Goodbye / Hello – A Tummy Timeline

Warning:  This post contains a large dose of whining, a pinch of self-loathing, and a heaping spoonful of hormones.  Read at your own risk.  

Today’s post is in honor of National Love Your Belly Day! Actually I have no idea if that’s a real “day” or not, but it sounded good, right?  Fake day aside, I was feeling a bit down in the dumps about my lovely lady lump-iness (aka my post-baby body) when I went swimsuit shopping recently. You see, having a chronic illness had already prepared me for what it feels like to be a captive in my own body.  When you live with an illness you feel neither in control nor certain. Yet one thing was always for sure, though: when I went shopping, I never had to try anything on. I was always a small.  Pregnancy changed that.

Not that I would ever be bold enough to step outside of the dressing room

Not that I would ever be bold enough to step outside of the dressing room

But let’s take it back a little. Because you didn’t just wake up with this body one day. It took nine months to expand and seemingly a lifetime to learn how to deal with it after. Remember a time, before the embarrassing dressing room meltdowns, to the time right when your body was beginning to change? I call it the ‘it’s not a food baby’ stage. This is probably just me, but I found myself to be incredibly weirded out by my no-longer flat stomach. I was so unfamiliar with this that I felt the desperate need to constantly tell people that it was a human baby, not a food baby. People would laugh it off or say I was silly, but I saw their judgmental eyes looking at my poochy tummy.

The subtle art of the "side eye"

The subtle art of the “side eye”

Then FINALLY my stomach went from being a behind-your-back conversation starter (is she pregnant?) to being a legitimate baby bump! It was just so cute and I loved showing it off all the time. “Oh this?  Yeah, it’s my super adorable baby bump. No big deal.” And as my baby bump grew, so did my confidence. Aside from the unending nausea and chronic aches and pains, there were distinct moments of that pregnancy glow I’d heard so much about!  Or maybe I was just shiny and sweaty from all that puking. But still! This was a good time for my baby bump and me!

YAAAASSS

YAAAASSS

Just as I started to hit my peak of awesomeness, a beached whale began replacing me in the mirror. My bump wasn’t a bump anymore; it was a mountain. And then there were all the lovely things that came with my growing stomach: swollen ankles, puffy feet, and cottage cheese (aka cellulite) started showing up in unexpected places. I even swore my armpits got fatter.  I have no scientific proof of this, but since it was the one place I could still shave without pulling a muscle, I became quite familiar with it. And let me just say, the shaves got trickier because my arm”pits” were more like arm”lumpy-waterbeds.” Maybe that was TMI, but you can’t honestly tell me that as you entered those final weeks of pregnancy you didn’t become crazy analytical of your body. With it being a high risk pregnancy, I was practically helping the doctor by being so focused on my ever-changing shape – even if it meant I was constantly breaking myself down in the process.

Mirror Meltdown Amnesia is quite normal

“Mirror Meltdown Amnesia” is quite normal

I remember thinking to myself that things would start to go back to “normal” once the baby was born. I’d be able to sleep on my stomach again (ha, sleep, how naive I was) and wear things besides flowing dresses and stretchy leggings. I also remember looking down immediately after being cleared to leave recovery, seeing a mushy blob of a stomach, and crying. Logically I knew that my stomach wasn’t going to be firm and flat. Reason told me that no one would judge me for still wearing maternity pants. But logic and reason mean nothing to the hormonal brain of a woman with low self-esteem. Everyone even told me that I looked good for just having had a baby. They’re just being polite, I told myself. Only I knew the real truth. Only I knew what my stomach really felt like. My body was “home” and my stomach was an uninvited stranger. How was I back to my pre-pregnancy weight, yet the muscles felt like they had been spread apart? My skin now felt uncomfortably soft and malleable.

Pity Town population me

Pity Town population: me

Want to know the shocking twist ending to this blog post?  I’m not going to say that one day I woke up and there were rainbows and sunshine everywhere. I won’t say that I walked out of the store with a brand new, super cute bikini. I won’t lie to you or myself and say I am in love with and proud of my body. It’s a work in progress. I remind myself that my body, my “home,” also became the nurturing home to my son. I also remind myself that things could have been so much worse during the pregnancy and even afterwards. I feel shame, sometimes, for being so superficial. Yet I feel comforted when I open up, like I am now, and find that other mothers – women I deemed flawless – have the same struggles. So let’s get back out on the beach and start taking full-length selfies again. We should share our battle scars, talk about the Play-Doh tummies we have, and make a safe neighborhood for our “homes.”

10 Things No One Tells You About C-Sections

Ah, the c-section. Whether it’s the iconic film scene of an alien bursting out of some poor chap’s torso or a picture of medieval torture in a history book, the images that come to mind when discussing c-sections are not usually happy ones. Let’s be honest: you’re getting major surgery, taking a tiny human out of a bigger human, and are (most likely) going to be awake for it all. So if anyone tries to dismiss your right to be a little antsy, well I won’t say what to do for legal reasons, but you get the idea. This isn’t meant to scare you, of course. But I always thought that the unknown was the scariest thing. At least if someone had told me what was going to happen during the c-section, I’d know what to expect. So that’s what I’m going to do for you. Here are all the gross, scary, awkward things that will happen before, during, and immediately after your c-section!

 

10. Paperwork & Red Tape

Even if you thought you were super smart and preregistered with your hospital prior to giving birth, there will still be paperwork to fill out and red tape to deal with for a solid twenty minutes. We arrived nice and early to our scheduled c-section, yet when we checked in at the desk (after my impromptu puke session in the parking lot bushes), they didn’t have my name right and had me listed with a different OBGYN. But we perma-sickies are used to knowing more than the hospital staff, aren’t we?

You better listen when I'm talking to you

You better listen when I’m talking to you

9. You Will be All Sorts of Exposed

I knew my c-section wasn’t exactly going to be a fun getaway to Club Med (that’s still a thing, right?), but I didn’t expect to feel so much like a patient and not a person. That’s no reflection on the staff, it’s just the nature of the beast. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity in the lobby, my husband and I were taken back to our room where I was told to change. No undies or socks or jewelry, just a gown and a a gross hair net. Then a nurse came in and shaved my lady area and acted like it was a totally normal thing to do. This was my introduction to how matter of fact the staff would be about all the private and embarrassing aspects of the ordeal. In some ways it was reassuring, but at the end of the day it’s still very awkward when someone is silently shaving you.

Do I make eye contact? Is that rude?

Do I make eye contact? Or is that rude?

8. You Will be Alone… a lot

After the grooming session was over, I was told my husband would have to leave and no one would be allowed back in until the surgery was about to begin. Suddenly I was alone, just waiting for a nurse to come in, and full of time to daydream about all the things that could go wrong. Even after the pre-op stuff started, it’s still just you and a handful of people.  Technically they had more people on staff than usual as a precaution for my high-risk pregnancy risks, but without a loved one there you still feel very alone… and nervous.

becoolbecoolbecoolbecoolbecool

becoolbecoolbecoolbecoolbecool

7. Yak City, Sick, Yak Yak City

Okay, my not-so clever spin on a line from a rap song may not be funny. But you know what is funny? Telling the nurse like nine hundred times that you’re GOING to puke, have them nod but do nothing, and then letting a glorious waterfall of vomit wash over them. It didn’t feel great, but a small part of me thought “maybe next time you’ll listen to me when I say I’m about to upchuck.”

Deal with it

Deal with it

The actual point of this entry is to warn you that you will definitely puke at some point. It may be when they’re poking or prodding or it may be when your internal organs suddenly shift as they finagle a human out of you. Which brings me to my next point…

6. Lines and Wires and Garishness, Oh My!

Second time in a row I’ve tried to be punny, but whatever, it’s who I am! Aaanyways, no one really told me the frequency with which people would simultaneously be both in and making holes in my body. First there was the three-attempt IV in my arm (EDS makes for lousy veins), then there was the two-attempt spinal block (scoliosis doesn’t help much), and then there’s the fact that someone has their hands INSIDE of you. It’s like the dentist, “You won’t feel pain, just pressure.” Yeah, right. I didn’t feel the scalpel but it felt like someone was sitting on my chest AND pushing my stomach and lungs up into my throat.

gross-out-gif

Yup, pretty much

5. So… c-c-cold… might… die

Another one I wasn’t warned about, surprise! Not only will you be freezing due to lack of clothing, but they keep the operating room super sterile and apparently that is synonymous with ARCTIC. Oh, and the spinal block. Unlike a vaginal birth, you have no choice about whether or not to use some kind of anesthesia. And spinal blocks give you this horrible sensation of internal cold and uncontrollable trembling. Super fun symptoms to have when you’re puking while horizontal. But the cold! Maybe it’s just me, but being freezing cold with nothing to do about it was ridiculously aggravating. It helped to imagine this, though:

Oh, Vince, you do go on

Oh, Vince, you do go on

4. Here Comes Baby!

Nothing can really prepare you for the big moment. Most of the things they don’t tell you about c-sections are negative, but this is a rare positive surprise! I cannot put into words the mixture of intense emotions that surged through me when the big moment arrived. I was extremely relieved he was healthy, so excited to meet the little thing that was once smaller than a blueberry inside me, in awe of the fragility of this new life, nervous that I wasn’t going to be a good enough mom, and just blown away that this HUMAN came out of ME!

It really is!

It really is!

3. Alone Again, Naturally

I may be in my late twenties, but I love me some melancholy 70s music. As Gilbert O’Sullivan so poignantly states, “Reality came around.  And without so much as a mere touch, cut me into little pieces.” Except I was cut just once, maybe six inches wide. Boy, did reality come around, though. After the awesome moment that you hear your baby’s first cry (of many), you are on your own again. I wanted to do the “natural” c-section thing, but with my severe shaking and unstoppable, frequent vomiting, they couldn’t bring the baby near me. So off he was carted, my husband went with him, and I was alone on the table getting stitched up. I guess I should have figured this, but the “finishing up” portion of the c-section took about forty-five minutes and was much longer compared to the “pre-baby coming out” part. Emotions were running high, I just wanted to be with my baby, but this is one you just have to endure.

OH THE FEELS

OH THE FEELS

2. EXIT ONLY!

Warning: TMI ahead.

Pee-pee holes, as adults often call them, are meant for one thing and one thing only: to let urine out of your body. In other words, it is an exit only. This is why I hate catheters and do not like when grumpy nurses with cold hands wake me up and fiddle with a tube in my sensitive area.

Excuse me?!

Excuse me?!

Oh you thought the c-section was the end of people all up in your nether regions? Haha, nope! You will be woken up just as much, if not more, by the hospital staff than your own baby to check out your “stuff.” P.S. you don’t get to wear underwear for a while. You’ll lay on a doggy pee-pad while Carrie-sized amounts of blood just pour out for way too long. I thought that since it wasn’t a vaginal birth, it was normal down there. False. You’ve just had a baby taken out of you (a significant trauma) and the blood has to go somewhere. So expect your “exits” to still be examined for a while after the surgery.

1. You Want Me to Do WHA?

Hey you know how you just had a baby and you’re super achy but have somehow managed to muster what little strength you have to care for your baby? Well now they want you to freaking WALK. The audacity! They stress the importance of getting vertical and walking, and I get it, but does it have to be so soon?

Not an option, bro

Not an option, bro

Apparently, yes. You really do need to get up and walk. In the end, walking when I did – and doing it often – significantly helped with the healing process and getting my bowels moving. Trust me, do not underestimate the value of getting your tummy factory up and running again!

 

So there you have it: ten things that you probably didn’t know about the whole c-section process. Some parts of the experience are super unpleasant, some are just awkward, but in the end you get an incredible reward: your very own baby! Its resale value is slightly less now that it’s out of the original packaging, though. (GET IT?) But for real, I’d do it all again (maybe take a few more stool softeners) because nothing compares to the moment when you look into your baby’s eyes for the first time. Oh, geesh, where’s my Kleenex?

C-Section Checklist

We’re gonna hop in a little time machine here and go back to the frantic days leading up to THE BIG DAY.  Everyone was telling me the “must haves” I needed for the c-section.  But some of them just sounded downright silly.  Like, who is actually going to need to bring their make-up bag nonetheless have time to apply it?  The answer is no one, by the way.  No one has time to be model pretty and if they say they do, they are either lying or some kind of future alien thing.  So as if I didn’t have enough things on my mind – is the house ready? will the baby like the nursery? what if I fart during the c-section??? – I had yet to do anything that even closely resembled packing.  Time management isn’t really my “thing.”

Basically me everyday of ever

Basically me everyday of ever

So, without further ado, because my rambling and tangents could theoretically go on forever, here is a (mostly) foolproof packing checklist for your c-section and hospital stay:

For Just You:

  • Pajama type or loose fitting dresses.  Having a tight waistband pressing on your incision is Guantanamo-level torture
  • Some hospitals will provide socks with little grippy things on the bottom, some will not.  If they don’t, I highly suggest bringing a pair or two, because slipping on a cold hospital floor after major surgery isn’t super fun
  • Maternity bras (plus nursing pads) and really comfy undies.  Some ladies like to go the low-cut route (so it doesn’t touch the incision) some like high-waisted undies (because it feels like it keeps everything “in”).  It’s dealers choice
  • Your own pillow(s) and blanket(s).  Not only are hospital pillows flat and oddly noisy, but hospital blankets are thinner than truck stop bathroom toilet paper.  And that’s saying something
I just want to be warm and slee-hee-hee-heep

I just want to be warm and slee-hee-hee-heep

  • If you’re breastfeeding, bring your own pillow and cover and other paraphernalia because most hospitals will only provide a hospital-grade pump
  • LOTS OF HEADBANDS.  Between puking, sweating, tossing and turning in bed, and other things, you do not want to deal with hair in your face
  • This is a big one!  The hospital room I was in had a shower with washcloths and towels, but no shampoo or soap.  Also, even if you’re not going to breastfeed, your body will still be producing colostrum (aka liquid gold) AND your baby needs to smell you, pheromones and all.  So BRING YOUR OWN SOAP.  Use something unscented and gentle so as not to confuse your baby’s Basset Hound-like scent receptors.  Oh, and Q-tips.  Bring Q-tips because water in the ear is super annoying.

For the Baby:

  • Note:  Thankfully you won’t actually need to bring much for your baby during your hospital stay.  In between hospital staff and visitors, there will be an ample supply of diapers, beanies, bottles, formula, and everything else for your little one
  • Going-home outfit.  It’s up to you if you esteem fashion over ease, but remember that your baby is floppy, fragile, and impatient
  • Receiving/swaddling blankets.  ASK FOR TIPS from your nurse on how to make a nice little baby burrito because swaddling is not as easy as it looks
This is a fairly accurate equivalent of trying to swadde a baby

This is a fairly accurate equivalent of trying to swadde a baby

  • Mittens are a must because babies just love trying to scratch themselves and simultaneously gouge their eyes out with their tiny, angry fingernails
  • Grooming kit type things and pacifiers are optional again based on what your local hospital will/won’t provide

For your Partner:

  • Note:  Your partner’s sole job is to hold on to and take care of all the things you don’t have time for, just being honest.  With that said, the following items are less about things to keep your partner comfy and more about keeping your life stress-free
  • Facial toner.  This was a Godsend because I didn’t have the time/energy to wash my face yet I still felt like I had spent 13 hours over a fast-food fryer.  The toner not only let me feel refreshed but I didn’t even have to get out of bed!
  • IDs, insurance cards, and any other paperwork your hospital or doctors require
  • Camera (or SmartPhone) for all the necessary pictures you need to take.  I don’t care if people say all newborns look the same, I want pictures, gosh darnit!
  • Chargers and batteries!  This one CANNOT be stressed enough, people
  • Cash for vending machines, valet, or any other services that don’t accept cards (which, surprisingly, is a lot!)
  • Here’s one I didn’t think would be important but I’m so glad I brought – BAGS.  Bags for dirty laundry, supplies the hospital gives you to take home, gifts visitors bring, paperwork from your doctor/nurse, and everything else that will come your way.  Believe me, you will leave for the hospital thinking you are fully packed but then you will go home looking like a Canadian experiencing Disney for the first time.  No offense.
Be careful or this could be you

Be careful or this could be you!

Hope this checklist helps or at least gives you a guideline for packing!  Up next is a post about all the “wonderful” things they don’t tell you about getting a c-section!  Hang in there, though, ladies; you can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel (insert vaginal birth jokes).

5 Stages of The Countdown

We’ve all heard of the 5 stages of grief, and for many high-risk mamas out there, the countdown to your little one’s birth can feel very similar.  You’re excited but terrified, ready for this pregnancy to be over but not sure what will happen when it ends, and the ever-present hormones are wreaking havoc on your sanity.  With less than a week to go until the “Big Day,” here are some of the roller coaster emotions I’ve been going through.

1. Denial

Maybe if I just don’t think about it, I can delay labor indefinitely?  I mean, that sounds pretty logical, right?  It seems like the closer I get to the big day, the more people want to tell me about all the scary aspects of labor, delivery, and the first few weeks home with a newborn.  Apparently it’s considered rude to just plug my ears and run away?

My usual response these days

My usual response these days

So I’ve buried my head in the sand.  Sand takes many forms, though.  It can take the form of binge-watching my favorite shows on Netflix, spending (too much) time on Etsy/Pinterest, or starting laborious arts and crafts projects.  All of which seem completely acceptable.  And worst comes to worst, I’ll just cross my legs really hard and keep the little bugger in there until I’m really ready.

2. ANGERRR!

WHAT?  You mean I can’t just cross my legs and will the baby to stay inside until I’m ready???  Preposterous!  Facing the inevitability of the situation can drive anyone to anger.  I thought I was already used to the whole “lack of control” thing when it came to my health and this pregnancy, but with time slipping through my fingers, I just wanted to yell and yell until something happened.

Yup, this is happening

Yup, this is happening

Maybe it’s because I’m pregnant, but nothing feels as good as “Angreating.”  Yes I made this word up.  It’s a combo of angry and eating, and it means exactly what you think it does.  You’re mad, feel like you’re out of options, so you pick up that tray of Oreos and just start shoving ’em in.  So feel free to shout “I’M ANGREATING!” when your significant other fearfully asks what you’re doing surrounded by Dove chocolate wrappers.

3. Bargaining

Okay, okay, you’re right.  I went a little overboard there, covered in Doritos dust and shame.  So if I start reigning in my crazy just a tad, perhaps the Universe can do me one teensy tiny little solid with this whole labor and delivery thing?  Shall I resort to yelling again until I can convince the world to cut me some slack?

This is my mantra as of late

This is my mantra as of late

I’m sure there has been some point in the middle of the night when you can’t find a comfy position, your hips are about to disintegrate, your mind is racing with WebMD photos of c-sections, and now you have to pee, that you have called out to a Higher Power for some kind of relief.  Don’t feel embarrassed, we’ve all been there, desperately offering up whatever we can think of in exchange for a shred of sanity.

4. Depression

Clearly bargaining doesn’t work, you’ve eaten all the cookies, and there is no sand left in which to bury your burdened little head.  Oh don’t mind me, I’m just going to spend the rest of my days in bed, staring at the wall, wondering where it all went wrong.  Sigh.

This is my life now

This is my life now

And according to all the forums on baby/pregnancy websites, I’m undoubtedly going to be the worst mother ever.  Perfect.  With only a handful of days until my baby is here, the reality of the situation has moved to the unbearable stage.  In less than a week, a tiny human is going to be completely dependent on me for survival, and I can’t even manage to work up the necessary energy to put on pants.

5. Acceptance

If I’m being completely honest, I haven’t fully embraced this stage yet.  I am optimistic, though.  What I’ve realized is that, whether I cross my legs or not, this baby is coming.  While it may be easy to just sit around (pantless) and eat my feelings, that’s not going to change the situation.

It sure is!

It sure is!

Alright ladies, the big day is indeed approaching!  So let’s try to put all the unsettling thoughts and unwelcome advice on the back burner and focus on really taking advantage of every moment leading up to the minute you get to meet your baby!  Get your partner or family or friends to help you with any last minute errands, treat yourself to something you’ve been putting off, and rest up mama!  GET READY FOR LIFE!!!

Holiday Hullabaloo

It’s a week til Christmas and the Holiday Hullabaloo is in full swing!  Isn’t hullabaloo such a great word?  Technically it means “a clamorous disturbance.”  So yeah, the holidays are a temperamental blend of being enjoyable yet chaotic.  Add a high-risk pregnancy to the mix, and keeping your sanity can quickly become a real struggle.  Here are some tips on how to gracefully handle survive the season.

Lower Those Expectations

Even in my pre-pregnancy life, I was never one for big, fancy Christmas parties.  The schmoozing, forced mingling, and awkward moments of silence with party goers you don’t know always gave me an uneasy feeling.  I will say this, though, I have perfected the fake laugh for when a saucy uncle or drunk coworker makes a lame or inappropriate joke.

Really? Did you just say that?

Really? Did you just say that?

So when you’re preparing yourself to either host or attend a holiday party, don’t freak yourself out by anticipating the worst.  Remember that if people know you’re pregnant or have health issues, the only thing that’s expected of you is to answer cliche questions (“So are you excited?”), ignore weird comments (“Enjoy this party, ’cause fun is over after the baby comes!”), and dodge the belly-rubbers.  Don’t hold yourself to unrealistic standards and don’t let anyone give you a hard time about it.  They should just be happy you’re wearing pants.

Let It Go (don’t take it personally)

When people make offensive remarks, treat you differently, or otherwise cause you to feel uncomfortable, try not to let it get under your skin.  The sucky part is, most of the time it’s those closest to us that can say the (unintentionally) worst things.  While your partner, in-laws, and best friend may mean well, a simple “You don’t seem like yourself; you were acting weird at the party,” can cut deep.  Your hormones are at an all-time high, so even the most innocent observation made by a loved one can make you feel like you’re a high-risk pregnancy alien.

Buster knows how I feel

Buster knows how I feel

So while dignity and grace may seem like qualities of the past, a little poise can go a long way.  Sure it’s hard to muster a diplomatic smile when your pelvis feels like it’s slowly being crushed into oblivion, but flipping out on your aunt for saying it looks like you’re smuggling a watermelon isn’t exactly keeping in the holiday spirit.  Trust me, as awkward and weird as you feel about all the changes happening to your body and psyche, those around you are grappling with how to connect with this different and new you, too.  Cut everyone the same slack that you would like them to give to you.

Accept Help & Take Shortcuts

Yes, you are superwoman.  No, you don’t need to prove it.  Put down the casserole dish, slowly back away, and nobody gets hurt.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: bravery and pride are not the same thing.  You may be like me and you don’t want to admit to yourself that you are no longer able to do the things you once did.  Or you may be like thousands of other mothers who have fallen victim to the expectation that pregnant women should be able to “do it all” and better look good while doing it, too.

Thank you, Society.

Thanks a lot, Society.

With so much on your plate already, joyfully accept any and all help offered to you during the holiday season.  And don’t feel bad if this year your pumpkin pie is of the Sara Lee variety.  Be vocally appreciative when someone provides assistance and remember that help comes in many forms.  It can be tangible, like a home-cooked meal, or it can be something meaningful like running an errand for you or just giving you a shoulder to cry on when you realize that cute dress doesn’t fit you anymore.

Comfort is Key

Speaking of clothes that don’t fit anymore, for the love of all that is good and holy, don’t squish yourself into an uncomfortable festive frock for appearances’ sake.  I made the mistake of cramming myself into a pair of stockings for a holiday occasion.  Granted, they were really really cute stockings, but after fifteen minutes of yoga-like positions trying to get them on, the end result was that my pudgy preggo legs looked like they were stuffed into very sad sausage casings.  I also forgot that, as a living human, I would eventually need to eat.  I’m truly surprised my stockings didn’t spontaneously burst.

Sweet potato casserole with marshmallow topping!!!

Sweet potato casserole with marshmallow topping!!!

Needless to say, after I peeled off my stockings, I promised my poor body I would never subject it to such cruel abuse and torture ever again.  Now, a sparkly headband is the extent to which I choose to express my holiday cheer.  Dresses or over-sized tops and sweaters paired with stretchy leggings will be your best friend during this season.  You’re already in enough discomfort with your pregnancy and health issues, so don’t make it harder on yourself by sporting high heels and painfully tight attire.

Emotions… OH GAWD THEY’RE EVERYWHERE!

If you haven’t already, you will at some point inexplicably cry over something that isn’t actually that sad.  The holidays will put your emotions to the test.  Now I’ve never been particularly maternal or girly, so the sensation I felt when watching a Kohl’s holiday commercial where a young couple secretly decorates an elderly widow’s apartment seemed foreign and strange.  “Are my eyes leaking?  What’s happening?!” I thought to myself.  But I soon found out that this was totally normal and even non-pregnant humans tear up when evil marketing execs concoct intentionally sad commercials designed to render you emotionally vulnerable and more inclined to buy their products.  My emotions were all over the place in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Yup, pretty much

Yup, pretty much

So try not to be embarrassed if you find yourself getting weepy at the dinner table when relatives are reminiscing about a loved one.  Or you could even get emotional over something really trivial and that’s normal, too.  I had a minor breakdown when I not only couldn’t get my turtleneck on, but then I got stuck and couldn’t get it off either.  My husband’s laughter only made my rage induced blubbering swell even more.  Try not to get hung up on the negative side of the emotional roller coaster.  Remember that the holidays are a time of love, celebration, and really awesome food.  Enjoy the moment (and take plenty of leftovers).

I’ve Got the C-Section Blues

First off, apologies for the gap in posts.  As I’m sure any mom or mom-to-be out there knows, sometimes life happens and things can quickly get overwhelming – especially during the Holiday season!  All that aside, I wanted to write a post today about my impending c-section.  It wasn’t by choice, but that doesn’t make it a pill any easier to swallow.  So here’s the candid, raw look into the sometimes messy world of a caesarean section birth.

You are not alone

Michael Jackson had at least one thing right.  No matter how odd I thought something was in this pregnancy, after a little searching I would always find that I was not the only one having that experience.  Recently, I’ve been struggling with having to get a c-section.  In some weird way I felt like less of a “real woman” because I can’t give birth to my son the way the good Lord intended.

Sometimes you need a good snap

Sometimes you need a good snap

At the admonishment of many of my much saner friends, I very quickly realized that having a c-section in no way changes the status of your womanhood.  Some of the ways in which I’ve heard women describe a c-section: cop-out, quitting, failure, last resort, giving up, losing the race, have to throw in the towel, etc.  All of these words just create a cage in which we women put ourselves.  You and I are not wrong for having these feelings and moments of doubt, but we are not correct in giving them validity.   You are doing and have done everything in your power to make sure that this pregnancy is as healthy as possible.  So don’t beat yourself up in the homestretch.

No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus

This would be the most accurate way to describe what it felt like when I was told that my connective tissue disorder (and frequent hip dislocations) would prohibit me from having a natural birth.  Part of me was like, “Bones?  Who needs those?  I can totally have a baby naturally!  No pain, no gain, right doc?!”  My doctor did not find my jokes (or my overcompensating nervous laughter) very funny.  Whatever, his loss, I’m a freaking genius comedian.  But honestly, behind the awkward sweaty smile was a kid who just found out Santa was really a middle-aged, pillow-wearing, wino just looking to make some fast cash at the mall.

Sometimes you just need a minute

Sometimes you just need a minute

One of this biggest reasons why I was having a freak out session was that I just had this very clinical, impersonal image of what a c-section was in my head.  This is my first pregnancy, and I honestly don’t know if it will be my only pregnancy.  So I want the birthing experience to be meaningful, special, and something I will be able to look back on fondly.  But to me, getting a c-section was reminiscent of the time when the DJ played the wrong entrance song for me and my husband at our wedding.  Sure the rest of the day was amazing and it was an awesome ceremony, but anytime anyone brings up the awkward moment when the song from “Beverly Hills Cop” inexplicably started playing, I can’t help but cringe.

Plans are for the crazy and the naive

Sometimes I happen to fall into both of those categories.  If you know me, you know I love nothing more than planning and projects.  But just like clockwork, I would find with alarming consistency that my well-intentioned plans never seemed to work.  I would drive myself bonkers trying to make my pregnancy look and feel like how I thought it was supposed to be.  Okay, so maybe it takes me a little longer than most to admit defeat when a plan just isn’t working.  But c’mon, when so little is in our control during a high-risk pregnancy, is it really so bad if we lose it from time to time when things don’t go the way we wanted?

So help me, I will make this work!!

So help me, I will make this work!!

 Allowing myself a mini pity party when I found out I couldn’t have the natural birth I wanted was actually one of the best things I could have done.  I let myself be bummed, and then I shifted my attention to regrouping and adjusting my plans.  It still gave me something to focus on.  If I had just smushed down my disappointment and slapped on a shiny, happy veneer, you can bet good money that a small town could easily be destroyed by the ensuing floods when my emotional dam inevitably ruptured.  So don’t ignore feeling let down, but don’t let it consume you either.  No one wants the deaths of imaginary townspeople on their conscience.

C-Section ≠ Meaningless

At the direction of a good friend, I discovered the wonderful world of family-centered, natural caesarean birth!  Though it is still more common in Europe than at home here in the States, it is gaining popularity.  And why shouldn’t it?  Every mother deserves to have the birthing experience she wants.  In the natural c-section, just a few minor changes allow for a more personal mood in an otherwise cold and clinical setting.  They do thinks like placing the IV in the non-dominant arm, putting the ECG dots on the shoulders, ribs, and back to leave the chest area clear, delivering the baby more slowly (mimicking the pressure from the vagina) to squeeze out liquid from the lungs, lowering the screen when the baby is delivered, delayed cord-clamping, and getting the baby onto the mother’s skin as soon as possible.  This is what my husband and I want, but it’s not for everyone.  The point I want to make here, though, is that you don’t have to give up your vision when you must have a c-section.  With the exception of sudden medical emergencies, most doctors will be surprisingly open to your desired birthing experience.

In the end, I may not have entirely shaken off the c-section blues, but I certainly don’t feel as hopeless and helpless as I did in the beginning.  In all honesty, I probably won’t be able to fully let out a sigh of relief until my baby is here, in my arms, safe and sound.  Keeping my focus on the happy end result will definitely keep the blues at bay, though!  So if you are feeling bummy about getting a caesarean, know that you are not alone and that you can still design your birthing experience.  In case you’re interested, here’s an excellent video describing what a natural c-section is 🙂

A Day in the Life

With all the stress of the holidays, I figured we could all use a little laugh.  So here’s how an average day for me goes, as told through amusing GIFs.

Wake up, attempt to get out of bed

HALP!

HALP!

Immediately have to pee

OUTTA MY WAY!

OUTTA MY WAY!

Forage

Scary true

Scary true

Try not to feel nauseous

Delusional? Maybe

Delusional? Maybe

Feel nauseated and get sick anyways

Just being honest

Just being honest

Lie still and try to recover

About sums it up

About sums it up

Have a mini-pity-party

Wahahaha :(

Wahahaha 😦

Snap out of it

C'mon, self!

C’mon, self!

Take a shower, contemplate shaving

Hairy legs are in, right?

Hairy legs are in, right?

Find something stretchy to wear

Elastic waistbands rule

Elastic waistbands rule

Force myself to eat again

Must. Eat. For. Baby.

Must. Eat. For. Baby.

Spend (too much) time Googling pregnancy stuff

I can stop whenever I want!

I can stop whenever I want!

Pretend I’ve been really productive when husband gets home

But we know the truth ;)

But we know the truth 😉

Eat dinner

It happens

It happens

(Over)React when husband judges food choices

Here's what I think of your healthy food

Here’s what I think of your healthy food!

Apologize for mood swings

I had to do it

I had to do it #nerd

And last but not least, try to get comfy and sleep

Unsuccessful

Unsuccessful

4 Things Not to Feel Guilty About

*First off, sorry for the delay in posts.  Between the baby shower and “fun” times of the third trimester, it’s been a little difficult to get around to doing everything that needs to be done.  Anyways, thanks for your patience and here’s something to brighten up your Monday!

As the Holiday season gets into full swing and I enter the homestretch of the third trimester, my anxieties are at an all time high.  If you’re like me, you don’t ever want to disappoint the people in your life.  But sometimes that seems nearly impossible to avoid with the items on your To-Do-List snowballing out of control.  So trying to keep up with everyone and everything that deserves your attention can be tricky to say the least.

It's usually not so adorable

It’s usually not so adorable

Sure it’s difficult to live a guilt-free life – despite the lies Dove Chocolate keeps feeding me – but here are some things that I’ve been able to come to terms with on my pregnancy journey.

1. Being a Bad Friend

With everything on your plate, sometimes it’s hard to make not just time, but meaningful time, for all the important people in your life.  You can feel especially guilty if those people have always been able to make time for you.  I’ve really beaten myself up in the past for all the times I’ve had to say “no” to invites or visits from friends.  I even got nervous that people would start to think my reasons for not going were bogus.  “Oh right, you’re ‘sick’ I’m sure.”  But when you live with an invisible illness, the people in your life will have to understand that you may not always “look sick” or even “act sick.”  Especially now that you’re pregnant, it’s not just your health that you have to think about, you have to think about how things will effect your baby.  Sure, if I wasn’t pregnant and was having a flare-up, I might push myself and go out with friends and just pay for it (physically) later.  But now that I’ve got a little life completely dependent on me and my actions, I think twice about everything I agree to do.

He's just so sassy!

He’s just so sassy!

What it boils down to is this: the people who truly know and care about you will understand that pregnancy and chronic illnesses will sometimes limit what you are able to do.  The people who don’t get it or try to make you feel like you’re being a “bad friend” by putting your and your baby’s health first, are people that clearly do not deserve your time in the first place.

2. Being a Bad Partner

Whether you have a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife, it takes work to keep a relationship balanced and healthy.  Ignore the people that have a picture-perfect relationship.  They’re either lying or (gasp!) actually happy.  Either way, it’s not worth worrying about, because the Lord knows your energy is already on a limited supply as it is!  One of the few people you’re going to actually want to spend your energy on is your partner.  Not only are they there for you through all your health issues, but they are by your side as you both embark on this crazy journey of parenthood.  Sometimes, though, I can get all insecure in my head telling myself that my husband is going to get so fed up with me and my issues, that he’ll just be like, “Deuces!!!”

Come baaack!

Come baaack!

Thankfully my partner not only puts up with the tribulations of this pregnancy, but he also reassures me when I get all insecure.  Hopefully you have someone in your life that can be of some support to you while you are going through this high-risk pregnancy.  And remember, support doesn’t just have to come from a husband or partner, it can be your best friend or mom or sister.  So whoever you have in your life that is there to hold you up when you think you just can’t stand anymore, show your appreciation as often as you can but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t always have the energy to do as much as you want to do. (Sorry for the run-on sentence haha)

3. Being a Bad Mom

Once, a customer asked me how I felt about the fact that I’m about to become a mom.  I said that it was a combination of excitement and nervousness.  When she patted me on the arm, I thought she was about to say something like, “Oh don’t be nervous,” or that “It’s perfectly natural to feel that way,” or something like that.  But what did she say instead?  “You know, good moms never have doubts.  So you might want to rethink things, honey.”  And her equally sensitive friend added, “You’ve made your bed, now you’ve got to lie in it!”

For reals

For reals

So after I picked up my jaw off the floor, I had a minor panic attack.  Was this lady right?  Does being nervous mean that you lack the necessary confidence to be a good mother?  After talking to my mom friends, I found that it’s actually just the opposite!  I’ve chosen to change my definitions.  It’s not “second-guessing” it’s “double-checking.”  Me being nervous just shows that I care so much about doing things right.  And a wise friend once said, “A good mom is simply someone who cares.”  Your age, socioeconomic status, orientation, etc., does not have any bearing on whether or not you are going to be a good mom or not.  Your dedication to giving your child the best life possible is what matters.  So I may not be rich or the picture of perfect health, but I’m not going to let my personal hangups distract me from focusing on my little one.

4. Being a Bad YOU

Last but certainly not least, this is something that effects so many women.  Even in my first trimester, I already felt like my body wasn’t my own.  You know what else does that to you?  Health conditions.  So I was already familiar with feeling like I have no control over my body.  Hip dislocations, inflammation, hair loss, memory loss, and knowing that your own immune system is actively attacking you is not exactly super awesome.  The minute another human being was added to the equation, the lack of ownership over my body seemed to grow exponentially.  Also can we acknowledge that a baby moving in your stomach is kind of creepy sometimes?

I can't be the only one who thought this

I can’t be the only one who thought this

Besides the physical aspect of your pregnancy, there’s a very real emotional side.  People have this insatiable need to put labels on each other.  Granted, some could argue that labels make things easier to understand.  But for many, confining a person to a box restricts their identity.  Needing to define someone as “black” or “gay” or “Muslim” can even carry negative connotations with it.  While a gay man is certainly not ashamed of his orientation, he probably doesn’t appreciate being known by some solely as “the gay one” in his social circle.  Similarly, I am not ashamed to add “mother” to my repertoire, yet I don’t want to be limited by this new chapter.  When I’ve shared this opinion, some people have implied that I should feel guilty if I’m not making motherhood and my baby the center of my world.  But I would feel guilty if I raised my son thinking that a woman can only  be a mother.

girls

Yup

At the end of the day, I can only be me.  And the only people that can make me feel guilty are the people I let  make me feel that way.  So I choose to spend my time letting the loving and supportive people in my life know how much I value and care for them.  I truly feel that is the best any person can do in this life.  Be genuine, be objective, be kind.  If my child learns only those things, then there’s really nothing for me to feel guilty about then, is there?

5 Lies You’re Told

This is going to be a fun one!  Not only are we going to discuss the lies you’re told about being pregnant, but also about the lies dealing with illness.  Even before I was pregnant, there were all these misconceptions out there about how a “sickie” is supposed to feel and act and live.  Now that I’m with child, it seems like I’m fighting two different yet equally prejudicial battles.  So here are some things I’ve been told that have turned out to be completely false.

5. You Can (and should) Have it All

Now I’m just as much a feminist as the next gal.  I even hyphenated my last name when I got married!  If that’s not proof, then I don’t know what is 😉  But seriously, there’s this unreal standard that women are held to in society.  You’re told you should be able to juggle your personal and professional life – all while staying in perfect shape, of course!

Me thinks Photoshop has been used

Me thinks Photoshop has been used…

There is absolutely no shame in picking your own path, even if you feel like you’re admitting defeat.  The moment I realized it was okay for me to take time off work to focus on the health of me and my baby, I felt amazingly relieved.  Don’t fall prey to the lie that you are supposed to be some kind of “Wonder Woman.”  You’re growing a human inside of you!  How much more Wondrous can you get?

Real women. Real bodies.

Real women. Real bodies.

4. It’s Just in Your Head

Pre-pregnancy, when I was searching desperately for a diagnosis, I was told by many doctors and specialists that the joint pain, fatigue, and subsequent anxiety was all in my head.  I had never felt more confused, full of self-doubt, and even angry than when I started to let those doctors get to me.

NO IT'S NOT!

NO IT’S NOT!

Thank God (after quite a few years) I found a doctor that listened to and believed me and was able to give me my diagnosis.  Then, as a high-risk pregnant woman, I’ve also been judged by non-high-risk women telling me that I was just exaggerating my symptoms.  The insulting part was when they would tell me their “real symptoms” as if a) mine weren’t real and b) that their symptoms were worse than mine.  Honey, I would take your puffy ankles over my hip dislocation any day!  So just tune out the negative people in your life and don’t back down with your health professionals if/when they don’t take you seriously.

3. It’s All About the Birth

This was a new one for me.  Out of all the weird comments I was expecting to get, this was kind of a curveball.  While it’s true that “It’ll all be worth it in the end,” some people take it to the nth degree.  Some people made it sound as if the entire process of pregnancy is only about the end result.  So anytime I would be talking about a speedbump we had encountered in the pregnancy, the validity of my concern was immediately thrown out the window, because I should just “focus on the main event.”

The indignation of it all!

The indignation of it all!

But the entire nine months are important in their own right.  For instance, my husband and I have never felt closer than through these months of pregnancy.  I’ve gained a new perspective on motherhood from many late-night phone calls and talks with my mother and mother-in-law.  I’ve made deeper layers of friendship with the women in my life that are moms or moms-to-be.  I’ve even formed bonds with people on internet support groups where we can all rally around each other and our shared health issues. There are so many wonderful experiences I’ve gained through this pregnancy, that I would hate to think what would have happened if I only let myself focus on the end result of birth.  Live in the now and appreciate the process, warts and all!

This applies to so much in life

This applies to so much in life

2. Just Push Through It

Whether you are pregnant, have a chronic illness, or a combination of the two, you have had days where the word “pain” is an understatement.  For the average person, pain is your body’s way of saying something is wrong, but often we are told that as high-risk pregnant women, the pain is just something we will need to learn to live with.  While there are some things that I’ve gotten used to with my Lupus or EDS, I know from experience that not all pain is the same.  Listen to your body.

Some days are a 10

Some days are an 11

There is also this misconception that asking for help = weakness.  Admitting that your body can no longer do the things it used to isn’t being weak, it’s being honest!  To “push through it” and “suck it up” is not only delusional, but potentially harmful to both you and your baby.  So, no, don’t stress out over every little twinge of pain, but also don’t ignore the signals your body sends you.

1. You’ll Get That “Pregnancy Glow”

Maybe this one is just me, but one of the things I always heard about was how women will get this “glow” during pregnancy.  I imagined that when my pregnancy was in full swing, I’d have this cute little bump, radiant skin, and fabulous hair.  Well with a little help from MasterCuts, my hair is pretty fabulous, but besides that I don’t feel like I’m glow-y.

SHE'S SO RADIANT!

SHE’S SO DARN RADIANT!

And I’ve realized that’s okay.  At this point, I’m actually just stoked that my baby is staying healthy and is growing how he’s supposed to be.  Us high-risk ladies find happiness in the little things “normal” moms-to-be take for granted.  While some of my pregnant friends were talking about how their skin cleared up and their hair and nails seemed stronger than ever, I was over here being like “Hey I had a brief moment where my joints didn’t feel like they were on fire!  It’s gonna be a good day!”  It’s also good to remember that most celebs (and even some of our friends) just happen to have the extra time, money, and stylists to make it possible to look like an actual human in the morning.  For me, not so much.

I ain't even playin right now!

I ain’t even playin right now!

So in the end, no two pregnancies are exactly alike and we shouldn’t expect ours to hold up to the magical standards portrayed in movies and on magazine covers.  Your pregnancy is your pregnancy.  What is normal for you won’t necessarily be normal for everyone else.  This is basically how life goes, by the way.  The quicker we can acknowledge and accept that we make our own definition of what’s beautiful, the better.  Now I love the bags under my eyes, sallow skin, and swollen joints.  You know why?  Because it means the little life inside of me is still alive and kicking and my body is so busy keeping him healthy, it doesn’t have time to worry about looking “fresh.”  Flip the script and embrace it!

5 Things Your Partner Puts Up With

Yes, you are growing a little human inside of your body, so you have every right to be grumpy.  Yes, most people are jerks and life can be really hard sometimes.  But you know who is there to listen to you grumble about all your aches and pains and mean friends and rude strangers?  Your partner.  Whether you have a husband, boyfriend, life partner, whatever, let’s take a minute to stop and appreciate all they do.  Because if your partner is anything like my husband, he has put up with A LOT!

1. Trying to Understand What the Flip You’re Talking About

Attempting to read our mood swings is already hard enough for our partners.  Now they have to decode our hormone-induced rants?  Sometimes when we’re venting about girl problems or health issues, we forget that other people have absolutely no clue what we’re saying.

Me: “My RLP is really intense today.  I can’t tell if it’s my Ehlers-Danlos acting up, too.  Maybe I should do some hypermobility stretches to try to relax my pelvic floor.  Ugh, this Lupus fog isn’t helping either!”

Justin’s response:

confused-mark

Wheels are turning…

Poor Justin.  I could tell from the look on his face that he wanted to help but had no clue how to do so.  So remember, your partner is listening, but keeping your communication clear is helpful to everyone.  If you want a massage, just ask for a massage.  Your partner will appreciate your directness, trust me.  But in turn, verbally show your appreciation for their effort.

2. Being Grossed Out On the Regular

Morning sickness, hemorrhoids, hairy legs, and sitting in on awkward OBGYN visits are all par for the course for your partner now.  My poor guy has had to see some really weird stuff but he has never once made me feel like the repulsive monster I am.  He has seen me at my lowest:

This is an understatement

This is an understatement

And as much as he’s been tempted to, he has never had this reaction to my grossness:

He's thinking it, though

He’s thinking it, though

God bless him, he has seen things no man should ever have to see.  Yet through it all he has always managed to offer a kind smile, stroke my greasy hair, and even give me a hug (while holding his breath, of course).

So sweet

Now that’s true love!

3. Feeling Helpless

This was one thing I never even thought about until my husband expressed it.  As frustrating as it is to be a high-risk pregnant woman dealing with all your struggles, imagine what it’s like to be on the outside.  Your partner has to watch the person they love most in life go through unimaginably painful ordeals, and there’s not a darn thing they can do about it.  My heart broke a little the day he told me how helpless he felt and that he would give anything to be able to take away my hurt.

Gets me every time

Gets me every time

Whether your partner has said it out loud or not, I guarantee you they have felt helpless and vulnerable at some point during your pregnancy.  Stop and realize how amazing it is to have someone love you that much and be thankful that same person is going to be the one who is by your side to help you nurture this new life.

4. Suppressing EVERYTHING

Let’s have a moment of honesty here, ladies.  We complain.  About everything.  A lot.  Hey, we deserve to, don’t get me wrong.  But your partner is often left mute in the wake of your rage.  My husband works two jobs, both of which are physical and he rarely gets a day off.  But will you hear him complain about how his legs hurt or how frustrated he is?  NOPE.

Quiet rage

Quiet rage

Although I would like to think I wouldn’t go all Oxygen “Snapped” on him if he were to complain to me, I can understand why he stays silent.  And whenever I ask him if he’s hurting, he usually just says, “I’m fine,” or shrugs it off.

Poor guy

Poor guy

We should remember to hug our partners because they’re hurting sometimes, too.  Sure, they don’t have to worry about pushing a baby out of their delicate downstairs business, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t frustrated or in pain as well.  So pick up a card, or hug him, or do a little something to let him know that his emotions are valid and you are there for him, too.

5. OMG YOU’RE HAVING A FREAKING BABY!!!

Though you would think this goes without saying, sometimes it actually takes a while for this realization to dawn on your partner.  Every person (even you) has that “HOLY GUACAMOLE!” moment where it hits you that everything is about to change.

Totally understandable

Totally understandable

Even if your pregnancy was planned, it is completely normal to have a freak out moment.  Where you get off easy, though, is society thinks it’s more acceptable for women to be emotional.  If your partner is a man, he has it a little tougher.  Whether it’s from peer pressure or decades of society making him feel this way, your guy is having trouble reconciling his realization with the emotions he’s feeling on the inside.

Yes.  Yes you can

Yes. Yes you can

Let him know that it’s okay for him to feel nervous.  The worst thing you can do is buy a one-way ticket to “Denial Land.”  If you try masking your concerns and he’s busy stifling his emotions, you’re just asking for things to blow up in your face.

You asked for it

You asked for it

Even if your partner isn’t big on talking and feelings, make the effort to have a little sit-down and lay your worries out on the table.  Chances are you even have similar fears.  The sooner you both acknowledge that this is indeed a big deal and it probably won’t be easy, the sooner you can start moving ahead together.  Don’t fall prey to the trap of each person having to bear his/her own burdens.  And when in doubt, breathe into a paper bag for a minute and look at this adorable bunny eating a flower:

SO CUTE

SO CUTE

In conclusion, remember that your partner has feelings, too, and that this is scary for both of you.  Verbally and physically demonstrate your appreciation for all the things they have to put up with during this trying pregnancy.  Kindness matters.  And hey!  Who knows?  Maybe that sweet note you left him will get you a back massage tonight!  But seriously folks, be nice to your partner.  They’ve had to hold your hair while you’ve puked.