Oh man, with cold/flu season upon us and two kids rotating in sickness over the last six weeks… I could use a full night’s sleep. But apparently that’s not in Santa’s sack? Damn.
Anyway I was struggling to figure out what I want for Christmas so when I finally made my list, I thought I’d share it for others who couldn’t figure out what they wanted!! I’ve included some links to make it easier.
“Pardon? Did you just ask me how much weight I’ve gained? Screw you.” Then I gave him the middle finger and walked away.
That was word for word a conversation I had with a male acquaintance at work when I was pregnant. I had never really talked to this guy before, “hi’s” and “how are you’s” in the hallway – that’s about it. So I was pretty damn taken aback when this dude asked me how much weight I’d gained. Sticking your middle finger up at someone at work is probably not the best thing to do… but it was just my gut reaction. That and punching him in the face but I was able to stop myself from doing that. Lucky for him.
What was most shocking to me, is this kind of dialogue happened ALL THE TIME throughout my entire pregnancy.
Suddenly it was okay for everyone to talk about my body. MY body.
As a woman, I’ve had my host of body image issues. But I’ve tried to rise above those and be happy and healthy. If inspirational quotes have taught me anything, it’s that I should be strong not skinny – or whatever BS skinny bitches are trying to tell me. That and to “eat dessert first.” I definitely take that one pretty literally.
Aaaaanyway, I digress.
The funny thing about my colleague’s question was that I didn’t have the answer. Yes, I was a pregnant woman in my third trimester… BUT I had no idea how much weight I’d gained… isn’t that weird? I couldn’t even guess what I weighed.
Why? Well let me tell you.
I was around 5 months pregnant, I went into the doctor’s office for a checkup. I was feeling fabulous! The extreme morning sickness I’d had for months prior had worn off and I’d even started running daily again. I felt good. Then the doctor’s assistant called me in and told me to jump on the scale, one of those old fashioned metal ones that only doctors offices still have. As she was sliding that stupid bar up and up, my anxiety started to skyrocket and my confidence plummeted. She wrote down the number. I cringed.
I walked (waddled) into the little room and waited for the doctor. How could this happen? How had I gained so much more weight than I thought? When the doc came in I told how angry I was at her stupid giant scale and my stupid giant belly that was weighing it down. Then she said the most freeing words to me I’d heard my whole pregnancy…
“Then stop getting weighed.”
What? I could do that?!?!? How was this not relayed to me as an option earlier?
The doctor elaborated, “Of course. I refused to get weighed when I was pregnant. As long as your baby is getting bigger and you’re both healthy, it doesn’t matter what you weigh. Just say no next time.”
Say no. I could say no!!! By golly gosh.
Flash forward a month, at my next doctor’s appointment. I was sitting in the waiting area… preparing. I could say no. I will say no. I can say no. I will say no. Why the heck was this such a big deal? I’ve been taught my whole life to be a strong, confident woman and I can’t say no to a 25 year old sitting behind a desk. Then the moment came.
“Alright Alex, let’s get you weighed.”
“NO!!” (shit, I think I said that a little loud. So I cleared my throat, ahem) “No thanks! I’m not going to get weighed anymore this pregnancy.” “……The doctor said it’s okay!!!!” I added for good measure.
Then the best thing ever happened… she put a big cross through the area where my weight was supposed to be recorded for the remaining of my pregnancy.
I DID IT!!!!
So, flash forward to when that colleague of mine (who probably just had no idea what to say when he bumped into me while getting coffee) asked how much weight I’d gained, I truly didn’t know.
When you’re a pregnant woman, your body suddenly becomes public property. People touch you, they ask very personal questions and often, the focus is on YOUR body.
It’s up to YOU to take the (negative) focus off. Your body is taking on the GIANT task of growing a human, so give it a break and give yourself a break. Focus on the beauty of what you’re doing and the absolute blessing of what’s growing inside that big belly.
The next time someone asks about your belly or size, throw it back at them!! Be your body’s advocate. “Gosh I’m tired of talking about my size, can you ask about the baby instead?!” Or if you’re a little bit direct and rude like I am, saying “screw you” and giving someone the middle finger seems to get the point across too.
Whatever. Just be a badass big bellied rockstar of a pregnant woman. It’s much more fun anyway.
I took this picture six days after my baby was born. I took it after I had a shower (ah, glorious shower). I’d been so tired from my newborn baby and so sore from my c-section that I hadn’t showered since I was in the hospital.
I looked down.
Whose body is this?
Knees still weak from 24 hours of labour.
A terribly sore midsection from my resulting c-section.
On closer inspection, an incision line still raw, cut, so my perfect baby boy could be pulled out safely.
These bruises, where did they come from?
This squishy tummy with no baby inside.
Bits of tape left all over my body from the IV and epidural that had been strapped to me.
Blood running down my leg from the mass exodus my uterine lining was making – no baby left to cushion.
My breasts, huge, veiny and engorged. Leaking milk.
Whose body is this?
Eventually, I had to pry my eyes away. Oh my eyes, burning from sleep deprivation. And my mind, desperate to go over what happened this last week but not one ounce of energy to think about myself.
All I could muster up the energy to do was take a picture. I needed to remember this moment. Little did I know it would forever be burned in my memory.
Along with the question.
Whose body is this?
9 months later, I stare in the same mirror. The bruises: gone, the incision: faded. But the question remains.
Whose body is this?
Cellulite, oh the cellulite.
Will these stretch marks ever go away?
Breasts, still leaking milk but no longer so swollen and sore.
Were my nipples this big before?! Will they ever go back to normal?
My bulging tummy gone but a flabby one remaining.
Hello abs, are you still in there?
My back so sore from hauling around a giant baby.
I whisper something to myself, the same thing I told myself yesterday the day before, “It’s okay Alex. One day this body will feel like yours again.”
“For all the new moms experiencing low mood or anxiety, please seek help and talk about your feelings. You are Not alone. You are Not a bad mother.”
Women feel so much pressure to be perfect. This pressure is magnified when a woman becomes a mother. Mere questions, feel like attacks…
“Tell me about your birth story!”
“How much weight did you gain?”
“Are you breastfeeding? Breast is best!”
“Are you cosleeping?”
“Have you started solids?”
To one person it’s conversation, to another, someone who is disappointed with how things went, someone who’s sad about who she’s become as a mother, each question is a small dagger to the dream of who they thought they’d be.
So, struggling moms, I need you to stop right now.
I need you to take a big, deep breath.
Now, one more.
Seriously, take those deep breaths.
Everything will be okay.
Say it with me, everything will be okay.
You probably don’t think that’s true, but it is.
This is not you and it’s not your forever.
Depression and anxiety can take over your life. It consumes you. It sucks you in so you can’t see anything else.
What sucks about depression and anxiety is you often don’t realize how bad it has become, until you’re out.
But how do you get out?
You talk, you share, you shake off the fog. Shake off the guilt. Shake off the feeling of inadequacy.
Because it’s okay.
Whether you’re breastfeeding, formula feeding, co sleeping, sleep training, getting out, staying in, pacifying, crying it out… whatever it is you’re doing…
Because only YOU are the perfect mom for your little one.
When I was pregnant, I found the people that actually had the best advice for pregnancy and early days with a baby, were the newbs. Yes, that’s right. People like me that have just gone through it. The seasoned vets, the moms who had done it all, had successful, grown kids… weren’t much help. Why? Usually they couldn’t remember what they did. Which, I thought was ridiculous. How can you have three kids and not offer me any useful advice? Well now that my baby is almost six months old, I literally have to sit down and think to remember what the hell has happened in the last year and a half. Everything is a jumble. So years into motherhood, I can completely understand how these mums have no clue what they did when their kids were babies. So those that have just been through it, are really the only ones that can remember it.
I have about half a dozen girlfriends who are pregnant right now and I find myself desperately wanting to give them my (unsolicited) advice. After all, I have JUST been through it and I’m still alive (and sometimes, even smiling). So here it is, my newbie mom advice:
Give yourself a break.
You’re pregnant. You’re tired. You’re frustrated that you don’t know exactly what’s wrong… but you just don’t feel like yourself. Whether you’re feeling like a pile of poo emotionally, physically or a combo of both, just give yourself a break. Sit down, eat a chocolate bar and mourn the loss of the days when you didn’t have a little peanut sucking every ounce of life out of you.
Find things that make you feel good.
You need to find both little and big things that will make you feel good. For me, I would have a long shower almost every day. I would sit down in the tub and just let the shower spray me down. After a long day of work, coming home to my shower made me feel good. Going for prenatal massages, made me feel amazing. So, once a month I would treat myself and get a massage.
Nonalcoholic wine sucks.
The best thing you’ll find is nonalcoholic champagne/sparkling white. The bubbles cover up the lack of alcohol and weird taste, HA! Also, the President’s Choice sparkling waters (blue cans) are the best.
Seek out help NOW.
Go see a chiropractor now before you can’t walk because baby is now sitting on a nerve. If you’re planning on breastfeeding, join your local La Leche League and go to a meeting while pregnant. Find a lactation consultant that can come to your house when the baby is a few days old. Find local mom Facebook groups. Find local Facebook groups or forums on babywearing, carseats, sleep training. Get all the help you can now because when you have a new baby, you’ll be too exhausted to figure out where the help is.
Have a dog? Hire a dog walker now so when the baby comes, someone who knows your dog can come take your pooch out. Hate cleaning? Hire a cleaner. Hate cooking? Find a meal service. These things can add up so think about them now. What are you okay paying someone else to do? What can you give up to afford the help? Sometimes it’s even cheaper in the long run. For example, finding an affordable meal service would be cheaper than getting takeout all the time when baby’s here. Don’t think you’ll need the help? HAHAHA. You’re cute. And naïve. And a bit of an idiot. You’ll need help. Think very realistically about the challenges in your life and what you can do to help yourself.
Take prenatal classes.
I did A LOT of my own pregnancy/delivery/baby research so to be honest, I didn’t really learn much new information from prenatal classes… BUT I met other couples expecting babies right around the same time. The other mums I met from those classes, have been my saviors. I talk to some of them almost every single day. They’ll be on mat leave at the same time as you and going through the same baby shit (literally) as you. So take classes that are local and take the ones that span over several weeks, so you have time to get to know the other people. And make sure to add all of them on Facebook or even create a Facebook group before the classes are over!
Listen to everyone’s advice, but only take what works for you.
There are a zillion ways to do everything. It can be totally overwhelming. Other moms love to give advice (cough, cough, I don’t know anything about that) and sometimes it’s annoying but it can also be very helpful. Listen to the advice, think about it, then do what your gut says is best.
Biased opinions are great… but biased.
Think about where information is coming from. If you’re talking to someone from a La Leche group, the advice is going to be very pro breastfeeding. If you’re talking to a chiropractor, the advice is going to be pro bodywork. You get the point. Once again, listen to what someone has to say… but do your own research and trust your gut.
Don’t waste your time reading every baby book.
Don’t go crazy reading every pregnancy and baby book under the sun. You’ll get overwhelmed with all the different methods and frankly, it’s just a waste of time. Talk to a few moms that are similar to you about their favourite book and try that out first. For me, it was Baby Whisperer. Although some of the information was a little dated (what she says about hind vs fore milk) or unrealistic (who the hell has their newborn on a schedule?!) overall, it was super helpful.
Build your village.
Oh goodness. What I would I have done without my village?! I have no clue. I had my close friends that came over and brought dinners and chatted with me in those early days while my boobs were hanging out and my hair was sticking up. Moms that watched my boy so I could take my first steps out of the house without him. Dads that trimmed our trees and mowed our lawn. Neighbours that took out our garbage cans when we forgot it was garbage day. Other new moms that knew exactly what I was going through and would discuss in no fewer than 40 texts, the smell, frequency and texture of my baby’s poop. Your village will be your everything.
Don’t overthink the delivery.
The day (and days leading up to) your baby is born, is crazy. It’s pretty damn out of your control and it might not go as planned. Actually, it probably won’t go as planned. Educate yourself, find out all the drug options, think about different labour positions, talk to your doctor/midwife about your concerns…. then, try not to think about it beyond that. Your labour could last a few days but then you’ll have a child for the rest of your life. So if your labour doesn’t go as planned, LET IT GOOOOOOO. Don’t overthink. Don’t obsess.
Talk to professionals.
Weird rash on your baby’s tummy? If you’re here in BC, call the nurses line at 811. Also on staff there are dieticians and pediatric dieticians – they can help you out when baby’s starting solids. Trouble breastfeeding? Seek the advice of a lactation consultant or go to a breastfeeding clinic. Call your local health agency, usually you can see someone for free. Having a hard time emotionally? Talk to your doctor about seeing a counselor. Asking other moms or friends can be useful, but ultimately, seeking the help of a professional might be better.
Your body will have a mind of its own.
Pregnancy hormones are crazy, changes in your body post delivery are crazy, breastfeeding does insane things to your body, the return of your period could hit you hard. All of this is frustrating and exhausting so once again, give yourself a break. It’ll take a looooong time for you to feel “normal” again, and that’s okay. You’ll get there eventually.
So, my little boy just finished nursing and looked up at me with a big, milky grin. I’ve had a rough week, but it’s moments like this that remind me why it’s all worth it.
This last week my boy has been going through a growth spurt (I assume). He’s been fussy, seemingly starving and not sleeping great. My husband has been working long hours and family has been busy (tis the season) so I haven’t had much help. I found myself unintentionally jealous of my formula feeding friends. They could easily see how much their baby was eating and increase when needed and… they have FREEDOM. They’re not tied to their baby because their baby isn’t tied to their boob.
Even though I’ve had an oversupply since my wee one was born, with this growth spurt, I felt like he wasn’t getting enough, wasn’t satisfied (not helping… how extremely distracted he’s been during feedings). I also got my period back which I’m sure didn’t help my supply… and my emotions too.
But then… BAM! Despite my internal struggles my body knew what to do and kicked into gear. Now my boobs are exploding with milk 24/7. They’re aching, they’re leaking… and I’m so grateful.
So today, as my little boy looks up at me post feed in satisfaction and I kiss his milky mouth… I’m so grateful for this intense but powerful and amazing stage. I’m thankful for my milk and the big strong boy it’s nourishing.
Now please excuse me while I pour myself another cup of coffee.