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!
Wow, only 14 weeks left to go… how can that be already?! I know I say it practically every week, but I honestly cannot believe how quickly the time is flying by!
Maybe, I keep saying it because it’s been so unexpected for me. I thought pregnancy would be the exact opposite. I’d anticipated that time would move agonizingly slow, with me counting down the days as though it were a prison sentence. But, I’ve been happily surprised by how pregnancy has been exceeded my expectations… in more ways than one.
I always knew that I wanted to have kids, from a very young age, but I was terrified about being pregnant. Absolutely, unequivocally petrified. I had all of these pre-conceived notions about what it was going to be like. Frankly, I thought that I’d hate it. I used to joke that I was going to be a nightmare of a pregnant woman. I thought I was going to be a horrible bitch to everyone around me and that I’d be massively emotional, with mood swings that rollercoaster up and down… I thought that I’d hate my body, which would forever be ruined according to most sources, and that I’d have all of these constant aches and pains and symptoms.
But, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about those pre-conceived notions… I wish I could go back in time and show myself what it would actually be like. Because, almost nothing about my pregnancy has lined up with them.
I have always had an incredibly weak stomach. So, I was sure that I would be a candidate for the worst morning sickness. Have you ever heard of hyperemesis gravidarum? It’s a rare condition that only one in fifty women get where they have extreme morning sickness that lasts the duration of their pregnancy… Yeah, I was certain that I would be the one in fifty. Turns out? I didn’t have morning sickness at all! I had a few days of feeling nauseous in the beginning, but absolutely nothing compared to my expectations.
I thought that I would be an emotional, moody wreck. After all, I’ve been known to be a little capricious in my time. It was a running joke for years that I would make a terrible pregnant woman. “God help the man you have kids with” was something I heard on more than a few occasions. But, turns out? There’s been no rollercoaster here.
In my first trimester, I had a little bit of an adjustment period because my body needed drastically more sleep than I was getting. So, there were some days when I was overtired and I became incredibly sensitive.
One day in particular, I was at work and lord knows what in the world triggered me, but I had this crying episode that lasted pretty much the duration of my shift. I kept having to excuse myself to the bathroom to regain my composure, only to have it shatter again a few minutes later for absolutely no reason at all. I won’t lie, that was both awful and completely mortifying. I told co-workers that I was throwing up because it seemed an easier pill to swallow than to confess that I couldn’t stop crying. But, the good news? It was just that one really bad night. Otherwise, there were only a few other days that were a bit topsy turvy.
Overall, my mood has been surprisingly steady.
Sure, I’ve had my ultra-pregnant moments where things that normally would never have made me cry, did (like an episode of Mad Men, for the love of God.) But, as far as random outbursts, snapping remarks, feeling irritable and edgy… virtually none of that. Both my husband and I have remarked, on more than one occasion, how very even keel I’ve been.
In the same vain, I thought I’d have massive anxiety.
I’ve read that it’s very normal for pregnant women. Whether or not you were already an anxious person before, the hormones actually help nudge you in that direction. And I, by nature, am a worrier. But, with a few coronavirus moments notwithstanding, I’ve had virtually no anxiety. I’ve not had any of that fear that keeps you up at night, worrying what kind of parent you’ll be…
The closest I’ve come to that is that I once had a dream that I gave birth to a pickle and I ate her. And I had another dream in which I didn’t know how to hold a baby and I kept picking her up wrong and not supporting her head or neck. But, as far as waking moments go, no anxiety at all. As for the dreams, they gave me a good laugh in the morning.
In regards to physical symptoms, yes there have been some of those.
I had terrible cramps during my first trimester and there were the quintessentially sore breasts.
Now, towards the end of my second trimester, I have begun feeling breathless on a semi-regular basis.
I do get the very occasional backache. Sometimes, I get restless legs at night. And, I pretty much constantly need to pee.
But, honestly? That’s pretty much it. And NONE of those were even half as bad as my pre-conceived notions would have had me believe. Feeling breathless is by far the worst—and it does SUCK. But, that’s going to pass here soon. Peeing all the time is certainly an inconvenience, but I’ve become pretty accustomed to it. And the cramps weren’t fun, but they’re gone now.
There are things that I miss about not-pregnant life. I miss being able to workout on a regular basis. I hate that weeding my garden is a project that now has to span over the course of several days because of how worn out I get. And I miss staying up all night dancing and drinking with friends (though, hey, I wouldn’t be able to right now anyway thanks to quarantine!) But, those are very mild inconveniences compared to the avalanche I thought my body was going to suffer. When I think of the onslaught of adversities I had expected from pregnancy, I really feel like I’m getting off very easy.
Now, I know that a lot of the physical symptoms that I expected might just be characteristic of the third trimester. I’m sure that it will be the worst. But, by then, I’m so close to the finish-line… Even if they are awful, I will still be able to say by the end of this that they weren’t as bad as I’d thought they’d be. Because three months of terrible is way, way better than nine!
As for the body image concerns… I’ve touched on that a little in past posts.
Unfortunately, given the society that we live in, we are brainwashed into thinking that thin automatically equals beautiful (which of course it does not!) and we are conditioned into being obsessed with our physical attractiveness. So, it can be difficult to just suddenly turn that switch off in your brain. But, the bigger my stomach grows and the more that it looks undeniably like a baby bump, the easier that battle is for me. I won’t lie and say that I’ve woken up every morning delighted with this giant protrusion on the front of my body… but some days I genuinely have! And every day that goes on, I can honestly say that I love it more and more. There are times (with increasing regularity) that I feel so incredibly sexy and confident and beautiful! I wasn’t sure I’d ever get to that stage, but I have.
Here’s another thing I never thought I’d say...
there are some parts about being pregnant that I, honestly, really enjoy!
I love how often I laugh these days.
Not just a light chuckle, either. I get that giddy schoolgirl, laugh so hard it hurts, fall to the ground and can’t breathe kind of laughing fits… all the time now!
It’s something that, in adult life, we so rarely get to experience anymore. It’s like reliving a part of my childhood in a really beautiful way.
And nothing compares to the extreme love that I have when I feel my baby girl inside of me, kicking away. Even when it’s a bit uncomfortable, I love every single flutter of movement.
I love imagining who she’s going to be.
My eagerness to meet her and to have her in my life outweighs every discomfort by a million to one.
I wish I could go back to a younger version of myself and tell her these things. To reassure her that pregnancy wouldn’t be all that bad. Yes, it has its struggles. But, there are some incredibly beautiful, rewarding elements to it, too.
All of that being said, that doesn’t mean that I will miss being pregnant.
I know that some women feel that way. I don’t think I will.
When I tell people this, I think they misunderstand me, though.
Yes, I’m looking forward to having my body back without these limitations.
But, more than that, I’m looking forward to meeting my little girl and to having her in my life! I’m more excited for this than I’ve ever been for anything before.
Anything I’ve enjoyed about pregnancy is completely overshadowed by my eagerness to usher in this new chapter.
So when I say I won’t miss being pregnant, it’s not to suggest that I’ve hated being pregnant. I haven't.
It’s because I'M READY FOR MOTHERHOOD!
But, I’ve been very happily surprised by this pregnancy experience. I wish I could share this with anyone out there who, like me, was really scared of what it was going to be like.
My next post, I’m going to write about some of the books that I’ve read that have been so incredibly reassuring and empowering when it comes to the fears of childbirth. But, that deserves a post of its own! So, stay tuned. Hopefully it can be of some help to you, too.
In the meantime, what did you think pregnancy was going to be like? Were you like me and scared? Is there anything you wish you could tell your younger self? I'd love to hear about your experiences, too!
Alright, folks, I’m 25 weeks pregnant! I’m sorry it’s been a while since I last posted. Time has been flying by so quickly!
My bump keeps getting bigger. Each week, I look in the mirror and I think, I’ve finally “popped!” And then a week passes and I laugh at myself for ever having thought that because NOW I’ve finally popped!
Needless to say, I've got myself a distinctly pregnant belly.
Until this point, when I climbed the stairs in my house (which are incredibly steep,) I noticed my heart would be pumping a little faster. This didn’t worry me too much because I know that I am essentially breathing for two. But, something changed recently...
Last week, I started feeling increasingly short of breath. Not just a little huffy and puffy, either. Like, really bad. As in, sometimes I genuinely feel like I can’t breathe.
My lungs are sore, like I’ve just gotten over a bad chest cold.
I get winded going from one room to the next. I get winded just sitting perfectly upright, writing at my computer.
Sometimes, my heart will start POUNDING! In a way that it never has before...
And, last week, I had a moment where it felt like my lungs just altogether stopped. I could not catch my breath. My heart was racing like it had gone into panic mode, trying to get oxygen to the rest of my body. I was, honestly, terrified.
Now, because we live in the times that we do, it was hard not to instantly leap to: coronavirus.
I tried to steer myself away from this line of thinking, but as the symptoms progressed, I became more worried. After all, every website and medical professional will tell you that the number one symptom to be wary of for coronavirus is breathlessness.
I tried to tell myself that my uterus was expanding and putting pressure on my lungs and diaphragm; that was why I could not get a full inhalation. I told myself that it could also explain the pressure I felt in my lungs. But, the racing heart palpitations were what had me particularly worried. And, to top it all off, I’d had a sore throat since these symptoms had begun.
I explored pregnancy-related shortness of breath online and decided that my symptoms did not perfectly match up. So, just to be safe, I called a doctor’s office. They agreed that I should be seen and I went in for a visit.
There, they checked my vitals, which were all great. My oxygen levels were fantastic. And they told me to go to the ER if my symptoms worsened.
I asked for specifics. What did worse look like?
“If you get winded walking from your couch to your kitchen, I’d say that’s a bad sign.”
Well, that wasn’t helpful. That was already happening!
“Or if your fingertips or your lips begin to turn blue,” the doctor added.
Surely, by then, that would be cutting it a little close to the wire!
There was a pretty big disparagement between those two criteria.
I went home feeling only marginally reassured. So, finally, I contacted my midwife.
Ladies, let me give you some advice—always contact your OB/midwife first. My word, it will save you a lot of time and worry!
Regular doctors are incredibly knowledgeable, but it benefits from speaking to someone whose sole expertise is pregnancy and the myriad of symptoms that go with it.
I would have saved myself a lot of time and stress had my midwife been my first call.
We live in difficult times. And, unfortunately for us, pregnancy-symptoms overlap with so many other conditions that vary from mild to potentially serious. And, right now, one of those conditions is the coronavirus. However, the breathlessness I have been experiencing, though at times very severe, is perfectly normal for this stage of pregnancy.
At around the 24-25 week mark, our bodies double their volume of blood. Our need for oxygen increases. And our hearts are put under more pressure and strain than ever before in our lives!
This time, when my midwife warned me of what worse symptoms looked like, the specifications were far more precise. If I ever get dizzy during an episode, or feel like I’m about to pass out, and especially if I do pass out… I should contact her immediately and they will run further tests.
I won’t lie or try to paint it over with rainbow colors… this is ROUGH.
This is by far the worst, most uncomfortable symptom I’ve had yet to experience. And, it can be scary! Breathing is a pretty integral part of existence and feeling like you can’t is, well… absolutely awful.
But, it has been incredibly helpful to know that this is completely normal.
Now, when I have an episode, I don’t panic and I don’t worry.
I can relax knowing the process that my body is going through.
It doesn’t make me breathe easier, but it does still help.
And, hopefully, it will get better around the 32 week mark as my body adjusts and regulates.
You know that normally I like to keep my posts positive. Everyone shares their horror stories, we don’t need more of them. But, at the same time, I want to be honest. This was very scary for me. And, frankly, if I had been able to speak with another woman who had gone through the same thing, maybe my first thought wouldn’t have been coronavirus.
The other lesson I learned from this, that I encourage you to receive as well, is to always contact your OB/midwife should you ever have any questions or concerns—and to contact them FIRST! Even when you’re sure your symptoms aren’t pregnancy-related!
As usual, I’d love to hear from some of you… has anyone else experienced this, too? What were your first thoughts?
So, how are you all holding up?
It’s dawned on me that a previous coronavirus post of mine may have come across a little preachy, and if that’s the case I apologize.
When you are cooped up with your kids all day, trying to juggle homeschooling, work, and everything else going on in life… Lord, I can only imagine!
And the last thing you need is to feel like some pregnant lady you don’t even know is telling you how to 'make the most of this time!'
I definitely wasn’t trying to minimize the monumental stress that we’re all under. I’m a turn lemons into lemonade kind of gal. I always try my best to take a bad situation and find some sort of silver lining.
But that doesn’t mean that I don’t know what a struggle this situation is. For everyone in their own way.
Stress hits everyone differently.
I tend to deal with it by going into project mode. I have that "luxury" right now--if you want to call it that--because I'm furloughed. I have nothing but time.
For some, having nothing but time would be a curse in and of itself.
Meanwhile, others DREAM of having that sort of free-time! They are so bombarded by kids and spouses and work... they don't get a second to themselves...
This quarantine is hitting us all differently and we all react in our own ways. It's okay to feel overwhelmed. It's okay to not be okay. We are all swimming in unchartered waters.
While I cope through keeping myself busy, others might need to hibernate through this proverbial winter. And, others still, feel they don't even get a chance to cope.
There's no rule that you HAVE to be productive or that you HAVE to, well... anything! There's no right or wrong way to get through this. These are unprecedented times!
Just because I might deal with stress by going into project mode, doesn't mean I think that that's better than the way you might deal with stress. My point is that no one coping mechanism is better than another.
We’re all just doing the best that we can. We have to take it day by day.
What have you been doing to cope?
It’s been a struggle over the recent days not to stress about this pregnancy and the virus and the baby once she’s born…
I’ve read now about two infants, one in Connecticut and one in Illinois, who have died from the coronavirus. It was a lot easier not to worry when there had been zero infant fatalities.
I try to tell myself that this is only two out of the nearly 100,000 confirmed cases and 50,000 deaths worldwide… but still! That’s two too many!
It’s terrifying to think that there is little I can do to protect her. I can shelter her as best as I can, but even then...
Either I give birth at my midwifery clinic—which is IN a hospital—or I have a home-delivery with my midwife who regularly works IN a hospital!
I know I have until late July, so in a way I’m biting off more than I can chew right now… there’s no sense obsessing about this yet. Especially, since it is completely out of my control. Worry and stress will only make things worse. But it is hard.
So, what have I been doing to cope?
I’ve been taking this time to write a lot. Not just here on my blog, but on a novel I’ve been working on.
I’ve also been working a lot on the nursery! I will confess I’ve gotten way more into it than I predicted I would. Here are some photos of the progress that’s been made. Bear in mind, it's still far from finished...
What do you think?
As a young girl, when my grandma would offer to teach me how to cook, I would balk and say, “Why aren’t you asking my brother, too?” Completely incredulous, I rejected every offer to learn to cook or sew or do anything even remotely domestic…
Of course, now as an adult, those are skills I definitely wish I had taken the time to learn! Not because I'm a woman. But, because when a button falls off of your work uniform and the only way you can sew it back on is in a way that looks like a toddler's done it… it’s pretty embarrassing!
So it might not come as a surprise to learn that I've never been much of a chef. I used to joke that my idea of cooking was to throw a can of Chef Boyardee into the microwave. Over the years, I have perfected a few dishes that I’m good at making and that’s about it.
Which is one of the reasons why I have gotten into cooking these past few weeks.
My mother and sister-in-law are excellent in the kitchen and I’ve always been envious of their delicious spinach pies...
so I finally tried to make it myself!
It wasn’t as good as theirs, but for a first try I was very proud!
Then, the chicken pot pie I made from scratch was an even bigger success!
My husband says it was the best pie he’s ever had!
And, most recently, I took another page from my in-laws’ book and made shepherd’s pie.
The pictures aren’t exactly Instagram-worthy, I know, but they tasted yummy!
In other news… I am officially 23 weeks pregnant! That means I only have 17 weeks left to go until I meet my precious baby girl!
I suppose the biggest change since last week has been in my appearance. I think I am definitely beginning to show now, even in the mornings before I eat! Maybe I have finally “popped,” as they say? I feel like she grows more and more every day.
I took these photos exactly one week apart. Can you tell the difference?
At 23 weeks, I constantly feel full... even when I’m hungry! It's a strange sensation.
And, when I eat, my stomach feels higher up than usual.
But, the cravings have definitely not gone away!
I don’t crave specific food—just food, in general. So I’ve been trying to make sure that the food I eat is healthy. All the food pictured above is CHOCK FULL of vegetables!
Do I still have the occasional frozen pizza? Absolutely.
But, I’ve also gotten super into steamed broccoli! In my head, at least, they balance each other out. (That’s totally how that works, right?)
My linea nigra has begun to show now, too!
It’s that thin dark line that goes down your belly.
Apparently, there's an old wives tale that says if your line stops at your belly button, it’s a girl and if it goes all the way down it’s a boy.
But, mine goes all the way!
Guess that just proves, yet again, that those old wives’ tales don’t mean much.
Another fun part of being 23 weeks? Feeling those baby kicks!
For ages now, I have been feeling our little girl flutter around in there. She felt like butterflies or gas bubbles. But, in the past couple days, I’ve finally felt those first few kicks! It’s incredible!
It almost feels like when your heart is beating really fast, pounding against your chest… but inside your stomach.
She is SO active! At first, she was just kicking around in the evening. But now, it’s from the moment I wake up, all day long! If her activity level now is any indication, my baby girl will never sleep!
One thing they all told me about the second trimester was that I was going to have to pee less…
If they meant that instead of every 10-15 minutes, now I’d have to pee every 20-30 minutes, then yeah I guess they were right.
But, honestly, it doesn't feel like much of a difference. Especially, in the middle of the night when I still have to wake up what feels like 50 times!
When we take the puppy for a walk, I inevitably have to go pee at least once, if not twice! Even though I always make sure to go right before we leave. Thankfully, we walk her in wooded areas away from people (especially these days!) so I can usually find a tree to go behind.
What was 23 weeks like for you?
As always, I’d love to have someone to compare with!
People always tell me that I should ask my gal-pals for advice, but I’m the first of our friend group to get pregnant.
So, I’d love to hear from you!
What is your second trimester like? Your quarantine?
Or, if you have already had your little ones, what do you remember from this time?
I'm Kelsey! Proud Iowan native, world traveler, writer, wife to the most incredible husband, and now soon to be mother