What an intense summer! Adjusting to becoming a family four has been so much more difficult than I imagined. Even typing that just now, I felt almost forced to add: “but so rewarding!” - and it has been, but in the interest of full transparency, I don’t want anyone to see the highlight reel and think that any of this has been a walk in the park (although there have been MANY walks in parks).
I struggled immensely in the weeks following the birth of my son. Asking for help was difficult. Not having enough help was difficult. Bonding was difficult. Recovering from a second cesarean section was difficult. Being home with two children for most of the day was difficult. The constant and often ridiculous worry was difficult. The lack of sleep was (IS) difficult.
Does that mean I love my children any less? Absolutely not. Does that mean I am not eternally and completely grateful for my two beautiful blessings? Absolutely not.
I just felt like I would have been more prepared for number two, but in all the ways I was prepared, there were so many other things that blindsided me: particularly my toddler’s immediate jealousy (which has thankfully mostly calmed to quiet acceptance and even some brotherly love) and how I would feel sad for him not understanding that now there was another who needed mommy just as much, if not more.
So, looking back over the past five months and what were the most helpful things I did to help myself through the initial
postpartum period and adjust to life with a toddler and an infant?
1. LEARN TO BE OK WITH THE MESSINESS OF IT ALL
I’ll be the first to admit - I hate mess. I clean my floors (mopping AND vacuuming) daily because I can’t stand even the tiniest bit of dirt under my feet in the house. I make my bed every day. I Marie Kondo my dresser drawers. My closet is organized by color. Having children? Expect the mess to be constant. Literally as I’m picking up a toy, another is being dropped. Acceptance here is key. It’s not going to last forever, and the laundry can wait. Better yet, let hubbs do it. (I do.) And remember, the mess isn’t always physical. Sometimes, we have to let each minute of the day be what it is instead of what we wanted it to be.
2. ASK FOR HELP (AND DON’T FEEL GUILTY)
One of my biggest struggles was trying to ask for help. I felt guilty about it…like there were all these things I should be capable of doing and I just wasn’t. There is nothing wrong with letting your support people know how you are struggling and let them know that you need them. It doesn’t make you any less of a great parent. You don’t have to do it all. You just have to survive because that’s exactly what the first several months are: survival.
3. TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF
I cannot stress this one enough. TAKE THE TIME. Whether it’s a walk, a nap, reading, working out - whatever you are into - remember that you still exist as a whole person outside of your children and that person deserves to have some time to themselves. Set boundaries for disturbances and embrace that hour just for you. I would not have kept it together if it weren’t for my daily workouts in the gym. Just leaving the house alone and driving there felt like a vacation some days. I feel absolutely wonderful when I’m working out. Earbuds in. World tuned out. Stress relieved. Endorphins pumped. It helps me to see some of my physical appearance starting to return after birth - for me, that is incredibly motivating and it makes me want to keep going and not give up. It’s ok to have personal goals and take the time and the steps to reach them. A happy mama is a good mama.
You’ve got this! What are some of your favorite tips for adjusting to life with baby(ies)? Leave me a comment!
Forgive my absence from my blog updates! Life has been a little crazy and after a certain week of pregnancy, updating was the last thing on my mind!
We welcomed baby Stellan Michael into our family on March 31st 2021 and the last nineteen days have been an absolute whirlwind..
In a previous blog update, I wrote about the birth trauma stemming from the birth of my first child back in 2018 and how it had left me with a lot of uncertainty and fear regarding the then-impending birth of my second child. In a nutshell, at just about 42 weeks I had an emergency c-section following an unsuccessful 30 hours of labor.
This time, while a markedly different experience, was still quite traumatic and I am personally now convinced that maybe it has to be as birthing a child is truly a transformative experience. In no way do you ever go back to who you were before. Like a butterfly emerging from the cocoon - one must die a little in order to be reborn.
My first child, Rémy, was born at just about two weeks past due as I just mentioned. He weight almost 10lbs and I never truly went into labor on my own. This time; however, I did experience labor. Funny thing is - I had no idea what to expect with labor because I did not experience a traditional birth experience during my first go. So how did it go down...read on!
I felt my son’s head lift out of my pelvis and a gush of water escaped me! I honestly thought I had just peed myself a little because if you’ve ever had a baby, you know how much “little pee” escapes in those last few weeks. I though nothing of it and went on about my life.
i went to the gym for my usual workout - leg day. With every thrust and squat, I felt lightening shooting down my inner thighs and continued to experience that gushy feeling.
I head to my regular doctor’s appointment, now wondering if what I had been experiencing all day was my water breaking and if those “tightening” feelings in my belly were baby moving slowly or signs of true labor. I didn’t want to get my hopes up so I barely mentioned to my husband in the car (I insisted meeting up at home and taking one car just in case) the things that I had experienced. I just casually threw it out there that I thought something maybe, possibly, ever-so-slightly - something could be up.
My regular OB was on at the hospital so I saw a different doctor to whom I described my experiences. Just like that, I was on my way to Labor and Delivery to confirm whether or not my water had broken.
We didn’t stop for food (I was really looking forward to our weekly post-appointment date at Tacos El Tio) and we definitely didn’t stop to install a car seat or pick up our somewhat packed hospital bags (second kid problems) as I was convinced they would be sending me home, slightly embarrassed that I had peed myself and announced it to the world.
Upon arriving at the hospital, those stomach tightening feelings I had been having had increased significantly. I told the intake nurse that I was probably just being silly, but she confirmed that I was not in fact crazy and it sounded like I just might be in labor.
A midwife came in and gave me the litmus test which was inconclusive, as was the microscope test - especially since I did seem to have a lot of fluid present. I was sent to ultrasound, where it was confirmed that I did in fact have a slow leak! During that time, those contractions had kicked up to 3 minutes apart! Wow! This was really happening!
the one disappointing fact was that I was once again 0 dilated. “High and tight” was what I kept hearing in reference to my cervix. After the midwife consulted with my OB/surgeon (who I had already mentioned just happened to be on that night) it was decided that at 9 days early, I would be having a baby that night! Albeit by cesarean so as not to put me through the same trauma as I had experienced the first time around.
We honestly could not believe that it was really happening. My husband quickly left to grab the car seat and our bags - hastily packing anything I had yet to include. We made arrangements for our son to be picked up from daycare and I called out of work for the next day. I left all of my personal belongings in my classroom thoroughly certain I would be returning for my last scheduled day of service on 4/1.
Hours past and we waited. I breathed through my contractions as best I could as I was being prepped for surgery.
I walked myself back to the OR and hopped up on the table, incredibly nervous this time about the Spinal Block heading my way. I received my epidural the first time around in so much pain and already drugged on morphine, I didn’t really think much about it. But this time - I was stone cold sober and a little to aware of what a spinal block looks like! I had a great anesthesiologist, and despite me jumping off the table when she touched my back with her finger, I was feeling my legs melt away from me in no time at all, blissfully unaware of any needles.
my husband was brought in. Preparations were calmly being made all around me. They even asked what type of playlist I wanted. I said Bruce Springsteen.
The cesarean itself is uncomfortable and feels like you are being pulled and rummaged through and the smell of what I always think is burning skin is pungent.
I barely felt anything this time. Thank goodness.
Making his debut at 8lbs .7oz and 21 inches long, Stellan Michael came into the world to the lyrics of Hungry Heart. He looked like a prune, but boy was he beautiful and healthy
Parenting is hard.
Read that again.
In a world where it really does take a village to raise a child, a sense of community with other people - especially other moms/parents - is essential to survival. First time parents are not given instructions when they are sent home from the hospital with their new bundle(s) of joy, and as more and more people are branching out to new places and setting down roots in new areas, even with social media and modern tech, family is not always close-by to help with quick questions and answer those pesky "what-ifs." Even the best and most well intentioned of parents can sometimes make mistakes along the way or make choices that may make others uncomfortable.
I remember being given a car seat/nursing cover after my first son was born. I swore it was a maternity/postpartum friendly skirt and wore it out a bunch of times before I found out (via the internet) that skirt was not among the suggested uses for my new gift. People were nice about it. We all laughed. it was funny.
But, what happens when the community turns on you? Really turns on you?
Sadly, we live in a digital world where, thanks to an increased virtual-living/working presence due to the pandemic and advancements in media at large, many people have forgotten the art of the fact check and turn into cyber bullies and keyboard warriors at the first sign of anyone who disagrees with their views - relentlessly and swiftly typing out every justification for their personal beliefs in a fury of insult and anger. Many people choose to read a headline and, without looking into it even with the most casual of investigations, just choose to believe it. Or even repost it. People have forgotten how (or were never taught/paid attention in class) to cite their sources, so to speak. Or people have forgotten the right to privacy and blindly steal photos or material from others in efforts to skew the message or to push an agenda. And that's not even the half of it.
How are we supposed to survive as parents when something as innocent as a photo of your child in their car seat can spark such widespread disapproval and condemnation - and usually from people who have no idea of the context, or even have their own children?
According to Medela.com, mom-shaming is defined as "bullying moms [or dads] for their parenting choices in subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) aggressions..." What does it look like? The site goes on to mention various (but not completely inclusive) instances where mom-shaming is taking place: commenting on how she chooses to feed her child ("breast is best!"), questioning the child's milestones ("my Dylan was walking by that age."), commenting on how she spends her "free time" ("I can't believe you just went right back to work." "Don't you feel guilty for working out when you could be spending time with your kids?" "How can you afford not to work or contribute to your household?"), commenting on or correcting parenting choices ("According to the standard safety guidelines..." "Well, MY pediatrician said...." and "You really should be doing that this way instead."), pushing your personal agenda/beliefs ("Why do you let your son play with dolls?" "For a girl, she wears a lot of blue!" "Don't you think her nursery is a little boy-ish?"), commenting on her body ("Wow! You lost the weight so fast! I wish I could take time away from my kids to workout, but you know I have to be a mom." "Wow! You haven't lost the weight yet? Yikes! Girl, let me show you some diet tips."), questioning birth choices ("She elected to have a c-section?" "I gave birth all-natural - no drugs - and only had to push for 10 minutes. I don't know why you'd want to put drugs in your body just to give birth. It's no big deal." "C-section is birth isn't really birth."), judging her by the "Pinterest Mom" scale (commenting on her nice hair, face full of makeup, "put-togetherness," workout habits, Elf-On-The-Shelf placement game, her cooking, her ability to "do-it-all" and make it look effortless), the number of kids a person decides to have ("you only have one kid? What that was enough for you?" "Wow...four kids! Do you guys actually have any hobbies besides baby making?") and - finally - the elusive putting on the perfect mom insta persona (more nebulous, but certainly involves putting on the show that your life is literally perfect by staging all of your photos just-so and acting like it's 100 percent organic - no one is that perfect).
That's a short list. Certainly not a comprehensive one, but it is a start. It's a good place for you to start examining how you have personally treated others or have been treated yourself. Chances are, at one time or another, we have all been guilty of at-least one of these bullying tactics, whether we realized it at the time or not.
So, now that we have a better understanding of what types of comments or behaviors might constitute mom-shaming, let's talk about what you can do about it should you find yourself the victim, and how to stop doing it, if you are in fact nothing more than a bully.
Help! I've been mom-shamed!
Parenthood is not for the faint of heart, so you already have some pretty-thick skin just from surviving this far. Don't underestimate that power. Whether you are the take-no-prisoners, mess-with-the-bull-you-get-the-horns Type A mama (like myself) or someone who tends to be a bit more non-confrontational, here are some strategies to help you deal with the Car Seat Karens, Neonatal Nancys, and the I-Don't-Even-Have-A-Kid Kims.
1. Ask yourself: Is this even true?
There it is. Right in front of you. Some nasty comment from an internet troll. Or a backhanded mom-shame laden compliment from a friend or even a stranger. You read it. You hear it. You take it in. You feel it. Stop yourself RIGHT THERE at "feel it." Ask yourself, is what this person is saying even true?
2. It's not you, it's them.
I know. It's easier said that done to just not take it personally. However, it is so important to remember this one simple truth: It really is not a reflection on you, but rather on the person or persons who are commenting. It says so much about their own insecurities and personal lack of fulfilment than it does about you or your skills as a parent, and certainly not your child. I think it is safe to assume that whatever the criticism, you were not intentionally harming yourself or your child, and in most cases, there was probably a whole lot more to the story that your critic ignored. Think about how easy it would be for them to just scroll on by your social media, to not comment on your weight, or your looks - but they just have to do it. You played no active role in their hate, you didn't ask for the commentary: you are just there existing as the badass mama you are and they took the time to comment. On you. On your kid. On your outfit. On your workout. On your house. You irritate their demons and their insecurities and personal resentments. It is not your responsibility to fix that. Other people's opinions of you are not your business. They have therapy for that. Address it if you feel you should, but mostly just do the block and bless: "Bless your uninformed and ill-intentioned heart. You are now blocked so that you may live in a universe where I do not exist." The block and bless move just makes you that much more of a gift.
3. Try "The Teigen."
No stranger to haters, celebrity mom Chrissy Teigen has famously clapped back at many a keyboard warrior on her social media platforms. And, she's good at it. Really good it. Which is kind of sad in away, because that's the only way to get good at those type of comebacks - to have to do them frequently. Chrissy has been criticized for nearly everything she has ever done and it is actually kind of infuriating when you think about it. Her usual stance is to just be very blunt - address the behavior directly - and then flip it back on them. Her sometime humorous "you good, sis?" approach to Negative Nellies has proven to be pretty successful. For example, when a wannabe troll commented that she should cover up her cleavage around her daughter, Teigen went right back with: "She sucked it for months and doesn't mind it much." Or the (countless) times she has been shamed for her postpartum body and responded with comments like, "hate to say this but…you are not a small person? Also, I don't care about my weight sooooo this does not hurt." It's totally okay if you want to address your troll directly. Hey, they had no problem saying what they said to you, so feel free to read them their rights to mind their own damn business if you feel comfortable and confident enough to do so. Nine times out of ten in my personal experience, people don't expect this type of reaction and they have no idea how to respond when you call them out directly. They get flustered, they start backtracking, they start making stuff up, they start publicly posting excuses and try to shift the blame - but it's no use, they've already been exposed.
4. Keep the Receipts.
I'm not saying you have to do anything with them, but it's always good to compile CVS-style receipts if you have a serial bully on your hands. Some people do not know when to quit and will come for you just because they need to somehow feel relevant and important. This goes back to points one and two. These type of manipulators will try to paint you as the bad person when confronted (see point number 3) and it helps to have documentation of their longstanding casual relationship with the truth when it comes to you and/or your kids. There are two sides to every story and then there are the screenshots. I have receipts going back almost a decade now.
5. Accentuate the positive.
Instead of letting the comments of others fester in your mind, turn them around and make them into positive affirmations. If someone says something like, "I can't believe you aren't breastfeeding your baby!" - do not internalize it that way. When you are feeding your baby formula from a bottle, repeat this to yourself instead: "My baby is fed and that's the most important thing." Words can definitely hurt, but the important this is to constantly remind yourself that the negativity of others does not belong in your head or heart. You have too much love to give and happiness to enjoy to focus on what some two-bit internet expert had to say about your choice of how to feed your child or what they wore in the last family picture you posted.
6. Take Action.
In most normal cases, this last suggestion is not necessary. However, if you feel that yourself, your child, or a family member has been put in danger because of what a troll has said or posted, be prepared that you may need to take the next step and alert your local authorities. This should go without saying, but it is NEVER OKAY for a Shamer to disclose a person's place of business, home address, phone number, email address, or other personal information. Ever. And especially not with malicious intent to expose that person to further ridicule or danger. Second, it is NEVER OKAY for a Shamer to post a photo of or details about your underage child on social media without your permission. These details could include address, phone number, social media handles, school addresses, activities, etc. The legal aspect here is hazy as the internet is still relatively new and evolving in the grand scheme of things, but it is perfectly acceptable to use this information in a civil matter if your local authorities are unable to arrest someone for an infraction of a law.
Lastly, if you find that you, yourself, are or have been guilty of any mom-shaming bullying behavior, it isn't too late to change your ways. Just be more considerate and mindful of the thoughts and feelings of others. Recognize that you are an imperfect person and your problem with the person you want to troll really does reflect on some inner unrest you have going on with yourself, and you really might be better off looking inward and trying to fix what is broken within yourself. It is entirely ok to see a post you don't agree with and just keep scrolling. If you simply cannot function without saying something to the person, might I suggest doing it privately ONLY if you are a friend or family member with the understanding that your question/comment/advice may not be well received and it may complicate your relationship with that person or their child, and be willing to accept the consequences of your words and actions without drama. There is always a certain way to say things so be sure that your tone isn't accusatory when and if you decide to approach that person. OR you could just mind your business, seek out a therapist, or write in your diary about it. Any of those will work.
If you are just an acquaintance, an unwelcome person, or an internet troll - the time for your comment is NEVER and the place for your comment is IN THE TRASH.
Try to be decent to each other. The world needs more of that.
The following is a personal account of what occurred and how I felt during my previous labor and delivery experience. In an effort to sort through my feelings as I head into a second birth scenario, I am posting the following blog. I realize that, for some, this may be triggering. It certainly is for me.
The idea of childbirth is a real mystery for anyone who is expecting, but it is certainly something that creeps up on you as you progress towards your due date. What will it really be like? I have only experienced birth once, but I am just as mystified this time as the date approaches as I was when I was pregnant with my first son and, at that time, completely naïve of the realities.
Part of you is super excited, happy, and anxious to meet your little one, and then - if you are anything like me - a bit apprehensive of what exactly the birth experience will be like. As a culture, we are exposed to so many similar (and terrifying) scenarios in the media: screaming sweaty women sitting with their legs behind their heads cursing out their husbands or partners. Crying at the pain. And just then - when you think this woman is really going to lose it - a crying, purple potato is placed delicately in her arms. The mother smiles, the baby coos, dad comes in for a hug and a photo. Suddenly, the pain is completely forgotten.
Or is it?
I thought I was over it. I thought I had forgotten it, but in recent days I have been facing the naked reality that - no, I am not in fact, over it. No, I am not ok with how my first birth occurred and, no, the familiar "all's well that ends well" that people try to shove down your throat whenever you bring it up is not ok.
Some of the details of that day are a bit hazy now, but in light of recent events (I'll get to those), some very strong feelings have been coming to the surface for me. I'm trying to name them and address them as they come, and the number one feeling that brings me to my knees was the ultimate and pervasive feeling of not being in control. Losing my autonomy. It was the exact opposite of empowering.
Before giving birth to my son, I had these grand ideas of what birth would be like for me. It was going to be different for me. I worked out every single day of my pregnancy, did thousands of squats (literally, because I read somewhere that if I did, my baby was all but guaranteed to just fall out when the time came), read all of the books, and compiled the perfect songs for my birth playlist. I wasn't going to take it "laying down" like that woman on TV. I wasn't going to be the woman screaming and crying on her back, looking completely helpless. I was going to squat and hover on all fours and naturally push this baby out of me with the aid of essential oils and soft music - certainly not with an epidural. I was going to be the birth champion! Oh, and it started so gloriously.
My son was brought earth-side by the miracle of surgical intervention on July 15th 2018 after suffering for about 30 hours of labor. What went wrong? How did that happen? How did I get to that point? I frequently find myself asking these questions randomly throughout the day or at night, when I can't sleep. Why was it so hard for me? Why is it so easy for others? What is wrong with me? It can make you crazy.
About two weeks passed his due date, and two non-stress tests later (the second of which I had failed), I was admitted to the hospital early on Saturday morning, confident that I was already in labor and that the transition from expectant to just mother would be a quick and smooth one.
I felt good. I felt ready. I felt like the contractions I had been experiencing since the night before were totally within my capability. I was excited. Then, that all changed.
I remember my contractions being about 6 minutes apart when I went in to be admitted. Granted, I was scheduled to be induced, but I had the dumb luck of going into labor the night before. The only problem standing in my way was that I was not dilated. At all. Zero.
As my contractions quickened, but I failed to dilate, it became clear that I was going to require my first intervention in the form of Cervidil - a medication used to soften and dilate the cervix. Within minutes, I went from watching the Happy Potter marathon on tv, carefully perched on top of a yoga ball to laying on the ground with contractions one minute apart.
Peep the side effects: The most common side effects associated with the administration of CERVIDIL are contractions occurring at a rate faster than normal (tachysystole) and signs that the baby is exhausted or in distress (uterine hyperstimulation). In clinical trials, these effects occurred alone or together in less than 1 in 20 women who were given CERVIDIL. In clinical trials, fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain were noted in less than 1 in 100 women who were given CERVIDIL.)
I had all of the above.
Several hours passed - it could have been two, it could have been four - but the pain became so unbearable that morphine had no effect - besides aiding the Cervadil in making me vomit profusely. I mentally left my body. I remember surfing vividly on an exotic island. I was no longer present. The pain consumed every ounce of me and I vaguely remember asking to be euthanized. The worst part - the cervadil had only advanced me to 1cm in that time. But 1cm was enough to get me an epidural. Cue medical intervention number two.
I had not originally planned to have an epidural, but I don’t think I would have survived without it. The Cervadil had already wrecked any plans I had for a natural birth. I must say, I didn’t hesitate for a second when it was offered. It was something that, prior to the experience or labor and delivery, scared me a lot: a long, thick needle right to the spine? Something that could potentially cause paralysis or permanent spinal damage if I did so much as flinch? But when I tell you, I would have stayed statute-still and taken that sucker right in the eye, I am not lying to you. It was that bad.
Once the epidural was in, the pain dissipated and I was almost a new woman. The only reminder of the previously unbearable labor pains was the rhythmic contracting of my abdomen. I could feel it harden, but it didn’t hurt. I even picked up interest in the Harry Potter marathon again. With a renewed sense of hope the nurses and midwife assured me that I was progressing quickly and it would only be a matter of hours before I would be holding my son in my arms. That sounded promising and the epidural made me believe I really could push this baby out. Intervention number three: my water was manually broken by a midwife with zero bedside manner. I had actually asked for someone else at one point, but there wasn't anyone. I just didn't like how rough she was with me and the way she spoke to me bordered on condescending. Birth is an extremely emotional journey, it's not the time to have unhelpful people around. I was glad for the epidural at this point because water-breaking looks terrifying and I was grateful I couldn't feel it.
My labor began progressing quickly - and at some point the nurses/midwives became extremely busy with other births occurring in the hospital and I was given a drug to slow/stop my labor altogether. I lost my nurses for several hours. My fluids ran out. My epidural ran out. I spiked a fever. There was literally no one around - except for a young tech who sort of flitted in after my husband went out into the hallway to try and flag someone down and she stood there apologizing profusely that there was nothing she was legally allowed to do and we would have to wait.
I was eventually put on oxygen and given Pitocin in a vain attempt to restart my purposely-stalled labor. It didn't work. They gave me more. By the next morning, I had dilated to 8cm. However, my water had been broken for over 12 hours, my son was showing signs of distress, my fever wasn't going down, and neither of us were particularly tolerant of the increased dosage of Pitocin. Here comes the heavy with the news that a cesarean section may be our best option, as both baby and I were at an increased risk.
I went into the hospital with a plan. I went into the hospital stating that under NO circumstances was I to have cesarean section unless it involved imminent death for myself or my son. I had come into this hospital in labor, I was progressing quickly, they told me it was a matter of hours - NOT DAYS - before I would be holding my son. They stalled my labor. They left me alone. And I continued to fight and labor and will my body to bring my son into the world. And now they were just going to pull the plug on me? Just wheel me into surgery after a full day and then some of the most excruciating pains of my life? I felt defeated. Utterly gutted and I refused to accept it. Stubbornly, I swore I would get this baby out on my own. My most pathetic moment was asking my husband to put on some ganster rap while I got on all fours trying to move him down the birth canal. This is quite the feat for someone with an active epidural who cannot feel their legs.
Eventually, I was backed into a corner and told that there was no other option. Terrified and furious, I signed the surgery papers. My literal worst nightmare was coming true, and I was helpless. The feeling of helplessness - the loss of any control - the sheer necessity of just giving in - haunts me the most. Literally tied to a table while they tell you you might feel some pressure while they remove your insides and lay them on a table next to you. While your husband stands there, fascinated, watching the whole thing and you are just...lost. The worst thing he said to me and still says to this day was, "You said you were fine."
No, I said I thought was going to die. You weren't listening. You were looking right through me. You didn't see me. It hurts me to type that, but he and I have very different perspectives on how things transpired from that point on and it led to many arguments after. He didn't like when I would question how things got so complicated. I know he felt useless. I know it wasn't his fault. We didn't know any better at the time.
When it is all said and done, and it feels like forever, and they pull the baby out, there is no thought of your wish to have the placenta remain attached. They just cut the cord. They don't honor your desire to have skin to skin contact. They just cart him away, measure him and all that, quickly pose him next to your head, and then send him out of the room in the arms of your baby's father. You just sit there, empty and exposed, waiting for someone to put you back together. It's the opposite of empowering - it's defeating. Then, as they are cauterizing you - you can smell it. You know it's "you" burning. It's not my best memory. I don't know that I can or will ever forget it. The grand finale came when the two nurses jointly jumped on (maybe not jumped, per say, but it certainly felt that way) my stomach sending painful patches of trapped air up and down throughout my body. I didn't know that was possible. "Look at how flat your stomach is," they commented. I, in some desperate attempt at trying to feel good about something, latched onto the idea that at least I had that. Maybe I'd be like the women who leave the hospital in their pre-pregnancy pants. It was something.
In the minutes after, I was wheeled into recovery where my husband was sitting with our son. They finally handed him to me and he latched right away. No hesitation. I took this as my only win at the time and I held onto it for dear life.
The shakes lasted a bit and I was so hungry, yet I couldn't eat. I finally attempted to eat some cheese fries and promptly threw up all over myself in front of every member of my husband's family. It was par for the course.
I didn't realize that at the hospital where I gave birth, they don't take the baby from you and carry them off to some nursery. No, they keep the baby with you the whole time. I guess I was expected to miraculously care for both myself and an infant after the whole traumatic birth experience and I had no choice but to oblige. Don't get me wrong, I was grateful for and amazed by the presence of my nearly 10lb baby boy. And so in love. Yet, I just wasn't prepared enough. Or well enough. Or okay enough to just jump right into it.
Sleeping was difficult. Every half hour, they were either checking the baby or me - but never both at the same time. Of course not. That would be too kind. I fell asleep holding/nursing him more than once and was promptly scolded for it.
I asked to walk after 12 hours - as recommended by my surgeon and anesthesiologist - and the night nurse denied me, citing that I didn't urinate enough and that no one told her I was allowed to walk. She moved my catheter and it emptied. I asked to see a doctor. Instead, she chose to help me out of bed and begrudgingly assist me in taking my first extremely unsteady steps. She handed me my urine bag - or as she called it, my "Gucci bag," and roughly dragged me to the side of the room and sat me in a chair. She told me to ring the nurse's station when I wanted to go back and left. It was only myself and my husband (and the baby) in the room, but it was humiliating.
Thank God for my husband in this instance, because he gathered me up and walked me around the room a few times. It was the first time I had felt like I had regained some of my power since starting the labor and delivery journey.
I ended up staying in the hospital for a total of five days - which is quite a bit longer than the average postpartum stay; however, we had complications: a lactation specialist told me that we were doing just great, but a neonatologist came in five minutes later and said that my son was losing too much weight (he was nearly 10lbs at birth and lost almost a full pound in the following days - which I now know is completely normal - and he wasn't wasting away). I cried a lot over that. I felt like the breastfeeding was the one thing I had succeeded at. It was the one thing I felt like we had going for us and now I had all this additional pressure to pump and provide. Thankfully, that would eventually pass - as would all concern about his weight - as time went on.
I left the hospital on a Wednesday. I couldn't bend my feet at the ankles and I looked even more pregnant than when I had been admitted. Showering brought tears to my eyes. Everything brought tears to my eyes.
It would be weeks before I felt some semblance of normal. The swelling dissipated after about two weeks. The combination of fluids and drugs really did a number on me and the night sweats (which no one tells you about) where horrible. I also had extreme difficulty using the bathroom due to the number of postpartum medications I was taking. I quit them all pretty quickly. The side effects were worse than the surgical pain, and the surgial pain was no joke. I also inexplicably lost all feeling in my right forearm. It eventually came back almost a year later. No one knew why.
So, what is the take away here? I guess I was ok with facing a second cesarean until I started really thinking about it. I know that my experience this time is likely to be different if it is a planned surgery; however, I can't help wondering how necessary the surgery really is for me and how much I may just be being pushed in that direction because it's the easier thing that makes everyone money. I hate that I have thoughts like that.
This country has an exremely and alarmingly high maternal/fetal death rate, especially among women of color. If I had to go back anc change something, perhaps I would have hired a birth doula. I thought about it doing it this time, but due to COVID 19 restrictions, my fully-vaccinated husband is barely allowed to accompany me to the birth and has been shut out of all of my appointments. I am not sure that a doula would be allowed for a regular birth, let alone a cesarean. It is something I plan to investigate further at the time of this publication.
Working out in the morning might be a bit of an adjustment, especially if you are use to after-work or late night workout - or even just late nights in general. Recently my own work schedule changed with the return to in-person hours, and the time I am losing for travel and preparation really began to add up. Pregnant with my second child, a toddler at home, and the responsibilities of running a household and being a partner in marriage, I suddenly found myself facing the challenge of fitting in my all-important workout. Now I know, that everyone has different priorities, but working out has truly been a non-negotiable for me since long before I even met my husband. The benefits I get from daily exercise make it worth the sacrifice of an hour or two. Bonus - my husband also gets to reap these rewards (and I'm not talking about the physical ones). Better mood, better sleep, better wife, better parenting. I am just better when I have that time to myself.
In an effort to maintain my physique and my sparkling personality (that's a joke, kinda), I had to re-evaluate when I was planning to put my "me-time" or my workout into my day, without sacrificing time away from my kids or family duties. In came the idea of getting up an hour early.
I love to sleep. Now more than ever do I love sleep. At 8 months pregnant, there are few things I am enjoying more than actual, deep, uninterrupted sleep these days - which, by the way, is extremely hard to come by with the indigestion, back pain, and constantly moving babies (one on the outside who refuses to sleep anywhere but next to me and the one on the inside who lets me know non-stop that he is doing just fine in there). Once I made the decision; however, and committed to actually waking up for the day an hour earlier than normal, it has been a real game changer. Not just for my workouts - but for my whole day in general.
When I wake up and workout, I find that I am more alert the whole day. Instead of exhausting me, it energizes me and gives me that extra push to start the day out on the right foot.
I find that I make better food choices - especially because this extra hour in the morning forces me to plan my at-work meals in advance. My protein shake is ready to go after my workout, as is my coffee. My snack and lunch are packed and ready the night before.
Contrary to what you might think, I'm also not running late or rushing to get out the door. Knowing how much time I plan to devote to my workout in advance of the morning allows me exactly the right amount of time I need to get myself together and out the door after my workout.
I have a bigger sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. I go to sleep knowing I gave my all and not feeling like, "Ugh...I really should go work out, but I'm too tired. It's been such a long day."
I close my MOVE and EXERCISE RINGS before 6am. If you know, you know.
I have more freedom. Because I'm not beholden to a post-work workout, I'm suddenly free to do whatever I feel like if an opportunity for happy hour (well, the food part for now) or early dinner, or a meet-up with friends should come up. I can make a guilt-free decision to actually go an enjoy myself, instead of thinking, "I really should be working out right now" the whole time.
I am more present in the moment. This one I can't explain. I just am. I don't know where the correlation comes in, but I feel like I'm living more in the moment instead of worrying about what's next.
I am happier.
It won't be easy to start a new routine, especially if you already have difficulty getting up in the morning, but it will be worth it. It's not for everybody, and waking up early isn't feasible for every situation, but for me - for now- it's working. In a few weeks when Baby #2 arrives, there will again be changes. However, if you feel like you can give it a go, I suggest trying it for a whole week. Commit to it. Set the alarm. Get up and move. See how it changes your life, and if it doesn't...that's ok. Try something else. Fitness, like our bodies, are not one size fits all.
If you do try to start doing the early morning workout routine or already are, let me know your feedback in the comments! I'd love to hear from you!
It's almost that time - baby time! With just a few short weeks left until we meet our newest son, I have been thinking a lot about what items I couldn't live without the first time around. This list is not extensive, but it does include some of the most used baby items we have/had and are the ones I definitely plan on reusing or buying again. I've compiled this quick and easy list of my top five go-to baby items for you! Links are contained in descriptions!
1. The Graco Click Connect Line of Compatible Strollers and Car Seats
I can't stress enough how much I recommend a cohesive collection of interchangeable parts when it comes to baby! My first go around (and this time, too) we used the Graco SnugRide Infant Car Seat and Carrier. The Click Connect system allows you to put just the base in your vehicle (total bonus if you have more than one vehicle that will be transporting baby - you can buy additional bases separately) and easily transport your infant up to 35lbs in and of the car effortlessly. We also used the super compatible Graco FastAction Fold Jogging Stroller for days at the beach, running, and strolls around the neighborhood. For easy trunk storage and store-friendly mobility, we keep the also compatible Grace Breeze Click Connect Stroller in each of our vehicles. This time around, we have also upgraded to a multi-function double stroller to accommodate traveling with both of our boys and added the Graco Ready2Grow LX Stroller with 12 riding options (including sit and stand for my toddler) to our fleet. I can't say enough about compatibility - it matters in a marriage and it matters when it comes to keeping life with babies simple!
2. DockATot Deluxe+ Dock
If you are expecting you have certainly by now become aware of all the hype surrounding the fairly pricey DockATot line of baby docks. At $175 for the 0-9 month Deluxe+ Dock in Pristine White, this pillowy soft baby item is a bit of a splurge, but this mama will tell you that it made all the difference in getting back to sleep soundly for more than just a few minutes at a time. This little baby kept our little baby snug and secure and asleep long enough for mama to take a shower and maybe brush my teeth. WORTH THE MONEY! Please see their website for their full list of safety recommendations and considerations for the appropriate use of this device.
3. The Wubbanub Pacifier
First of all, I have to say that that pacifier phase did not last long at all with Baby #1; however, when he was willing to use one, the Wubbanub was the ONLY one that would do! Soft, snuggly super cute and easy to attach to baby (with a not-included pacifier strap), it has everything you need to soothe your little one.
4. The Graco Pack n Play
i cannot say enough how handy this little grow-with-me/go-with-me item is! I personally prefer the one pictured here: The Graco Pack n Play Playard Suite LX because it comes with convenient (and necessary!) newborn attachments like a vibrating bouncer and a changing area. You might think you won’t use that bouncer, but when Intell you it allowed me to take a quick shower with baby Remy right outside the tub, snoozing soundly - worth the extra cash!
5. A Quality Swing
I won’t lie to you. We had 3 swings. We tried the famed 4 Moms Mamaroo, but my first born didn’t like it and wouldn’t stay in it. We had a Graco swing - like this Graco Simple Sway Swing, but sadly it didn’t last for us and we never replaced it. The third swing was a smaller floor swing that also never worked properly. I can’t tell you enough the importance of finding a quality swing that your baby likes and there is no real way to tell what your little bundle will love without trying them out in them. This is one item I am definitely re-purchasing and hoping I get right!
there are definitely thousands of other worthwhile baby items out there! What are some of your favorites?
Whether you have been following me for awhile now or new to my Instagram, one thing I absolutely cannot live without is my home gym. In fact, when we were searching for our new home, one of my biggest non-negotiable was ample space for me (and my hubby) to work out. Luckily, we found the perfect home in the perfect location with the perfect amount of space for me to have exactly the type of gym I need.
While I do really enjoying getting out to my local fitness center, as a busy mom expecting my second child in just a few short weeks, time constraints are definitely a concern. Also, with these cold and wet New Jersey winters - who really wants to leave the house if you don’t have to?
So, what do I think makes for a quality home gym set-up? Here’s a list of my must haves for any budget!
In my opinion, dumbbells are really at the heart of any workout - whether it be at home or in the gym. As great as body-weight only exercises are, they do eventually lead to plateaus and and boredom. Adjustable dumbbells are a great way to counteract the workout fatigue, as they can be adjusted to go heavier or light depending on your need. They also come in a variety of materials and price points. If you are on a budget, THESE adjustable basic dumbbells from Amazon consist of handles and weight plates that allow for full control of how much weight you are using.
If you have more room in your budget and want a fuller range of weights in a convenient and easy-to-store package, I highly suggest a set of adjustable dumbbells that allows you to interchange the amount of weight from within the base. I personally have THESE from CAP and I love them! They are great for both my husband and I to use as they adjust easily from 5lbs to 50lbs in a matter of seconds. At $199 per dumbbell, they are a bit pricier, but overall can save you A LOT of money and space compared to having traditional sets dumbbells in each of those weight increments.
2. Barbell with Weight Plates
Another versatile piece of equipment is the standard barbell. Similar to the dumbbells, the barbell can be adjusted to various weights and offers a lot of different workout options. My personal pick is the GOLD’S GYM BARBELL and WEIGHTS SET available on Amazon. It’s a pricier set, but comes with a decent amount of weight plates for anyone to have a varied and challenging workout.
3. Cardio Equipment
Cardio machines are a great addition to any home gym and come in a variety of shapes and sizes! Your best bet is to go with something versatile and space saving that doesn’t bore you to death. With so many options on the market (not to mention price points), it can be tough to know where to begin to get the most bang for your buck. I purchased my PRO-FORM Treadmill about a year ago and it has seen use almost every single day since. Walking, running, HIIT - the possibilities are truly endless. Some days, it is nice to just go downstairs to the gym and work and walk at the same time. While I plan to add an elliptical eventually, I am very happy with my treadmill. It’s actually the first piece of real home gym equipment we purchased and built the rest of our gym around it. Treadmills can run the gamut price-wise, but can be purchased new or used relatively inexpensively. Here’s a good option for home use that can still fit in a modest budget.
4. Resistance Bands
You might be surprised to see these on the list, BUT I can’t tell you how frequently I use them both at home and in the gym. Pack able and light weight, they definitely add a little extra oomph to any workout! Bonus: SUPER easy to find and SUPER inexpensive!
These non-slip multi-resistance bands are a great buy at a great price.
5. Suspension Training System
Now you might be a little confused by the name, but these bad boys (more commonly known by major brand name TRX) are some of the easiest and most versatile pieces of fitness equipment on the market - not to mention how easily they are stored and transported. Fitting easily over a door or a pull up bar, these suspension straps offer a complete full body workout from arms to legs to abs. Do not sleep on the TRX!
If you have the space and the cash, you can’t go wrong with these items, as well:
6. Squat Rack
We have two in our home gym and this really allows both my husband and myself the freedom and ability to workout together without getting in each other’s way. The cage runs from about $250 to well over $1000 depending on what your need, and the individual towers can be purchased for relatively inexpensively (starting at just over $100) - just make sure you get a solid, balanced set - especially if you have children around. Our cage is by Fitness Reality and includes the optional lat pull down (see below). The individual towers can be purchased here.
7. Lat Pulldown/Cable Pulley Machines
Our cable system is integrated into the squat cage. Make sure when purchasing either, you are buying a compatible set. The last thing you want to do is he mid-assembly and realize that the parts are not compatible. Trust me on this. Rigging equipment is far more costly and dangerous than just purchasing the proper sets and accessories.
8. Adjustable Weight Bench
Weight benches make another great addition to your home gym. To get the most bang for your buck, look for one that has included or optional accessories like leg developers or preacher curl attachments.
What’s a home gym without mirrors? While your first thought might be selfie opportunities (true!), mirrors are essential for checking form. They are a bit of investment because large sheet mirrors can run into the hundreds of dollars per piece. We decided to go for tiled mirrors in our home gym. Having small chosen definitely increases the odds of a mirror breaking and it is a lot cheaper and easier to fix one tile than an entire wall sheet.
Last, but not least, kettlebells are a great compliment to your home gym set-up and fairly easy to acquire in a variety of weights.
All of these items are great to have, but at the end of the day, all you really need is your body and a willingness to put in the work. You can use your smart device to find a free on demand workout and get right to it - no equipment necessary.
Hi! I'm Nugget. I am wife to my awesome husband, Fran, and mama to our toddler son, Remington. We also have another baby on the way (due very soon!) and our pup, Fiona. I am body positive fitness instructor, teacher, and health/wellness advocate. I believe in the potential of EVERY body to be happy and healthy.