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!
I'm Kelsey! Proud Iowan native, world traveler, writer, wife to the most incredible husband, and now soon to be mother