and calcium in dairy much better in whole fat products. Again, this fits in line with her suggestion that we consume foods that are as "real" as possible.
Another example is eggs. The traditional prenatal diet tells you not to eat any in case you eat one that is under-cooked. However, eggs are an excellent source of protein, healthy omega-3 fats, and choline...all things that you and baby need! So, Nichols recommends that you at eat at least one egg a day.
Fish are another example. Many prenatal diets tell you not to eat any seafood. But, Nichols suggests that the risks do not outweigh the reward. So long as the fish is not high in mercury, this is a food that is a healthy, lean protein chock full of vitamins and minerals and good fats. She even talks about why oysters are beneficial for pregnant women to eat, too.
Of course, Nichols describes this all much better than I can. Which is why you should definitely not just take my word for it--read it for yourself!
At the very least, it is incredibly thought-provoking. Honestly, I would find it worthwhile even if I wasn’t pregnant!
The best thing about this book is that the information is in no way pseudo-science or just based on Lily Nichols’ opinion. She backs everything up with scientific data and research. You can fact-check all of her information. In fact, she encourages you to do so.
The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp, M.D.
If you refer back to my previous post, I talk a lot about the 4th trimester. I learned about that (primarily) from this book!
I grew up hearing stories about colicky babies. In fact, my older brother was one of them. It sounds nightmarish! I can imagine nothing worse than a sleep-deprived parent desperately trying to soothe their crying baby: Are they hungry? Are they cold? Do they have a dirty diaper? Going through this list of potential ailments only to find that nothing works!
My dad talks about how he would pray to the heavens, promising to do anything in the world if he could just know what was wrong!
But Dr. Karp says that babies may be crying simply because they were born too early. Human babies would actually gestate for another three months (called the 4th trimester) in an ideal world. They don’t, however, because their brains become too large for their head to fit through the birth canal. As a result, they’ve been taken from their warm, comfy womb where every need is instantly met and thrust into this cold, bright world… and it’s scary! So, how do babies communicate this? They cry.
Have you ever heard of the “Cry it Out” method? It’s a bit old school, but some still swear by it. Dr. Karp talks about why this is total nonsense. First of all, this method is built around the theory that a baby is trying to manipulate its parents through crying--and that's just ludicrous! Babies are not evolved enough mentally to emotionally manipulate you. Toddlers, yes. But infants, no. Second of all, you cannot hold a newborn baby too much. Which means it's impossible to "coddle" them. Think about it, even if you held them for 12 hours this would still be less than the 24/7 cuddling that they got in the womb!
Dr. Karp describes in his book his “cure” for colicky babies. He calls it the 5 S’s. All of them are trying to replicate a womb-like environment for your baby.
Usually, I am very skeptical of anyone that makes claims with such certainty but I have heard from many moms how this method was an absolute lifesaver.
Reading this book has helped me to feel much more prepared for the 4th trimester and a lot less afraid of whether or not my daughter will be colicky.
Dear Mama, You Matter by Amanda Hardy, PhD, LMHC
This book has been so empowering and affirming. It is a book about the postpartum period. As she says it is "honest talk about the transition to motherhood."
She starts off with a beautiful message to new moms:
"Once a baby is born, so much of the focus and energy turns toward them. After all, they are extremely dependent needy little humans that require so much of our time. It's natural for all the books and chatter to be about those sweet and squishy little cherubs that have entered our lives. However, there is someone else in the midst of this. Someone going through changes from the depths of their core to their actual physical being. That person matters, too. That person is worthy of our time and attention and a bit of our chatter: That person is you, mama. You matter. And these words are for you."
As the author goes on to say, "The more we love on the mamas, the more they can love on their babies."
Her introductory note is one that is affirming and validating and comforting. And, even before I've given birth to my baby, I appreciated this message to my core.
Hardy goes on to discuss a mentality that can be harmful to the postpartum period. It's this notion that, once you've given birth, your life will “go back” to how it was before pregnancy. Your body will “go back.” Your life will “go back to normal, just with a kid now” and Amanda Hardy says in no uncertain terms that this concept is complete and utter bullshit. Moreover, it’s actually harmful.
A caterpillar doesn’t transform into a butterfly and then contemplate how it gets back to being a caterpillar.
In no other walk of life do we evolve and then ask how ourselves how to “go back.”
Why is pregnancy and parenthood any different?
For this one exception, it gets pushed on us that our life should return to normal… just with a baby in tow. The reason this is problematic is because, well, that just can’t happen. Nor should it!
Your life is irrevocably changed when you have a child. And, if parenthood was something you chose and that you’re ready for, that’s a good thing!
But, when you’ve received this message that it should go back to the way things were and then it doesn’t, you end up thinking you’re doing something wrong. It can leave a lot of new parents feeling like failures.
Hardy also writes a lot about the 4th trimester and how this causes a lot of unprepared new parents to struggle. If a mother expected to give birth and have things just go back to the way things were, but suddenly has this infant who is completely attached to her… that can be super stressful! And, once again, it can lead to feelings of failure and disappointment.
From what I gather after reading Hardy's book, a big part of postpartum depression—outside the fluctuation of hormones—is having unrealistic expectations that then can’t be met.
So, lot of what this book does is give you realistic expectations of the struggles ahead.
Hardy warns you that the seas will be rocky, that way you can properly brace yourself.
If you have already given birth, I’d imagine that a lot of what she writes would be very validating and affirming for you. To know what you are feeling is perfectly normal and very common must be reassuring.
For those of us that haven't given birth yet, it feels like a necessary read to prepare ourselves for the changes to come.
So I’ve read a lot of other books and articles and spoken at length to my midwife about things, too.
But, these have been the four main books I’ve found to be the most useful.
If you are pregnant or plan on becoming so, I highly recommend checking them out!
If you have already had your baby, I’m curious… have you heard of these books before?
If not, do you think they would have been useful to you?
As always, I’d love your feedback!
Wow, how is it that I’m already 37 weeks pregnant?! JUST 3 WEEKS LEFT!!!
My third trimester continues (knock on wood) to be a breeze. We have weekly checkups with our midwife now and everything is looking “perfect!”
This week my husband and I have been in full nesting mode.
We put together the bassinet.
We set up the stroller and the car-seat and practiced using the adapter that turns the two into a combo. (We have used the Baby Jogger Citi Mini 2 with the Chicco Keyfit 30 Infant Car Seat which were surprisingly easy to assemble and use together.)
I also practiced using my various baby carriers. I’ve been given four different baby carriers but I think the main two I will use are the Tula and the ring sling. Though they are both described as being very user-friendly, I won't lie I still needed YouTube to help me!
I’ve read that in the weeks to days before labor, it’s common for some women get this burst of energy and I have certainly been experiencing this. (Did you?)
They call it the “nesting” period. Which is funny, because I had thought that any preparation for baby’s arrival was considered nesting. But, I guess this is the official definition?
Supposedly, women often go on a big cleaning spurt right before going into labor. I think this is because they instinctively know the baby is coming… and they want to come home to a clean house!
I’ve packed my hospital bag so that it’s ready to go, just in case.
My husband and I are lucky in that we live only two minutes’ drive from the hospital. So, anything we forget can easily be retrieved if need be. But, it’s still nice to have a bag ready.
My midwife told me that the hospital has everything we need, so to just pack the stuff we want. Think of it like a two-day stay at a hotel, she told me.
So, I have packed:
Though I am officially considered “full-term” now, I know that statistically most first-time mothers carry for closer to 42 weeks than 40.
But, to be honest, I hadn’t really calculated what that meant for me.
That means that instead of waiting 3 weeks for our little girl, we might be waiting 5!! Eek!
I’m sincerely hoping that that isn’t the case!
My doula recommended that my husband and I watch some labor videos in the meantime.
All the ones I find online, though, are filmed by a professional photographer who edits out all the “messy” bits. Or, they are from women who have already had several children.
One woman was sitting in a tub for her home birth, surrounded by her four other children, and she just blissfully smiled and said, “Look, kids, the baby’s head is coming!” And then, bloop, out popped the baby like it took no effort at all!
Another home birth video for a woman’s second child showed her giving a little grunt before reaching beneath her and producing a baby to show the camera. She just grunted, politely as though she were clearing her throat, and out came the baby!
I watch these and I think to myself, I know this isn’t how it’s going to be for me! There’s something they aren’t showing me!
If any of you have access to some raw and perhaps more realistic labor videos, I’d be interested! My doula said it’s a good idea to become a bit desensitized to the messiness of it all.
It was funny, though, because as I watched these videos my baby girl started squirming SO hard! It was like she was getting some ideas!
So, the main thing I’d like to discuss this week is something I’ve been reading a lot about and that’s the fourth trimester.
The fourth trimester is the concept that our babies would remain in our wombs for another three months if they could. But, if they did, their brains (and subsequently their heads) would become too large to fit through the birth canal. As such, they come out into the world before they are actually “ready” in a lot of ways.
Which is why a lot of babies suffer from a culture-shock, if you will.
Virtually every other mammal is born less dependent on its mother than the human.
They’ve been taken from a warm, snug home in which every want is instantly fulfilled and thrust into a world that is cold, loud, and bright. They never knew hunger in the womb or the discomfort of a wet diaper. Now, they have to adjust to all these strange, uncomfortable new sensations.
They are utterly dependent on their parents for survival.
I read that a baby’s brain is sort of like a computer with only two codes: safe or unsafe.
So, something like a light that is too bright or a wet diaper or anything inherently “bad” will equal one thing in a baby’s mind: unsafe.
And the only means of communication that a baby has is…?
You guessed it: crying.
There are some old-school ways of thinking that suggest that the best method is to let the baby “cry it out.” Have you heard that one before? It’s not from my generation, but I certainly know people who have adopted that way of thinking.
The reason this is problematic is because the baby is scared.
Their computer code is screaming: UNSAFE! DANGER!
To just let them cry is not only cruel, but also counterproductive.
This same line of thinking also suggests that some babies are manipulative with their crying, which is why leaving them alone is the best method.
Otherwise, they will become so used to being “coddled” whenever they cry that they will continue this habit of behavior.
But, babies simply do not have the complexity of thought yet to be scheming or calculated.
They aren’t trying to manipulate you with their tears. They are just trying to communicate the only way they know how.
We’ve all heard stories about colicky babies.
My older brother was colicky. My husband was, too.
This fourth trimester concept goes a long way to explaining why some babies have such a hard time adjusting to the outside world.
I’m sure there is nothing more frustrating and heartbreaking than trying to soothe one’s crying baby and being unable to.
My dad has described looking up to the heavens and promising to do anything in the world if he could just know why my brother was crying!
But, once you understand the fourth trimester, you understand that the reason they are crying might be something as simple as they are no longer in the womb and they don’t feel safe.
Understanding this can go a long way to building our patience for the issue.
There is a book that I will talk about more in one of my next blogs called The Happiest Kid on the Block that discusses this fourth trimester in length.
In this book, the doctor/author claims he has found a “cure” for colicky babies.
The best thing to do is to recreate the sensations of the womb as much as possible.
This means, wrap them in a tight swaddle.
Cradle them close and gently rock them (he says it is impossible to hold a newborn baby too much; there is no such thing as over-coddling in the first three months of life! Because if you think about it, even if you hold them for twelve hours a day, that is still less than they were being held in the womb.)
He also suggests using a sound machine to replicate the noises that they might hear in the womb, which are often similar to waves.
This technique is one that he claims is “fool-proof” and while I am often wary of anyone who makes such claims, I have heard from other mothers that this method has been a godsend.
It is often very common for the baby, as a survival instinct, to attach primarily onto one parent.
This is, generally speaking, the mother because the baby is already used to her smells and her sounds and even the cadence of her breath. She is also their supply of food.
As a result, you will hear about new mothers who simply cannot put their infant down without them screaming.
Mom tries to pass the baby to dad and the baby screams.
This results in the mother feeling stressed and worn out and the father feeling bad because he thinks the baby doesn’t love him or that he’s done something wrong...
Again, once you prepare yourself for this, it can hopefully be easier.
As a side-note, (and I may be wrong!) I think this primarily applies to mothers who exclusively breastfeed.
For parents that pump and bottle feed or that use formula,
the dad is given an equal role in the baby’s eyes as another source of sustenance.
Which is another thing I want to talk about!
What is with all this mom-shaming about breastfeeding??
We need to support each other, not tear each other down.
I plan on exclusively breastfeeding.
Breastmilk has all the essential nutrients
(it even changes when my baby is sick to accommodate her needs!)
It’s also free!
I find it mind-boggling that doctors used to push formula over breastmilk with fear-mongering tactics like,
“How will you know your baby has eaten enough?”
Pretty easily, I’d imagine!
Is she wasting away at my tit? No?
Then she’s getting what she needs!
But, there’s an argument to be made that there is no money to be gained from pushing breastmilk, so that’s why they don’t…
My goal is to not pump/use a bottle for at least the first three months
so that way my baby develops a proper latch.
I’ve read that if you bottle-feed too early she might grow to prefer the bottle since it’s easier to suck from.
BUT, do I think any less of moms who formula feed?
There are lots of reasons why mothers end up choosing to use formula instead.
Each parent makes the choice that is right for them and their child.
I shouldn’t get an opinion on the issue!
Back to my point, however.
My husband and I have already discussed how we will adapt if this fourth trimester is a difficult adjustment for our little girl.
If I can’t put the baby down, he’ll step up with the chores around the house—the cooking, cleaning, dishes, and laundry.
He knows not to take it personally if the baby doesn't want to be held by him straightaway. It’s nothing that he’s done wrong.
And I know to ask for help when I need it.
But, we also know that in those moments when the baby is lulled into a peaceful calm, those are the times to pass her off to dad.
This will help her to learn that she is safe with him, too.
If you never pass the baby to dad for fear that she might cry, you are only going to draw-out the issue.
There will also be times that I need to take a shower or a nap or maybe just a few minutes to myself… Except, what happens if the baby is screaming when I pass her to dad?
I’ve read that the sound of your baby crying makes you biologically unable to rest or relax.
So, the best thing to do will be to have dad go for a quick walk or drive around the block.
Take the baby out of ear-shot.
This may sound similar to the “cry-it-out” method, but the reason it differs is because you are teaching the baby that Dad is just as a safe as Mom.
It gives much needed bonding between baby and father and it gives the mother a much needed break.
I have read COUNTLESS blogs and first-hand accounts of new mothers who are all at their wit’s end because they simply cannot put their baby down and they don’t understand why.
They worry the baby is too clingy. Maybe they have emotional issues?
Again, understanding the fourth trimester helps us in these moments.
It isn’t a cure. You will still probably want to tear your hair out at times.
But, I’m a firm believer that knowledge is power. So, understanding why surely must help.
This is why I have been trying to mentally and emotionally prepare myself for the baby’s first three months.
It is possible that I will have one of those unicorn babies that sleeps for four hours in a row (considered a full night’s sleep for a newborn, by the way) and that won’t scream her head off when daddy wants to hold her. But, it’s best to just plan on the fact that, while the baby is no longer attached to me from the inside, for those first three months she will be attached to me on the outside.
And that’s okay.
It doesn’t mean something is wrong with her. Or that I am doing anything wrong.
In fact, it is perfectly understandable and natural.
I’d love to hear from some mothers… what was your newborn like?
Did they latch onto one parent as the primary? (If not, out of curiosity, were you breastfeeding?)
Had you heard of the fourth trimester?
I’d love to hear your experiences!
As always, thanks for reading xx
36 Weeks Pregnant
Alright, folks, we are on the home stretch now!
I’m 36 weeks. That means I’ve got a month left… at best!
Statistically, first time mamas are more likely to go over their due date not under, but I’m preparing myself for anything.
The nursery is pretty much all set up now! With the baby shower done, I’ve been able to put away all the gifts which means there are sheets on the crib and the changing table. I just need to set up the baby monitor and the room is officially ready to go. But, the first few months she’ll be sleeping in our room in a bassinet anyway, so there isn’t a massive rush for a baby monitor.
I still have virtually no physical "symptoms" to report. I continue to count my blessings. Even my cramps have subsided and I have gotten this new burst of energy.
Most importantly this week:
my husband and I met with a doula.
Have you heard of those before? I hadn’t!
If you google it, it’ll tell you something like how they are labor coaches. That’s an inadequate description, in my opinion.
Because, reading that, my first thought was: I don’t need one of those. I have my husband for support.
More than that, I thought I might even find it a little annoying having some sort of cheerleader that I barely know by my side telling me, “You can do it!”
A doula is better described like this:
You can hike Everest alone. And maybe you’ll make it to the peak with zero incident and have an incredible experience.
However, you could also hire a Sherpa to help show you the best route and to make your climb as easy as possible.
It’ll still be hard. It’ll still be an adventure. You will have climbed the mountain... it's still your feat.
But, if the shit hits the fan, you’ll have been happy the Sherpa was there.
That’s what a doula is. She is a birth Sherpa.
Only in modern Western culture do we have this concept of “rugged individualism” where we feel a sense of pride in going it alone. It’s more than just a sense of pride, we actually feel like it’s kind of our duty, right? Like we are supposed to tackle these hurdles on our own. I am certainly guilty of this.
But, in the past, women almost never gave birth alone.
We always had an entire village of people around us—all the women would gather and help.
There’s a beautiful quote from Ariell Alden-Danforth, “It takes a village to raise a mother.” I love that.
But, I feel like it’s something that I (and I’d wager many others) have missed out on.
In traditional cultures, by this point in time in my life, I would have already attended multiple births and seen the process with my own eyes. This would be my first time experiencing it personally, but it would not be my first birth in any other sense.
And, when it was my time, I would have this village of women to help support me through my labor.
After I’d given birth, they wouldn’t just leave, either. They’d stay to help me with anything that I needed while I rejuvenated. For weeks, various villagers would help nourish me back to health (because giving birth is an incredible drain on one’s emotional and physical well-being.) They would stay to help my husband and I adjust and transition.
In Chinese medicine, this is called “sitting the month.”
“La cuarentena” or six-week quarantine in Latin America.
And for Middle Eastern cultures it is the 40-day “lying in.”
It feels like only in modern, Western cultures have we strayed from these practices.
A doula helps fill in the gap of support that we, as a Western society, have left void.
So, my husband and I agreed to meet with a doula.
I’m very happy we did!
Not only is she a lovely lady, but she described herself as someone whose sole purpose will be as an emotional and physical support for both me AND my husband.
That’s the part that really sold me.
My husband has been reading up on labor and the different stages and various techniques to help me through contractions… but, in the heat of the moment, how much of what he learned will go straight out the window?
The doula will be there to help guide him further. To recommend different massages and ways that he can hold me. And, when he gets tired from doing that for hours or he needs a bathroom break or to eat some food, she’ll be there to step in.
She’ll also be able to help us decide when it’s the right time to go to the hospital.
For most first time moms, I'm told that’s one of the hardest parts. We are usually so anxious and/or excited that we go far too early, when we are still in early labor. And early labor can last anywhere from hours to days!
By the time the active labor starts, we are so physically exhausted that sometimes our bodies just can’t go any further.
The doula told us that this physical exhaustion is one of the most common reasons for C-sections today.
The most important advice she can give us, according to her, is when you feel early labor begin… to REST as much as possible! You will need it!
The complete services the doula will offer are as follows:
She will meet with us at least twice before labor.
She will coach us on when early labor has officially begun and advise us on when to go to the hospital.
During labor, she will be there as a guide and resource. Helping my husband to better help me and stepping in when he needs a break.
Then, after the baby is born, she will help make sure we get a nice meal. She said it’ll be the best meal I’ve ever had in my life! If I want, she can even give me some beginner tips on breastfeeding.
After about five to ten days, we will meet with her again to process the experience. She can also help me be on the lookout at that time for any signs of postpartum depression. As depression is something my mother suffered from—including postpartum—this is a service that I will greatly appreciate.
If it weren't for the coronavirus, she would even offer to help clean or cook if we needed.
In addition to all of this, she says that even if six months down the road I have a question, she will always be there as a resource for me.
The doula also had some good wisdom to offer on that period right after the baby is born.
She says we need to have a support system in place, people that we can call on to ask for help.
There should be none of this rugged individualism… now is not the time!
My first thought, of course, is: coronavirus.
I can’t very well have people traipsing around my house cleaning and cooking for me, as nice as it’d be.
But, there are other ways to offer support, she said. Even if it’s just to deliver food to our doorstep or help walk the dog. It was something I honestly hadn’t considered.
She also talked to us about our relationship, which is about to change drastically. This adjustment can put a strain on couples.
We knew this already, of course, but there was something about talking about it out loud with her that helped relieve some of my anxiety around the issue.
Communication will be key.
I might begin to feel isolated and over-burdened if I am breastfeeding and I am waking up every hour to feed our baby while my husband is snoring blissfully beside me…
Our doula suggested something that she wished in hindsight that she had thought to ask her spouse:
“Could you sit with me and keep me company?”
It’s a simple gesture that could go a long way.
And it’s often the case that the dads are looking for ways to help and to feel more connected to the newborn. This could be an easy solution to fulfilling both needs:
the dad can participate more and the mom can feel less like she is the only one shouldering this new responsibility.
My husband and I have been talking a lot in the last few months about how best to prepare for this exciting new chapter and all the changes that it will bring—we have discussed how extra communication will be vital—but this was an excellent idea that neither of us had considered.
The doula had some other great suggestions, too.
I’d heard about jasmine oil as a useful tool during labor. Supposedly, it can help stimulate contractions.
But, our doula told us about another essential oil with potentially similar effects: clary sage.
She has used this with many clients and, she says, she has seen it both work instantly and not have any effect at all. I appreciated her honesty when she said "sometimes it doesn't do a thing"... I took that as a good sign.
She also suggested that I eat four to six dates every day.
It helps with cervical ripening and with progesterone and estrogen production. Which essentially can mean that I can have a quicker labor and it will be less likely that I’ll need induced.
Evidence Based Birth is an EXCELLENT resource for all pregnant women! I highly recommend checking it out. They do extensive medical studies on things like the eye ointment or Vitamin K shots that are recommended for all babies—read about it for yourself. That way you can make informed decisions on what you would like to do for your infant. (Don’t worry, they aren’t anti-vaxxers! They just like to make sure mothers are informed.)
This website recently conducted a study on the consumption of dates to help with the induction of labor. Here is a transcript from their study:
“The researchers found that the women who were randomly assigned to eat dates had a more ripe cervix at admission. Their Bishop score, which measures cervical ripeness, was higher when they were eventually admitted to the hospital, and they were more likely to be more dilated when they were admitted to the hospital, 4 centimeters versus 3 centimeters. They also had a higher rate of vaginal birth after a labor induction. If they needed to be medically induced, they were more likely to have a vaginal birth than the group that did not eat dates, and that was 47% had a vaginal birth after labor induction versus 28% in the control group. Also, fewer women in the date fruit group needed pitocin for labor induction. Only 20% of them needed pitocin for a labor induction versus 45% in the other group. The researchers concluded that they felt that the date consumption in late pregnancy was helpful for cervical ripening.”
So, assuming that you don’t suffer from gestational diabetes... EAT YOUR DATES!!
It can’t hurt, right?
Another recommendation from our doula: raspberry leaf tea.
It is thought to help strengthen your womb for labor. So, I have begun drinking that daily, too!
These are just some of the things we talked about in our first meeting.
My husband and I had gone into the meeting both feeling very skeptical.
Though the doula was a gift from my dad and stepmom, we knew how much she cost—and oof, she isn’t cheap!
It was hard not to think that this money would be better spent elsewhere.
But, we left the meeting saying, “Damn, maybe she is money well spent.”
The one thing I’ve been warned about doulas is that you get what you pay for.
Bad doulas can get in the way of your partner instead of supporting them.
But, a good doula is going to be there for the both of you and is worth the money.
Between my husband, my midwife, and now my doula… I’m going into this labor feeling like I have the absolute best support team possible.
Isn’t that how every woman should feel?
I’m very lucky.
So, for us, we have decided that a doula is definitely the right choice.
Had you ever heard of a doula? Did you use one? Would you consider it?
I’d love to hear your thoughts!
So I’m 35 weeks pregnant!
I saw a social media post recently from another woman who is also at 35 weeks.
She wrote that she has shooting pains and that her pubic bone and lower back and hips hurt so much she struggles to walk and that she is so tired she could fall asleep standing up...
I am very happy to report that I feel none of those things!
I know that it is by complete luck and chance that that is the case… so I am counting my blessings!
Honestly, I still feel pretty great all in all.
Yes, I get tired more easily and my mobility is becoming a little limited. And I do still get very crampy.
But, I bought myself a pregnancy ball and, let me tell you, it has been the best purchase of my ENTIRE pregnancy!
As soon as I sat on it, I felt immediate relief.
It allows you to do a pelvic tilt very easily and to roll your hips… it is ecstasy.
If you are pregnant and you don’t have one yet, go and do yourself a favor and buy one NOW. It’ll be the best $40 you’ve spent!
I’m grateful that, with the exception of bending over for things, I still have very good mobility. I still either swim with the dog or walk her daily, usually around 2 miles. I still do my aerobics most evenings. And my goal is to continue this for as long as possible!
I did try another chiropractor since my last post. I’ve been told it can be very helpful for labor, so I wanted to give another one a try.
My husband and I were very disappointed to find that no one in the office wore masks.
And it was a busy office!
None of the customers wore them. But, what’s worse, none of the staff.
The chiropractor then gave me an adjustment which involved very close, almost face-to-face, contact!
To be fair, the adjustment felt wonderful. Unlike with the other woman I saw, this gave me a sense of instant relief.
But, he wanted me to go THREE TIMES A WEEK! Which was to include a class with others to talk about his “philosophy.” Given the no-mask nature of the environment, I knew this would not be something I was comfortable with.
After some consideration, I decided to text the chiropractor explaining my reservations.
He agreed to see me once a week early in the morning before anyone else arrived and promised that he would wear a mask.
I’m glad I made this arrangement.
I will say that if you are pregnant and you have the insurance to cover it, that a good chiropractor is worth it! But, everyone should definitely wear a mask! Us pregnant women are in a high-risk category for needing hospitalization and ICU treatment.
In other news, I also held my virtual shower.
Instead of opting for a live-streamed conference-call type shower, my husband and I decided to record it ourselves and then send a link for everyone to watch at their leisure.
There seemed to be a lot of confusion surrounding the event. Though we created virtual invites that explained that it would not be live, many still marked their attendance as a "maybe."
And the registry was a huge source of stress for me.
I'd been told that it was good etiquette to have a wide array of items of various prices available for people to purchase.
So, in addition to the things we actually needed, I put a lot of my favorite children's books from when I was little on the list. Obviously it will be a long time before these books will come in handy. But, I figured these would be a good option for people who maybe didn't know us too well, yet still wanted to get us something small.
I also marked all the items that we actually really needed as "must-haves."
Well, few people looked at our must-haves list. And we were gifted maybe 20 books.
So, now we have an impressive children's library and we still have a decent sized list of items that we actually need to buy.
Also, while no one said as much, I have a feeling a few were left disappointed that they didn’t get a “live” experience. While others, I’m sure, were much more grateful that they didn’t have to be available at a specific time! (Or, let's be honest, even watch the video at all if they didn't want to.)
Unfortunately in these scenarios, there is no way to please everyone.
Personally, I find hosting events rather stressful. I end up bending over backwards to ensure that everyone feels attended to and happy. For this reason, a virtual shower worked out very well for me.
I got to open presents in a comfortable setting and thank everyone.
And my husband made the whole experience one big laughing fest. The video was actually a lot of fun to make.
So, the main focus of my post today is something that has been getting to me as of late.
There have been SO many perks about being pregnant in quarantine. I like to try and focus on those.
I don’t have to work.
I get all this quality time with my spouse.
I had enough time to finish the first draft of my novel. Not to mention all the other projects around the house, like preparing the nursery.
And I’ve gotten months of free-time to rest and enjoy myself before the arrival of our baby girl.
Especially since I know that the time to enjoy all these things will be limited in the coming months, I feel so lucky that I’ve been able to have this period at home.
In those ways, this really has been a blessing.
But, I have begun to feel the effects of one negative aspect: Isolation.
Isolation in pregnancy is something that I am told is perfectly normal.
Especially if, like me, you are the first of your friend group to get pregnant.
You are experiencing something that no one in your circle has ever gone through. They don’t know how to relate.
For some friends, I think it’s even a little scary. Like “wow, she’s on this new path that I’m nowhere close to being on/don’t even know if I want to go down.”
There's the worry if we will even have anything in common anymore.
So, I’m in this position where it feels like virtually no one reaches out to me. They never check in to ask how I am doing. And that can be hard.
Of course, coronavirus doesn’t help with any of that!
I’m aware that we are all struggling with our own personal issues during these difficult and trying times.
I am not the center of the universe!
However, it’s hard not to feel like you’re drifting further and further from your support circle at a time when you need them the most.
Occasionally, I reach out to check in on them. Usually they ask how I am doing then. But, honestly, I don’t want to feel like I am pressuring people into support. When they ask under those circumstances it seems disingenuous somehow.
When extended family members and others take an interest in my pregnancy, it seems to always revolve around one thing: my bump. Has anyone else experienced this?
“We want to see your bump!”
“Show us your belly!”
Even coworkers have messaged me on social media to request pictures of my bump.
They don't ask how you are. They just want to see your growing stomach.
I do not understand this.
My husband tried to frame it nicely. He said that there is so much stress surrounding a woman’s body that maybe this is society’s way of taking the negative out of weight gain. By making it a positive thing that others can fawn over.
That is a nice way of thinking about it.
For me, it’s hard not to feel like a prize pig. Or some weirdly sacred vessel.
Like my only value has been reduced to what is growing inside of me.
I’ve read that a lot of women really appreciate the extra attention they get during pregnancy. It makes them feel special. But, so far, that’s not been my experience.
B) The attention that I do get isn’t directed at me. It’s directed at my physical appearance. They just want to see my swollen belly. It doesn't feel like they care how I’m doing.
This kind of attention doesn’t make me feel special at all. Much the opposite in fact. It makes me feel invisible.
A lot of women experience this sense of isolation and distancing from friends when pregnant.
Under normal circumstances, that might be one of the reasons women attend birthing classes and prenatal yoga—to be around other women who are in the same boat.
But, what am I meant to do during a global pandemic?
I am so grateful every day for my husband. He is my best friend and the most awesome companion.
But, I wish I could interact with other women who are going through the same experience as me.
I wish I didn’t feel like my pregnancy was scaring all of my friends away.
To be honest, I don’t really see a way around this issue during our current global situation. Pregnancy is always hard. But, this seems like yet another challenge made that much harder by the coronavirus.
There are certainly worst things to have to cope with! And, as I said, I really do try to focus on the good that's come from this instead of the bad.
But, I wanted to write about it here in case maybe you are feeling the same. Sometimes it’s helpful to know in hard situations that we are not alone.
As usual, I'd love to hear from you!
Did you throw a normal baby shower or a virtual one?
Did you feel isolated in pregnancy or did you love the extra attention?
Or, if you are pregnant now, how has the pandemic been affecting you?
Thanks for reading xx
34 weeks pregnant. Just 6 weeks left!!
It’s been a while since I’ve written about pregnancy stuff and that’s because, so far, this third trimester has been a breeze!
In a few minor ways, this trimester feels a little like a return to the first. I have much less energy again. Still more than I did in the first trimester, but noticeably less than the second. This is easily combatted, though, with my daily naps!
I’ve also become marginally more emotional. Again, nothing extreme. I don’t have any crying outbursts. But, I’ve noticed I’m a bit more sensitive.
As my belly grows more cumbersome, things that get dropped on the floor are more and more being left for either my husband to pick up or my dog to eat.
Getting up sometimes requires a helping hand.
And even movements like getting in and out of the car have become, well… different.
I feel bad because I planted a small vegetable garden back in late April and now I can’t really do anything about it. Squatting down to weed or even pick vegetables is no longer really an option for me. So, I planted a garden… and now my husband has to do the rest!
But, so far I have no ankle or feet swelling. My belly button, while slowly disappearing, is still there, albeit barely! And I still have enough energy to work-out almost every day.
There is a lake nearby where we take the dog swimming every day that the weather’s nice enough. So, lately, my husband and I have been swimming with her. It’s a blast! But, oh so tiring as well!
Swimming is an excellent work-out for pregnancy as the buoyancy of the water relieves the weight on all your joints but you are still working virtually every muscle group.
Then, in the evenings, I usually do some aerobics-type exercises as well, like wall press-ups and squats and donkey-kicks… nothing too strenuous.
But, in the last week I have had a renewal of one pesky symptom: cramps.
They felt just like menstrual cramps (which for me are always in my lower back) and they hit me hard one night and went all through the next day!
By the end of the next afternoon, I began feeling a pain in the front of my stomach. It was like a fist clenching before slowly releasing.
We were pretty sure that this was my first brush with the dreaded Braxton-Hicks.
But, since it wasn’t going away, I went in to see my midwife just to play it safe.
They brought me up to one of the labor/delivery rooms and they hooked me up to a machine that measured my contractions. Of course, once there, I didn’t have a single one! But, it was nice to officially rule out pre-term labor. Giving birth at 33 weeks would have been too scary!
Baby girl hated the bands that they put across my belly. She kicked and she squirmed more in that hour than she had all week!
Thankfully, since that one day, my cramps have mellowed out. I’d been very physically active for the few days prior, so we think that maybe I just overdid it a little.
Note to self: take it easy in the third trimester… or else!
Now, I just get them intermittently--every few days--and they usually pass pretty quickly.
In other news this week, I went to see a prenatal chiropractor.
My back gets a little stiff sometimes and my midwife recommended it as something that might be helpful.
I was nervous about seeing someone as the coronavirus is still going strong in my state, but in the end decided to give it a shot.
This chiropractor wound up being quite the character!!
First and foremost, she didn’t take the virus seriously. I don’t view the coronavirus as an area for opinion and “personal beliefs”… and it certainly should not be political. It is a virus.
I wear a mask to protect others and ask that they wear a mask to protect me. If we all did this, we would have saved so many lives. But, I digress.
Straightaway, I noticed that she wasn’t wearing a mask. Given that she works in an industry where she interacts with so many people on a physically close basis, I found this a bit alarming.
Then, during my preliminary exam, she asked me, “What does your husband do?”
Another button for me. She never asked what I did, she asked what my husband did.
So, I explained that we work at the same restaurant.
“Oh, are you super excited that the 50% capacity restriction has been lifted?”
“To be honest, no. I think it’s a terrible idea.”
“Oh, well I could kind of see that.”
“There is no way to adhere to social distancing regulations.”
“I just had another patient in here earlier wondering about the same thing.”
“I’m telling you… there is no way to do it.”
Because, really folks, there isn’t! Not in my restaurant anyway. Not at 100% capacity.
Also, bear in mind that restaurant employees all must wear masks and protective gear; but that is for YOUR safety.
You aren’t wearing a mask because you are there to eat.
There is nothing to protect the employees from the customers.
Already in my city, we have several reports of outbreaks at restaurants that refuse to close and that force their employees to continue working regardless.
From experience working at a very high-end restaurant, I can tell you that there are the health regulations and rules that workers are meant to follow... and then there are the rules that people actually do. As I'm sure you know from whatever field you work in, there are lazy people who like to cut corners in every industry. This unfortunately has not changed just because of the coronavirus.
So, please bear in mind that if you decide to go out to eat, you are putting restaurant employees at risk (and many are not there by choice.) As well as, very likely, yourself.
Thankfully, my husband and I do not have to return to work until after the baby is born.
Okay. End rant.
Anyway, the chiropractor had me watch a small video on her computer which explained the link between the nervous system and the spine.
It talked about how stress played a huge part in our spinal health—which makes sense.
After the video, the chiropractor told me that she was going to do three tests and from those tests she would garner just how stressed I was.
The first and second test involved a computerized tool that she ran along my spine.
The third test had me place my palm on a mousepad so that the computer could take readings of my pulse variations.
After that, I went home and I was asked to return the next day.
From those three tests, the chiropractor told me she could read my stress levels.
This was where she lost me.
If she had done thermo-imaging of my brain or had taken cortisol measurements from my blood or something like that… I’d believe she could have a more accurate picture of my stress levels.
But, how she thought that she could delineate such things from those computer tests… that I wasn’t so sure about.
She told me that I had many misalignments in my back. This, of course, made sense to me.
I have a basketball on the front of my body and it shifts my balance, moves my organs, makes me sleep funny… of course my back is a little out of place!
Not to mention the fact that I’ve been wearing bras that are too small for months because I keep outgrowing them as soon as I buy them!
She then told me that these misalignments were due to my extreme levels of stress.
The pulse variation test in particular was able to measure how big my “stress bucket” was and whether or not it was full.
She told me, “You are in constant fight or flight mode. Your stress bucket is overflowing.”
“I honestly don’t feel that stressed,” I told her.
“Oh, I get that all the time. That’s because your body internalizes it.”
Then, she gave me my first adjustment.
Let me note here that I went into the office with zero pain. But, when she had finished, my lower left hip really hurt. It felt out of place.
I mentioned this to her and she said, “That’s because your muscles aren’t used to it yet. You should use an icepack or take an Epsom salt bath.”
Except, what I was feeling was NOT muscle pain. And it lasted well into the next day.
So, I went into the office with no pain and left in pain.
Not to mention, I really wasn’t sold on her stress tests. It struck me as odd that so many women should tell her, “I don’t feel stressed”… perhaps this was because they weren’t!
What makes much more sense to me is that whatever misalignment is there is due to, I dunno, the BABY on the front of our bodies!
If she had wanted to tell me that stress was also a minor factor, of course I would believe that. But, the main source? That doesn’t wash.
She recommended that I see her twice a week from now until 8-12 weeks postpartum!! This also seemed incredibly excessive. I’d have been willing to see someone once a week. But twice a week… and for that long? It was hard not to feel like it was a bit of a scam.
I gave here one more try. Just to see. Once again I went into the office in no pain and left in pain. I’ve decided not to see her anymore.
I certainly believe that chiropractic care can be helpful. And it makes sense that it’d especially be helpful during pregnancy. But, that woman was not a good fit for me. I have an appointment with a different chiropractor here in a few days; hopefully this one will be better for me.
Have you had any similar experiences?
How many of my readers saw a chiropractor during their pregnancy?
What was 34 weeks pregnant like for you?
I’d love to hear your stories! xx
(This is a continuation from my last blog post. As my pregnancy remains beautifully uneventful at 33 weeks, I'm sharing something a little different. This is the story of how my husband and I came to be together. If you read last week's post, you'll know it's already been quite the journey to bring us to this point. And, it only gets crazier from here!!)
This will be a long post. I will try and keep it as abbreviated as possible. But, there are so many parts to our tale!
You'll read about bad lawyers and tribunals and immigration law. There will be heartbreak and deportations and death... but, I'll clue you in, at the end of it all, there is a happy ending.
I'm proud of what my husband and I have endured to bring us where we are today. I think that we are stronger for it. And it makes for an incredible story!
After our sublet in Manchester, I returned home that winter.
We applied for the appropriate fiance visa and we booked train tickets to Niagara Falls. I signed a lease on an apartment for us. David booked his plane ticket. All of our ducks were in a row.
February 2012 finally came. I furnished our little apartment as best as I could. And, a few days before he arrived, my family helped me move in. It was a small one-bedroom on the top floor of an old building.. which only had stairs!
Finally, it was the day of David's arrival. I went to the grocery store to stock our fridge, taking an extra pleasure in buying all of his favorite foods.
As I shut the fridge door, I decided to check my phone. There should be a message saying that he had landed in Chicago safe and sound.
There was a message. But it was not the one that I wanted.
David had been turned back by customs in Dublin. It was because of his overstayed visa in 2010. Even worse, they banned him from the United States for THREE YEARS.
To say that this was devastating would be an understatement. It felt like someone had kicked me in the stomach.
Thankfully, I was able to get out of my apartment lease. I used what little money I had left to fly over to the UK immediately. My family, saints that they are, were the ones to move all of my belongings. For the second time in less than a week!
David and I tried to elope. We even researched getting married in other European countries. Unfortunately, we found that the system was not designed for spontaneity. I had no choice but to return to the States with the hope of saving money as quickly as possible to return for a visit. But, the uncertainty and the strain of long-distance became too much. We broke up for the second time.
Once again, I decided to heal my broken heart through travel and I met up with some friends who were in Sicily. After more European excursions, and to make a long story short, David and I once again rekindled our relationship.
This time, David and I were far more resolute in being back together. We had no idea how we would make it work, but we knew that we would, whatever the cost.
I decided to get a student visa to study in the UK. Universities were far too expensive, so I began exploring colleges. I expected it to be the difference between a community college and a university.
I arranged to have a school visit in January 2013. I told everyone I would be gone for just a month.
The college, as it turned out, was very different from an American community college. Like night versus day.
I learned that in England, a college is an intermediary point between high school and university. It is like a stepping stone.
To put it mildly, that college was awful. As committed as I was to staying with David, I simply could not envision myself going there.
I left the college, which wasn’t in the nicest part of Manchester, and met up with David in tears.
We were standing in an alleyway.
“I’m sorry,” I cried. “I want to do anything to be with you.. but I can’t go to that school. What are we going to do?”
I knew that if we didn't find a solution to our long-distance problem, that it would be the end for us.
“Well, we could do that other thing,” David said to me.
He meant get married.
That, ladies and gentlemen, was my proposal.
To get married in England as an American, the Home Office wants you to have their version of a fiance visa. It was pretty expensive, which we couldn't afford. And I would've had to leave the country and wait for another six months.
So, we planned to just get married anyway. There was nothing legally stopping us.
After, I would have to go back home to the States and get a spouse visa to return.
Our plan was in place.
As we learned from the previous year, you can't just elope in England. You have to “give notice” of your wedding at the Registrar’s office. We set the date for as early as possible, which was several weeks away. We booked my return ticket home for a couple of weeks after. By then, I’d have been away from home for just a little over two months.
We got married on March 25, 2013 when I was 22 years old at the registrar’s office in Manchester.
After, we spent a week at a hotel in the city center which was one of the best weeks of our lives.
Then, we met with a solicitor to discuss the paperwork and visas we would need to apply for.
That’s when our whole plan exploded.
“If you leave the UK now,” the solicitor told me. “You will never be let back.”
We didn’t understand. “But why?”
Turns out, to bring your spouse to the UK, you have to earn a certain amount per year. Specifically, 18,600 pounds. Which was double that in dollars at the time. Of course, that doesn’t sound like a lot. But, David was a waiter and most of his wages went undeclared.
We asked if we could borrow money from relatives or if my wages from my job back home factored into the equation at all. Neither were a possibility. There was no method of co-sponsorship, either. Even if I personally was sitting on a large inheritance, it would not have mattered.
“And because you have married a British citizen, the Home Office will never again give you a tourist visa. They know that you want to stay.
“Do not leave,” he advised us. “Whatever you do. They cannot deport you because it is the separation of a family unit.”
And this, folks, is where our real adventure began.
We sought out a second opinion. I called a few lawyers, most said there was nothing we could do.
But one, Malik, told me about a loophole.
Because the UK was still a part of the European Union, EU law actually took precedence over UK immigration law. And, under EU law, they had what was called "freedom of travel." With this law, it was much easier to bring your spouse and children with you from country to country.
In fact, there had already been a precedent case. An English native, Surinder Singh, had been living in Denmark and then travelled back to the UK and used this "freedom of travel" to bring his wife with him because he was now considered a European instead of just an Englishman.
Confused? So is everyone.
But, at the time, we thought it was excellent news.
David had grown up in Italy as a child. This meant that he could be considered a European citizen!
So we spent 600 pounds to hire this lawyer, Malik, and have him file the necessary paperwork to grant my permission for residence. (This, by the way, was virtually all of our money.)
Even better news was that, after three months, I was going to be given the right to work! That would be a big game changer for us because we had been living in David’s family’s crowded house surviving solely off of his wages.
Three months came and I received a letter in the mail.
I was not granted permission to work.
This was beyond disappointing. But, no matter, we only had three months left to wait for the final determination.
Three more months passed and we received another letter.
Our application for residence had been denied.
We met with Malik and he said, "This is not a problem." Now, all we would have to do was go live somewhere in Europe. “Just for three months,” he said. “Open a bank account. Live and work for just three months, then come back and you will be considered a European citizen. They cannot turn your wife away.”
Our obvious destination was to go somewhere in Italy. But, finding work before arrival was virtually impossible. So, I began looking into WWOOF farms. It was, unfortunately, January and therefore off-season. But, we found a hotel in Dorgali, Sardinia that needed help over the winter until their farm was ready for the season.
There was one more hurdle, however, and that was the matter of my passport. The Home Office still had it.
We called Malik. He reassured us that the passport would be returned in, “No more than a week.”
So we booked our ticket for a little over a week away.
Well, as you may have guessed... my passport did not arrive within the week.
The morning of our flight (which left from London late that afternoon) we went to the Home Office in Liverpool and were told that they "couldn't find it!"
Hours passed while we waited for them to look. By the time they finally found my passport, it was too late to make our flights.
I demanded that the Home Office pay for our plane tickets. They suggested that I demand the same of our solicitor.
Needless to say, Malik was anything but accommodating when I explained our situation. “How about I charge you for all the things that I haven’t charged you for…” and he rattled off a list of supposed discounts he’d given us over the past months.
Disheartened, we finally conceded and rebooked the flights ourselves.
Not ONE HOUR later, we received a phone call from the Home Office. They had booked flights for us.
I tried asking for a refund for the flights we had just purchased and they said they could not.
So, we arrived in Cagliari just before my birthday. This marked a year of being gone from home. Despite all the doubt and uncertainty, David and I had finally made it to Italy together. We felt giddy with optimism. It felt so nice to get out of England!
There are many adventures and stories to share from our three months spent in Sardinia, but once again I'm going to have to fast forward.
We booked our ticket home for early May. In late April, David’s grandmother passed away very suddenly. We were heartbroken that we had not been able to say goodbye and, even worse, attend her funeral. But, we were scared that if we left Sardinia too early that our entire plan would have been for nothing.
When we returned to England, via London, we knew that customs would want to speak to us. That's why we booked the latest train back to Manchester, which gave us a six hour time window.
I came to the border control armed with a printed version of a BBC article about the Surinder Singh case, which I felt gave our entire operation legitimacy. When I approached the customs agent and explained our situation, she said, “That doesn’t make any sense. You’re not a European national.”
I showed her the article. “They even wrote about it on the BBC. Look.”
She didn’t even glance at the pages. Instead, she scoffed and said, “You trust the BBC?!” and laughed derisively.
I was sent to a backroom for further discussion.
There, I watched the clock tick away as they left me waiting for long intervals.
Five hours until our train left. Then four...
I asked that they please not make us late.
After five and a half hours of interrogation...
They told me they were going to deport me. Back to Sardinia!
I cried, begging them. “I have no money. I have nowhere to stay in Italy. If you send me back there, I will be on the street.”
Thankfully, they gave me one week’s grace period “to visit my in-laws."
But, it had taken six hours to make this determination.
We missed our train, which was the last for the day.
And, to make it all worse, we had absolutely no money.
David used the last of his spare change to call home using a phone-booth (yes, they still exist!) They wired us enough money for a bus-ride back.
I had sent Malik an email, but unsurprisingly received no reply. So instead, after many inquiries, I found us another solicitor, Gurpreet.
Gurpreet was confident that we could use the Surinder Singh law to appeal my deportation and allow for me stay in the UK. Of course, it would cost more money—and it needed to happen fast, in order to appeal my letter of deportation. It cost us another 500 pounds, which we had to borrow. But, once the appeal had been filed, the Home Office was unable to deport me. Though, this didn't stop them from sending me angry letters every week with plane tickets for my departure.
So, I remained in the country. Still unable to work.
After a few months, we got a letter from the Home Office.
There would be a tribunal to determine whether I had the right to stay. It was set for August 15th, 2014.
This was the best news we'd had in ages—finally, a chance to stand in front of a live person and plead our case! Human to human.
Gurpreet prepared our official statements. These stated that, on the advice of a previous solicitor and in accordance with the Surinder Singh precedent, we had travelled to Italy with the sole purpose of living there for three months so that could return to the UK as European nationals.
On the day of the tribunal, Gurpreet passed us on to a barrister, whom we had never met. She would be the person who would represent us to the judge. She arrived many hours late.
After reading our official statements, she said that everything looked good. “Though... you might not want to say that you went to Italy for this reason.”
Except we had said that. In a signed affidavit.
“You might want to say something more along the lines of how you tried to live there and it didn’t work, so you came back.”
I'm paraphrasing—and very generously—for this woman. She wasn’t even half as clear as that.
I went before the judge first. David had to wait in the hall.
The judge detailed the proceedings of what would be discussed on that day. He said something to the effect of, “and we will discuss the abuse of the European Law, etc. etc.”
Listening to this, what our barrister had said clicked for me in a new way and I suddenly understood that everything we had done was considered an “abuse of the system.”
So, I spun a beautiful story. I explained how ever since David and I first met, we'd wanted to live in Italy together. That's why we decided to move there permanently.
“If I’m to believe that,” the judge said, “then you didn’t really give it very long, did you? Three months isn’t a long time.”
“Honestly, you can chock it up to the folly of youth.”
Yes, I did actually say that. Those exact words.
“I genuinely thought it would be easier. But, the language barrier was harder for me than I’d predicted. And, the longer we were there, the more I realized that England was where we felt most at home.”
Given how little time I’d had to figure things out, I think I did about as well as anyone could.
David, however, did not have the benefit of hearing the order of proceedings. He pretty much said exactly why we had gone.
To be fair, there was no use lying anyway. We had spelled it all out in plain English on our signed affidavits!
Afterwards, our barrister met with us and had a grim look on her face. “You,” she said directly to me, “you were brilliant. Perfect! You,” she turned to David, “not so much.”
“Is there any hope?” we asked.
“Maybe. You got a nice judge, so there’s still a chance.”
We went home feeling very downtrodden. If this effort were to fail, which seemed inevitable, our only hope would be to move to somewhere else in Europe and actually live there. For a year, or a length of time that could not be disputed. The idea, once somewhat romanticized in our heads, no longer felt exotic or adventurous. We were becoming exhausted.
The next day, I received a message from my brother back home.
My mom was in a coma and on life support and no one knew if she would wake up again.
I needed to come back. Immediately.
I don't particularly care to write about everything that came next. The only thing I will say is that I couldn't just fly home because, once again, the Home Office had my passport. So, I had to drive through the night to the embassy in London to get an emergency passport.
My mother had passed by the time I made it back home.
Being back in the States presented another set of problems for David and I.
His three year ban had passed, thankfully, but David would never again be eligible for the VISTA waiver program that exists between our two countries. He had to physically apply for a visa at the embassy.
When we parted ways, we had no idea for how long it would be.
One thing was for certain, though, I was never going to live in the UK.
That ship had officially sailed.
It only took David a month and a half to get his visa to join me in Iowa. Getting him a green-card was an easier process than getting a residence card in the UK, but it still was not as straightforward as it should have been. I'll spare you the details as I know this post is becoming tediously long.
The important things is that he ge got his green card August 2015. It marked the first time in our entire relationship, since the kibbutz, where we could both live and work legally in the same country!
Fast forward now several years…
We have travelled the world together. Now that David has a green card, I can visit the UK whenever I want. Though, I will forever get stopped for a “little chat” by customs and sent to the glass timeout box. Just as he will forever get stopped on his way back into America for the same “little chat.” There are worse inconveniences.
We have adopted three cats and now, very recently, a puppy, too.
We bought our first house in the summer of 2019.
Also, as you already know if you are reading this blog, we are expecting our first child.
Like any couple, we have worked long and hard to get to this point in our relationship. Our story just came with a few different twists and turns.
In these trying times that we are living in, I try to remind myself of all that I’m grateful for.
By far and away, the thing I am most grateful for is him.
After all these years, after all those hours with no one but each other to talk to or lean on, I can still be cooped up with David for months on end and think that he's the bee's knees.
There’s no one else in the world I’d rather be quarantined with.
I’m so excited that we are finally starting a family!
Okay, so I know this was a dreadfully long post! If you read this all the way, thank you for taking the time. I hope you enjoyed!
I promise to get back to pregnancy things for my next. Stay tuned for quacky chiropracters and talk about preterm labor...
And, as always, I'd love to hear from you!
So much is happening in the world right now… there is so much pain and anguish and injustice and it is much more important than my pregnancy or this blog. I want to take a moment to say unequivocally that I support these protests. Black lives matter. And we need systemic change and we need it NOW.
But, if you are in the mood for a break from the news and the outside world...
Would you like to hear a love story?
My pregnancy has been blissfully uneventful these days, which means there isn’t much to write about!
I’m 32 1/2 weeks pregnant and it’s all smooth sailing.
So, I’ve decided to write a piece about my husband and I. After all, there wouldn't be a reason for this blog without him and it has taken a lot for us to get where we are.
Don’t worry, I promise you it’s not as simple as boy meets girl, falls in love, etc. For better and worse, our relationship has never had the luxury of being so uncomplicated.
It all started a little over eleven and a half years ago. If you’ve been following my blog, you may already know that I just turned twenty-nine. So...that’s right! I met my husband when I was 17. In September of 2008, in Israel.
Israel has what’s called a kibbutz. That is where David and I met. A kibbutz is a communal village that was created as a sort of utopian society back in the early 1900s (read: hippies.) Originally, most of them were farms. Now, some have branched out into other sources of income. For instance, our kibbutz had date and banana farms. But, its main source of economic sustainability came from its bed & breakfast and its large restaurant, which drew hundreds of tourists and locals a day.
The most incredible thing about a kibbutz, though, is that it allows for volunteers from all around the world to work in exchange for delicious food and a beautiful place to live.
Not to mention, the opportunity to meet amazing people from around the world and make friendships that will last the rest of your lifetime!
I arrived in Israel when I was seventeen, fresh out of high school. I had graduated a year early with the express purpose of travelling the world. I had known for years that my first destination would be to work on a kibbutz like my Dad had done in the 80's. After some research, I learned that the earliest you could get a volunteer visa was at seventeen and a half. So, that’s when I went.
Now, there are two ways you can go to work on a kibbutz in Israel. You can either pay a placement agency to arrange a spot for you or you can just show up at the Kibbutz Placement Center office (KPC) in Tel Aviv and hope.
Mind you, I’d never even stayed at an overnight summer camp growing up! The longest I’d been away from home was for a weeklong trip to D.C. when I was in 6th grade. So, being that this was my first time leaving the country, I wanted to have my ducks in a row. I chose to use a placement agency.
When I arrived at the KPC to receive my placement, the woman told me that I would be working on a kibbutz not far from Tel Aviv. But, as she prepared the paperwork, she suddenly frowned. “Oh no,” she said. “You’re not 18.”
“I know… I’m seventeen and a half. I went through the KPC office in New York.”
“But, you cannot get a visa until you are 18.”
The funny thing is, I was so shell-shocked—a sheltered seventeen year old girl, having never even been to a public bus station before, let alone a foreign country—that I actually remember thinking to myself: You know what, it’s okay if I have to go home. At least I tried.
But, instead the woman told me to wait while she made some phone calls. Eventually, she told me that she had called in a favor with a friend. I would be going to Kibbutz Ein-Gev along the Sea of Galilee (or the Kinneret in Hebrew.) “It is one of the most beautiful places in the whole country,” she told me. And she was not wrong.
So, it was by complete chance that I came to Ein-Gev. Or perhaps, it wasn’t chance.
David was one of about twenty other volunteers. He was from Manchester, England and twenty-three at the time. I’d be lying if I said it was love at first sight. There was a large age gap between us and that seems like a much bigger deal when you’re seventeen.
And, of course to this day, I still get people asking me if I fell for him because of the accent.
My answer: Absolutely not at all!
It was completely disillusioning for me, in fact. There I was, a typical American anglophile who, like many, worshipped the English accent.
I had finally met my first Brit… and he sounded nothing like they do on TV.
In fact, I could hardly understand a single word that he said!
No, our romance was far more gradual and, dare I say real, than love at first sight. We became good friends and it grew from there.
When I first arrived, he was actually interested in a friend of mine, Jenny, from Sweden. They’d been exchanging some mild flirtations all week building up to the Summer Party that would be held on Friday.
Jenny was one of those girls who was a self-proclaimed ‘hot mess.” She told me and our other friends that she was scared she would do something she’d later regret.
“I always do that with guys. I mean, I like Dave...but, I just don’t know! So, if you see me doing something stupid at the party like kissing him, just… smack me!”
I’d been there for about a week by the time of the party, which was held at the local pub. The drinking age in Israel was eighteen, but everyone just assumed I was old enough. Now, I had never drunk before. So, when it came time to order my first drink, I had no idea what I wanted. That’s why I waited for my friends to order and said, “I’ll just have what she’s having.” It was a vodka red bull.
I sipped on this ONE drink pretty much the whole night and was absolutely wasted.
I didn’t realize that people from all around the Kinneret had come for this event. I assumed that every person there lived on the kibbutz. Which is why I went up to every single person in that crowded pub and introduced myself, “Hi, I’m Kelsey; I’m a new volunteer!” I only found out the next day that hardly any of the attendees actually lived on the kibbutz with us.
So, there I was. Drunk for the first time, dancing the night away. At some point, I saw David and Jenny dancing alongside me. They kissed. I remembered what Jenny had said, so I tapped her on the shoulder.
As my friend turned around, I slapped her as hard as I could, right across the face!
She was furious! “What the HELL, Kelsey?!”
I shrugged. “You told me to slap you.”
“Well, I didn’t mean NOW!”
Spoiler alert: it didn’t exactly work out with Jenny and David after that. After having spent some more time with her, he realized that he actually didn’t like her all that much. (Luckily for me!)
In the coming month, David and I became good friends. There was one night after the pub where I went back to his room and we just talked for three or more hours. Eventually, our roommates began dating and certainly took the credit for “setting us up” but David has always maintained that he had liked me for a while by then.
There are lots of amazing stories to share from our time together on the kibbutz. But, I’m going to have to fast forward a little… our story is only just getting started!
After six months on the kibbutz, we made a plan so that we could stay together. He would go back to England to save money and join me in America as soon as he could. Our goal from there was to save up and travel the world. David had family in Australia, so we would begin our adventures there. We would work to save more money and then travel around Europe. Then, we would end our travels back at his home in the UK.
Our first roadblock came when we realized that earning money together in the States was going to be a huge challenge. David wasn’t legal to work, which was something we naively had not considered. It took us much longer than we planned, but eventually we earned enough for our plane tickets. By that point in time, David had already overstayed his visa by about five months.
Australia was another shell-shocking experience for me. By this point in time, I was almost nineteen and I was slightly less sheltered than I had been when I went to Israel... but not by much. We were both very young and still incredibly immature in our own ways, but me especially so. Unfortunately, shortly after arriving at his grandparent’s house in Brisbane, it became apparent that our relationship was just not working. We split up and I flew back home.
I spent the next several months in the throes of a classic first heartbreak. Not only was my relationship gone, but in my mind, also all of my dreams for travel. I could not imagine touring around Europe alone.
Then, one day, I realized that it was precisely because I was so afraid of this that I had to do it. Which is why I made a plan to travel around Europe on my own that summer.
Everyone thought I was crazy, but I travelled making zero plans along the way. Not even hostel reservations. What I wanted more than anything was to have complete freedom. If I liked a city, I would stay; if I didn’t, I would keep on moving. I discovered that I really enjoyed travelling alone. Not only was it incredibly liberating, but it forced me to mature in ways that I wouldn't have had I been travelling with a partner. After all, there was no one to rely on but myself. It brought out the best in me.
To fast forward a little bit again, I met up with David a few times over the course of my six months travelling around Europe. At the end of it all, we decided that we wanted to give it another go. So, I went back to the States and we decided to maintain our relationship long distance.
The following summer, in 2011, I arranged to sublet an apartment in Manchester for a couple of months. I flew there on a one-way ticket, unsure of when I would want to return home. Unfortunately, border control does not accommodate spontaneity. I could tell by the way the ticket agent grumpily asked me, “Where is your return ticket?” that it was a serious matter.
So, foolishly, I lied. “I just haven’t printed it off yet.”
That was the first (but certainly not the last) time that I would be sent to what I affectionately refer to as the “timeout corner.” It is a very small room enclosed by glass windows directly next to customs. It is positioned so that everyone that has just come off their plane has nothing to do but stare at you and wonder what sort of trouble you're in while they wait in line to get their passport checked. Drugs? Bombs?
I waited there for not just one, but at least two planes’ worth of people to go through the border control before, finally, the grumpy man came back. “You don’t have a return ticket, do you?”
Twenty year old idiot that I was, I hadn’t realized that with everything being electronic, they could easily check these things. “No,” I admitted sheepishly.
“Procrastination?” By the look on his face, I knew this answer did not suffice.
I’d gathered that I couldn’t say the truth, so instead I naively fibbed again, “Because my boyfriend wanted to buy it for me.” Instantly, I knew that this sounded like I had no money, which they also didn’t like, so I quickly followed it by adding, “I have the money for it! He just insisted. And we weren’t exactly sure when to book it for, so we decided to wait.”
“Right.” The agent gathered all of David’s contact information. I told him that he’d be waiting for me at the arrivals. Then, the grumpy man told me to wait a while longer. Eventually, he escorted me downstairs to the baggage area, now empty of all passengers, where my luggage waited. Then, another two customs officers came to search my belongings.
Thankfully, these men seemed far more cheerful than the grumpy ticket agent. The three of us were chatting very casually. “Are there any contraband items that I should know about here, love?” they eventually asked me.
“No,” I said. Then, after a moment of thinking, I added, “Well I do have a small pocket knife and some pepper spray.”
Their faces changed. I’d forgotten that knives were illegal in England. I had travelled back and forth with both items during all of my European travels and had never had an incident. But, then again, they’d never had reason to search my checked luggage before.
“Right. Wait here just a minute.”
They called in the transport police. When the police arrived, they were carrying GIANT guns. Like AK-47 type guns. Luckily, they were very good-humored officers. The difference between American and British police officers was astounding. We were all joking around and having a really nice chat. Finally, after one of them got off the phone with his boss, he told me they were going to have to bring me to the station. It was clear that the officers found this unnecessary, but that those were the rules.
“One question, though,” I asked. “So, after I go to the station, will I have to come back here and still potentially be deported?”
“One second,” the officer said. And he walked over to the grumpy ticket agent who had been sullenly watching this from a corner. I could see the two of them have a heated exchange.
Finally, the grumpy man stomped over to me and shoved my passport back into my hand. “The next time you come to the UK, it had be with more than a one-way ticket or you will be sent back!”
David was still waiting for me by the arrivals. After six months apart, we finally had our reunion! It was just with a police escort.
I was let off with a formal warning at the station. I still like to laugh about it now, though. If I hadn’t been travelling with those contraband items, I would have been deported that day.
The next few months were absolutely incredible for us. By the end of that summer, we had decided that we wanted to stay together no matter the cost. We both knew that the easiest way to accomplish this would be to get married.
We were a little worried about David having overstayed his visa in America, but we hatched a brilliant plan to circumvent this problem. In all of my back and forth with the grumpy border agent, one of the things I noted was that he kept talking about an “onward ticket.” So, after mountains of research about appropriate visas, I realized that if David flew to the States on a fiancé visa and had an onward ticket for travel, say to Canada perhaps, that customs would see that he had no plans of staying in the country.
So, that was it, then. We were going to get married in Canada, in Niagara Falls.
So... you probably think that's it, right? We got married. Happily ever after. The end.
Not even close.
As I said, easy and simple is something we've never had together.
Maybe you're clever and you can already guess what's about to happen. But, I'm going to leave it for my next post....just to keep this from getting too obnoxiously long (I know I'm already teetering right on that edge!)
I hope you like the break from the usual pregnancy stuff. And, even better, that maybe this was a small reprieve from the chaos of the world around us.
If this wasn't your cup of tea, don't worry. I'll be back to my usual pregnancy talk soon! And please feel free to read some of my older posts in the meantime.
As usual, I'd love to hear what you think! Tell me your story. How did you and your significant other meet?
Alright folks, I am 29 weeks pregnant which means I only have 11 WEEKS LEFT!!! I cannot believe it! I’m officially in my third trimester, which means this is the last stretch. As you know, the hardest leg of any journey is right before you reach the top, so I’m sure it will be filled with many challenges. But, I feel ready and prepared to face them. Which would be so much more difficult for me to do without my support system.
“Honey, can you please reach that for me?”
“Would you pick that up for me, babe?”
“Can you grab that from upstairs please, love?”
Needless to say, my husband has been hearing these things a LOT lately.
Sometimes, it’s just a puppy-dog look while I stare helplessly at some item I’ve just dropped on the floor.
(I’m not yet to the stage where I can’t squat down for things, but it’s very uncomfortable when I do. The baby definitely lets me know she doesn’t like being so squished!)
David recently joked, “Maybe I should start my own blog… for the husbands. This pregnancy stuff is hard for us.”
He meant it very playfully, of course. But, it has prompted me to think…
The focus of pregnancy is almost exclusively on us women (cause, well, DUH!) We shoulder all the responsibilities. From the physical burden of our changing bodies to the adjustments we have to make to our lifestyles… pregnancy effects almost every aspect of our lives. While the guys, pretty much, get to carry on as normal. They can keep drinking if they want. They can keep smoking if they want. If they like high-impact activities like rock-wall climbing or something, they don’t have to stop. Whereas we have to make all those sacrifices and more.
But, that’s not to say that our fellas aren’t going through some changes, too.
So I wanted to take a minute to shift the focus from us women and to shine a light on our partners.
(Sidebar: I fully acknowledge that not everyone’s romantic partner is a cis-male. For the sake of simplicity, I will refer to them, but that’s just for the purpose of fluidity in writing; it’s not meant to be exclusionary. Everything I say pertains to romantic partners of any gender-identity.)
First of all, I am incredibly lucky. I not only have a devoted husband who loves me, he also wants this baby every bit as much as me. I recognize that not every pregnant woman has a partner that has stuck around. And not every pregnant woman has a partner to begin with. So let me start by saying, you do not need to be in a relationship to have a baby. And if you are single and pregnant, I’d like to give you hella props because I can only imagine how tough some of these pregnancy challenges can be on your own—so pat yourself on the back for being an incredible warrior, lady!
Becoming a parent is a daunting journey, for both men and women. Yes, we go through all the visible, tangible transformations, but our partners are still on that journey, too. Theirs, however, is more unseen. As they emotionally prepare for fatherhood, they also support us as we go through this myriad of changes.
I don’t know about you, but my husband has really stepped up to the plate! He helps me with so much. The division of labor in our household used to be mostly 50/50—I’ve never mowed the lawn (in my defense, I warned him when we moved in that I found gas mowers intimidating and would only use a push mower; so I mean, he made his bed…) and he rarely cleans the bathroom. But otherwise, we usually split up our chores pretty evenly. Since being pregnant, however, my husband does anything that involves even the most remote form of lifting or pulling or reaching. I can’t even remember the last time I took out the trash.
And it’s not just the little things, like helping me bend over for stuff or doing the dishes even when it’s my turn. He makes me feel pampered. Every day, he tells me I’m beautiful, even though my body is continuously changing. I get foot and back massages. And he does everything he can to limit the stress I might feel.
I could continue singing his praises, but I’ll spare you. My point is that he does all this whilst going on his own emotional journey preparing for fatherhood. It’s not the same as the female experience, which is obviously more arduous. But, it’s still worth remembering that they are going through a process, too.
I’ve told my husband that I am writing this and all he did was laugh. “I don’t do anything,” he says. He really is the best.
In any case, sorry it’s been so long since my last post! I was busy finishing the first draft of my novel which I can now officially say is complete. In all this preparation for the baby, like building registries and buying supplies and preparing her room… it’s important to still take time for yourself. The foreseeable future after she’s born will be a little chaotic, I’d imagine. So I wanted to take this time beforehand to finish some projects that are just for me. My novel was a big one as I’ve been working on it now for almost two years. I’m so grateful that I’ve had this time recently to devote to it; extra free-time is one of the few perks of this coronavirus!
That’s all I really have for today. As usual, I’d love to hear from you! What were some of the ways that your partner shined when you were pregnant?
What was 29 weeks like for you?
Did you have a project/goal that you wish you had finished before you gave birth?
I’d also love to hear if you have any suggestions for what my next post should be about…
Take care till then and stay safe! xx
I’m 27 weeks pregnant as of today. This begins the last week of my second trimester!
I read that my baby can recognize my voice now, so I’ll need to start remembering all those old lullabies my mom used to sing to me...
As promised last week, I want to talk about something that has terrified me since I was a very young child: CHILDBIRTH.
It’s been the big bad boogeyman living under my bed for all these years. A creature I’ve lived in dread of meeting.
Like many, I grew up knowing only that childbirth was excruciatingly painful. I saw it in all the movies and the depictions on TV. Every single portrayal is of a woman, red-faced, screaming in absolute agony, and writhing in horrific pain… looking like she’s on the brink of death!
And it’s not just the fictional depictions, either, that have us conditioned. I was raised hearing about my mom’s 36 hours labor that ended in a caesarian. I grew up surrounded by horror stories from coworkers, relatives, and complete strangers, all about episiotomies and stitches and epidurals that ruined their backs. Stories of vaginas that were left in tatters, of bodies that were forever damaged from labor, never to return to normal... I don’t think I’d ever heard a single positive labor story in my life.
So, it’s no wonder why I, like many women, have been absolutely terrified of childbirth. We've been conditioned to feel this way from a young age.
I used to joke that I was waiting to give birth until technology was advanced enough that they could just knock me out with anesthesia, wake me up when it was over, and say, “Here’s your baby!”
When I was told that this used to happen back in the days of ether and that it was dangerous, I conceded and said, “Well, fine, I’ll just have a C-section. They can cut it out of me and I’ll have a cool scar and my vagina will still be intact.”
It was my gallbladder surgery that was an eye-opening revelation for me on that front. I had no idea how traumatic abdominal surgery could be until that point. Even having had laparoscopic surgery, which is considered non-invasive, recovery took much longer than I expected. It gave me a healthy new respect for what a C-section might actually be like. Now, I couldn’t imagine healing from that while taking care of a newborn!
So, instead, I told people that I’d rather adopt. I cannot tell you the number of friends and young girls that I know who feel this way. Girls that say, “We’d rather adopt than go through the pain and potential ruin of childbirth. We don’t want to destroy our bodies.” Adoption is a beautiful thing. Something my husband and I have seriously considered. However, if we ever choose to adopt, let me assure you that it won’t be because of fear.
Needless to say, at the age of 28, when I discovered that I was pregnant, my predominant emotion was: FEAR. Yes, there was excitement. But, this was overshadowed by a deep, paralyzing, keep you up at night in a cold sweat, fear. For those of you that have been reading my blog from the beginning, you will know that this is what actually prompted me to begin this blog. I went searching online for comfort and reassurance only to be met with a bombardment of negativity! It was an avalanche of horror stories that left me crying in a heap over my keyboard. I even tried tailoring my searches with words like “positive” and “uplifting” and I was still hit with tidal wave after tidal wave of pain and misery.
But, a LOT has happened in the last 27 weeks. I have gone from a crying, fearful mess to a woman that feels genuinely confident about childbirth. Not only have I reassured my fears, I’ve completely abolished them! Now, I can say with pride that I feel both ready and completely and utterly empowered for childbirth.
Let me tell you how I got here.
I have done a lot of reading. At some point, I’ll create a page of the books that I’ve found helpful and a suggested reading list for those of you who are interested.
But, I can credit my newfound confidence almost entirely to one book:
Ina May Gaskin’s Natural Guide to Childbirth.
Some of you may have heard of this before, others will have already read it. But, for those that haven’t, do yourself a favor right now and get it.
Read it cover to cover. It will completely change your worldview for the better, as it has mine.
“Have you never heard anyone speak positively about labor or birth before? If so, you are not alone,” Ina May writes. “There is extraordinary psychological benefit to belonging to a group of women who have positive stories to tell about their birthing experiences.”
She goes on to quote a line from a Stephen King novella, “Believe me: if you are told that some experience is going to hurt, it will hurt. Much of pain is in the mind, and when a woman absorbs the idea that the act of giving birth is excruciatingly painful—when she gets this information from her mother, her sisters, her married friends, and her physician—that woman has been mentally prepared to feel great agony.”
Ina May says that, “The best way I know to counter the effects of frightening stories, is to hear and read empowering ones.”
Which is why she begins her book by showering you with over a hundred pages of POSITIVE first-hand birth stories.
Just reading those stories alone already had me feeling better.
After all, I had never heard someone speak positively about birth before. NEVER. Not a single story.
And here they were, page after page after page.
Did you know that some women not only have a positive birthing experience, they have an orgasmic one? Why does no one ever talk about those?! Why is it that we only hear the negative side?
Now, I’ve touched on all this in an earlier blog post, but it bears repeating. And, since then, I have finished Ina May’s book and I have found the rest of it just as helpful… if not more!
First of all, she gets into the logistics of labor.
I thought I knew the basics of it, but I thought wrong.
Reading the exact process that my body will go through was eye-opening. After all, there seems to be this misconception that’s been fed to us that implies that, sometimes, there’s something wrong with a woman’s body that inhibits her from laboring properly.
Maybe her vagina is too small; maybe her baby is too big.
But, we seem to forget the fact that OUR BODIES ARE BUILT FOR THIS!
Every human body is different, so we might labor differently, but rest assured that your body CAN do this!
I took great comfort in receiving that powerful affirmation.
Ina May’s book is not just a good guide for those that want a home birth. After all, I will be having my baby delivered in a midwifery clinic at a hospital. But, there are some important lessons to learn about modern day obstetrics.
I used to think that there was no way I’d ever give birth outside of a hospital. I liked to joke about home births by saying, “How could I ever look at my bathtub the same way again?” I also used to like to say that I would take every single drug I was allowed to take; that I wanted to be as doped up as humanly possible!
It never even occurred to me that some modern-day obstetric practices might be counterproductive. I just assumed that Western medicine, given how advanced it is, would allow for the safest and easiest labor possible. Surely, a natural birth would be harder than a hospital birth, right?
Well, let’s start with positioning. Most women give birth on their backs. But, did you know that lying on your back actually makes laboring harder? I didn’t! If you think about it, though, it makes perfect sense—you’re working against gravity.
In fact, no one used to give birth on her back. “Women in traditional societies all over the world almost always choose upright positions in labor. This worldwide consensus suggests that women don’t choose to lie down to labor and give birth unless forces within their culture pressure them into doing so. The labor postures common to traditional women’s cultures all over the world include sitting, kneeling, standing, squatting, or the hands-and-knees position.”
It wasn’t until King Louis XIV of France decided that he wanted to watch his mistress give birth that this became a practice; before then, men weren’t even allowed in the delivery room!
If it makes it that much harder, though, why do we still do it? For a few reasons. It makes it easier for the delivering obstetrician to see what’s going on down there. But, wait a minute… they make the situation harder for the woman just so it’s easier on the doctor? I couldn’t believe it! And yet, I’ve confirmed this fact from a few other sources outside of Ina May’s book.
Also, most women these days are hooked up to IV bags or they are connected to fetal monitors… all of which keep women lying down or, at the very least, keep their movement severely restricted. It’s best (and much less painful!) if you are allowed to move freely. “Movement greatly helps cervical dilation during the early part of labor and helps bring the baby into the most advantageous position for passage through the pelvis. That’s why it’s beneficial to stay on your feet as much as possible,” writes Ina May.
Here’s another interesting fact: did you know that getting induced actually makes labor more painful?
“An induced labor is quite a different process from a spontaneous labor,” Ina May tells us. “Women tend to have harsher, stronger, significantly more painful contractions with chemically induced labors, so one who can cope with a spontaneous labor often finds that she needs pain medication to bear the more insistent contractions of an induced one.”
Ina May describes scenarios in which an induction might be necessary, but they are fewer than you might think.
So why are induced labors so common? Again, I was shocked to find that it’s mostly for factors of convenience. Beds and rooms that need to be made available, doctors that have other patients to see to… Hospitals, especially in America, are a business and they don’t always function with the mothers’ well-being in mind. If a labor is taking too long, it’s in the hospital’s best interest to speed things along.
Eating and drinking during labor is another thing that is often restricted during hospital births. So many women are told that they aren’t allowed a snack; that all they can have is a bit of ice to suck on. Why is that a problem? Labor is hard work! “Birth—as experienced by the mother—is the Mount Everest of physical functions in any mammal.” Our bodies need fuel to have the strength to continue, especially for labors that might last a long time.
So, why not allow women to eat or drink?
For a few reasons. As you may have guessed, none of them are for the woman’s benefit.
Number one: they want to prepare you in case you need a caesarian.
The worry is that under general anesthesia, a woman might vomit and inhale some of this while unconscious. “Neither spinal anesthesia nor an epidural causes nausea or unconsciousness, but the restriction of eating and drinking has lingered on without any justification.”
Number two (no pun in intended): they don’t want you to poop.
Apparently, that’s something that’s quite common during labor, which was another fun fact I didn’t know. But, it’s very natural and nothing to be ashamed of. I’d imagine most attending nurses and hospital staff would be pretty used to cleaning up bodily fluids of all variety. It’s certainly not a good enough reason to keep women from getting the nourishment they need for strength and vigor.
Think about it: “Labor is the only hard work that people do that carries a medical prohibition against eating when hungry or drinking when thirsty.” That’s pretty messed up, right?
Ina May talks a lot about the mind-body connection. “Western medicine assumes a total separation between mind and body. Thoughts and feelings are considered irrelevant to physical well-being and physiological functions. When something goes wrong with the body, our culture teaches that pharmaceutical medicines or surgery will be necessary.” Yet, she goes on to describe hundreds of scenarios where the mind-body connection is undeniable, especially with regards to labor.
Fear can be a major inhibitor in all factors of life, but especially childbirth. Labor can be directly affected by our psychology. “Doubt, depression, pessimism, and distrust of the innate abilities of our bodies can all trigger stress hormones that may keep us in a continual state of stress until we learn how to deal with the emotions that produce it,” Ina May warns. In her book, there are so many stories of women whose labor was inhibited by either a negative mindset or an external factor that made them feel uncomfortable or stressed. It is imperative that a woman feel comfortable in her birthing room; labor can actually last longer if that’s not the case.
On the flip side of that coin, words of encouragement and reassurance can work like magic spells. “… true words spoken can sometimes relax pelvic muscles by discharging emotions that effectively block further progress in labor.”
She goes on to talk about oxytocin, which is the love hormone... but it can also help work, along with endorphins, as the body's natural painkiller. “Oxytocin is a reproductive hormone that represents the pole opposite to that of stress hormones. Naturally released oxytocin powerfully affects our brains and bodies in ways that are not well-known within the medical field.”
What releases oxytocin? Feelings of pleasure, like an orgasm. The act of saying, “I love you.” Deep, slow breathing, meditation, singing, dancing, laughing, kissing, praise, hugging… all of these stimulate natural oxytocin release. And all of these are an example of the undeniable power of the mind-body connection.
One of my greatest fears of childbirth has always been tearing.
Just the word episiotomy makes me cringe.
Like many, I have grown up thinking, “how can something as big as a baby come out of a hole that is so small?” Well, it turns out, it’s exactly this line of thinking that can be a handicap and make my worst fears come true.
“Given ideal conditions, a vagina is able to accommodate the size and shape of whatever it contains, whether we are talking about a penis or a baby. The big ‘secret’ is that it is better able to accomplish this task when we can imagine or visualize this happening.” Ina May tells the story of one woman whose vagina opened wider than she had ever seen before. The woman’s secret? She kept repeating the inner mantra, “You are going to get huge. You are going to get HUGE.”
It’s just like Stephen King said, that if you go into labor believing it will be excruciatingly painful, guess what? It probably will be. Well, if you go into labor thinking that there’s no way your vagina can accommodate delivering a baby… you might struggle a lot more.
Ina May discusses many different concepts and techniques to help avoid tearing, beyond just the mental ones. Staying as relaxed as possible is your best weapon.
There is apparently a direct correlation between the mouth and throat and the cervix and vagina. “A relaxed mouth means a more relaxed cervix. Women whose mouths and throats are open and relaxed during labor and birth rarely need stitches after childbirth…. On the other hand, women who grimace and clench their jaws while pushing having a greater tendency to tear, because their perineal tissues are more rigid.”
So if you feel like grinding your teeth and clenching your jaws, stop yourself!
She recommends several techniques for keeping your mouth and jaw relaxed, like taking deep breaths and exhaling with audible sighs. Make a low-pitched sound, enough to vibrate your chest. She recommends singing, as well, with an emphasis on sounds that come from as deep down in the body as possible. Ina May and her partners used to tell women to moo like a cow or to blow raspberries or make what she calls “horse lips”… all of these are tactics that will keep your mouth and jaw relaxed and therefore your cervix, too.
Here’s another fun fact that no one seems to want to talk about: sexual arousal is not only great for stimulating the progression of labor, but it can help keep you from tearing!
Why does no one talk about this? Does sex make us that uncomfortable? No one wants to imagine a childbirth that was somehow arousing or even, dare I say it, pleasurable?
Think about it, though: the same process that created this life inside of you can help you bring it into the world... that's a beautiful notion.
Sexual stimulation releases oxytocin, the body’s natural painkiller. I’ll confess that the idea of getting handsy in front of nurses or midwives at the hospital is a little nerve-wracking… But, honestly, if it means that I don’t tear, I’m willing to throw modesty out the window!
Besides which, I’m already going to have all my parts exposed; I’m not sure how much space there is for modesty in the delivery room anyway.
One of the things that I like most about the Natural Guide to Childbirth is that it is not filled with opinions.
In addition to the many first-hand accounts and testimonials, this book is filled with facts.
The pages are littered with her source citations. So, if ever you doubt something that she’s written, it is incredibly easy to fact-check her.
In a world where anyone can falsely declare themselves an expert, I think this is an incredibly important distinction.
Ina May Gaskin is undeniably a reputable source for information.
I could easily sit here and write for hours and hours describing the lessons that I’ve learned from this book. But, for your sake, I’ll cap it off here. These were just a few of the takeaways that I have found massively reassuring.
The biggest one being that: while, no matter what, labor is going to be hard work...but, if you go into it with a positive mindset, it will definitely help! Whereas if you go in with a negative mindset, it will most certainly hinder. Our minds are incredibly powerful. Let them be our ally, not the opposite.
And, if we advocate for ourselves and take charge of our delivery, we don't have to adhere to so many of these modern-day obstetric practices that would make our labor more difficult. Remember: you are in charge. Don't let any doctor or nurse coerce you into something that you don't understand or that you don't want to do. This is our body, our pregnancy, our childbirth--not theirs!
You might think that I’m pushing this book pretty hard…and you’re right! But, I promise that this is not a sponsored post in anyway; I have zero stock in promoting this. I’m not exaggerating, though, when I say that this book has been everything that I needed. It transformed me from a woman who was terrified of childbirth into a woman that is now reassured, uplifted, and empowered. I can confidently say that I am no longer scared. And I firmly believe that, even if you choose to have a normal hospital birth, every single pregnant woman would benefit from reading it, too.
What have been your biggest fears of childbirth? Or, rather, what was your labor experience? Would you have benefited from reading this first? As usual, I’d love to hear from you all, whether you’re pregnant now, have already given birth, or aren’t pregnant at all. Let’s start a dialogue!
I'm Kelsey! Proud Iowan native, world traveler, writer, wife to the most incredible husband, and now soon to be mother