Sometimes you have a really easy pregnancy and labor. Sometimes you have a rough pregnancy and a difficult labor. Sometimes one thing goes wrong, sometimes a few things go wrong, and sometimes, like with Alex, pregnancy and birth can't quit throwing you curve balls.
I'm Alex I'm a 28 year old first time Mom to my wonderful 11 month old daughter Fawn. I got very lucky with her, she is insanely sweet and mellow, and although she is a wonderful baby, we definitely have had our share of curve balls, starting very early in my pregnancy...
All I ever have wanted in my life was to have a family. All throughout college I was working toward a degree in Fashion Merchandising and in the back of my head I was like "yeah yeah, I just want babies". Everyone that has known me for a while, or even not that long, knows this about me. I have loved pregnancy, babies, birth and all things related to these subjects since long before I was becoming a Mom. My cousin recently told me "you know so much about babies it's almost weird". Which I take as a major compliment! I was a nanny for a number of years and absolutely adored working with those kids, I loved my job so much! I also am a trained postpartum doula, which I became over a year before getting pregnant myself. So needless to say, I've always surrounded myself with babies, because that's my idea of fun!
So fast forward, I get married to a wonderful man, I get pregnant the first month trying. Crazy lucky. I was on, the, ball with figuring out everything that needed to happen, hired a doula, looked in to birth techniques (I decided on Hypnobabies, and I cannot say enough positive things about it!), started researching home birth and birth centers. I was basking in the glory of finally being a Mother! I did a half marathon rollerblade race at 4 weeks pregnant, I felt great. I was thinking I was going to be one of those super annoying pregnant women that's "never felt better" and "forgets she's pregnant". Oh how wrong I was! I had a little nausea and woozy feeling but nothing that isn't to be expected. Then, at 5 weeks pregnant I started throwing up about 10 times a day and couldn't sit up without puking. Good times. I tried evvvvvvveryyyythiiiing! I swear if I heard another person say "have you tried ginger?!" I was going to hulk out on everyone. What I had was called Hypermesis Gravidarum, or persistent vomiting due to pregnancy, it effects 1-3% of pregnant women. Lucky me! So I was basically bed ridden, was throwing up blood because my esophagus was so torn up, I had lost 8 pounds that I couldn't afford to lose. I couldn't even sit up to read, I had to be flat on my back. I'm not one to watch much TV but that's basically all I did, and listened to books on tape while staring at the ceiling, thrilling stuff. I was desperate and REALLY didn't want to take medication, I just kept thinking of Thalidomide babies. So, I decided to try acupuncture (which, during the 15 minute drive to my first appointment I had to pull my car over twice to puke) and that day, I felt human, for the first time in weeks. I was still throwing up but not nearly as much, so I was able to go out and do things again, albeit everywhere I went I had to scan the room and see what I could throw up in, if need be, because when the feeling hit, I had about 5 seconds to find a vessel to contain it. There is kind of a loneliness to pregnancy already, you can't do everything you want, your body is changing every 5 minutes, hormones galore! But the fact that I spent the vast majority of my first few months pregnant actually alone, constantly puking, I've never felt more isolated in my life. I remember thinking, "WHAT THE EFF?!?! What did I do to deserve this?! I recycle, I don't swear much, I rescued 2 dogs, I give good hugs, whatever happened to karma?!" Also, thinking that this wasn't the greatest way to start off something I've been looking forward most of my life. I finally stopped throwing up at 18 weeks and felt so great after that! I never had a single token pregnant woman meltdown (I credit Hypnobabies and my stellar prenatal chiropractor). I remained very active after I gained my weight back (which wasn't a problem for me because I looooove food, and I had to make up for lost time!)
Then at 37 weeks I go to my midwife and baby had developed an irregular heartbeat. Super. I leave the appointment in tears, naturally. So I schedule an appointment for a late pregnancy ultrasound 2 weeks from then to get her heart checked out. In the meantime I went to another midwife appointment the following week and hear "we are concerned because baby isn't growing". Fantastic. I never measured past 36 weeks. At this point I remember saying to my husband "maybe I've had it all wrong this whole time and I'm not meant to be a Mother. These things don't happen during 'regular' pregnancies". I was feeling rather defeated. Wondering if these problems happened because I don't eat meat so I wasn't giving her enough protein, if I was eating too much sugar so her heart got all wacky. Of course you blame yourself, because you are the only one with any semblance of control over what happens to a baking baby. But in fact, I likely could have done everything completely different and everything would have turned out the same.
We go in for the ultrasound and the doctor says "well your baby is just packed in really efficiently" so size wasn't a worry anymore (she was 8 pounds at birth, so booya!) but her heartbeat was still a bit of concern so we had to realize that we may have ended up in the hospital (I gave birth at a birth center) to have her heart checked out, and she may need a "simple procedure" to fix it. No thanks to that! But it turns out that the vast majority of babies that have an irregular heartbeat in utero have them go away during birth, and that's exactly what happened, huzzah!
During all this stuff I had 3 family members that were pregnant at the same time as me, 2 sister in laws and my cousin. All three of them threw up during the beginning, not as much as I did, but they were still sick, which sucks. But that's it, everything else went just as planned for all three of them. So knowing that everything was hunky dory for them and I was having all this stuff come up, made me pretty confused and wonder why. I never got an answer to why, some of us just have more complicated pregnancies than others for no reason at all.
Now fast forward to me at 40 weeks and 3 days pregnant. Everyone constantly asking "haven't you had that baby yet?!" I just wanted to say, "yes I have, can't you see, she's right here and I am now clearly no longer pregnant you FOOL!". I start having contractions (in Hypnobabies we called them "waves"). When they started I thought they were gas pains, because that's exactly what they felt like. They were very irregular and my midwife said they were just "practice", and I was having "prodromal labor" which means they are labor contractions, but you aren't technically IN labor yet. That evening I thought my water had broke while I was on a walk, it turned out it was a "high leak", whatever the hell that is. My midwife said "there is lots of fluid involved, this isn't amniotic fluid and that's what we are looking for". Cool, not I'm having fake out contractions and had a fake out water breaking. Why not?! Turns out I'd have prodromal crobtractions for 3 days straight, yikes. Some were short and barely felt like anything, some felt like my entire body was being squeezed. They weren't painful, but after a while they became quite uncomfortable, because my body was so sore from so many of them. I went to the chiropractor, which helped an INSANE amount with my discomfort, I trotted out of that appointment like I've never felt better. (Seriously, get adjusted while you are pregnant! It helps with the baby's positioning too!) Then my water broke. But I wasn't technically in labor, still. Yeah, that happens. But now I was on the clock. They give you 48 hours after your water breaks to have the baby naturally and after that you get induced because you start being at risk for infection. Nope, not happening, I did NOT want to have her in a hospital! I did more acupuncture, then my doula came over to try and get things moving, and did they ever! I went from having irregular contractions to involuntarily pushing in my living room (spinning babies FTW)! We pack up lighting fast. I try as hard as I possibly can to not have the baby in the car for the 20 minute drive, because once she decided it was time, she was coming out FAST. We called my Mom on the way and she didn't answer the first time so we called her again and she picked up and my husband says "The baby is coming" and she responds "well I know but what is going on" and he responds "no, she is coming RIGHT NOW". Meanwhile I'm having a conversation with my unborn child to stay in for another half an hour, which she listened to, good baby!
At last, we get to the birth center, when we got there the tub wasn't filled and I said "WHY isn't the tub full?!" And they said it fills up in about 2 minutes and they had to check us both out. When they said they wanted to see if I was dilated enough I laughed and thought, "you've got to be kidding me, of course I am!" Then I hear "fill the tub, baby is crowning", I get in the tub, I pushed on my own terms (with no pain, none, I'm still shocked, hooray for Hypnobabies) for 40 minutes and my baby was in my arms. So I was technically only in "real" labor, for 2 hours. Ta da! I had my baby, everything is perfect and lovely and now we can cuddle and have the loaf of bread the midwives bake you. NOPE! I hemorrhaged. So I have to get out of the tub, get in the bed and be given medication to stop the bleeding, which it did. I deliver the placenta. Then I try to nurse for the first time, perfect latch, we decided to name her Fawn, everything is now good, bring on the bread! NOPE! I had adhered placenta and had a 4th degree tear, so would be transferred to the hospital to get my tear fixed, the midwife said "I could fix it here but you'll be more comfortable and they will do a better job at the hospital", yeah, I don't want to mess around with that area, I want the "better job". I was going to need a procedure to get the placenta removed, but it ended up coming out on its own. Fawn was put in her car seat just over 2 hours after being born. Pretty wild. Luckily the hospital was right across the street so we didn't have far to go. I was in that post birth blissful haze. So I went in to get my tear fixed, separated from my daughter just hours after meeting her. They gave me an epidural since I was supposed to get a d and c for the placenta, but didn't, so I didn't need the epidural. They said the epidural would make me numb from the waist down and last 2 hours. I was numb from the neck down for 7 hours and my arms were convulsing the entire time because my nerves were so messed up. Thank God I didn't have one of those when I was pushing Fawn out! That would have been horrible! I go in to recovery and my husband comes in with my midwife and Fawn and they tell me that she needs to be monitored overnight for a slow resting heart rate and we will have to be separated for 12 hours while she is in the SCU and I am in recovery. So her irregular heartbeat went away, but now it's slow... really?! Give this kid a break! I nursed again, they gave her her vitamin k shot, and she didn't even flinch. The midwife checked her heartbeat afterward because she said in all her years she has never seen a single baby not react to that shot. I'm telling you, my kid was born chill. Her heart ended up being totally fine, just very efficient.
I healed really well. I took 2 full weeks of doing VERY limited activity, just focusing on bonding with Fawn, figuring out breastfeeding, taking 40,000 sitz baths and resting. Which I am very very lucky to have had the ability to do. My husband and our family and friends could not have been more stellar. I was nervous about postpartum depression because I had 2 risk factors working against me, I had PMDD (really bad PMS) years ago and Fawn's birth was considered traumatic, well, her post birth was I suppose. I didn't end up having any sings of PPD or PMAD, I credit my amazing husband and all the help we received, and Fawn for being an amazing sleeper right away. But it took me a very long time to not start sobbing when I thought about that first night with her being hooked up to all those wires in a room completely alone, she slept for the vast majority of it luckily, I would go in to try and nurse her every 3 hours and she wouldn't even wake up for that. Every time I look over our birth pictures and I see the images of Fawn being held by my parents and my Mother-in-law for the first time, getting her first diaper changed, being weighed and measured, and knowing I wasn't there, I burst in to tears, still. I was SO worried she wouldn't bond well with me. Well she loves nothing more than being carried around in my arms and is a very affectionate and cuddly baby, so my worry was all for not. I still am processing the whole thing, I probably will be for a long time, maybe forever. But talking about it helps, especially to people that have had a similar experience. That's why I'm so glad to be a part of this blog. Since becoming a Mother I have found how incredibly important it is to be connected with other Mothers, swap stories and advice. I had so many things happen during my pregnancy that weren't "supposed to happen" but isn't that Motherhood? Being thrown stuff from every direction and learning to adapt and catch it all while also making dinner, nursing, wearing your baby and doing calf raises LIKE A DAMN BOSS! Being a Mom makes me feel so strong it's unbelievable, I've never felt more sure of myself. I'm definitely in the part where I feel like, yep, this is what I'm meant to do.
P.S... I never did get my loaf of bread.
Alex lives with her husband, daughter and 2 mutts in Minneapolis, MN. She works part time on a podcast with her parents and brother, and the rest of the time she is Momming it up, working out, eating or talking to herself. She is a baking and cooking enthusiast and tree hugger.
Michelle is a beautiful artist, a loving mom, a vital member of her community and one of the founders of The Bravery Board , and she's really funny (did I mention that she just won and Emmy? yeah) She's essentially everything I look for in a friend, so when I asked her about writing a blog I was pretty excited when she said 'yes!' Michelle is on baby number two and her body isn't being easy on her. The reality of pregnancy isn't always glowing faces and tiny kicks so thank you Michelle for giving us a peek into what growing a human often looks like for women.
Last night I posted on Facebook something that for a while made me feel like I might be a bad person. I posted it anyway out of desperation toward my own inner-self. It read, “To all you women out there who just loved being pregnant - I don't know if I envy you or want to stab you in the eye.” Funny, yes, but sadly, I don’t feel like it was much of an over-exaggeration. It's kind of the truth these days.
Before you judge me, know I am a nice person. I am normal. I have lots of friends and rarely hold grudges. I give to charities and take care of children’s emotional needs for a living. I just am REALLY not enjoying being pregnant right now, and recently I actually felt the pains of wanting to say something terribly rude to a woman who, upon finding out I was pregnant said, “Oh don’t you just LOVE being pregnant? What a beautiful blessing.”
I won’t repeat what I wanted to say when she asked that. I will just leave it at the answer being, “No.”
This is my second pregnancy. My first son is four-years-old, and I do have to admit, the first time around pregnancy was a bit magical despite the physical trials I endured. I was 5 years younger for one thing. I had wanted to be a mom for as long as I could remember, so every little twitch and pregnancy milestone I hit was a source of pride. First ultrasound. First kick. Shoot, even the bad stuff like hemorrhoids and him kicking me in the ribs to the point I lost my breath and the awful PUPS rash I got 2 weeks before I delivered felt more like bragging rights as to how hard my body was working. I marveled at what we women are capable of as I went through it. It was hard, but I reveled in God’s miracle and all that.
But now I’m older, more prone to gaining weight, feel more exhausted and brain-dead, and within two weeks of finding out I was pregnant, I have been consistently sick. Not just slightly nauseated in the mornings as the term “morning sickness” would fool you into believing. I’ve been flu-like-sick morning, noon, and night. Gone is any sort of “glow” that pregnant women describe feeling. I feel an utter distaste for all of it. I don’t feel pride for any of the trials my body has to endure while being pregnant. I don’t feel like they are another notch on my belt. I’m just sick and tired. And tired of being sick and tired. And I was scared to admit it until I wrote that Facebook post.
One of the things I have a hard time with is admitting to is that motherhood in this stage is just difficult. I’ve been afraid to say out loud how much I really dislike being pregnant this go around because it feels like blasphemy. What about all those moms out there who can’t have children? I also have some weird feeling that if I verbalize my distaste for being sick 24/7 and not being able to catch my breath and all that, that I am somehow damaging my unborn child. It seems like a ridiculous thought now that I am typing it, but we often times put ourselves in “this or that” mindsets forgetting that there is space for both.
What’s true is this: I can be excited about the outcome of this child and at the same time be dismayed by the journey to get there. That doesn’t mean I’m a bad person or a bad mom. It means I am real. It means I don’t like being sick all the time. It means I like the vibrant energy-filled person I tend to be when I’m not carrying a child in my womb. That’s okay. That’s normal.
My confession, or rather my encouragement, to all those moms going through a tough pregnancy (or shoot, this could just as easily apply to those first few weeks of having a baby- don’t even get me started about that) is this: The mantra “It's hard, but worth it” is an okay phrase to adopt, and it's actually comforting to think of it that way rather than force yourself into feeling like it's all some sort of giant blessing. I know in the end, this will all be worth it and it will be a blessing. I know that I’ll love my son (yes, it's a boy!) like crazy and won’t be able to imagine a world without him once he gets here. But I also know it's okay to be authentic with how I am feeling in the here and now and not brush aside the hard parts because I don’t want to be ungrateful. We can feel two things at the same time- joy and pain- and that is the blessing and wonder of giving life and living life in the first place- its sacrifice, tears, pain, and joy all rolled into one.
Michelle Houghton is a counselor, painter, performer, speaker, and mother. She is the co-founder of The Bravery Board, a podcast and community-minded organization which hosts monthly gatherings related to wellness, thriving, and taking brave steps toward big goals. She is also an Emmy-winning writer and performer for The Mystery Hour, a comedic late night talk show based out of Springfield, MO, where she and her husband, (and host of the show), are raising their son and baby-on-the-way. Michelle is a connector, do-er, creative-thinker, and visionary. She strives to connect individuals to their overall potential and creativity, and applies her unique blend of self expression, vulnerability, and empathy to assist others in thriving