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?
a discussion about my what my experience is at 22 weeks, pregnancy weight gain, and what is "normal"
As of today, I am now 22 weeks pregnant, which begins the last week of my 5th month.
I cannot BELIEVE how quickly this second trimester has been flying by!
I know these last three months are going to be the longest, so I don’t want to count my chickens before they hatch… but so far, pregnancy has not been all that bad.
Of course there have been rough days. The first trimester was by far the worst. Even without morning sickness, I had constant fatigue and terrible cramping that would keep me glued to my heating pad all day. But this second trimester has been much easier.
Without sugar-coating anything, I’d definitely say that, so far, my experience has been entirely different from how I expected it to be.
I expected backaches and foot-pain and nausea and trouble with mobility, insomnia, and irritability… swollen feet and ankles, shoes that won't fit, areas I can't shave...
And I know I am not out of the woods yet. But, I think a lot of those symptoms that we associate with pregnancy are more characteristic of the third trimester. It is when you are at your biggest, so there is more strain on your feet and your back and it is trickier to get up out of a chair, etc.
I think the last three months will by far be the hardest.
But, I’m relieved that the first two trimesters weren’t even half as bad as I had feared!
So, what have I been feeling these days? Pretty much entirely normal!
My appetite is still bigger than it was before I was pregnant, but nothing compared to the voracity of my first trimester.
My energy level has returned to, mostly, normal. I say mostly only because I still get tired more easily than I did pre-pregnancy. But it’s no longer to the point where I have to take a nap every day.
The last few weeks have been disrupted by external circumstance. I mentioned in a previous post that my work had done some renovations. The construction dust and the fumes from the paint and the varnish SERIOUSLY affected me. They made me dizzy just standing in the building and then left me with a headache for the rest of the night after going home. Others found the odor unpleasant, but I was far more sensitive than anyone else. For the most part, I’ve enjoyed my heightened sense of smell… but this was one instance where I definitely did not! (I'm curious to know if other pregnant women have felt as affected as me from paint fumes? Please, do share!)
The following week, I caught the flu. Thankfully, it wasn't as severe as they warn pregnant women it might be. I never had a high fever, just a low-grade one.
However, it is safe to say that those were a rough three weeks!
And, that was all BEFORE the coronavirus really hit!
What else has changed in these 22 weeks of pregnancy?
I went from a 34B/32C to a 32DD!
AND THEY ARE STILL GROWING!!
This, of course, sounds like an excellent problem to have. On paper.
In reality, ladies, it’s expensive.
I still have not found a nursing/maternity bra that I like. I’ve tried a few. They have virtually no support.
If anyone has recommendations for a good brand, PLEASE SHARE! Until then, I have given up trying to buy new bras.
How’s the baby bump coming along, you might be wondering?
Ha, well the answer depends on what time of the day you ask!
When I first wake up, I am hardly showing at all.
By the end of the day, after I have eaten, I definitely look like I am showing! Even after breakfast alone, you can tell the difference.
I think it is because I’m so short... With a baby in my stomach, once I eat food there is nowhere else for it to go but out!
And, even then, it doesn’t look like a baby bump. Not in my opinion, anyway. It just looks like I’ve eaten a bunch of food.
With the right outfit, it can look like a cute maternity bump. But, naked, not so much.
So, as you may have guessed, the above photos are of me and my virtually nonexistent "bump"... all but two of these pictures were taken before I had breakfast. There is a visible notice (at least to me) in the two where I had already eaten. You can hold your cursor over the pictures to see how far along I am. But, in case you are reading this on a phone (in which case, I apologize, because the formatting is sometimes awful!) then, in order from left to right, it begins at 4-5 weeks, then 12 weeks, 15, 18, 19, 20, and the last one is 21 weeks pregnant.
Women are conditioned from day one in life to feel inadequate.
Whether it’s your weight or your nose or that mole, most of us have just “that one thing” that we would change if we could.
It’s part of our mass consumerism culture. Women are an excellent target for capitalist companies trying to push their beauty products.
We have been manipulated and convinced into believing that we are never quite as good as we could be. Which is why there is always some makeup product or diet pill or exercise regime that we can buy into to that’ll make us that much better.
But, the truth is, the system is designed so that, no matter what, we never feel it is enough.
From the magazines we read to the advertisements on billboards and the movies that we watch, we are constantly bombarded with impossible-to-maintain beauty standards that tell us, without saying a word, that we will never be perfect.
And, even knowing that this manipulation exists, it can still be a very difficult, if not impossible, mentality to combat.
I’m 5’ 2” and I have always been petite but, even given all my efforts, I’ve never been immune to these external pressures. I’ve had to do all manner of mental gymnastics throughout my life to combat negative feelings about my body. Like many women, I do not always succeed.
Often, the image that I see in the mirror does not reflect the reality of what is there.
So, when I first discovered I was pregnant, I was nervous about gaining weight and how that would affect my self-esteem.
When I read that you should only gain 20-25lbs by full-term, my goal was to gain 20. Exactly on the nose.
At first, the rate at which I was gaining was something that I found incredibly alarming.
By the end of my first trimester, I had gained approximately ten pounds, half of my goal weight. And I still had more than half of my pregnancy left to go!
Every time I looked at the scale (which I limited to only when I was at my doctor’s office) I would cry.
Not figuratively, like I would be a little upset inside. I would ACTUALLY cry.
So, let’s get into that, shall we?
This is an incredibly personal topic. Obviously not one that I am overly keen on sharing.
But, I know that other women go through this same line of thinking and self-doubt.
I know it because I’ve seen the posts on social media and I’ve spoken to friends and family. Which is why I think it’s important to discuss.
I’ve touched on some of these points in a previous post, but I think it is worth going over again.
After choking back tears to discuss this with my midwife, she gave me some reassuring insights.
Pregnant women gain weight differently and at different rates.
A weight-gain graph (like this one in the picture) is ridiculous.
It impossible to create one that can be inclusive of all women.
We are all so different!
First of all, the weight you are gaining is not all fat.
You know how heavy water can be, right? Well, blood is even heavier. And you have more than doubled the volume of your blood.
Your uterus has also grown. There are differing reports on which fruit it resembles the most, but for the second trimester I’ve seen some compare it to the size of a cantaloupe and others to a papaya. Either way, it’s gotten pretty big! Especially when you think that it’s normally the size of a small plum.
Not to mention, now there’s all that amniotic fluid in there.
Your water weight has gone up as well.
Then, in addition to your uterus growing, your breasts are, too! Your mammary glands have been filling up with milk and, guess what, that adds weight.
All this before you even begin to factor in the weight of the actual baby! (At my ultrasound two weeks ago, she weighed 11 oz.)
The good news is that this is all weight that goes away once the baby is born.
Your amniotic fluid is gone, the volume of your blood reduces, your uterus shrinks back to normal, and your breasts will, too, once you have finished breastfeeding.
That’s ten to fifteen pounds gone without even having to think about hitting the treadmill. (And, if you are planning on breastfeeding, that apparently burns a ton of calories!)
I want to make an important side-note here: I am not trying to put an emphasis on losing weight and being thin! That is not what is important. At all!
What is important is that we are healthy and that we feel good about ourselves!
I am just spelling this out for those who, like me, might take comfort in knowing that the changes are bodies will go through are not permanent.
And, because we are so conditioned into looking at those numbers on the scale and thinking "oh no!" it can be helpful to know that there is a different perspective to be had.
So why did I gain my weight so quickly when the charts suggest I should have gained much more gradually?
Because every woman is different.
If you listen to your body, it knows what it needs.
I didn’t have morning sickness in my first trimester and I was exceptionally hungry. My body was telling me that it needed fuel. And, sure enough, the rate at which I was gaining has slowed down DRASTICALLY in my second trimester.
Some women gain all their weight early and then taper off. Others are too nauseous to even think of eating in their first trimester, so they gain most of their weight later on.
Everyone is different.
Of course, if you can’t stop yourself from finishing off a whole pan of brownies every night (no judgment! Pregnancy cravings are legit), bear in mind that will obviously affect your weight gain, too.
But, as long as you listen to your body and try to eat right, whatever is happening is what is right for you.
Which is why, at 22 weeks, when I first wake up, I still barely look pregnant and yet I am about 20lbs heavier than I was at the start of this.
I won’t lie; I’m not perfect and I still occasionally worry about the changes that the next 18 weeks will bring to me physically.
But, I’m doing better about trusting my body.
And, at least now when I see the scale, I don’t cry.
Knowing what all goes into the numbers that I’m seeing has been helpful.
I hope it helps you, too.
This is what I’ve been feeling 22 weeks in. I figured I’d take a break from the whole coronavirus fiasco and get back to basics.
How about you? What’s your experience?
I’d love to have someone to compare with!
What a time to be pregnant, huh?!
By now, this virus has affected pretty much anyone that might be reading this. No matter where you are. Whether you are being asked to stay at home or you know someone with the virus, this has touched all of our lives.
My brother said to me recently, “I think it’s never really the perfect time to be having a kid.” And, while that might be true, I think this particular period of history is a little unprecedented. Yes, it is always stressful to be pregnant. But, I might argue it is considerably more stressful to be pregnant (especially with your first child) during a pandemic.
The other day, I wrote what I hoped to be a reassuring blog with some information about pregnancy and the coronavirus. You can find it under Categories in the sidebar menu to the right side of the page, entitled "Coronavirus."
(The Categories sidebar is in alphabetical order. If you are new to my blog and would like to read my posts in chronological order, you have to use the archives. I’d also recommend reading the Welcome to my Site post as it will give you a clearer picture of what I’m trying to create here. And I apologize for any formatting errors. I am new to blogging and still working out the frustrating kinks!)
The truth is that, while most doctors agree on the information that I shared the other day, they also agree that there haven’t been enough reported cases of pregnant women with the virus to be certain of anything just yet. I have read a couple of recent articles involving a study of UK patients that suggested a few infants whose mothers had the virus did show symptoms after birth (though all of but one were mild and didn’t require medical intervention.) However, there was one baby that did have difficulty breathing and required medical assistance and recovered quickly thereafter.
That’s why I am writing this now, because I don’t want to mislead anyone. Frankly, nothing is certain yet. Most everything that doctors say in regards to pregnancy and the virus, at this moment, is conjecture based on what few cases we do have on record. But, so far, their conjectures are mostly reassuring.
Nonetheless, the UK has listed pregnant women in the same risk category as people aged over seventy. If you read into why, it’s because anyone who is recommended to get a flu vaccine is listed as an at-risk person. The idea being that, the same with the flu, if a pregnant woman were to fall ill with this, she might have a more severe case. Specifically, she might have a prolonged fever, and therefore a risk of miscarriage.
The other rationale I read was that, as the baby grows bigger, our organs shift and there is strain on our lungs; as well as the fact that we are already breathing for two. With that in mind, it’s not irrational to assume a pregnant woman in her third trimester might have an extra hard time with a virus that targets the lungs. Given all of my research, and therefore to the best of my knowledge, thankfully very few pregnant women with COVID-19 have had severe cases. So, hopefully, the likelihood of this is rare.
In my opinion, everyone should be staying at home as much as possible right now. I have a surprising number of friends and acquaintances who, even now, believe the coronavirus to be an overhyped flu. They still go out; several are on vacation in Florida. I, personally, find this behavior reprehensible as they are endangering not only themselves, but the lives of countless others. But, perhaps there is reason to suggest that we pregnant women should be that much more cautious. We ought to severely limit our contact with other people and practice social distancing when we do go need to go out. And if you are not already in a state where shelter-in-place is mandated, you should self-isolate as much as possible.
This virus is not just stressful in terms of our health, it’s scary financially as well. My husband and I were both restaurant workers so, like many, we are now out of a job. I had already missed roughly three weeks of work prior to this debacle. My restaurant had done some renovations and the paint/varnish fumes made me horribly sick, so I couldn’t be in the building. (Sensitive noses can be a pain sometimes!) After that, I caught the flu. The actual flu, don’t worry, not the coronavirus. So, it was already hard enough saving for our first baby BEFORE… now, it’s impossible! If you are feeling similar strains, I’m right there with you. I know many are in the same boat.
Thankfully, I live in a state that has stepped up its unemployment program to embrace all of us who are affected by the virus. We should be getting our benefits in the next week. Of course, it is not enough to be putting anything into savings. But I am grateful that it should be enough to cover our mortgage and our bills. Right now, that is more than a lot of people have. I don’t know how we are going to afford all of the baby supplies we still need, now that a shower seems very unrealistic, but I suppose we will just cross that bridge when we get there. One day at a time, right?
As bad as it is for me and many others, though, I cannot even imagine what health workers are enduring right now. Many have to be quarantined away from their families and the general public. That really puts it into perspective for me. All I’m being asked to do is stay at home!
These are certainly scary times that we are in, friends. But stress and panic only make it worse!
I’ve said this before, but I’ll repeat it now:
stress is far more harmful to my unborn baby than this virus likely would be.
(It’s pretty much my mantra these days.)
So what do we do about that? How do you combat stress in a time of extreme uncertainty and worldwide struggle?
Personally, I focus on the things that I am grateful for.
I am grateful that I have a roof over my head and plenty of food to eat.
I am grateful that my family members are safe.
And, though it is true quarantine is an inconvenience, I’ll be honest and say that I am grateful I have so much free time!
This as an excellent time to tackle all those projects that I’ve been wanting to for ages but have never found the time.
I can catch up on reading that stack of books on my shelves that have been gathering dust.
I can write! I am working more on my novel.
I can stay in shape and workout from home (I never liked going to the gym anyway.)
I can learn a language online or teach myself to play guitar.
I can prepare the baby’s room and organize the house.
My husband is delighted because he can play FIFA on the Xbox as soon as he wakes up with zero judgment. "I'm being socially responsible," he can say now with a grin.
My point is that there are endless opportunities to fill our time with!
And, though these are scary, unchartered waters we are all swimming in… there are certainly things to be grateful for.
Personally, I want to use this time as wisely as I can.
Eventually, life WILL return to normal and we will all go back to our busy lives.
I hope that I won’t look back on this period with regret, wishing I had done more.
I want to make the best of this bad situation.
In the coming weeks, we will all be tested. Whether it’s our patience, or our wallets, or our health… we will all feel the strain of the coronavirus. Unfortunately, this isn’t going to go away anytime soon. Let's be good to each other in this time of need. And try and take these days to appreciate what you can.
If you are a parent who never gets enough time with your kids, enjoy these moments.
If you are partners who work on opposite schedules, enjoy your time together.
I will keep writing here. Pregnant during the coronavirus—stay tuned!
But, as always, I promise to find some positivity to share during these dark days.
Please share your experiences with me as well!
If you are expecting, too, how do you feel being pregnant right now?
What has your quarantine experience been like?
How has the coronavirus impacted your life?
What are you grateful for?
Alright, folks, well the results are in!
We got our 20 week ultrasound.
Are you ready for the big gender reveal?
IT'S A GIRL!!!!
My husband and I are delighted!
Honestly, we had no hopes one way or another… we just wanted our baby to be healthy. Which she is! She’s got a strong heartbeat, lungs, and kidney, and all ten fingers and toes. We are very happy parents!
Everyone told us we were having a boy. Almost to the point where it was kind of annoying, just how sure they were. I didn’t have any morning sickness. I had a voracious appetite. This and a few other old wives’ tales had people convinced. So, in a very petty way, I am happy to tell them that they were all wrong. Because, you know how I feel about people making assumptions!
My midwife says she runs into it all the time. People that heard if you carry high, it must be a girl. If you carry low, it must be a boy. And all other manner of superstitions. But, she says every woman is different. A person would need to have a hundred babies before they could even begin to draw such conclusions with certainty. She’s seen women who say they were terribly sick with all three of their baby girls and for the fourth pregnancy they weren’t, so they were sure it’d be a boy. But, guess what: girl again! I think, personally, that it must be much more about the biology of the specific woman than the gender of the child she is carrying.
And though my mom isn’t around to ask, as she passed away a few years ago, my dad says that she was never really that sick with either my brother or me… so perhaps genetics is a factor, too.
While everyone told us we were having a boy, my husband and I, of course, had our own guess, too. And we actually guessed that it would be a boy as well. But, that’s only because I had completely forgotten about the dream that superseded this all! Otherwise, my opinion would definitely have been a different one.
When I knew I was running a little late on my period, I had a dream. My face was wrapped in cellophane wrap and I was lying on my back, suffocating. Then, a little girl that I knew in the dream to be my daughter came and tore the plastic from my face and saved my life. I awoke and I instantly thought to myself: I need to buy a pregnancy test!
I will say that it’s kind of nice that we have finally broken my husband’s family’s tradition of having all boys!
His grandmother is over the moon to finally have a great granddaughter.
It also means that, lucky for my husband, we no longer have to debate the name Oswald.
It was one of the first things I said to him.
“It was never a debate, Kelsey,” was his reply.
Ha! That’s what he thought…
Already a few people have talked to me about how fun it’ll be to dress our daughter up and to play dolls with her… and that would be fun, I totally agree! If she likes that sort of thing. But, there are a couple of things I’ve always thought strange about this line of thinking.
First and foremost, my daughter is not a doll. I am not having her so that I can relive my childhood fantasies of dress-up and costumes. (I don’t need her for that because I relive those every day, by myself, by changing my outfits three or four times a day!)
Please, don’t misunderstand me. I get the urge and I get that it can be fun.
There’s no shame if you DO enjoy doing those things with your little girl!
I am not here to judge!
I am only explaining how I, personally, feel; which is that you shouldn’t expect that your girl will love these things as much as you just because of her gender.
Which brings me to the other bone I have to pick with that mentality:
you have to raise the child you have, not the child you wish you had.
If my little girl likes Barbies and playing dress-up, then believe me I will love nothing more than joining in!
But what if she doesn’t?
Lots of girls don’t!
What if she loves playing in the mud and climbing trees and rough-housing?
Girls can love those things, too!
As a society, I think we have become too constrained by these so-called “gender roles” and a lot of people feel trapped by them.
There is no such thing as toys that are exclusively for boys or exclusively for girls. Some little boys like to play with dolls while other little girls love monster trucks.
There are no such things as girl colors or boy colors. Girls can like blue, boys can like pink.
And, while there are differences between men and women, I believe that there are less than society would have us think.
Look at traditionally masculine versus traditionally feminine character traits after all.
Boys are strong while girls are fragile.
Boys are stoic and girls are emotional.
Girls are nurturing and gentle; boys are tough and rowdy…
They’re all bogus!
Both boys and girls can cry equally, love equally, nurture equally. And girls can be just as stoic and tough and rowdy as any boy. Character traits of that sort having nothing to do with your sex, in my opinion and experience.
That’s why, especially in this day and age, I find these sorts of forced gender norms not only ridiculous, but potentially harmful.
Let me spell out why.
Imagine a girl is raised in a household with a mother who really wanted to dress her up and do her makeup and play house with her (and of course there is nothing wrong in wanting to do those things)…
but, this particular girl doesn’t like those activities.
And her mom is disappointed, to the point where the little girl knows this and can feel it.
The girl might grow up to feel like she is somehow less of a woman, which in reality couldn’t be any further from the truth.
Or, imagine a little boy who is very emotional, and he cries whenever he falls down or whenever he is angry, and he doesn’t like to play sports.
But his dad had always dreamed of raising a stoic little football star and the little boy knows this and can feel that he has let his father down.
He might grow up to think that there is something wrong with him, that he isn’t as masculine as the other boys.
These kids can feel not at-one with their own identity and all because of these ridiculous gender roles!
Being female or male doesn’t come with prescribed activities. And to force those gender roles onto children, in my opinion, can do more harm than good.
As a parent, it is perfectly natural to have hopes and aspirations for your child.
There is nothing wrong with envisioning yourself teaching them your favorite hobby or passion and hoping that they will love these things, too.
But, I think these dreams should come with a heavy dose of realism for the “what if they don’t like it” event…
You have to raise the child that you have; not the child that you wish you had.
Which is why I’ve been very careful when imagining raising my daughter, not to have these preordained notions of gendered activities.
I want to nurture my daughter into becoming the best person she can be, whatever that may look like.
I want to help her find the hobbies and the passions that SHE loves.
Sure, it’ll be great if they line up with mine. But that’s not a prerequisite.
I will love her no matter what.
I want to be very clear that I am not trying to lecture any of you on how to parent your child!
I am not preaching about what is right or wrong when it comes to imagining future pastimes with your kid.
These are just some of my opinions in regards to gender roles with children and the importance of having, what I consider to be, realistic goals.
I sincerely hope that this doesn’t offend and that it may have even provided a new perspective for you to consider.
So far, my blog has felt fairly one-sided as a catalogue of my pregnancy journey and my thoughts and feelings on certain subjects. But, as always, I really encourage you to write me! Either in the comments below or in a private message.
What are your opinions on gender roles with children?
I’d love to start a discussion!
It's on all of our minds.
Schools are being closed, concerts cancelled, whole cities on shutdown.
We’ve seen virus scares before… SARS, H1N1, bird flu… but never like this. Never has there been a global reaction like this before, at least not in my lifetime or that of anyone else that I know.
It is a scary time to be pregnant!
But, in case you don’t already know, here are some facts that you might find reassuring:
I see a lot of women on social media who are panicked. Anxiety is through the roof when it comes to thinking about how this will affect our families and our children.
I also see a lot of people who are, strangely, trying to downplay the virus as a “media stunt” or an “overreaction.”
I think an appropriate response is to fall somewhere in between those two extremes.
The good news is that this is not the end of the world!
But the bad news is that, yes, this virus is serious.
For most of us, we will have a mild case and then have the antibodies so that we do not contract it again.
But, for the elderly or those with compromised immune systems (of whom there are a lot in the world!) this is a big deal.
We all need to be cautious, not just for ourselves, but for our loved ones and the strangers with whom we come into contact with that might be at-risk.
It is dangerous to spread misinformation and to insinuate that this is all some sort of election-year conspiracy (another theory I’ve seen gaining a lot of traction.) It is not. This is real, folks, but let’s arm ourselves with facts!
There are a few myths I’ve seen circulating that I would like to dispel.
Of course, I am not a medical professional. But members of my family are and I have been keeping myself very well read on this subject.
An excellent source of information that I learned a lot from was a podcast with Joe Rogan and a member of the Center for Infectious Disease—give it a listen!
One of the things he talks about are preventative measures—what can we do to keep ourselves from getting sick?
Well, here’s the bad news. Not a whole lot.
I see a lot of tutorials and funny memes about handwashing and how long to wash your hands, to sing Happy Birthday etc… And of course we should all wash our hands! (We should have been doing so anyway!) The virus can live on surfaces, so it’s possible if you touch the door-handle after a sick person has and then you touch your face, that you can get infected.
But, unfortunately, this virus is airborne. And data suggests that, so far, most of the contracted illnesses have been from breathing the same air as those that are infected. That is why it is recommended that at-risk individuals avoid crowded areas. That is also why the cruise ships we have been seeing have been cesspools of infection, because the contaminated air has been being circulated throughout the whole ship! So, yes, wash your hands… but, also, it’s important for us to be realistic.
Which brings me to one of the myths I’d like to dispel: face masks. The surgical masks you see everyone wearing, like the ones in the photo I’ve used—people, these are useless when it comes to keeping you from getting infected! Surgical masks were designed to prevent surgeons from sweating droplets or breathing onto patients’ open wounds. They aren’t designed to keep germs away from the surgeon! They are not airtight.
If you are sick, you should wear a facemask out of courtesy to others. It will not be a foolproof method, but it will help prevent you from infecting others. That’s the only time you should wear a facemask.
The only facemasks that are effective are the ones we should be reserving for our medical professionals. Of course our instincts are to protect ourselves and to protect our families. But, right now it’s time to think about the community on a whole as well. Because, it is most likely that you will have a mild case if you catch this virus. But, for those that don’t, they will need a doctor. So we need as many doctors and nurses in the field as possible!
Look at Italy, after all. They have such a shortage of medical staff that they are unable to treat the influx of patients they have and, as a result, they are having to assess which patients they let die. That’s not because they don’t have the medicine to treat them, it’s because they don’t have the staff! How insane is that?
This is another picture we've all been seeing a lot of, right? The empty shelves of toilet paper. Let's talk about that, too.
Obviously, it is not logical to panic-buy and stock up for a year-long quarantine’s worth of items.
Panicking is never helpful, but remember that stress can actually be more harmful to your unborn baby than this virus can. So, whatever you do, let’s not panic!
But, is it rational to have an extra stockpile of some non-perishable essentials? Probably. The reality is that we all might be asked to stay home for a while to try and quell the spread. Again, this isn’t really for those of us that are healthy. It’s to protect those of us that aren’t.
Does that mean you should buy enough for the year? No. Be rational, people. The last thing we need are shortages of these necessary items. Factories can only make toilet paper so fast, so let's not buy so much that the whole country runs out!
So, in these scary times, remember:
We and our babies will be okay. So there is no reason for panic-level stress or anxiety.
But, also, let’s not downplay, either. Be conscientious for those in our society who are at-risk and vulnerable.
At the very least, this is an eventful time to bring a child into the world! Think of the stories we’ll be able to tell them when they get older!
For those of you who might be following my blog, yes I did discover the gender of our baby yesterday! Don’t worry, I am working on my next post! It will include our gender reveal but also a discussion on gender roles and how that pertains to children in this modern age.
I just woke up this morning and this seemed a far more pressing topic than my personal life. Stay safe and stay healthy, folks! This is a good time to be thoughtful and helpful to those around us. We will need a strong community to get through this as a society, but we will get through this!
And stay tuned for my next post! I promise it will be a happier one!
Okay, so I’m 20 weeks in. We know the gender tomorrow, which, oh my god I am SO excited for!!
But, like many couples, my husband and I have already begun the naming process. Thankfully, we are lucky in that we have similar tastes, so it hasn’t been that difficult. But, that doesn’t mean that we haven’t hit our share of bumps in the road.
Now, one thing you should know about me is that I am obsessed with naming. It’s always been my favorite process when I begin writing a new story and I take days, sometimes longer, pouring over lists and deliberating on the right one for the right character. I’ve also obviously taken great joy in naming all of our pets. My husband jokes that when we got our puppy he heard so many names brainstormed that it made his head spin. I even name my houseplants!
Which is why, naturally, as soon as I found out that we were expecting, I began the list-making process.
I’m sure you’ve all heard the joke, ‘you don’t know how many people you hate until you go to name your child?’ My word, is that true!
You can’t name your daughter Sarah because there was that one bully in elementary school who made your life a living hell. You can’t name your son Gabe because there was that one guy you used to party with who was a total waste-head.
But, for us, our biggest obstacle hasn't so much been all the people we dislike—it’s that my husband has SO MANY relatives! Particularly, male relatives. He has several uncles, two brothers, and another six male cousins. And some of those cousins already have baby boys. So, most of the usual suspects when it comes to boy names have already been taken.
That’s why the boy names have been a bit trickier.
It took a while, but we finally have a solid top five.
And, our tastes line up on all except one...
which I keep sneaking onto the list for the “just in case I convince him” fantasy.
It’s Oswald and I think it is adorable and, yes, I will die on that hill.
Just think of all the nicknames!
Oz, Ozzie, Wally, Waldo… they are endless and every one of them is cute!
Girl names are easier, in my opinion. Mainly because I decided what I wanted my baby girl, if I ever had one, to be named when I was young.
When my husband and I first began getting serious, I let him know what it was and he said he liked it.
Then, on our wedding night, we actually made a list of what our future babies would be named. I still have the piece of notepad paper with our horribly drunk handwriting; all of these scribbled out, ridiculous and now hilarious names. But my baby girl name was on there!
So, that’s why I was surprised when, it came to the girl names, we hit a roadblock. I reminded him of my chosen name from childhood and, suddenly, he said…
“I’m not too sure about that.”
Oh no! Nuh uh!
We have discussed this at length!
I had what I considered to be a verbal contract!
Not to mention, a written contract!
WE HAD AGREED!
Reluctantly, I have conceded into adding a few other girl names onto the list. After all, it is his child, too. But, you better believe that I am not done fighting that battle! I’ve even run the name by his whole family and everyone thinks that it’s lovely… I hold out hope that he will come around, too.
Naturally, friends and coworkers have all asked for the top picks, too. I don’t mind sharing, as I don’t know anyone else that’s pregnant that might “steal” our names (and even if they did, I don’t really care. It wouldn’t stop me from naming my child what I choose.) But I’m not going to share them here yet, not until they are official. As I said, I find the naming process to be an absolute delight—but, also, a very personal one.
This is how I’ve come discover an interesting pet peeve of mine, though. One that I never would have predicted would irk me and one that I can’t really rationalize as anything other than a weird quirk of mine. A couple of coworkers have thought it would be cute to take our top two names, the one for a boy (let’s say it’s John, though it’s not) and the one for a girl (let’s say it’s Mary), and now when they ask how I am, they will also say, “And how is baby John?” Or “how is baby Mary today?”
And, I honest to God cannot explain why this bothers me. But it does! Maybe it’s because those names haven’t officially been chosen yet? And because I find the naming process still too personal? It’s like they are invading somehow, I don’t know how to explain it. But I know I don’t like it!
I was venting to a friend about this one day and she said, “Well, maybe it’s a good thing that you hear the name aloud and you know you don’t like it. So you can cross it off your list.”
But, the thing is, I still DO like the name! I just don’t like it when THEY say it! How odd is that?
Now, it’s not just first names that are being decided here though, folks. Still up for debate is the last name. I’m one of those women that never understood why I should automatically take a man’s last name, no questions asked. I'm not knocking anyone that does...I am just quite attached to my last name! After all, it’s been a part of my identity for my whole life. So, when my husband and I married, I kept it. He never even asked me to change it, which is one of the many reasons he is wonderful.
What makes him even more wonderful is that he has always said he would consider taking my last name should we have children. As I’ve mentioned, he has many male relatives to pass on his family name. Whereas I just have the one brother left that could do so and he has vowed to never procreate. My husband and I agree that we want to share the same surname as our children. Of course, I don’t consider that a necessity for every family, it’s just our personal preference. And, because my husband is amazing, he has said that he isn’t really attached to his name and wouldn’t mind taking mine. Lots of people have tried talking us into hyphenating. But, both of our last names are foreign and hard to spell and pronounce and, honestly, to combine them just seems a cruel thing to do to a kid. So, the last name debate is still on the table!
To be honest, I probably will take his name. But it has meant so much to me that A) I was never forced and B) that he actually considered taking mine. When it is a choice and not something that’s just “what you do,” I find it a very invigorating and romantic notion. Forced into it, I would have felt like I was being stripped of my identity. But, since it’s my decision and not a prerequisite, I won’t lie I actually love the idea. It’s the uniting of families. The formation of our own.
In other news, I have finally begun nesting! I feel like I’m a late bloomer to the nesting party, but I’m finally at that stage. It’s one of those strange phases that’s easy to tease when you’re not pregnant, but then when you are… It does just kind of click like a switch one day and you feel this urge to PREPARE!
If it were up to my husband, he would have put everything off until a month or two before the baby was born. But, he was sweet and he obliged me. So, we finally got a crib and a changing table for the baby’s room. After searching everywhere for a new one, the best one was a two-in-one combo that we saw used on Facebook marketplace. It’s still in like-new condition and it’s a nice dark wood. It makes me happy every time I enter the room. I had originally wanted to get a convertible crib that could eventually become a toddler’s bed. But, honestly, this was too good of a price to pass up.
Except, now I feel the urge to do more!
My dad has cautioned me against going on a buying spree. He keeps insisting that loads will be bought for us at the baby shower and I need to wait.
But, I find it hard to rely on others’ generosity. It seems counterintuitive somehow.
Besides, I still can’t quite wrap my head around how it’s not rude to put high-priced items on your baby registry.
I have serious doubts that anyone is going to spend several hundred dollars on a high-chair or a stroller.
But, I have been told by countless people that “this is how it’s done”… so, gulp, we shall see.
It’s just that I am one of those doers. If I need something, I get it myself. If something has to be done, I just do it. There’s no point waiting for someone else to fix it for you when you can just go ahead and fix it on your own. So I’m not used to this… Not only asking for, but expecting, handouts.
But, if I can’t go out and get the rest of the main “big” stuff, I want to think of other things I can do to prepare in the meantime. It’ll be a long time yet before my shower and, as I have mentioned a few times, I am not a patient person!
Do you have any suggestions? What are some things that I could get or make or do to help prepare for the baby NOW? I need advice, please, I’m going nesting stir-crazy over here!
photo by Ben Wicks
I’m officially 19 weeks pregnant, almost halfway there!! It is crazy to me how slowly the first trimester went and now how quickly the second is flying by! We get to find out the gender next week, which is incredibly exciting. But it’s brought up a lot of, um, interesting conversations.
First of all, whether or not you decide to know the gender, it is your choice. I had assumed that was kind of a common-held opinion nowadays...? But, apparently it’s not!
As the saying goes, there's no wrong way to eat a Reese's (sorry, I couldn't resist!)
If you like the mystery, I applaud your fortitude!
If you don’t and you’ve just got to know, I feel you…
For me, I have zero motivation in knowing the gender except for genuine curiosity and just an altogether lack of patience. I couldn’t possibly wait another 21 weeks to find out! Also, it will be nice to finally narrow down our list of names.
But, interesting for me, has been to find people’s reactions when I tell them we will soon be discovering what’s been cooking in there. From strangers at the DOT to cashiers at the bank to coworkers, pretty much everyone has a similar reaction: “Oh, how else can you decorate the baby’s room?”
So, a few things here. First, I am not going to knock anyone whose motivation in finding out the gender is for decoration. Everyone is different! Nesting takes on a different form for each of us and it's an important process for a lot of women; it helps us feel closer to our little one and to prepare for the big changes ahead.
Some people also like using the gender-reveal as an excuse to throw a party. I am not one of those people as I find hosting more stressful than it is enjoyable, but if that’s you—have fun with it! I hear so much hate about gender-reveal parties... loads of friends have told me, "please don't throw one; they're gross." But so what if wanted to? That's my choice! (Just please refrain from using pipe-bombs, which is a surprisingly weird new trend... that's my only bit of advice!)
Whatever you want to do to celebrate this baby and help prepare for it--whatever makes you happy--that's what you should do!
BUT, I always resent when people make assumptions.
Their first assumption being that of course I am going to decorate the room.
Why is that a must?
I have been of the opinion that the baby will not care if its walls are white, pink, blue, or yellow. I always want to respond by saying, “I was thinking of painting the walls white.”
Their second assumption is that decorations have to be gendered.
Haven’t we gotten passed this as a society?
Girls can like blue, boys can like pink… When I say this to people, it is inevitably met with, “Oh, I know! I mean, you can always do a gender neutral. Yellow is nice.”
THAT IS NOT MY POINT!!
This is one of many reasons why gender roles are so constricting… they are just colors, people! And, in my opinion, babies don’t care!
Now, if you want to paint your little girl’s room pink or your baby boy’s room blue—all the power to you! I am not saying that there is something wrong with that. I am just saying that there should not be this preconceived rule that it’s a given. And I find it odd that so many people not only assume that it is, but project their assumptions onto strangers.
So far, my preparation of the baby’s room has been to remove all of my things and find new spaces to put them. The spare room, till now, has pretty much just been my walk-in closet.
People seem appalled that I haven’t done anything more yet. I’ve heard quite a few jokes about how millennials always put things off.
But, again, they are assuming that of course I will be doing more.
I just figured I would stick a crib and a changing table in there and, voila, it’s a baby’s room!
I was recently discussing this with a friend who works in pre-K education and she suggested using wall decals as a fun alternative to painting.
I still resent the notion that I HAVE to do anything to the walls, but I’m not immune to the idea that adding a little something might be fun. So, I have opted in for some wall stickers.
And, later in life, perhaps our child can choose the color they want their room to be and we can paint it together. That way, it can be a fun memory for us both. (It’ll definitely be a lot more fun when I’m not pregnant and the fumes won’t give me a headache, that’s for sure!)
But, something funny happened when I was discussing this with my husband.
I mentioned the idea of wall decals to him and he was like, “Well, of course we are going to do something that like. I was thinking stars and moons with little smiley faces.”
So, one thing you should know about my husband is that he is very sarcastic. And not AT ALL into decorating. He usually leaves all of that stuff up to me and will weigh in with either a “yay” or a “nay,” but, even then, only if he feels very strongly on the issue.
So, when I heard this, I was like, “Okay, now you’re just making fun of me.”
“Not at all,” he insisted. “We weren’t just going to leave its walls white like a serial killer’s bedroom.”
I have been laughing about this for days. I am sure it's funnier for me than for anyone else, but honestly I couldn't believe it! Firstly, I never would have guessed that my husband, of ALL people, would have such strong feelings about this! And second, because I guess that he, too, is against white walls for a baby—go figure!
So we have opted for a jungle theme. Boys and girls can equally like the outdoors and animals, after all. (Not that girls can’t like space stations and boys unicorns, of course.) There will be monkeys swinging from vines around the ceiling and big palm trees with a variety of jungle animals spread around the walls. I am looking forward to putting these up. I think it will be very cute.
In any case, I just wanted to share this with you. Perhaps as a cautionary tale not to make assumptions. And maybe as a reassurance to any of those out there who, like me, weren’t planning on a huge decoration...it's always nice to know when you are not alone.
Whatever we decide to do, that’s the right choice for us and our baby.
And at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks so long as we are happy with it.
Just don’t assume that what you choose to do is what others will want as well.
As always, please do share your experiences with me... Did you decorate your baby's room? Did you receive any outside pressure? I would love to hear from you!
I’ll be sure to let you all know next week once we found out if it’s a boy or a girl! Stay tuned.
I'm Kelsey! Proud Iowan native, world traveler, writer, wife to the most incredible husband, and now soon to be mother