In honor of National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, October 15th, I wrote something to paint a picture of what recurrent pregnancy loss looks and feels like. Or, at least, what it was for me. I wrote it on my phone, in bed, and really quickly, but to be honest that is where most of my best stuff comes from.
I am thinking about my fellow loss mamas today, this month, and everyday. Your babies will never be forgotten. When I light 5 my candles tonight, they will also be for your babies. ❤
Recurrent Pregnancy Loss is…
Your period being late the first month your started trying, but tests are negative. You feel off, get bloodwork taken, and your HcG (which you never heard of) is 10. The lowest in can be to be technically pregnant. You get blood drawn again two days later and you’re told it’s a 2. So you were technically pregnant, a chemical (which you also never heard of) they called it. You’re so confused. You were sad before you even got a chance to be happy. That’s one.
You’re spotting in a plane, a vineyard, and a bar at a friend’s bachelorette party, pretending to be on antibiotics while the guests joke about you obviously being pregnant. They’re not wrong, but despite the doctors trying to reassure you, you have a bad feeling. Only to be proven right in a Waffle House bathroom where you bleed through your clothes and you know it’s over. That’s two.
You’re told loss is “normal”, try again, at least you can GET pregnant. You take a break for your sanity and a couple months later your period is late again, but you’re spotting, the sight of pink on your TP will never stop scaring you. You take a test knowing whatever it says, the outcome will be bad. Positive. You should be happy, but you’re not. This is a trend, a pattern. This is not good. Your body can’t do this. You call and get blood work done, the numbers are low but “we’ll see if they double in two days”, they don’t. The bleeding gets heavier, you go every two days until the numbers are 0. The lab tech congratulates you when she sees what type of test they’re taking despite your blotchy face and red eyes. That’s three.
You finally get referred to a specialist. You take all the tests in the world to determine there is no clear conclusion. You have procedures, you take new vitamins, but it is all still “unexplained”. They tell you it’s most likely an issue with the embryo health and recommend IVF with genetic testing. You are scared, you are grateful that you have insurance coverage for it, you still need $3000 for the testing. You’re excited and filled with hope, and then your period is late. Again. You take a test and allow yourself to think “‘maybe this is it. Maybe we just had to plan for IVF and this would happen”, but you shouldn’t have had hope. Numbers are low, but we’ll monitor them. Numbers are going up, but not at the level they’d like to see. Bleeding increases but numbers aren’t going down. They’re concerned about an ectopic pregnancy (never heard of that either). You go in for an emergency scan, they see something in your ovary. You need to take methotrexate to prevent the pregnancy from growing in the wrong spot which could be life threatening. You’re in pain, sick, and can’t eat anything with folic acid. And you need to push back IVF for several months until the medicine can get out of your system. That’s four.
You start shooting yourself up with drugs. In an airport, a ropes course, a work bathroom. You have your first egg retrieval, 9 eggs-is that good? Number seems low. All of them fertilize! Only two make it to day five to be tested. You get a call that neither of them are normal. In this moment you know you will never be a mother.
The doctor suggests a new protocol to try and increase egg production. Your body needs to regulate again and prepare for another egg retrieval. You wait a couple of months and begin the process again. All of this to get only 6 eggs this time, you wait for your phone call but never get it. When you follow up you find out none of your embryos even made it to testing. You’re done. It’s over. You can’t handle any more loss. Any more heartache.
You go away for your anniversary to try and get your mind off of things. It’s hard but it mostly works. A few weeks later you take another test. Positive. You wish you could have the excitement and joy you want, but you don’t. You start spotting, again. Numbers are low, and then you watch them go down to 0 again. That’s five. Five. Five.
You’re emotionally spent. You can’t go to baby showers. You can’t even look at pregnant people. Every commercial makes you cry. You feel like babies are following you around. You can’t imagine a world where you ever become a mother. You blame yourself. You did this. You caused this somehow. You question your worth. You question your womanhood. You ask Why Me. What did I do to deserve this? Will I ever be happy again? You suffer in silence. You go to work and pretend your world isn’t crumbling. You endure pain and painful comments. Everything hurts.
Even when your dreams come true and miracles happen, you become the mother you thought you’d never be, this pain is there. Your fear never waivers. You’re diagnosed with PTSD. The grief, the loss, it’s real and it never goes away. It waxes and wanes, but it’s never gone. Pregnancy Loss changes you forever.
On this Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day let’s remember all the footprints left on hearts. Whatever happens in your life after loss, those footprints remain.
I am on a mission to break the stigma of pregnancy loss until no woman, or family, grieves their loss in silence.
You have been chapped, cracked, bleeding, purple, sore, slanted, chewed, engorged, clogged, mis-shapened and infected. You have provided nutrition to two babies, and even more through donation. You’ve made thousands of ounces in thousands of minutes. You’ve been chomped on, slurped, and strapped to a machine more times than can be counted. You’ve been fed supplements, cookies and teas. You’ve been restricted from entire food groups. You’ve truly been through the ringer.
But you can rest now. You’re retired. It’s sooner than we expected, but I’m still proud of you. I’ve been pretty mean to you over the years. Cursing your inability you make enough, your inability to form the right shape for latching, your aggressive let-down. Blaming you for babies’ fussiness or rashes, labeling you as a failure. I’m sorry about that. You did great work. Rest easy now, you low hanging beauties, your work here is done.
Breastfeeding. What a fucking journey. I truly had NO idea. I’m not saying I was lied to, but I was lied to. LOL
I’ve always been in the fed is best camp. You do you, boo. I do think the fact that our bodies (theoretically) are capable of making food for our babies that gives them the exact nutrition that they need over time is so cool. I think we should stop making moms feel like they should cover up. I think we should let people breastfeed in peace for as long as they want to. I think we should provide EVERY resource to women choosing to breastfeed so that they can do it for as long as they want. Employers should have nursing/pumping spaces, supervisors should be taught how to support this and have those conversations, and women should be taught how to advocate for those resources when needed. Lactation consultants should be covered by insurance. Black women and women of color should be encouraged to breastfeed and receive support, which they currently receive at a significantly lower rate than white mothers.
And while I fully believe that there should be ample education about breasfeeding, the science behind breastmilk, and tons of support for those who make that choice or show interest. I also think there should also be NO pressure put on mothers to breastfeed. The popularity and pressure around breastfeeding has ebbed and flowed over generations, and also differs amongst cultures and communities. I get it, your bodies grow a baby, and then they make food for that baby. If you can feed them that food, sure. But currently I do think there is a lot of pressure on moms to breastfeed. It’s almost trendy. When my mom chose to breastfeed in the 1980s she was told, and I quote, “that is for poor people”. Plot twist, we were poor. LOL Her parents thought it was WILD that she was nursing me and my brother and had no interest in her doing “that” around them.
Nowadays I think it has certainly shifted to the expectation being that you do breastfeed, and if you don’t, for whatever reason there is both internal and external judgment and pressure that is felt. My journey with feeding my babies has been very different between the two. But, the personal impact on me as a human and a mom was ultimately the same: failure.
When my first baby was born 6 weeks early and wisked off to the NICU, I got the message right away from the staff in the hospital that breastmilk was what he needed. It didn’t bother me, because it was my plan, but I also heard loud and clear “THIS IS THE BEST CHOICE FOR YOUR BABY”. Which then got converted in my head to “YOU NEED TO DO THIS FOR HIM AT ANY COST”, “IF YOU CAN’T DO THIS YOU HAVE FAILED HIM”, “PUSH YOURSELF TO ANY LIMIT TO DO THIS”. I got a lot of “encouragement” from the nurses who were checking on me while I was pumping around the clock, which only further pushed my achievement complex. “You’re such a good mama. You’re such a dedicated mom. Wow what a good mom” ss my hands were cramping from manually expressing drops and thimbles full of colostrum that my husband was then scurrying to the nicu to deliver. All that did was further reinforce the expectation even though it was veiled as a compliment it was saying if you aren’t doing this you aren’t a good mom, you aren’t dedicated, etc. It was reiminscent to me of getting compliments from people when you’ve lost weight. They’re disguised as compliments “you look great!” “get it girl” “*fire emojis”, but what it actually says it you didn’t look great before. You notice when you’re not getting the compliments and you know what that means.
My milk did come in eventually and it felt good. I’ve said this before, but it felt like the only thing I could control. The only thing that only I was able to give my fragile, tough, little guy. Sitting up in my sister in law’s house in the middle of the night hooked up to the hospital grade pump I rented, blurry eyed from exhaustion and tears, away from my baby overnight, hoping the nurses were taking care of him, and thinking well at least I have this. At least I can make food for him. Even though it hurt so bad. My nipples were raw from pumping for 30 minutes every 1-2 hours to make sure I got that supply up. Then when we were there during the day, I would try and nurse him by myself and end up in tears because he couldn’t latch, Kenny would give him a bottle and I would take myself into the quiet humming solace of the pumping room. Multiple moms, multiple stalls, a sink and a pile of supplies. I could sit there alone, close my eyes, and wish for the sweet, breastfeeding experience I expected. The tears are flooding back in as I write this and I realize that the emotions I have from that time two years ago are as raw as my nipples were.
I feel the panic set back in remembering how I was going to have to return this New York hospital grade pump, use my own regular one in the long car ride back to Boston, and try to get a rental at home. But it was a weekend. And what if my supply dropped because of this less powerful pump, and what if he was starving, and that would be my fault. I even thought trying to buy one of the hospital pumps for thousands of dollars, which in fact, you can’t buy. I couldn’t find one place where you could.
But, even once we were home, and he was getting plenty of expressed breast milk via bottle, both my OB and his pediatrician, and his doctors from the NICU and the lactation consultants from the hospital all recommended I try to establish breastfeeding and should see a consultant right away when I get home. Even though I could barely see straight from the traumatic birth, nicu stay, 6 hour drive home, no sleep newborn phase, and preemie isolation guidelines.
But, I went. I went three times to the person at the hospital where I was supposed to give birth. She was very nice. She told me I could do it, she showed me how to get him latched, she weighed him. I left there feeling confident. Then I got home, he started crying, and we could NOT do it. I was home alone, sobbing hysterically, thinking we JUST did this in the office. What happened. After the third time there, with her just doing and saying the same things I knew that wasn’t going to work. I realized that she was turning me into an octopus. With one arm I was holding him, with the other making my breast into a “sandwhich”, then with her arm she was adjusted his positioning on the breastfeeding pillow she sold me, and with the other she was physically opening his mouth wide enough to latch. She gave me a list of supplements to take to increase my supply, but you know the thing that will really bring it up…pumping more.
So, I did. I added pumping sessions and minutes. I did power pumping (one full hour of pumping with 10 min on and 10 min off). I ate 18393030193 lactation cookies. I gagged down the tea. I rubbed every ointment on my nipples that made me cry in the shower because of the pain. I showed them to my OB and she said “par for the course”.
Then I hired a lactation consultant to come into my house, for $400 out of pocket, which MIGHT be reimbursed by insurance. She was actually helpful. She is the one who diagnosed my infection and told me which ointment to request from my doctor. She gave me different flanges that would be more comfortable. And she gave me permission to just pump if that was working for me. She somehow had the right balance of knowledge, education, support AND that I was also a human being with feelings and needs. And that a three part feed of attempt to nurse, bottle, pump forever was likely unsustainable.
Ultimately, I exclusively pumped for just over 10 months and gave my baby breastmilk for almost his entire first year. I was exhausted. I was proud. I’m glad I did it and I wish I didn’t. I missed out on so much of the sweet newborn snuggles because I was attached to a machine. I missed out on precious, rare sleep, because even when he slept I needed to pump to KEEP THAT SUPPLY UP. And it was all based on pressure that I internalized that if I did not feed him breastmilk I would be a failure and he would be at a deficit.
It sent me straight into postpartum depression symptoms, which was diagnosed as PTSD from infertility, pregnancy loss, birth and feeding trauma. Therapy helped, but this experience significantly contributed to a mental health crisis that could have been avoided had ONE person in a position of power or influence had said to me “You have done enough. You are a good mom regardless of how the baby is fed. He will be JUST fine if you feed him formula. You are enough.”
When discussing the possibility of trying for a second baby around my first’s 1st birthday, my new OB who had referred me to therapy in the first place, said you know breastfeeding was triggering for you, so you need to give yourself permission now to NOT. And I agreed. And I went on my way to start what I thought would be a long arduous process of trying to have another baby…
And, surprise, it was not long nor arduous. It was fast, and surprising, and besides the beginning which was touch and go, was relatively “easy”. But, it was fast. I had much less time to heal than I thought I would. I only had two months of not pumping before getting pregnant. My boobs were just getting their life back when they were taken for other purposes again.
I went to therapy throughout this pregnancy and talking through my feelings helped. My mantra was “I will breastfeed for as long as it doesn’t make me miserable and the minute it does, I am done” and “I am going to try, if it works it works, if not, fine” Much easier said than done.
But when Logan arrived, in a pretty easy and quick delivery, much like how he came to be in the first place, lol, he also latched like a champ. Just an hour or so after birth. And I thought, wow, maybe I will get that magical, bonding, natural breastfeeding experience I hear about. And for the first several days, we were doing pretty well. Once we got home, the pain really set in, and given my past experience I was wasting NO time trying to resolve any issues. I called the in home consultant, shelled out the money again, and had a two hour virtual appt with her. It was surprisingly helpful given she wasn’t in the house with me. It felt a lot more comfortable and we were off and running.
It was so nice going to his doctor’s appointments without anything, no pump, no bottles, no formula, just mama. I was feeling like a ‘real (breastfeeding) mom’. But then around two weeks, things took a turn. He started gagging, wretching, coughing, choking when feeding, he seemed unsatisfied. He was gassy, he couldn’t be settled, he wasn’t sleeping. He had a rash on his face and chest. His poops were mucousy and GROSS. When you look up these symptoms you see two things: milk intolerance and over-supply/aggressive let-down. I had to laugh. I would have given ANYTHING to have an over supply for Liam instead of grasping for every mililiter I could get. Now, my supply might be choking this kid. Damn you universe.
At his one month appt, his doctor suggested I cut dairy out of my diet just to see if there was an improvement in his demeanor or other symptoms. I wasn’t thrilled, but also didn’t mind cutting dairy. I had done it before when cleaning up my diet. She gave us a sample of Nutramigen just in case we needed to supplement since he was eating so often and I wasn’t sleeping at all. But after a couple of weeks of no dairy I didn’t notice much improvement, then it was recommended I also cut out soy becuse the intolerance in babies is often both milk and soy proteins. That was a whole new ballgame, because fun fact, soy is in EVERYTHING.
I was so defeated. This time seemed better. This time seemed like it would work. Worst case, I had TOO MUCH MILK. What a blessing. But turns out it can be quite a challenge for the baby and cause some issues. We tested his stool and he didn’t have blood which was a good thing, but the doctor still diagnosed him with the milk intolerance based on all his other symptoms.
We tried the hypoallergenic formula a couple times at night and he did fine with it. Then just to see if there was a difference, I pumped for 48 hours and we fed him formula to see and he did great. He slept better and longer and was less fussy. The breaking point for me was going to our family cottage for a weekend, wanting to get takeout with the family and feeling like there was nothing I could eat. It sounds so silly, but I was sad. I also realized I was replacing otherwise healthy options with crap because the crap had no dairy and I was feeling deprived.
On the one hand the formula was working. He was more pleasant, less gassy, the rash went away, he was sleeping. On the other hand I was making all this milk, I COULD restrict my diet so he could have it but it would take 8 weeks to work itself out of my system and the formula is very expensive.
I finally just realized. I want to give him the formula. It makes him happier. It makes me happier. I didn’t realize this before, but I wanted my body back. Not in the instagram model, snapback after pregnancy way, because eff that message and expectation, but in the ‘this body I live in hasn’t been truly mine since 2015’ way. I’ve been essentially a science project/pin cushion, then a home, then food, then a home, then food for almost 5 years. I was just done with not being able to do, eat, drink, whatever. I wanted to be able to make healthy, or sometimes unhealthy, choices for myself. I realized that as much as I liked that I could provide him nutrition, I also loved “freedom”. Not that any of us are really going anywhere or doing anything at this point, but even for doctor’s appointment or essential appointments I felt restricted.
While pumping exclusively is truly a WHOLE THING, there are some benefits I didn’t quite appreciate at the time and I see why some who do it choose to continue with subsequent children. You get used to what you’re used to. I created the schedule, I was not at the whim of the baby. So, if I wanted to have a drink or go out, I could plan accordingly and make that happen pretty easily. I could sleep. My husband and I had a good system where we would split shifts of sleeping or caretaking on weeknights and then each take a whole night to sleep while “off duty” on the weekends. That way we knew we would at least get a few hours uninterrupted each night, and then look forward to an entire restful night a week to rejuvenate us. We never saw each other, lol, but that’s a post for a different day. But, with pumping it’s on your timeline. When you decide you want to wean off or cut a session, you just do it. I didn’t realize how much being the baby’s only food source directly would scare me a little.
So, right on the deck that weekend, I decided. If I can get the formula covered by insurance because of his diagnosis, I will stop. But it was so much money I felt like that had to be the deciding factor, and in the meantime, to keep up my supply in case it wasn’t covered, I pumped. Back to my old glory days. Some of it came easily, just like riding a bike. But I also saw how it was putting something, literally, between me and the baby, yet again.
I pumped for a few weeks while going back and forth with insurance, doctors office, preauthorizations, denials, appeals. We are still in the process and hoping it will be covered. But at one point I finally allowed myself to say he is truly a happier baby on the formula. And I am a happier mom that he is comfortable and that I am not tethered to a machine and not severely restricting my diet. Maybe if I perservered with the elimination diet for months I would see results, but I am not willing to put myself through that. So, then and there I said even if its not covered, this is what we are doing.
I felt an immediate sense of relief when I made the decision. And then an immediate sense of guilt. I had a 6 week virtual appt with my OB and she asked how I was doing and I just started crying. I felt like I had to convince her I was fine because I was, I hadn;t been crying but for some reason when she asked it felt different. She said while looking directly into my eyes “I give you permission to stop. Just stop. You’ve done enough.” And there was the thing I had been waiting for since my first baby.
I do still feel guilt for this decision, but also still feel like its the right one for us and me. I feel bad that I am making ample milk and “wasting it”. I feel guilty that this formula costs a fortune and we will have to pay hundreds out of pocket if it isn’t covered. But, I just keep going back to his one month appointment where he cried the entire time and the doctor had to teach us how rock him, facing out on her hip to get him to stop. To his 2 month appointment where he laid peacefully on the table the entire time. No rash. No gross poops.
We’re still fighting with insurance trying to prove his medical need for it. But I have come to terms. My breastfeeding journey has ended. I have a deep freezer full of 800+ ounces of milk. I have started the screening process to donate it which makes me really happy because it will go to NICU babies in need and it brings it all full circle. The pediatrician wants us to wait a couple of months since it will last a while in there, we may be able to give it to Logan since many babies outgrow this intolerance over time. But either way it will not go to waste and will go to baby(s) who can use it.
I weaned off pumping over the course of 3-4 weeks using a slow approach. I remembered NOTHING about how I weaned off last time, lol, it was a blur of minutes and ounces and sessions. So, I looked up some stuff and used a combination of what I saw on a few sites including this one: https://exclusivepumping.com/weaning-from-the-pump/
Here is an image of the chart I used to get from 3 pumps down to 0. I used the one from the link above as an example and then made mine based on my numbers, etc. I had to stretch it out a little because even when I was down to 2 pumps and 1 pump a day I was still making 7-9 ounces each time, so I couldn’t quit cold turkey.
I think about how much money I spent on every item on the market that is supposed to help you breastfeed. Nipple pads of every variety, every cream and lotion, the cookies, the tea, brewers yeast, supplements, a duct massager, 1839302 pumping bras, pillows, flanges, special bottles and nipples, pacifiers, shields, extra pumps, storage containers. I’m glad these things exist because I hope they help people achieve the result they’re looking for. But damn, what an industry. While this may not be the intent, that industry told me “there is NO excuse. We have everything you could possibly need to help you breastfeed if you really want to.”
I just want us to be nice to the tatas. Be nice to your own, too. I thought miscarriage and infertility would be the hardest, most emotionally draining part of my motherhood journey. Then breastfeeding was like HAHA not.so.fast. And it’s not one or the other, they are all interconnected. All these things play into the narrative of what we are taught the ideal mom/woman should be and all of the ways in which we don’t measure up.
My friend in my head/on the internet, Holly, aka @roads.to.motherhood has been sharing her breastfeeding struggles on her Instagram and it’s been so touching to watch. Highly recommend you follow her, she is a sweet soul. She said her husband and/or therapist asked her, if one of your friends was struggling and asked you for advice, what would you tell them? And she realized she should finally take her own advice and give herself some grace.
So, that’s what I am doing. I am taking the advice I would give to any of my friends and letting go of the made up image of the “good mom” that is unachievable, trusting my gut and just being Liam and Logan’s mom which is all that I need to be.
Me and my boobs will be having drinks, cheese and soy sauce to our heart’s content from now on. 🙂
I don’t think I could have ever imagined saying “my pandemic baby was a lot easier than the first one.” Or even “my pandemic baby” at all. When I think back to December 2019 or even February 2020, and how relatively oblivious and carefree so many of us were, it’s hard to imagine how that was real with this current perspective.
I am 4 days away from my maternity leave ending and “going back to work” aka to my basement, and I only now have had the time, strength, energy, to write about the end of my pregnancy, birth and postpartum period. While this has truly been easier on me both physically and emotionally than my first child, it still knocked me the EFF out. The bottom line…I need sleep. I know this sounds obvious. But some people function at a pretty high level without it, or without much. I am not one of those people. I’ve always felt that way, but if anything, having two children has confirmed that for me. I used to joke…waaaaaaay before any infertility issues or even trying for kids…that the only thing that scared me about motherhood was never sleeping again. Of course there are 18385982919481 scarier than that, I know that now and really knew that then. But still my comment was not compeltely wrong. Because everything else sucks, at least a little, when you’re in the constant fog of exhaustion. But, here I am now, with my brain functioning at least at somewhat near normal to share my experience this time around.
My last day in person at work was March 13, 2020. The week leading up to it, my college had been buzzing around with what to do regarding a decision about students returning from spring break. It was hard to focus on anything until that Wednesday when we found out the students would be told not to return from spring break “for now”. Employees were not sent to work from home yet, but we were given the option. And since I was super preggo I figured it made the most sense to work from home at that point. Plus, to be honest, I was pretty sure we’d all be sent home soon anyway. I also had a cute social distance baby shower that day with a few coworkers. It was weird, but fun, and I was grateful to have it. It was the last time I would see these people IRL for months, way longer than any of us thought. And, my first work shower got cancelled since my baby showed up MAD EARLY.
The first week of working from home was great. Liam was still in daycare so we got to wear comfy clothes and be really productive. My husband was also working from home in our extra bedroom/office. And my mom who also lives there and works from home regularly was here as well. But that quickly changed when we got a text from our home daycare provider that her daughter, whose kids also attend, was third party exposed to COVID. And while we knew it was unlikely with that many degrees of separation, we decided to pull him. Then all childcare centers in MA were closed by the state soon after.
I went through a couple weeks of waves of panic. My husband took over grocery shopping and errands that I would typically do since there wasn’t enough info on how the virus impacted pregnant women or babies. Work became incredibly more difficult with a high energy toddler home with us. We were exhausted. But grateful for jobs, home, food, and the option to work remotely. We eventually found what could be described as a groove of handing off the toddler between meetings, power productivity lunches during naptime, way too long with Liam’s new teacher Blippi, and Moana on repeat. Squeezed in there were solo, masked trips to the OB for monitoring, virtual Early Intervention appointments for Liam’s speech development and packing my hospital bag.
I had a few people say at least being home you can relax and hopefully not have another early delivery. I was like HA! Relax! Have you ever had your toddler, husband, and mother home with you 24 hours a day-7 days a week while you try to invent a virtual new student orientation in record time for an incoming class of college students before giving birth and worrying about the country’s safety under garbage leadership? Definitely the least chill I have ever been. But skipping the commute was cool.
We joked around about how even 3 grown adults in our house weren’t enough to manage everything with just one toddler and work. No idea how people with more kids and no grandparents were doing it. Still don’t. But everything was looking good with the pregnancy, I was closely monitoring the hospital’s policies, and exploring birthing centers or even home births because I was afraid I would have to labor alone based on other state’s policies. We had a lot of restrictions but luckily, not that.
My due date was May 14th, once we reached the 34 week mark I had the bags in my car, something you can’t avoid after one preemie experience. The weekend of May 2nd I started feeling a little funky. Having my water break with Liam, but then being induced, I didn’t really know how labor worked normally. But all I knew was I saw blood. It’s amazing how the PTSD from recurrent pregnancy loss never leaves you. Even after you’ve had one healthy child and a second normal pregnancy that was now full term. As soon as I saw blood I went immediately to DOOM. Turns out it was just the mucus plug, what a lovely name.
That Monday morning I woke up with contractions, they were bad enough and regular enough that I couldn’t sleep. I started using an app to track them, and they were about 6 minutes apart. I called the doctor around 5am and when they called me back, to my surprise, they told me to go in. I was like WHAT. I was truly expecting them to say hang out a few more hours, monitor, etc. But as soon as that call came in, everything went away. I took a bath, which I hate, but was trying to convince myself to like them. Turns out, still hated them. But I called the office back and said all the pain disappeared and they said ok maybe false labor stay home and call us if anything changes. The rest of the day Monday and Tuesday I had no pain or symptoms at all. I thought maybe I had another week or so to wait. I had an appt scheduled for Wednesday morning with the OB.
Early Wednesday morning though the contractions came back with a vengeance. Again noticed they were pretty regular at 6 minutes apart. I went in for my visit expecting that maybe they’d send us in. But I was only 1 cm dilated, so they recommended I go home, “rest”, walk around, etc. So, I did. I had a couple of meetings for work, did some emailing, but the pain was intense. At 2 I called back to give them an update. Nothing had let up, but nothing had progressed either. They recommended I go back to the doctor Thursday morning. When I hung up I said ” I don’t think I will make it to Thursday morning”. Right before the office closed, I decided to call so I had a chance of talking to my doctor or nurse. I felt better with them than with the random people who didn’t know me who would answer after 5pm. They put my actual doctor (NP) on the phone and I told her if I was in the hospital already I would have already asked for an epidural and then she said “well I think you should go in then! By the time you get there you will probably be 5 minutes apart or less.”
So, we got Liam’s stuff in order, made sure my mom had what she needed and headed to the hospital. By way of Five Guys curbside pick up…because once you’ve been induced without warning that you can no longer eat and then don’t have the baby for almost two days…you want to avoid being that hungry again. We picked up the food, drove the hospital, and then ate delicious burgers and fries in the parking lot. In between contractions, lol. I sort of wish there were others who could have witnessed it because it was truly ridiculous. But I don’t regret it.
We had to wear masks and carry all of our stuff in with us because we didn’t think they would let Kenny back out to the car if we needed something. When we got to the door they had us throw out our masks and put on new ones, then I sat in at admitting actively in labor and filling out paperwork. Our doctor had called in advance so when we got up to the OB floor they were waiting for us.
We got to the hospital room at about 7pm. It was a remarkably calm experience getting set up, changed and checked. I was about 5cm dilated so I was happy to hear I had made good progress. With Liam I was 1 cm for daaaaaaaaaaaaaays. And I was afraid we would get there and they would send us home. But, they didn’t, shit was going DOWN. They asked if I wanted an epidural and I was like YUUUUUUUUUUP. But they wanted to see if my water would break first. So, since I was managing the pain at that point we waited a bit.
They took all my stats and then recommended I rock on a yoga ball. I hadn’t broken my water yet and the baby was still relatively “high” so I hung out on the ball for a while. Eventually they said they were going to call the anesethesiologist because they knew it would take him a little bit to get up there. I knew I would be bedridden after that so I turned to Kenny and said “I need to brush my teeth and take my contacts out”. He of course thought I was a weirdo. But I had a mask on this entire time, and I felt like I was inhaling my own dragon breath and it was making me nauseous. He helped me with my IV to the bathroom, I took my contacts out and then turned to get my toothbrush and boom. Water broke. EVERYWHERE. This part I should have expected but it was still so different than last time. So, we called the nurse and got me back into bed.
*Eventually I made him bring me my toothbrush and let me do it from the bed. #priorities.
My dear magical medicine man arrived soon after and I was ready to take a nap and wait for things to happen. But, there was no nap. I had this intense pressure that was entirely different than what I felt with Liam. So, I wasn’t sure if it was getting close or not. When the nurses came back in to check me, the first one was in training and she said “I don’t feel any cervix”, the other one checked and then said the same thing. They paged the doctor but she was on the other side of the floor so they asked me if I wanted to start pushing or wait for her. I decided I could wait a little longer and make sure the babe was nice a low.
But soon I felt the urge to push, the nurses came back in, said the doctor was on the floor and that they’d call her when it was almost time but I could start pushing. It was such an odd experience because it was just the two nurses and Kenny. With Liam, since he was premature, I had what felt like an army of doctors in there, it was so chaotic, this felt so chill. I started pushing and they kept giving me props for being so good at it, not sure what that really means but I went with it. They called the doctor in shortly because it was going quick.
And just like that, Logan was here! 11:04pm on May 6th he arrived. Just 4 hours after we arrived at the hospital, and just 14 minutes of pushing. THANK GOD. I still can’t get over how relaxed it felt, depsite me doing all of my labor in a mask, compared to my first. They put him on my chest and we just snuggled for an hour. Then they took his stats and he started to root. So, we got him latched for the first time super easily. It was wild.
Once I was able to go to the bathroom on my own, they wheeled us all over the the postpartum floor. Logan continued to nurse pretty well. Not having to manually express and pump every 1-3 hours like I did for Liam was so nice. We still didn’t sleep much but it was nice. The only thing that sucked was that we underestimated our snack supplies. We didn’t realize we wouldn’t be able to leave the room, even to go to the vending machine. Our last night our nurse brought me an emergency late night turkey sandwich. Praise. But that was one pandemic birth outcome I wasn’t expecting, NO SNACKS!
We opted to leave the hospital a day early since we were all feeling good and there were no concerns. So, we headed home Friday afternoon. I was anxious about how Liam would react to us walking in with this tiny creature. He had been pretty clingy during the later months of the pregnancy, which was out of character, so I was curious. I had been pretty sad we wouldn’t be able to have grandma bring big brother to the hospital to do the whole dramatic meet and greet thing. But I think it was probably better at home anyway.
Shortly after Logan started crying, and then Liam started crying even more because it startled him. So, everything was going swimmingly lol.
I’m going to do a separate post about the ups and downs of the feeding journey, but overall the first couple of weeks went well.
I feel a little bit like I trained for the isolation of pandemic post-partum experience by having a preemie. I am not sure if it was just having more realistic expectations, but my emotions were a lot more manageable this time around. I knew from my first that I was not exempt or immune from the challenges of motherhood just because I had survived a tumultuous infertility journey. So, I went into it understanding that instead of thinking that I had reached the mountaintop and would no longer have any issues in life, I knew it was just the beginning. That was a big difference from 1 to 2.
Physically I felt pretty good. I have had some joint pain and felt a little like a hobbling old lady at times, but not terrible. My core is definitely weaker than the first. Making sure I was giving my big little guy attention and solo time has been hard, especially when breastfeeding on demand and when my husband started working again after a couple of weeks. He was still home, but also not available. A weird combo.
We’ve been in our little cocoon and have sometimes been able to forget the time we are living in for short moments. On the other hand, I have been sucked into a pit of despair after watching the news, a press conference, or scrolling on my phone. And then I get snapped back in by a request (demand) for Cars 3 or legos. The balance of the daily monotony of putting away toys, washing all the dishes (I didn’t even know we had that many dishes), listening to Wheels on the Bus, feeding, burping, bottles, repeat with the magnitude of the health crisis going on in the background is so strange. I often feel overwhelmed with both ends of the minutia and the grandeur. Time feels incredibly slow and incredibly fast. I went to the store for the first time since March 11th on July 17th. The last time I was wearing a winter coat and winter gloves, this time I was wearing shorts, a mask and equipped with wipes.
It has definitely not been the postpartum or maternity leave experience I was expecting or hoping for, but there have been some great moments nonetheless. I do think expectations plays a huge role. As someone in the #ttc, #ivf, #infertility, #miscarriage community, there is an image of what life will be like once we finally have the baby(ies) we’ve wished so desperately for. And those of us who’ve gotten there, fear being honest and open about the trials and tribulations of motherhood because we don’t want to turn away our ttc sisters or look like we’re complaining. But, when we do that, we perpetuate the idea that everything after a healthy birth is perfect, and then when it is inevitably NOT perfect, new after-infertility moms feel like a failure. That is something that doesn’t change even amidst a pandemic.
To illustrate this lack of perfection let me hit you eith this Instagram vs. reality of epic proportions.
Me and the boys feat. makeup, hair, amazing lighting, bribery and a professional photographer:
Me and the boys feat. Liam demanding both his feet be rubbed at the same time, no sleep, spit up, absolutely no personal space and my post-partum belly hanging out, taken out of love but NO CONCEPT OF FLATTERY by Dada:
I hope that this blog and @notquiteknockedup on Instagram can continue to be a place where the TTC and infertility communities can go and feel seen and heard. And a place where moms can see my honest portrayal of motherhood. infertility never leaves you, but motherhood after infertility is a whole additional identity. It is a weird place to not relate to some moms who don’t understand what it took you to get there and also know your success story is heartbreaking for so many still in the infertility struggle.
Wishing you love, health, baby dust, and Five Guys.
This is how I have felt for about the last 10 weeks. I’ve gone below deck; not complete radio silence on social media but very quiet. The truth is: I am not as brave as everyone thinks. I am not as strong or bold. I am scared shitless and couldn’t be the person on social media that shows a pregnancy test the day she takes it and then lets everyone in from the beginning. In my head, I could do that. But in reality…absolutely not.
I am pregnant. As of today 15 weeks and 4 or 6 days depending on who is counting from when. And it was easy. And I don’t even know how to handle that. My whole experience, and truthfully, a big part of my identity has become being part of the #ttc, #recurrentmiscarriage, and #infertility communities. And this whole experience has been so strange I am having a hard time accepting it.
As I wrote in my most recent post, we decided to start trying again. As I mentioned, I would have loved to wait a whole other year before starting but as I am “elderly” in the pregnancy world and as we expected it would take a while, my doctor recommended getting started. After my visit in August, the plan was to give it a try on our own for three months, and my doctor made me an appt with the fertility specialist for November in case it didn’t happen, as they call it, spontaneously.
Well, we tried exactly one time. One time, at the right time. I knew, because of how much over-information we had, based on signs from my body that I would be ovulating. And we were actually kind of chill about it, relatively speaking. No ovulation tests or schedules. Just a…well today seems about right, let’s give it a go.
A couple weeks later I was feeling a little strange. Not sick, or anything dramatic, just not how I usually feel the few days before I get my period. I decided, against my better judgment, to take a test early. The only reason was that it was the day before Labor Day, and while my job has me working the majority of Labor Day Weekend, I knew that the few hours I had off at the beach, I would likely want a cocktail. Took the test and it was negative. I was not sad, but I was a little perplexed. Mostly I felt frustrated that I couldn’t rely on my gut feelings about my body and that I couldn’t trust myself.
But I went about my merry way, had a Painkiller at the Stone’s Throw and enjoyed it. I figured it was our first try and I knew that wouldn’t work, so we just keep on keepin on. I went to work one of my busiest weeks and still no period and no period symptoms. I was like what the eff. I knew the test was really early and given that, it could be wrong. But I was also like what are the freaking odds…
So, circa 4am the following Friday. On the day after my period was actually due I took another test. I sat, mostly casually on the toilet, just aimlessly scrolling through my phone (as you do) and then glanced over to the counter to see PREGNANT written on the digital screen. GET THE EFF OUT OF HERE. I took a picture of it, left it there and went back to bed. Notice, I did not say back to sleep because I certainly didn’t sleep. But I laid in bed waiting for the hubs to walk in there and notice it. Two trips to the bathroom later and nothing. Turns out, he pees in the dark in the middle of the night which explains a lot about my need to clean the bathroom floor often LOL.
*Note: I always spring for the digital test with words. This girl cannot handle the whole is there a line or is there not a line thing. I know a lot of #ttc folks do the line progression thing, which I have never done. Luckily for my sanity I didn’t know that was a thing until later on, and since my doctors are on high alert they bring me in for a lot of testing early.
Finally when he went in to shower he came bounding back out with a shocked look on his face. I had never told him about the early test and dudes are dudes so he had no idea where I was in my cycle. But both of us knew mathematically there was very little likelihood of this happening. So, we were both pretty shocked. And then I flashbacked to my painkiller and looked down saying “sorry about that, for the record, I did make sure before I undulged”.
Then came the endless tests, phone calls and waiting. I called right away given my history and they took an early HCG count. I waited all day for them to call me back, walked around work with my phone in my hand for 8 hours, and nothing. Finally on my way home I called and said I know you close soon and I haven’t heard. Then, of course, T-Mobile had some type of network crash, and I missed the call back which was after 5 and therefore I couldn’t return the call. UGH. I did get a hold of the after hours people, and eventually they called back with my number: 29.
Considering the number to qualify as pregnant is 10 this is very low. Once I heard that number I set myself up for this not working out. Of course they wanted me to come back. Each office is different, but mine had me return every 48 hours and were looking for the numbers to double at minimum. Since it was over a weekend I went back three days later and the numbers did rise appropriately, then I went back two more times. Then they said the shocking and exciting: “Ok it’s high enough for us to do a scan”.
This was too early for viability (aka looking for a heartbeat) but given my history with ectopic pregnancies, they wanted to make sure it was a pregnancy happening in the right place. Luckily, it was. And I was scheduled for a 6/7 week viability scan. This all sounds so chill but there is not enough space on the internet to describe what goes through your mind in the hours and days in between tests and scans. The best of the best and the worst of the worst. I feel like I have lived several years in the last 15 weeks.
My viability scan was scheduled for the first day of my husband’s new job. Can’t really be late on day 1, so I actually went solo which was kind of scary. But I knew, whatever it was, I would get through it. Somehow. Because, you know, you just must. Thankfully, they found the heartbeat right away, it was solid, we got a couple pics that look like different shaped blobs and I went on my way thinking: Holy shit, this might be real.
Of course the dreaded spotting persisted. Off and on to steal any short moments of joy or peace I had. Many phone calls, a couple of urgent care visits and additional tests made up a lot of the last few weeks. That and a mix of heated phone calls with my insurance company and specialty pharmacy threatening harm in the way of social media rants and strongly worded letters to get my progesterone supposetories.
Overall, I have had relatively minimal symptoms which for most would be a reason to rejoice. But for me, with every wave of nausea came a wave of relief. A welcomed “oh ok things are doing what they’re supposed to do” dry heave. But if the symptoms waned I went right back to my new natural state of doom. The only true bliss I feel is in the doctors office with the warm goo on. If I am watching in real time, I believe everything is fine. Moments after I leave, there is a chance it all went downhill in those few seconds.
But as the hubs says “everytime we’ve gotten this far, we’ve gotten a baby”. Which was once. But, alas, he is not wrong. This whole time I have been trying to reconcile my history with my luck. Aside from the spotting and resulting “emergency visits” this has THUS FAR been an extremely easy situation. I don’t really know how to handle it. This is the type of my teen mom bullshit that makes those of us going through fertility want to punch faces through TV screens. ONE TIME. We tried ONE FREAKING TIME. And it just worked. We are those people. But we are also not those people. Who am I. I am so confused.
I think this has been my biggest struggle with how and when to share this news with the world. I’ve built so many relationships with other folks in the infertility community and I feel like I am going to have my membership revoked. One legitimate surprise ‘we’re not really sure how this happened’ baby and one ‘we tried one time and it just worked’ baby on the way. It is truly hard to reconcile my current state with my late 2015-early 2018 state. It’s all part of me and yet two complete opposite ends of a spectrum. There is a part of me that feels like this easy road on #2 resulted in me losing any legitimacy, if that’s even a thing. Like if it was hard, if bad things happened, then I could solidify my membership in this community. And while grateful those didn’t happen and it does leave me in this weird place of identity confusion.
I had a scan today. The good thing about having a history of loss, and now, a history of preterm labor is that you get LOTS of scans. Annoying to schedule but lovely to see the little nugget so often. Sometimes the long waits in between were BRUUUUUTAL. So far this rotation of every two weeks has been great. But I still lay there in disbelief. How is this possible.
As we embark on a weekend of family, friends and thankfulness I know how freaking hard this can be for my ttc and infertility friends. I remember one holiday a few years ago when a family member so casually mentioned someone was pregnant again and I thought to myself, “Two. So close together. This is so unfair.” I had no way of knowing I would be that person and there is likely someone out there reading this thinking the same damn thing about me. And you should. I’m ok with it. In fact I welcome it because I know that’s the truth. Hearing about other people’s successes is not always hopeful, it’s often the exact opposite and I get that.
Each of us has a lot to be thankful for, but if you’re missing the one thing you hoped to be thankful for, this time of year can be a real bitch. Drown your sorrows in wine, gravy or pie…or all of the above. And if a family member says some dumb shit to you, please kindly to tell them (for me) to KICK ROCKS.
So, here we are. (Almost) September 2019. 4 years after getting married, 10 years after meeting in a dingy bar in the Lower East Side #thanksforthebirthdaypartyjoni. We have one beautiful, wild, maniac man who we never thought we’d have and just turned one. He waves and stands and shovels fistfuls of food into his face. There are so many random, every day things I do that I never thought I would have to, or get to do. It’s also been the hardest year of my life, in just about every facet. We have really just finally figured out how to manage life and feel like anything but drowning. And I know that will likely change in a couple weeks (or days) when he starts WALKING. Lord help me. LOL I am so excited for it and also know that everything will change!
But, here we are. Having real conversations about…trying. I have so many damn feelings about this. On the one hand I always wanted two children. We both have siblings and would love to have Liam have a sibling as well. On the other hand…it took everything we (I) had to get the one we do have. I have been through the ringer and back and through and back again. But on another hand I just turned 37. As you can see, I have many, many hands. And the reality is, biology is real and so are clocks. So, there is a pretty legitimate timeline for this if we want to do it. I feel like we just got the hang of things and seem to have a system that works; one that has us sleeping a normal amount and functioning somewhat as human beings. If there was no timeline biologically, I would probably like another year or so to chill. But, alas.
Over my birthday weekend we had a little heart to heart that went something like this.
“OK, so we both still would like two kids if that is possible, right?
So, then I feel like we need to start exploring things now. Because it took 3 years to get the first one and I am a fossil.
You’re not a fossil. But, I get it. But we need to think about what if it does happen soon ish and money, daycare, etc.
Yes. But if we wait until we can afford two kids in daycare we will be actual corpses.
And then we talked about what if it doesn’t go smoothly. What if we don’t get pregnant. Or, maybe worse, what if we do and we have more losses. What we decided was that we needed to set parameters, stick with them, and feel fulfilled with whatever the end result is. I know how DESTROYED I was for the majority of 2.5 years emotionally, and physically. My confidence in my body was shot, and that has remained an uphill battle. I don’t want to spend a significant portion of Liam’s childhood completely engulfed by the mindfuck that infertility can be.
So, we decided we would give it a year. Within that year if we needed to pursue fertility specialists we would do only treatment that was covered by our insurance; we have no money so that makes that decision easier for us HAHA. I am super lucky that I have any coverage to begin with. But since I did 2 cycles, I don’t have much coverage left. At the end of that year, whatever the situation is, we will be happy with that.
You feel almost guilty for even wanting another child. I feel like as part of the #ttc and #infertility community you understand how amazing it is that you got this happy ending after everything you’ve been through. And I know countless women who have been trying for as long, or longer, than I did and are still in the midst of treatment, testing and trying to figure out what’s next. And they probably want to punch me in the face, which in all fairness, is how I felt towards every person I knew who was pregnant from 2015-2018 so, I can’t blame them.
So, it is the delicate balance of: I feel like I will regret if I don’t try and I don’t want to be spending all my time, money, and energy on it for and endless amount of time (which anyone who has been in this knows is possible). As my OBGYN said a couple of weeks ago, “this is the year to try”. She is great because she is not an alarmist but she also doesn’t brush off my concerns either. There are risks the older you get but not enough not to try. She told me to give it a try for a few months on our own, since that is how we got here in the first place. And then scheduled me for a specialist appointment three months from now “just in case”.
Here we are. Not quite ready to try, but also not quite ready not to either. This feels strange because my blog has always kind of been in the past, even if it was the recent past. This is really the first post that is somewhat “Live” and that is scary AF. But #herewego
I’ve written about breastfeeding here before. My struggles. My pumping fails and successes. The pain. The exhaustion. The guilt. The pressure. Some societal. Some self-inflicted.
My baby turned one last week. On his birthday he got sent home from daycare with a 102 fever. Not exactly how I pictured “celebrating”. But we did have a really big and fun hip hop themed party for him this weekend (pictures below). It was bigger than we expected but when you miss 2 family showers and a work shower due to your baby arriving unexpectedly 6 weeks early, you celebrate the shit out of that 1 year! He wasn’t back to 100% but he was feeling better, luckily.
But every time he has been sick this year I automatically think of breastmilk. Everyone says it’s like a magical potion to boost the immune system. Every little drop helps they told me in the hospital as I was manually expressing tiny drops every 2 hours.
A friend of mine shared this article today and I felt compelled to share it as well: Pumping in the NICU: Liquid Gold or Liquid Guilt from Pregnant Chicken. SO MANY things in this article resonated with me that I found myself yelling YES at my computer screen. Sort of awkward in general, especially awkward at your desk at work.
In talking with my therapist about my emotions and moods post-birth, haven’t quite been diagnosed with PPD, but dealing with a lot of the symptoms, I related so much of it back to breastfeeding and pumping. I think, if I know myself, I would have felt a lot of guilt and pressure anyway. But, having a baby born pretty small and pretty early just upped the anty on that for me. It really had an effect on my experience as a mom of a newborn and I do feel like I missed out on some moments because of it.
On the one hand I felt like I was doing something special and meaningful for him. I was giving of my time and body to provide nutrients he needed. I was the only one who could do that and that felt good. When you have tons of people swarming around taking care of him all day and night, changing diapers better than you, bottle feeding him better than you, burping him better than you (they are experts but still), having one thing I knew I could only do for him was validating. You all may be professionals but I am still his mama damnit.
On the other hand, it was a fucking lot. I give credit to all mamas who nurse, pump, or nah. It takes a lot to decide and do any of those options because people are going to have comments, judgments and nonsense all around. This article says: “Two hours after my son was born, a lactation consultant knocked on my hospital room door. She peeked her head in and asked ‘Are you going to breastfeed?'” and my experience was almost identical.
I remember saying “that was my plan??” but then again this whole thing was NOT MY PLAN. Or anyone’s plan, so who knows. The hospital grade pump was already in my room when they wheeled me over from recovery. They told me the same things the author said, it will take a while to come in, but keep at it. I recall the consultant saying it is better not to do it on a timetable, your body produces more if it is more random. So she said “wake up-pump, have breakfast-pump, go see the baby-kangaroo then pump, visit family-pump, have lunch-pump, shower-pump” She said it so non-chalantly like it took no effort or time to maintain that kind of schedule. In the beginning especially I was told to pump for 20-30 minutes each time every 2-3 hours. It took me about 5-10 minutes to get set up, then manually express for 5-10 minutes, then pump, then bottle, label, send Kenny to delivery to nicu, then soak, wash sanitize, repeat. Don’t let the tubes touch the floor! Make sure to air dry all the parts, but they definitely won’t dry in time before your next pumping session in an hour. When you leave the hospital, it’s on you to rent a hospital grade pump. The one you got from insurance definitely won’t be heavy duty enough for you to get enough milk since your baby is too small to nurse enough from you. When you visit, make sure to pump at least every three hours in the dingy room with plastic curtains and no artwork (except motivational milk posters). Wash and sanitize your parts in the shared sink but don’t let them touch anything! And don’t miss the window to snuggle and kangaroo your baby and TRY to nurse with the lactation consultant, but only if they happen to be around when you’re there. The snuggling helps the pumping, but the pumping takes away from the snuggling. It’s a WHOLE LOT.
But it was such a conundrum. All I wanted to do was hold and snuggle the baby. But he was under the lights for his bilirubin levels often, and there were so many interruptions. I was so tired and so hungry. But, once the colostrum came and then the milk came I did feel a sense of accomplishment. Even though I was looking around and feeling like an underachiever compared to these other women with their full bottles. Like the article mentions, he wasn’t eating a lot in the beginning so I was gathering a stash. The nurses kept giving me praise for being “so dedicated” and “such a good mom”, it felt good. But was also in my head when I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore. If I stopped would I no longer be dedicated or a good mom? Definitely a double-edged sword for someone with an achievement-oriented mindset.
The feeling of a body failing on multiple levels was a theme. I couldn’t get pregnant. I couldn’t maintain a pregnancy. I couldn’t keep the baby to term. I couldn’t breastfeed. I couldn’t pump enough milk. When I felt like I was pumping a lot it felt good, like the bod was finally doing the thing it was supposed to do. The power pumps were draining (LOL literally) but also relieving. I ate my weight in lactation cookies and wondered why I wasn’t losing all this baby weight while pumping. I had more than 4 lactation appointments trying to get the hang of breastfeeding once we got back from the NICU to no avail. But I couldn’t let go. He was having his milk fortified with formula for more calories and was doing fine, but I still couldn’t let go. Even when he started to sleep for 6-7 hour stretches, I was waking up twice to pump because I was afraid my supply would go down. It felt like the only thing I COULD do. The only thing I was good at. It was a bitch.
In my head, before the fertility drama, before the preemie drama, I thought “I will try to make it 6 months, and then see. But I would love to do it for a year.” I thought I would be mostly nursing and just pumping when I went back to work. Not PUMPING IT UP 10 times a day at home and work. I pumped in bathrooms, in cars, in airports, on planes, in random people’s offices, in concert parking lots. I did it for 9.5 months and then I waived the white flag. Enough. I said. I had clogged ducts for days, I had infections, I needed prescription ointment. I bought a deep freezer. I will be “cutting glass” for the rest of my days. Enough.
And the funny thing is, LJL didn’t give two shits. When we moved him over to formula exclusively, he had no changes. None. He didn’t get sick more. He didn’t sleep more either. Everything was fine, except my inner guilt and failure complex. So, when he does get sick I think “what if I made it the full year?” or if he is gassy or has an upset stomach “maybe it’s the formula”. It isn’t. He’s a baby. He’s gross most of the time.
I saw my OBGYN last week for my regular exam. She is the shit. Highly recommend finding a doctor you really like, although I know that is a privilege only afforded to some. We talked about “trying” again, which is a whole other 9 page long post to come. She asked about my moods and emotions and how therapy was going. We talked about breastfeeding and about how that on top of all the drama it took for us to get there was what really caused me to struggle. And she said “and now you know that and you know he is fine and you know what you DON’T have to do to yourself next time.”
I let out this huge sigh of relief. That one statement from a medical professional just let me off the hook. If I am blessed with another miracle baby, I may try to breastfeed again, I may not. But I sure as shit won’t make myself feel all the feelings described above. Formula is expensive, but not more expensive than my sanity.
I share my inner mom-o-logue about this to say: it’s fine. Whatever you’re doing is fine. You’ve been through a lot. Give yourself a freaking break. If you want to nurse, cool. If it works, cool. If you don’t, cool. If you want to stop, cool. Be proud of pushing yourself because you wanted to see what you could do. Or proud of yourself for knowing you needed to move on before reaching the brink. Of course breastmilk is great and has great benefits. But it isn’t the only thing that is great. You being a functioning human being without bloody nipples that hurt in the shower is also great.
Hey bitchesssssss. Been a minute. I’d apologize, but I am sick of doing that all the time. Feels like that’s all I do; at work, at home, in life. I’ve been active on IG (please go follow me there!) and I got sucked into a black hole of work this summer. So, here I am writing this *again* overdue post, and you’re getting it now because that’s when you’re getting it.
I’ve been thinking a lot, reading a lot (and by reading I mean audio books because who in God’s name has time to actually read? Shout out if you do, teach me your ways), and listening to podcasts a lot dealing with expectations. And how they can be a real mind fuck. Also, decided to stop apologizing for swearing. I am a mom that swears. That is me and I am her. I try to use them in my writing when they provide the most oomph, but also there will be one thrown around here and there for good measure from time to time as well.
There are a lot of amazing pieces of media out there talking about expectations of women, mothers, working mothers, stay at home moms, and the like, so I don’t pretend that this is a completely unique perspective. Instead I am adding my voice to the chorus of moms out there saying we simply have too much expected of us, and (often) too much expected of ourselves. I have a love-hate relationship with social media as many do. Sometimes it makes you feel like trash. I follow a few accounts, prob should stop, where every photo is art directed. It looks beautiful, but I’m like…did I brush my hair this morning? But, I also have found a bunch of accounts in the last several months of those struggling with fertility and moms who talk that real shit. And I am always so grateful for the honesty and vulnerability. It inspires me to do the same.
I think a lot of moms can relate to the idea of having Great Expectations about motherhood, regardless of how their mother title came to be: planned/unplanned, surprise/science, birth/adoption/surrogacy/foster. There are countless ways to earn the title of mother, and I use the term earn intentionally. A picture is painted by society and the media of this beautiful, joyous, glowing, maybe a little exhausting new motherhood phase. Then we paint our own picture based on those images filled with cuddles, and pain-free nursing, a doting partner, and staring lovingly at our silent, sleeping bundle of joy. We picture how calm, and level-headed we will be, how we will definitely not over react about a diaper rash and how we will definitely make all of our own organic, steamed baby food. That even though we know we will be tired, our partner will help, and we will be surrounded by family and friends to help us through.
And then reality hits.
Coming from someone with a pretty ample “village” I am struck by the extreme isolation and loneliness I felt in the first several months of motherhood. Having a preemie, we were given pretty explicit instructions from our NICU not to have any visitors-AT ALL-for the first 12 weeks. TWELVE WEEKS. Now, anyone who knows me in real life, knows I am a rule follower. And when the nurse points to the baby in the NICU who had to come back in after getting meningitis from a visitor their parents had over, it drills into your mind even more so that this rule, like the Wu Tang Clan, ain’t nuthin to fuck wit. That being said, I also knew I couldn’t actually function for 12 weeks alone, at home with the baby. So, we did have limited visitors. But I basically didn’t leave the house for anything besides doctor’s appointments and lactation consultants. I took a few short walks carefully scheduled in between my 3 part feeds (nurse, bottle, pump). There were no cute mommy and me classes or dates with my other mom friends who were also on leave. It was just me and the little guy, all day every day. My husband technically got 2 weeks of paternity leave (HOW GENEROUS *eye roll* don’t get me started on family leave policies…) but we spent two weeks in the hospital and NICU since my water broke 6 weeks early 3 states away from home. Luckily, his boss did allow him some flexibility so he could be home with me for a few days once we actually made it back. But after that it was just the two of us.
Even though those days played out in TIGHT 3-hour intervals, they also crawled by in some ways. They were a complete blur; some hours were all heart eyes emojis some hours were mild hysteria. Many amazing adorable moments mixed with many dark, painful ones. Literally painful. My nips will never recover from that goddamn pump. #sorryanyonewhoeverhastoseethemfromnowon
Expectations can be a real bitch. I’m “reading” a new book, recommended by my friend Ali Feller from Ali on the Run aka the podcast I was on a while back (episode 141).
I highly reocmmend the entire Mother Mondays series, as I’ve mentioned before. Episode 155 featured Dr. Molly Millwood who is a Clinical Psychologist and author of Motherhood, Marriage and the Modern Dilemma. From her episode I knew this was my next Audible credit, and even though I am only 5 chapters in, it has not disappointed.
Moms in any stage, hear this: If you want to feel validated to the point of tears and maybe swerving off the road, I highly recommend you listen to this while driving. Or in any other less dangerous form. Ali talked about her wrist hurting from highlighting so much. I wish there was an easy way for me to take notes while listening to it, because there are so many good points! While I have been pretty open about seeking therapy and support for what I decided was postpartum depression but what my therapist actually diagnosed as PTSD with some PPD symptoms, it felt reassuring in a way to hear how so many mothers without such diagnoses also feel many of the same feelings, namely: shame, guilt, inadequacy, failure.
And then it pissed me off that so many moms feel these things. And, I suppose, that’s why Molly (we’re on a first name basis in my head) wrote the book. She talks a lot about her own experience in motherhood and shares composite stories of her clients and I found myself nodding aggressively so many times. Her book is admittedly focused on married/committed, heterosexual relationships, so it may not be relatable to all, but so far I’ve heard so much of myself in there.
There is a heavy emphasis on expectations which was so timely since I’d been working on this post in tiny chunks for a while in the mere moments I had available outside of work and other life responsibilities. It makes so much sense that those feelings I described above, by and large, are based on expectations we have or have been ingrained in us by family, friends or society as a whole. If you think you are to enjoy every moment, and you’re not, then in comes shame and guilt. If you think everyone is managing all of the day to day tasks well, and you’re drowning, in comes failure and inadequacy.
The truth is I enjoy many moments. But the ones I do not enjoy. The ones that push the limits of my patience, my brain capacity, my emotional stability then result in guilt and shame because I don’t think I am allowed to feel that way. Instead of saying this moment is not awesome, but the next one might be. I dig a hole of guilt about the one I didn’t enjoy and that takes away from the ability to enjoy the enjoyable ones. I wrote that like a Willy Wonka line and I’m fine with that.
Part of my goal in writing this blog and putting all my biznass out on the internet is to be one of those who are being honest. Who are saying this is the most amazing, insane, exhausting, emotional, beautiful, draining, wild thing I have ever experienced. I knew I would be tired, I knew it would be hard, but I had literally no idea what I was in for. What changes I would go through internally. I’m not sure if anything I would have read would have prepared me, but I feel like the more stories of the realness that are out there, the more we can shift the narrative and normalize the HUGE range of emotions a new mom can and will likely feel, the better. Shame comes into play when you feel like you can’t talk about your feelings, you can’t even whisper them to a dear friend because you anticipate judgment and feel like those emotions are wrong or you are broken. I have felt broken so many times when things have been heavy and difficult even for a fleeting moment. I’ve always been open to growth, and fancy myself pretty self aware, or at least willing to reflect and be mindful of my thoughts/emotions/needs. But I’ve found reckoning this conundrum of extreme joy and gratitude with the constant sense of overwhelm and confusion to be one of the greatest struggles of my womanhood.
I would guess that a lot of moms, in any stage, will relate to at least some of what I described. My perspective is also somewhat unique given what it took to get us to the point of having an actual real life child. I still, almost daily, don’t believe it to be true. Even when he is screaming into my eyeball or trying to remove my bun from the top of my head. I look at him and often say out loud “how are you real?” There was such a long time where I thought my current state was one I would never reach that sometimes I fine it hard to believe it is actually happening. Even when I am living it.
There is a sense amongst the infertlity/TTC (trying to conceive) community that anyone who gets pregnant should just shut their trap and be grateful. And there is a LEGIT amount of truth in that. I was, and sometimes am still, that person. I am not really interested in hearing someone who batted their eyelashes at their husband and got pregnant complain about their swollen ankles either. Ok, Sally. I don’t feel bad for you. But this feeling can sometimes spill over to motherhood as well. I remember feeling so down and frustrated when coworkers or acquaintances would complain about all the activities they had to drive their kids to or similar small annoyances. What I would have given, and DID GIVE, for those annoying things to be part of my life.
But now, having made it to the “other side”…helllllllllllllo (can’t help myself but insert an Adele reference) I can see how this perspective and pressure can also be dangerous. Once you’ve dealt with infertility or loss, it is part of you. It doesn’t go away once you sustain a healthy pregnancy or give birth or become a foster parent or adopt. That journey is forever a part of you, the trauma, the fear, the longing, the hurt, the disappointment. It impacts everyone in different ways, and to different degrees, but it doesn’t just disappear because you’ve reached some finish line. People often think getting that BFP (big fat positive) is the ultimate goal in fertility battles, but for me that was just the beginning. The whole pregnancy I didn’t allow myself to connect to deeply with the baby because I knew the heartache of loss and every day/week that went by felt like both a victory and that the hurt would be so much worse if something went wrong. And for the record, I was never this person. I was never a pessimist or a worst case person. I was practical and pragmatic and a realist. But once you’ve had 5 things happen in a row, it’s hard to talk yourself out of that way of thinking. Even when everything continues to be perfectly fine.
Because I have been through so much loss and trauma related to trying to have a baby, I feel even more that I don’t have a right to have a bad day. I got what I wanted, others didn’t or havent and I did, but parenting is still hard AF. And you can be both. You can be inexplicably grateful for this adorable, legitmately miraculous human and still struggle. You can be exhausted because it is exhausting. And not for nothing, you started off exhausted from the trying and the loss and the heartache and the anxiety-ridden pregnancy.
I’ve had some conversations lately with some moms who became moms with some difficulty of various kinds, and most of us agree that we relate more to people in the infertlity community at times than we do in the “mommy” community. I think it just has to do with perspective. But, as a guest on my other favorite podcast, Big Fat Negative, said recently, kids on the playground aren’t running around with a sticker that says “I was made through science” or “my parents had a really hard time having me”. Once you get there, a lot of the trials and tribulations are the same. So those of us in the motherhood after infertility club are in this weird subgroup who feels like they are neither here nor there. The TTC people we’ve bonded with don’t want to hear our moaning about packing diaper bags, they may have a diaper bag in their basement that they’ve been waiting to use for years. And our mom friends often have no idea the trauma we still carry and wonder why we can’t let it go and move on.
It’s a weird place. I’m happy to be in this place but it’s weird. I’m working on these expectations I’ve adopted from the world and that I’ve set for myself. I’m not the parent I expected myself to be. It hasn’t come as easy to me as I, or others, expected. I’m frazzled, forgetful and foggy. I operate in a state of “behind” which is not a place I’m used to being. I love my babe with all my heart and also often think other people take better care of him or have better instincts than I do. I pretent to be SUPER CHILL about his milestones, but I do “homework” with him every night to try and make sure he is on target. I think about my surprise, emergency hospitalization leading to his birth, how I got literally 1 second to look at him before he was swept away. I didn’t have the beautiful baby on the chest moment I envisioned. I had to wait hours to see him after he was born. I think about the first 10 days of his life and how he was cared for by amazing NICU nurses and how I had no idea how to feed or change him. And how I felt the entire time that they were better at caring for him than I was. We figured it out eventually but it wasn’t pretty.
I know all too well the pain of yearning for a child and not having one. Worse yet, not knowing if you ever will. It’s a pain I can’t really explain. So if you’re reading this, and feeling this way and want to punch me in the face, that’s totally fair. But I also think setting those of us who reach the promised land up to think that after this hurdle there is no more pain, challenge, strife or tears is dangerous and unhealthy. It’s an unfair burden to hold those moms-after-infertility (and all moms to that unattainable standard. So feel free to punch me in the face TTC fam, I’ll throw my mouth guard in just in case.
Just know if/when you achieve your mom dreams somehow, and find yourself struggling, I will be here to support you and tell you you’re allowed!
Almost nothing about this whole motherhood thing has gone how I expected. And regardless of acknowledging how hard we fought to get here, I am dedicated to allowing myself the space to have all the feelings, not push them away or feel ashamed of them because they’re not how I am supposed to feel. These Great Expectations we put on ourselves are actually hot garbage. And I am here to say no matter how easy or how hard it was for you to get here, I will never tell you to enjoy every moment. Because fuck that.
Hear the glorious sound of baby giggles from the next room
Rock a baby to sleep by singing I Want It That Way (in case we weren’t sure he was mine)
Pump my life away for 9 months
Order $18384829239057 worth of baby supplies from Amazon between 1 and 4am
Or, an endless list of other mom things
I know this day sucks. A lot. For many. I am accutely aware of how hard, not only this day but the lead up to this day can be. Because I thought I’d never get to celebrate it. I thought it would always be a sad day. A reminder of the thing I wasn’t. Of the title I didn’t have. For 2 and a half long years the whole month of May was pretty rough and emotional. It has forever changed the way I look at this “holiday”.
For years I dreaded all the commercials, ads, pictures of families. And to be honest, I am still very uneasy about it all. The same way I debated putting up a baby announcement when we realized our miracle was real, I feel the same about mother’s day posts.
There have been many amazing articles and posts that have been shared widely this week and this surely won’t do those any justice but I just want to highlight a few themes of what I’ve been thinking:
This day (and the lead up) is REALLY hard for some people. Certainly what comes to mind most for me are the people who so desperately want a child or children or those who have gone through the loss of a child or pregnancy loss. I have been so lucky to have been granted this dream of motherhood after years of heartache by some insane luck/alignment of stars/timing/guardian angel/universe/womb potion (yes a friend really gave me this and I can’t say it didn’t work because well…). I spent multiple years avoiding social media on this day because it was just too painful. As much as I was happy for my mommy family and friends, seeing all the posts were just like one gut punch after the next. So, to all my TTC (trying to conceive) community or the MC (miscarriage) community if you want to go into full media lockdown today. I get it. I hear you. Do what you need to do to preserve your sanity and wellbeing. If you don’t “like” 105 family photos today, everyone else will live. Yvonne Abraham did a beautiful job describing basically every feeling I have had, and have, about Mother’s Day for the Boston Globe.
It can also be hard for those who are estranged from their families, didn’t grow up with a mom, lost their mom, or a whole host of other reasons. Just keep in mind this day is weird and not awesome for many, so don’t make assumptions.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate moms! Because, for real, MOMS ARE THE TRUTH. Women are magic and moms are goddamn super heroes. And we shouldn’t just celebrate them on one day we should celebrate them every damn day. And we shouldn’t just do them some sort of fake favor by actually helping out around the house for once or fake acknowledging everything they do on one random Sunday and then go back to letting them do an unfair share of the work (just saying). The invisible labor of moms is real. Please take a moment to read (1) what this day was actually supposed to be about until it was commercialized into cards, flowers, brunch day aka activism and better care for mom and baby after birth. Shout out to Katherine Goldstein and Amy Westervelt for writing this piece for Medium showing the revolutionary roots of Mother’s Day and how to calculate the invisible labor ($26k from me!) many mothers are doing to keep households afloat. Also, (2) how we are incredibly NOT taking care of mothers after they give birth. At all. Our maternal mortality rate is INCREASING. Its 2019. What the actual EFF. Samantha Pearson wrote an amazing and horrifying article for HuffPost. We don’t take care of moms in this country and the results are staggering.
So, to all my fertility warriors out there, take it easy today. I know it’s not easy. To all my moms out there, enjoy it in whatever way feels good. I’m in a FB group where some moms plan their own day and buy their own gift so they get to do what they want and I say DO YOU GIRL. Whatever feels right on this day do it. Whether it is a black hole of binge watching Netflix, sleeping/hiding until Tuesday, reminiscing, fancy brunch, breakfast in bed, or staring at fridge art just know it’s all the right way to get through the day.
PS: instead of all the gifts, cards and nonsense can we just pay women what they’re worth and give them a real freaking maternity leave? Just a thought.
PPS: Please follow me on Instagram @notquiteknockedup and check me out on the Ali on the Run Podcast as part of her (Bomb Ass) Motherhood Series. I’m terrified and excited to be on and probably won’t listen for fear of what my voice sounds like. 🙂
If you didn’t sing this title to the tune of Motown Philly, please stop reading now and lose the link to this website.
Just kidding, please keep reading because I need readers and followers. ❤ But also get up on your Boyz II Men lyrics. Thanks.
I actually don’t have as many straight facts for this post as I was hoping, but I am going to share a little bit about how I “self-diagnosed” post-partum depression, how I worked up the nerve to go to my OBGYN and ask for a referral, how I got a TRASH therapist at first and just got referred to another, and some of the things I realized not thanks to the trash therapist but just through my own reflection.
I really struggled in the first several weeks after Liam was born. There are “baby blues” brought on by the enormous change in hormones post-birth (and after delivering the placenta which is chock full of all the ‘mones). It’s a BUNCH of crying, but that usually only lasts a few days though. Then there is post-partum depression (PPD). There is also post-partum anxiety, which to be honest I never heard of until I started looking up PPD, but it makes sense that it would exist.
PPD is like gestational diabetes or preeclampsia. It is something that some women just get related to pregnancy and childbirth. There may be risk factors, some may be more prone. Just like any other health condition, it is a diagnosis that is not something you brought on yourself. Unfortunately mental health conditions are not looked at the same way other health conditions are. To me, this was the hardest part to swallow. The same way I felt about recurrent pregnancy loss and infertility, I felt about wondering if I had PPD: How did I do this, cause this, create this. According to the Mayo Clinic “Postpartum depression isn’t a character flaw or a weakness. Sometimes it’s simply a complication of giving birth.”
I referenced the symptoms of PPD before, but just to refresh people’s memories:
Depressed mood or severe mood swings
Difficulty bonding with your baby
Withdrawing from family and friends
Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
Intense irritability and anger
Fear that you’re not a good mother
Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy (!!!!!!!!!!!!)
Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
Severe anxiety and panic attacks
Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
I have a pretty good gut/intuition and I felt like I might be dealing with PPD from very early on. But it is hard to tell when you gave birth 6 hours away from home, 6 weeks early and spent the first 10 days of your baby’s life in the NICU for 12 hours a day and covered in a full body rash (look up PUPP if you don’t know it, or forgot. Or don’t because it’s gross). Who wouldn’t feel tired, stressed, guilty, irritable, have mood swings or cry if that was the first couple weeks of motherhood? But a lot of those feelings persisted, and were often tied directly into my inability to breastfeed.
I thought I had a pretty good head on my shoulders about breastfeeding and was not putting undue pressure on myself; I wanted to breastfeed if I could, but I also knew there were many reasonable alternatives and lots of healthy babies and adults from both of them. The labor and delivery floor tried to help us, the NICU tried to help, 4 lactation appointments at home. But, when it actually came down to it, and it was just the two of us at home-it just wasn’t working. I felt like, yet again, my body failed at doing the thing it was meant to do. It honestly felt like another loss. And even though, via pumping 8-10 times a day for months, and eating a million things with oats-barley-and whatever other milk generating nonsense, and just luck I guess, I was able to create enough milk to sustain him thus far (8.5 months) I still felt like I failed. To me, failure is a big part of the root of a lot of feelings that I believe, in my farthest from an expert view, led to PPD.
Most of what we hear about PPD has to do with the last two bullet points on that list of symptoms. They are often sensationalized stories of mothers “pushed to the brink” and harming themselves and/or their children. So, naturally, that is what I originally thought of and brushed it off. But when I was honest with myself and looked deeper into the symptons, I realized I connected with a lot more of them than I thought. The ones in bold are the ones I related to. Especially: Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy.
Once I was honest with myself I knew I needed to talk to my doctor. I also knew I really enjoyed therapy before. I had a therapist when I lived in Rhode Island, not for anything specific but to just talk through life happenings. I highly recommend that btw. I also, luckily, had one that was housed within my fertility specialist’s office who was very helpful throughout my fertility treatment cycles. Of course, as it happens, my OBGYN left the practice right before I wanted to be seen so I had a brand new doctor. My biggest fear was that I would be judged, by her and others, and that she might think I was “crazy” or unfit. Especially since she had never met me before. I think it was scary for me to admit I was struggling with motherhood in some capacity while worrying the doctor would just go through the checklist and say yup PPD, concerned for safety, here’s some medication and DCF. This isn’t funny, but it was a real fear. The medical industry-and the thing is it is definitely an industry ($$$$$$$$)-there are checklists, and diagnosis codes, it often feels very cold and not human. Luckily, this doctor was very good, listened and thought I could benefit from therapy but didn’t think I needed medication at this point. I was glad she was honest about medication; didn’t want to jump to that right away but also set the expectation that it might be useful or necessary eventually.
But, here is the thing about therapy/counselors…there aren’t enough and they triage. So, I was referred to the Behavioral Department within my overarching practice. My OBGYN, Fertility, PCP and Pediatrician are all under the same umbrella which is cool. They also have a lab, radiology and pharmacy in-house which I love. Anyway, in January the Behavioral Health department was booking out until SUMMER. All I thought was what if I was having an actual mental health emergency? But, maybe they would have found time for that? Anyway, they referred me out to a “partner” office. Then they called me, and asked a few questions about what I was dealing with and looking for. And then I heard from, we’ll call her Dr. B.
She called while I was in Vegas, and if I LISTENED TO MYSELF, I would have known she was not the right fit from the very first call. I could just tell. TBH, I didn’t like the way she talked-I knew it would bother me and I would be distracted. Maybe that is mean, I don’t know, but even though it is true and I was right it was far from the biggest problem. I was away when she called so we played phone tag for a while and finally got an appointment.
The first one wasn’t bad, but wasn’t great. Even though it SEEMS obvious, she did point out that my feelings are probably pretty closely tied to the grief from my dad’s sudden passing as well. I was aware of this dichotomy of feelings when I was pregnant, since I found out about the pregnancy the day after my dad died. So, the entire thing was a whirlwind of sadness, terror, excitement, hope, fear and worry. I never really, truly got to process and grieve. I felt like I shouldn’t be sad when I was so excited about this *seemingly healthy*, surprise pregnancy. Even though I am not a religious person, I felt like the timing was wild and it was hard to believe the two happenings weren’t connected in some strange “bigger than us” way. I am also the planner and caretaker in my immediate and extended family, so I was doing a lot of the management of plans, paperwork, other people’s emotions, etc. While it was a good that thing was a distraction from the other in a way, it definitely prevented me from sitting with the grief of the loss of my father which I still don’t think I have fully processed. This realization is probably the only good or helpful thing that came from this therapist.
I went to see her two more times. Somewhat out of hope that maybe it would work out. Partially out of exhaustion and not wanting to go through the doctor-referral-scheduling thing again. And partially out of guilt because she was an older, arguably pitiful woman, and I basically felt bad telling her it wasn’t going to work out. LORDY COLLEEN what in the hell. I didn’t want to be judgy and dismiss her right away. But the phrase used most often in my first appointment was “that’s cool”. I don’t know why it bothered me so much, mostly I think it was unintelligent and unhelpful. When I am talking about how difficult it has been for me to go back to work and feel like I am failing both in work and at home, and your response is your job sounds cool?? I meeeeeeeeeaaaannnn…
The second appointment was more of the same. I left there feeling more stressed, annoyed, and like I wasted PRECIOUS time driving there and back. I decided to give it one more appointment (which was a mistake). In appointment #3 I got a lot more of that’s cool-WHAT IS THIS COMMENT? I also felt like I was counseling her at some points. Some of you who follow me on Instagram recall me sharing on my story some of the comments she made like asking if someone I was referencing was African because she had a boss once who was African and who looked down upon women…I am sorry WHAT. And that she is a massage therapist and worked for a bunch of super rich people from India (she guessed because “they’re all rich”) who paid her double her rate just because they could. This was in reference to her asking me if the “college admissions scandal” was all the talk at work since I work at a college. And then said she felt bad for Robert Kraft and that they should “let that poor man just be” and that he probably didn’t do what they said because why would he.
Besides that so much of this is so problematic in so many ways…WHY ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT ANY OF THIS IN MY COUNSELING APPOINTMENT? Anyway, when she asked when I wanted to meet again I gave her the let me check my schedule because April is really busy and then ghosted her harder than anyone else in my life. Such a waste of time, money, energy and actually left me more frustrated and exhausted emotionally.
But…I did not give up! I reached back out to my OB, asked for another referral, did a phone triage with the office in that practice and then was referred out to the same company as useless Dr B again. Ugh. BUT I got connected with a different person who I saw tonight. She was kind of a spaz, but gave me a book and an app recommendation so I already got more out of one appointment than 3 with B. So, we’ll see, but progress.
Even though Dr. B was a trash therapist, and perhaps a trash human, here are a few of the things I learned through my own self-reflection:
I cannot separate myself as a mother from myself as a person trying to have a baby. These people are not separate. Having a baby does not erase the trauma I went through trying to conceive, having 5 miscarriages and two failed IVF cycles and thinking having a baby may not be possible. I carry all of those things with me everyday as a mom now. And even though I am more grateful and feel luckier than I could imagine that something I thought was not possible did happen, the trauma and grief does not disappear and does infultrate my thoughts, actions and mental health now. Being grateful for what I have doesn’t make the pain disappear. “Getting what I wanted” doesn’t mean that there are no challenges or that sleep deprivation isn’t real. I can both relish in the fact that his human exists and that I have this title I thought I may never have annnnnnnnnnnd be scared and on edge and question myself at the same time. I remember not being able to understand people who struggled or had PPD after going through fertility treatments. How could you be having a hard time when you FINALLY got what you wanted? Welp, now I get it.
We can’t pretend that the pressure (and judgment) put on moms about working…and not going to work…isn’t a factor in PPD and PPA. While I struggled in the first several weeks, especially with breastfeeding, I really struggled once I was back to work. This unrealistic set of expectations explained in this quote that is published often and widely “we expect working mothers to work as if they don’t have kids and parent as if they don’t work” resonates with me on a spiritual level. The attempts I have made to accomplish that feat have left me completely depleted physically and mentally. If you’ve ever taken anything like StrengthsQuest (shout out to my higher ed peeps) I score highly on Achiever. I rely on my ability to succeed as validation of my worth. And being an achiever is part of my identity at work and in my personal life. Who am I if I am not achieving at a high level? I actually don’t know. This applied during my fertility struggle as well, in not “achieving” a healthy pregnancy, and applies now even more so. Who am I letting down if I can’t achieve the unachievable BALANCE (vom) between work and life (as if they are separate when most people spend more of their time at work than at home)? In essence, everyone. Please read this BOMB ASS ACCURATE AF post by Sarah Buckley Friedberg that went viral recently for a better description of what women are essentially told to do after having a baby. I was yelling AMEN while reading it, and I am sure many can relate.
Society to working moms:
-Go back to work 6-8 weeks after having the baby. The baby that you spent 9-10 months growing inside of your body. Go back to work before you have finished healing or have had time to bond with your baby. Keep your mind on work, and not your tiny helpless baby that is being watched and cared for by someone other than you. Make sure to break the glass ceiling and excel at your job- you can do anything a man can do! It is your job to show society this! Show the world that women can do it all. Rise to the top of your career.
-Also breastfeed for at least a year. So take 2-3 pumping breaks a day at work, but don’t let it throw you off your game or let you lose your focus.
-Also, lose that baby weight and get back in shape, as quickly and as gracefully as possible. Make sure to get 8 hours of sleep a night so you can work out, work, and care for your family. But also get up at 5 am to workout, unless you want to do it after your kids go to bed when you also need to clean the house and get life ready for the next day and you know, sleep.
-Maintain a clean, pinterest worthy house. Take the Christmas lights down. Recycle. Be Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the birthday planner, the poop doula (seriously when will this end), the finder of lost things, the moderator of fights. Be fun. Be firm. Read books. Have dance parties.
-Maintain the schedule for the entire family. Birthday parties coming up? Make sure to have presents! Ensure the kids are learning to swim, play an instrument, read, ride a bike, be a good human being, eat vegetables, wear sunscreen, drink enough water, say please and thank you. Don’t forget they need to dress as their favorite book character on Monday, and wear something yellow on Thursday. Oh it’s totally your call but most parents come in on their birthday and read to the entire class. In case nobody told you, if you have more than one kid you will need to buy new shoes approximately every other day. See also: winter coats, shorts, pants that aren’t 4 inches too short. There will never be matching socks or gloves for any member of the family, ever again.
-Remember the dog you got before you had kids? Shes getting old now and needs expensive surgery. She also need walking, a new bed, and she smells pretty bad.
-Hey! Kids need lots of doctor appointments. Monthly as babies. Every time they are sick. Specialist appointments, especially if any of them have extra needs. At least two school conferences a year. IEP meetings, if applicable. Parents night. Back to school night. Get to know your school night (what IS this). Most parents are volunteering at least once during the year, would you like to come make a craft with the kids? It will only be an hour or two of your time.
-Sorry, you are now out of vacation time because you used it all for time taking your kids to appointments or when your childcare is unavailable. You should go on vacations though. It’s good to relax and unwind from work. Makes you a better employee.
-Don’t forget the kids need healthy meals (and so do you! you are trying to lose that last 20 lbs before swim season right). That requires meal planning, grocery shopping, and meal prep on the weekend. But also hang out with your kids on the weekend since during the week you only get to hang out with them when they are exhausted and angry that you made the wrong kind of spaghetti for dinner.
-Date your spouse! It’s important to keep your relationship alive and fresh. Try to go out 1-2 times a month. Good, kid free time. Hire a babysitter, they charge 22+ dollars an hour in your area so make sure to take out an extra mortgage and/or work another job to be able to afford this.
-Oh hey you should have a hobby too. It’s important to have “you time”. Also be well read, keep up with the latest pop culture and tv shows, and keep an eye on politics and be able to discuss at least one of the above on the small chance you are out in public and encounter another adult necessitating small talk.
-Make sure to have friends. Social time is SO important. Surely there is an hour or two left in the week after all of the working, appointments, exercising, cooking, scheduling, cleaning, imparting lifelong morals and learning on the kids, the usual. Maybe go out after the kids are down for a glass of wine and a bite to eat. Make it a healthy bite though. And you may regret that wine at your 530 am spin class.
-Self care though. SO important. See also: getting in shape. See the general doctor, the dentist (TWICE), the lady doctor. Prob need to get your eyes checked. Full body skin checks 2+ times a year (just me? okay well). Mental health too. Postpartum anxiety? But you look fine and your kids are so cute. Everyone should have a therapist. Good luck finding one that takes your insurance and has hours outside of your normal working time (out of vacation time, remember?). That leaves evening time when you want to hang out with your kids. But it’s important, so make time for it.
-Don’t wear yoga pants and a mom bun or society is going to mock you in numerous witty blog posts. Never mind that nothing fits. Going to have to get up even earlier so you have time to style your hair, wing your eye liner and search for a pair of pants that fits your new post baby (or multiple baby) shape.
-Get off your phone, turn off the TV, and enjoy your life. Enjoy your kids. THESE ARE THE GOOD TIMES make sure to love every minute of life because before you know it all of this will be in the past.
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to lean OUT. Thanks for coming to my Ted talk.
3. Failure. It is connected to #2 but so many parts of parenthood are listed in terms of failure. Ooooooooh you’re not breastfeeding? Oooooooooh the baby isn’t sleeping through the night? Are they a “good” baby? Your baby isn’t rolling yet? Crawling yet? Standing yet? Eating yet? (First of all, don’t ask the good baby question, that’s a ridiculous question straight up). My friend, and fellow new mom, posted an article from Raisedgood.com the other day that hit me so hard. It is specifically about baby sleep; people give/receive a lot of judgment about their parenting based on how well or how long their baby sleeps for (and how soon). Listen, I’ve wanted to sleep for more than 90 consecutive minutes as much as the next girl, I wondered if I would ever sleep to a point of feeling rested ever again. And I did feel heaps of inadequacy when friends and acquaintances were sharing (or bragging) about their “great sleeper” and the 7-7 sleep schedule they were enjoying. I bought every sleep device on the market. I felt three things at once: (1) complete and utter exhaustion and wistfully hoping that one day I would ever sleep again, (2) jealousy and inadequacy that these other parents somehow got their babies to sleep for long stretches and (3) deep down I also knew that my baby’s sleep was totally normal and that he was doing just fine. But this article highlights a lot of the problematic “facts” and “advice” that is passed along-almost always unsolicited-that make moms feel like they’re failing, or question themselves and their instincts. A couple of my favorite excerpts:
EVEN AND ESPECIALLY IF YOU HEARD THESE AS A NEW MOTHER. Break the cycle of spouting off randomness that is not researched, generalized, passed down without investigation and harmful! Please and thank you!
Human mothers are among the most needed, hardworking and exhausted mothers on the planet.
In honor of Maternal Health Awareness Month, I felt like I wanted to dive a little deeper into my experience with PPD symptoms, my effort to seek therapy to understand and grow, and some of the pressures and expectations put on new moms in particular that I think contribute to an environment that can lead to those feelings. I say PPD symptoms in particular because I have not received this as a specific diagnosis yet. My second non-trash therapist actually thought I may have PTSD from my fertility struggles and recurrent pregnancy loss. So, diagnosis TBD but as important as it has been to me to bring awareness to infertility, I feel the same now about Maternal Health Awareness. While the challenges are different and certainly many women deal with PPD and PPA who never had a fertility issue, for me the 2.5 years of trauma and grief related to these struggles are intrinsically connected to my mental state now.
Not Quite Knocked Up turned into Not Quite Knowing What I’m Doing as a Mom. And I think I am becoming more ok with that.
My body hasn’t been my own since November 2015. Honestly, I’ve been so detatched that I just realized this recently.
I’ve had a pretty complicated relationship with my body since pretty much middle school, not super atypical from a lot of women who are taught to hate their bodies pretty young. I was a pretty small child, super active with dance, gymnastics-and a variety of other sports at which I was pretty consistently terrible. After taking a year off of gymnastics in 8th grade, I grew 6 inches (4’11” to 5’5”) over freshman year in High School. Also, got my period, grew boobs, and gained a lot of “squish” in a variety of places I never had it before. It was kind of a brutal year going from scrawny body to lady body. #pubertycomeslateforgymnasts
I always had a HUGE appetite, regardless of size. I was famous (or infamous) for eating 8 or more hot dogs at the Irish American Club St Patrick’s Day Parade after party when I was like 7 years old. Like, without a problem. Just put down a pack of hot dogs. In between singing Green Alligator and Long Necked Geese (if you know, you know). The only thing that saved me was being very active. I remember people always saying only to eat until you’re no longer hungry when I was little, and I was like got it, 10-4. The problem was I was never not hungry! I was only ever really full on Thanksgiving. Legit once a year. I blame my Grannie. I got a lot of qualities from her, and my appetite was definitely one of them. Grrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaat. I never had any body feelings as a little kid, mostly people thought my appetite was funny since I was pretty small. But after my 8th-9th grade growth spurt I was uncomfortable with my body ever since.
It was love-hate. Coming from a family whose members refer to themselves as “strong” as a loving way to describe overweight, I was pretty much considered on the more fit end of the spectrum. But my weight, and subsequently my feelings about my body, have fluctuated often over the course of time. It hit an all time low (or high depending on how you look at it) in 2012 when I moved to Brideport, CT. My new job responsibilites, lack of work-life balance, and difficulty managing on a small paycheck in an expensive area resulted in the peak of bad habits. Luckily, I woke up one morning and was like “girl, you better get it together. With all these health issues in your family history, it’s now or never.” So, I started making healthier choices in the kitchen and the gym and lost about 40 lbs. I maintained it, and more, as it got closer to the wedding in 2015. If I am being honest though, I took the “bride diet” to the extreme in the last few months pre-wedding getting up at the crack of dawn to workout hard before work and sticking to an unreasonably strict diet. But I had hated so many pictures of myself before, I was determined not to hate them on my wedding day. And I didn’t, I felt great.
Despite the diet being kind of intense, and something I did not plan on maintaining long term for my sanity, I realized for the first time during that period that it was more about what I was doing FOR myself that made me happier ABOUT myself than the weight/measurements exactly. Knowing I was doing good things for me made me see myself differently in the mirror.
On our honeymoon we let loose, and I mean really loose. Champagne All DAMN DAY. It was glorious. But when I got home I self-regulated and got back to a relatively healthy lifestyle. 2012-2015 had some fluctuations but for the most part it taught me a lot about what workouts I enjoyed, what delivered results and what nutrition was both filling and effective. As opposed to the baked cheetos and crystal lite with vodka diet I developed in college when trying to drop a few LBs lol. Ahh, memories.
Then came December 2015. When we decided we were going to start “trying” or stop trying not to get pregnant. It was weird to all of a sudden be like ok, welp, here goes nothing. But, if you’ve read my original posts you know that the first time we didn’t prevent pregnancy resulted in a chemical pregnancy and my first subsequent loss in January 2016. After that came a heavy dose of emotional eating…and that was before I had any idea what was to come.
We didn’t have any diagnosis or treatment for several months. But, starting December 2015 I gave up my body to the process of trying to be a mother. I peed on endless ovulation kits, I read about what to eat (or avoid) to “boost fertility”, I did acupuncture. I reduced my level of activity, at my acupuncturist’s recommendation because too much exercise ‘could affect my fertility level negatively’. It was annoying because I was kind of like, doubtful lady, but it was honestly a good reason for me to tell myself about not wanting to workout so I went with it. I was either trying to get pregnant at home, shooting myself twice a day with drugs, taking progesterone up the hoo ha, trying to stay pregnant, miscarrying, having blood drawn, having ultrasounds, having surgery or recovering for the better part of two years. My body was basically a science experiment. Throughout a lot of this time I was on pelvic rest, aka walking only. I was also on weird diets for several periods of weeks in a row related to medication I had to take for ectopic pregnancy (they make you avoid anything with folic acid while on methotrexate to remove an ectopic pregnancy. Basically anything they tell you TO eat when you’re pregnant, they tell you not to eat when on those meds).
And then in the most unpredictable turn of events in January 2018 I got pregnant for the 6th time. Expecting it would end like all the others before, and it didn’t. Thank God. But, I was on pelvic rest and progesterone twice a day for 13 weeks as a precaution. Then I was into my second trimester and hadn’t been allowed to exercise for months. Also, grieving the loss of my dad throughout this same period. I was so scared I was going to “do something” to put this pregnancy at risk. I stuck to the strictest of strict versions of the what you’re allowed to eat while pregnant. Keep in mind, I felt like drinking a hibiscus iced tea from Starbucks while avoiding coffee during one of my earlier pregnancies is what caused that loss. So, I was not willing to take any risks within my control, it just wasn’t worth it. There was enough out of my control that was scary and mysterious, I was definitely skipping the deli meat. I basically sustained myself on sesame bagels with butter for weeks. Carbs were safe, and yummy. But the stress of what I could or could not put in my body was exhausting.
Then, here he came, bursting through the door 6 weeks early and 4 hours away from home. Spent 2 weeks eating out of hospital cafeterias and local takeout, only sleeping 90 minutes at a time in between pumps. THEN you come home and have the whirlwind of trying to keep this tiny creature (and yourself) alive, and put together the nursery you never got to set up in your free time.
Many women talk about how their bodies change during pregnancy and after, and how it’s hard to feel like yourself again.
This is more closely a representation of my current chestal situation than I’d like to admit.
You had a creature growing inside you for 40 weeks (or 34) stretching out all your stuff, moving things around, making you puke or gag or cry or pee or basically anything else without warning. Then they come out, and sometimes you need stitches-regardless of their exit strategy. You may try breastfeeding, or nah. And if you do, you may continue this for a year or more, or less. Or if you’re me, you will have tried and tried and tried and failed, and ended up pumping somewhere between 5 and 10 times a day for 8 months (so far).
So, for a year your body has been taken over by an adorable alien. And before that you spent two years being poked and prodded trying to create said alien. And after that you spent 8 months trying to feed said adorable alien. I have literally no idea what my body “normally” feels like. No idea. I don’t know what my normal SELF feels like at all. I get that this whole mothehood thing creates a new normal, but what if you don’t even recall an old normal. How do you even spell normal???
When we moved back to Massachusetts, a friend of my cousin told me about a dance studio in the area that was all adults. No offense to any of the studios geared towards kids that offer adult classes. I’ve taken a lot of those. But sometimes they’re older ladies learning “hip hop” to Bruno Mars.
Not really my style. This place sounded up my alley: a bunch of people who used to be dancers and wanted to still do it. They had drop in classes, or you could audition to be part of the company that performs twice a year. I took a bunch of classes and liked them, was rusty AF, but it was fun. It was kind of a hike to get there and kept getting interrupted by pregnancies, or treatments, or losses so it was inconsistent but I always liked going. I wanted to try my luck at auditioning. The dates just never lined up to when we were taking a break from trying or with my work commitments. So, I never got to do it.
This is probably the least sensical time in my life to do it. I feel like I am drowning. I have no time and feel like I am running 100 miles an hour from home to daycare to work to daycare to home to bed. Rinse. Repeat. There’s no time for playing or cooking or cleaning or shopping or anything. But I got an email with a reminder about auditions, looked at the dates required and realized somehow I didn’t have any conflicts. I thought it was wild, but I sent Kenny an email saying “Is this crazy or should I tryout?”. He was like DO IT. So, I signed up. For hip hop, tap and jazz. Haven’t done the latter two in approx a decade? Went to a hip hop class the week before auditions and I was LITERAL TRASH. I didn’t have high expectations, but it was bad. Painful.
While I knew I was rusty, out of shape and out of it entirely, I also used to be good. Like, actually pretty good. So, it was hard to see how far I’d fallen. Also, I am old and I don’t get how the kids move these days. But I went. And on the morning of the auditions, Kenny and Liam were sick, I told him I should probably stay home and take care of them and he basically through me out of the house while wearing a medical mask (thankfully). I borrowed his Alife sweatshirt so I could feel cool, curled my hair and hit the road.
The audition choreography wasn’t as hard as the class, thank God. But, I still struggled to the utmost degree remembering the choreography. I don’t know if it was just being out of practice, or mom brain, or combination. But, nonetheless. I couldn’t remember 8 counts for shit. But, I did three auditions, and didn’t feel HORRIBLE afterwards.
I was prepared not to make it at all. But got an email that week that I made it in at least one category and I got invited to the showcase to see the dances for the shows and select which one(s) I wanted to be in. I made level 1 Hip Hop, which is the lowest level, I’m cool with that! Gotta work my way back into the fold.
Rehearsals started last week and the show is in June. I know I could’ve just taken classes randomly, but I also knew those would be very easy to talk myself out of. If we were too busy, if something came up, if money was tight. But in this case I am committed. I am not going to let the group or company down by blowing it off, therefore I can’t let myself down by blowing it off either.
The first rehearsal was so fun and I didn’t completely suck! There are 15 women; all different levels, ages and years of experience. It feels great to be back doing something I have always loved. I’m mad awkward because I don’t know these people, but the dance studio was always a reprieve for me and it is again. It is nice to be working towards something, have something to rehearse, and look forward to the performance. And, as often happens, making one good decision results in other good ones. So, I’ve been finding time to squeeze in some short workouts every day this week (#thanksonlinecontent). I realized that I am perpetually tired, so getting up a half an hour earlier doesn’t really change that.
Not going to lie, it is hard to be away from the baby for a couple hours each Sunday given how little time I get to spend with him already. But it feels like a good thing, and the right thing, to be doing for me and for him. It feels like therapy. And, speaking of therapy…
Next blog post about Post Partum Depression, actual non-dance therapy, and how my therapist was horrendous (but don’t worry I am finding a new one).
Another Opening, Another Show. My mom would always sing that as I was prepping for my recitals each year. So, here goes nothing. Catch me on a stage June 15th!