Life After PreTerm Delivery

To read about My Birth Journey visit my blog post here.

After delivering my daughter at only 32 weeks, I experienced a huge range of emotions. Of course after any birth experience there are bound to be feelings caused by not only the act of giving birth but all of the hormones surging through our bodies as well. Delivering preterm brings on an entirely different set of emotions as well – grief, guilt, pain, trauma. This isn’t to say that these emotions can’t also be experienced after a “normal” delivery, but this was what I’ve experienced after my own early and emergency delivery. Everything felt very traumatic for me. Nothing happened the way I thought it would, and I hadn’t even gone to the trouble of writing a birth plan. I knew things could happen unexpectedly, but I never expected what would actually happen.

Solitary Confinement

After delivery my emotions were only intensified by the solitary confinement I felt in the hospital for the next two days. My early delivery was caused by preeclampsia, HELPP syndrome and a premature rupture of the membranes (or placental abruption – hence all the bleeding I experienced). Because of these conditions my blood pressure was still very high and unsafe. I was still being pumped with magnesium and I was having my blood pressure taken every hour around the clock. These routine checks made it almost impossible to sleep along with the steroid that I was injected with before delivery. By day two, I felt like I was going insane. I was trapped in a labor and delivery room with no baby and constant reminders that I had failed (at least that’s what I felt at the time). All of this stress and emotion of course did not help my blood pressure, and so I was hospitalized for two days without being able to even see the baby I had given birth to. I started to feel like an imposter – had I really given birth? Did all of this really happen? Of course I knew it had happened because of the massive incision on my abdomen and had all the pain it rendered. I knew my daughter was here because of the video calls I had with my husband while he was visiting her. I had photos, I had videos, I was pumping breast milk (although only drops at this point), I was in the labor and delivery department of the hospital – but I didn’t have my baby. What made it worse were all of the different staff members who would come into the room – people who would draw blood for tests, or people who brought food, or people who cleaned the room. Many of them would ask, “where is the baby?” I specifically remember one of the phlebotomists coming in and asking this seemingly innocent question while one of my nurses was in the room with me. She knew I was not in a good place mentally. I think all the nurses did. They were mothers. Some of them mothers who had been through what I had just been through. When he asked the question – “where is the baby?” – her gaze lit him on fire and I burst into tears. There were many moments like this for me while I was in the hospital. Most of them happened while I was alone, waiting for my husband to return from visiting our baby. They happened while watching videos of him doing skin-to-skin with her for the first time. Many happened while seeing her on video calls, my heart aching wishing I could run as fast as I could all the way to the hospital she was in the next town over. But I was still healing physically myself, and not as rapidly as I would have hoped.

Finally Free (Sort Of)

My final day in the hospital was probably the toughest of all. I had been told I may be released the previous day, however with my blood pressure being as high as it was they decided to keep me another day for monitoring. I was still being monitored every hour, I was eating a bland diet of vegetarian hospital food which some days would be Boca burgers for lunch and dinner. I was also doing my best to pump breast milk every 2-3 hours around the clock. I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I was more than ready to leave – I wanted to see my baby for the first time since she was born. The nurses and doctor agreed that I would be released that day. They had placed me on blood pressure medication to keep my blood pressure down and removed my IV in preparation for my release. All they needed for discharge was a last blood pressure check to make sure my levels were normal. They wrapped the monitor around my arm and told me to relax – this was it. When the results came back, the nurse looked at me with such a sadness – my levels were too high to be released. She apologized profusely, as if it were her fault at all and went to talk to the doctors. To my surprise, the doctor and nurses were adamant that I be released. I think they knew I was losing it. Or at least they felt some sympathy towards my situation. I would need my IV reinserted for intravenous blood pressure medication, then I would need to be re-monitored for the next few hours to see if the numbers would come down. These next few hours would be some of the hardest of my life. The nurse who came in to reinsert my IV was not a nurse I had before. She blew through two of my veins and poked me in four different places before giving up and letting another nurse try. I swear I almost screamed in her face. She didn’t know what was at stake for me, or how crazy I felt. Finally, my other nurse, the nurse who had been assisting me all day was able to get my IV in and she would be the one to monitor me. Each check was like waiting for a wave to crash in on me. I knew I had to relax as much as possible, but it was so difficult knowing that if my readings came in too high that I would be kept another day. I screwed up the next couple of readings with my stressed out, whacked out, crazy emotions, but thankfully the medication finally kicked in. The readings were low enough for discharge. Eventually, after being given all of my paperwork and talking to the doctor, I was released. I felt free, well sort of.

Onto the Next Hospital

After being released from the hospital my husband took me home to shower, change and get ready to go see our daughter. I would finally be seeing her for the first time since she left me two days prior. I was ecstatic, I was emotional, I was terrified, I was so looking forward to seeing her. We went to the hospital and another wave of emotion hit me as we went to sign in through security. My tiny precious baby was here in this hospital alone, much like I was only hours earlier. Luckily, I knew she wouldn’t remember what she was going through, but it didn’t make me feel all that much better about her situation. When we entered the NICU it was like something out of a daytime medical drama sitcom. We had to “scrub in” before entering the department, which was guarded by two locked entrances not including the hospitals main security. Apparently they had issues in the past with a woman dressing like a nurse and breaking in to steal babies. Once we were all cleaned up we walked down the long hallway back to the area where our precious baby was staying. We walked by a handful of other babies, all snug in their isolettes waiting for their families to come visit. There were beeping sounds going off all around us. The sights and sounds made everything feel so sterile. You could smell the hand sanitizer and feel the dryness in the air. We entered into her area and my husband showed me where she was. There was a giant incubator style bed, or isolette, a recliner chair and a white board that had all of our names and some of her medical information on it. It made me sad that her nursery was so beautiful and that she was here in this plain and stark place. I walked over to the bed and lifted the cover to see her inside. She was so tiny. My heart burst into pieces. Some of those pieces were burst by love, some by sadness, some by utter guilt. I’m so sorry you’re in here. I’m so sorry you’re alone. I’m so sorry it took me so long to get here.

A New Kind of Love

Once we were settled in the nurse on duty helped us remove her from her isolette so that I could hold her for the first time. I remember feeling somewhat unsettled because of how small she was, but I was also so excited to finally meet her and talk to her and smell her. Moving the wires and monitors around was a feat in itself. It felt odd to have to keep all of this out of the way while trying to keep her close. We had to wear masks at all times in the hospital. But I did break the rules a bit and gave my baby a big kiss on her head as I told her how much I loved her. I felt justified. She just came from my own body, and besides I had just been tested for COVID in the hospital I was in before. I sat and held her for a couple of hours. She was so warm and soft against my skin. It was the happiest and healthiest I had felt in days. Even in her tiny and frail state, she struggled to look up at me, and then settled back in, falling asleep so soundly on my chest. She was (and is) so beautiful, so perfect. I looked at her in amazement and couldn’t believe how precious she was, but I also couldn’t believe how strong she was. She had just been through everything I’d been through, if not worse, and she was only days old. She was so brave. She was so incredible. In those moments I felt so grateful to be her mama. I felt privileged and honored. I couldn’t believe that she had come from me. I held her so close and could feel a love that I had never felt before. The kind of love that parents tell you about but that you never truly understand until you experience it yourself. I held her so tight and I never wanted to leave. I was finally with my baby and she was with me. Everything felt the way it was meant to be, until it was time to leave.

The Waiting Game

At this point, baby needed to gain weight and learn how to eat before she could leave the hospital. Luckily, this was a typically short order for a baby born of her size. She was not on oxygen or any sort of breathing machines. She did not have any infections or problems. She was just so small and so early. She had a feeding tube and a pic line for other nutrients and fluids. It was difficult to see her with tubes and things in her face and body, but it was nothing compared to how bad it could have been if she needed more assistance. We would visit the hospital twice, sometimes three times a day. Fortunately we lived super close so we could come in the morning, go home for lunch and then come back in the evenings. As time went on and she grew stronger, we started to learn how to care for her as she learned how to care for herself. She learned to drink from a bottle, and we learned how to feed her. She learned how to regulate her temperature, and we learned how to remove her from her isolette. We learned so much from the nurses and staff at the hospital. It was like getting a crash course in baby care while waiting for our baby to come home. It wasn’t an ideal situation, obviously, but for what it was, it was a good way to keep our spirits high about being able to care for her once she came home. It was hard leaving her every time. And it was hard seeing her in the hospital. Every day I imagined myself grabbing her and running out of the hospital, but I knew that this care was what was best for her. Eventually she would come home – 24 days later. I couldn’t believe how slow and how fast it went by all at once. She would finally be coming home and we would be on our own to care for our baby.

The Adventure of a Lifetime

The day we took our daughter home was one of the best days of my life. I was so excited to be able to see her every second of every day. I would be able to give her all of her feedings, change all of her diapers, give her all of her baths and of course snuggle her whenever I wanted. There would be no wires in the way and no monitors beeping constantly in our heads. She would get to have all of her cozy swaddles and preemie pajamas. She was ours, finally ours. It felt surreal. To this day it sometimes still does. Having a premature baby has been rough. All of the ups and downs are unlike any emotional rollercoaster I’ve ever experienced. But I would do it all again in a heartbeat for her. We are embarking on the adventure of a lifetime, and I can’t wait to watch her grow into the strong, beautiful, brave little girl that she already has inside of her.

My Birth Journey

When you see the title – My Birth Journey – what do you imagine? For me, it’s a story of waking up in the middle of the night to your water breaking, telling your husband to grab your bags, rushing to the hospital and laboring through the night all to welcome a tiny baby into this world on your chest hours later. This expectation can be crushing when what you envision is not what you experience. And the more I hear others stories, the more I realize that I am not alone. Birth is a crazy thing. It’s so different for every person and you can’t diminish any type of experience someone may have or the feelings that come along with it. Birth is unique, emotions are unique, people are unique, but I do think it’s important to open up the realm of possibilities. Not everyone has a movie-worthy experience with birth. Many of us are thrown through the fire. We experience trauma, we experience fear, we experience chaos and doubt and guilt. But we are not alone, and that’s why I wanted to share my story.

Part I: The Calm Before The Storm

It’s a Wednesday night, I’m 32 weeks and 2 days pregnant. My husband and I are so excited to be getting closer and closer to the birth of our sweet baby girl – two more months to go. We decide to go to the movie theatre that night. We won’t be able to go to the movies for a while after baby gets here so we want to take advantage of the freedom now. We’d been doing that pretty frequently during my pregnancy. We took a trip to Hawaii a month before and had just gotten home from our annual week-long camping trip the previous weekend. During the camping trip I had started to experience swelling in my feet and ankles and terrible nighttime heartburn, but even so, the trip was exactly what we needed. The heartburn was back tonight at the movies. I attributed it to the pasta dinner we had before we left and took some Tums to try and ease the pain. This heartburn was excruciating. We finished the movie and went home and almost immediately went to bed. My energy levels had finally started to feel like they had diminished some in my third trimester. I was finally starting to feel pregnant. We laid in bed and talked about the movie and the trip to the theatre – something we hadn’t done in over a year because of the pandemic. We even planned our next trip to the movies before baby – a movIe we wanted to see was being released July 9th, still almost a month away from baby. With excitement and a belly full of mylanta, I went to sleep, not knowing that what would happen next would change my life forever.

Part II: It’s Too Soon

I woke around 2:30am to a warm, wet feeling between my legs. Something was wrong. Had my water just broken? That was impossible, wasn’t it? I went to the bathroom and realized that there was blood, lots of blood. I immediately became so afraid. Was my baby okay? Would she be okay? What do I do? I gently woke my husband, who upon hearing of blood raced to get ready to take me to the hospital. I called my doctor’s office, although now I’m not sure why I did. I guess I wanted confirmation that speeding off to the hospital was the right thing to do. But my husband wasn’t about to wait for a call back. I got dressed and stuffed my underwear with paper towels. I hadn’t had a chance to make myself a postpartum kit yet. Luckily, I had packed my hospital bag two days before, the same day I made an appointment to tour the hospital where we would be delivering. Needless to say, we wouldn’t be needing the tour. My husband drove as fast as he safely could to the hospital. I tried telling him to be careful but on the inside I wish he could’ve gone faster. I could feel the blood filling the paper towels. I could feel myself panicking. I just wanted to know that everything would be okay. I was only 32 weeks pregnant, and I wasn’t sure what that meant yet. We arrived at the ER, which I knew was where we should go because of the hospital tour video I watched, and hurried inside. When we arrived, the girl behind the check-in desk seemed to be moving at a snails pace, or at least that’s what it felt like. She offered us a seat, and I remember telling her I didn’t want to bleed all over their furniture. At this point, I had blood running down my leg. I don’t think she realized how serious I was until she came around the desk to offer me a wheelchair. Apparently, many women come in saying that they’re bleeding during pregnancy. Apparently, not many of those women happen to be gushing blood like I was. She rolled me back to a labor room as my husband followed beside me. I could feel myself becoming more nervous – I had no idea what to expect. Once I got to my room, two nurses were there to offer me a gown and get me settled into the hospital bed. At this point my memories start to get a little foggy…

Part III: A Room Full of Panic

There was still so much blood. The nurses put pads underneath me on the bed and put a fetal monitor on my stomach. I was then checked for dilation – 1cm dilated. How was that even possible? I didn’t think I had felt any contractions, but they were happening nonetheless. Everything from here got a little chaotic. They checked my blood pressure, and I guess they saw something they didn’t like, although no one alerted me to the dangerous levels they had found. Instead there were talks of transferring me to another hospital, the one right around the corner from my house (we had driven 20 minutes to reach this hospital and hopefully my OB). This hospital did not have a NICU and in order to provide the best care for my baby, I would need to be stabilized and transferred via ambulance. Unfortunately, things accelerated quickly and soon the idea of being stabilized was no longer an option. I was declining rapidly, as was my baby’s heart rate. The baby needed to be delivered, not only to save her life, but also to save my own. I was becoming more and more afraid by the second. I had no idea what would happen, and luckily the nurses weren’t extremely forthcoming about my condition – that would have certainly made me panic even more. Unfortunately, my husband noticed the panicked glances that the nurses were shooting each other. At one point he later said that one of the main nurses looked at him with utter fear in her eyes. My husband and I were both thinking the worst, even though we wouldn’t tell each other that until later. I didn’t care much what happened to me at that point, but I later learned my husband was afraid he might lose us both. I was put on oxygen and visited by an anesthesiologist. The plan now was to put me under completely, deliver my baby and transfer her on her own to the NICU. This option filled me with sorrow. Not only would I be asleep for her delivery, but I wouldn’t be able to see her before she left. To make matters worse, of course my husband would go to be with our baby, and I would wake up in the hospital alone. The thought of this possibility made me incredibly sad and afraid. I could only hope and pray that there was another option.

Part IV: A Silver Lining In a Storm

After what seemed like minutes – that were actually a couple hours – the amazing nurses were able to stabilize me using magnesium sulfate along with a couple other medications that I can’t quite remember. This magnesium was administered to prevent me from having seizures. My blood pressure was so high that this was a big possibility only minutes before – I didn’t learn this until later. The magnesium was one of the worst medications I’ve ever experienced in my life. I felt sick and light headed and out of breath, even while on oxygen. Fortunately, even with all the terrible side effects, I was stabilized. Once this was made known to me, my OB walked through the door. I felt an immense wave of relief. He explained to me that I was stable enough for surgery. They would administer a spinal tap epidural and perform an emergency c-section. A special team from the NICU hospital would be arriving shortly to prepare our baby for transfer and would accompany her to the other hospital where she would be monitored and cared for after birth. She would be taken to a place that I could not go and would stay there until she was stable enough herself to come home. This broke me. I didn’t get to have the golden hour with my sweet girl. I didn’t get to breastfeed her in her first few moments of life. I didn’t even get to hold her before she left me. This was not the birth and delivery I wanted, but it was the best case scenario considering the other options I had been presented. I was heartbroken but relieved at the same time. The dichotomy of both feelings was not lost on me even with the magnesium and oxygen making me feel like I was breathing on another planet. I just wanted my baby to be okay. The surgery was performed and my baby was safely removed from my body. The surgery was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever experienced. The pressure and feeling of movement even while being completely numb is something I’ll never forget. This was the first surgery I’d ever had, and on top of that I was awake and mostly coherent even though I felt like a bag of hot garbage. My husband stayed by my side the entire time. When my baby was delivered, I remember listening for her cries. When I first heard them I broke down into tears. Half of my tears were happy, joyful, elated that my baby was alive and safe, the other half were tears of pain, sadness, grief. I could barely turn my head to see my baby. I could hear her crying but could not console her. I could not hold her. All I could do was ask my husband to take as many photos and videos as possible so that I could see her later on. I asked him to leave me and go with her and the NICU team. By that point I was being closed up and would be returned to my room alone to watch videos of my baby from a cell phone.

Part V: The Beginning of the Next Journey

I was finally wheeled to my room where I learned that my baby had not yet left the hospital and neither had my husband. My husband came to sit with me and show me videos and photos of our precious girl and to tell me how absolutely perfect she was. I cried. I cried for the same reasons as before plus an immense wave of guilt had started to fill my heart. Guilt for failing my child. Guilt for not being able to hold her inside me to term. Guilt for things going wrong. But that’s a separate post for another time. At this point the hospital staff came in to let us know that our baby was ready for transport. She was in an isolette (formerly known as an incubator), and they asked me if I wanted to see her, to which I replied, “Yes, of course, PLEASE”. They wheeled her into my room and got her as close to my bed as they possibly could. I was still numb from the waist down, but also starting to feel some of the pain from the surgery. I was also still on magnesium, so I still felt like a steaming pile of shit. But I would be damned if I didn’t use every ounce of strength I had to see my baby. I lifted myself as much as I could and even with her bed next to mine, I was barely able to brush her cheek with the back of my fingers. I looked at her little face and told her how much I loved her, and how terribly sorry I was. I stroked her beautiful cheek and thought how strong she must be to be so small and still so resilient. She was so brave and I knew I had to be too. From there they removed her from my room and took her to the hospital with the NICU facility. I told my husband that he should go with her. I didn’t want her to be alone. So he left and went with them. I sat in that hospital room for the next two days waiting to see her in person. It would be the longest two days of my life. But I was so happy that she was here and safe and so was I.

5 Maternity Must Haves and What Not to Waste Your Money On

The maternity industry, like many others, is a cash cow (no pun intended). Slap a maternity label on something and you can be sure you’ll get an ad for it during your 9 months of pregnancy. Everything from maternity tees to maternity underwear to maternity shoes – if you use it pre-pregnancy, someone somewhere has made a maternity version. But what items do you actually need and what items can you skip and save money on. I wanted to make this list because as a first time mom, I was completely overwhelmed at all of the options at first. It felt like I had so much to buy to prepare for pregnancy and beyond and it made me anxious seeing all the money I would have to spend to be comfortable. But luckily, this is not the case. There are really only a handful of items, in my experience, that you should absolutely buy for pregnancy. Please note that this is from my own personal experience, and it may be different for everyone depending on your pregnancy. Please also note that I am not compensated for any of my opinions shared here. These are all my own opinions based on my own purchases and experiences.

  1. Belly Bands
Maternity Bellaband Support Belt - Isabel Maternity By Ingrid & Isabel™ :  Target

One of the first items I suggest buying within the first couple months of pregnancy are a couple belly bands. I bought a black one and a white one which worked perfectly for my wardrobe, but you can also find them in nude and other colors. What is a belly band? It’s basically a stretchy tube of fabric that makes it so that you can wear your pre-pregnancy bottoms during pregnancy. This is awesome because maternity clothes are not cheap, especially when you consider the short amount of time you’ll get to wear them. These belly bands have made it so that I can wear my favorite jeans, shorts and skirts over my bump and have saved me so much money. You simply wear your pre-pregnancy bottoms unbuttoned and slide the band over the top. The band hides the opening of your bottoms while also smoothing the creasing of the opening. The brand that I found to work best and be most cost effective is the Isabel and Ingrid Bellaband. They have a sticky plastic border on one end that helps hold the band in place, and they can be worn up over your belly or folded down. Sometimes I even wear these under dresses for a little extra support. They are super comfortable, and at only $17 a piece at your local Target these are a must have for pregnancy. You can find other colors on the Isabel and Ingrid website here.

2. Bra Extenders

Women Elastic Back Bra Extenders 3 Hook and 2 Hooks Bras Extension Strap  6pcs at Amazon Women's Clothing store

If you’re like me, you’ve experienced a little (or ALOT) of growth in the girls during pregnancy. Sometimes this growth can make it feel like your pre-pregnancy bras are trying to squeeze the life out of you – or at least that’s what happened to me. My bras still mostly fit cup-wise, but the band around was starting to feel like it was strangling me. Again, I didn’t want to go out and buy all new bras for just this occasion so I found these bra extenders on Amazon. These have made it so that I can save my money for nursing bras (because, yep, that’s a thing too) and keep on wearing my favorite pre-pregnancy bras throughout my pregnancy. The pack that I bought came with black, white and nude which is perfect for most bra collections and was only $5 for a pack of six – can’t beat that!

3. Body Pillow

Sleeping in your new body shape can become a bit of a challenge towards the middle and end of pregnancy. But this doesn’t mean you need to go spend hundreds of dollars on a fancy “pregnancy pillow”. I found that a simple body pillow worked just fine for me. It was long enough to hold my belly and also to wedge between my legs to give my hips support. It also is the perfect size to have in bed, where as the pregnancy pillows are so huge I’m surprised anyone can sleep with them and still keep their partner in bed with them at the same time. Want something a little fancier but still don’t want to take over the entire bed? You can find body pillows that are made of memory foam or higher support materials for less money than a crazy pregnancy pillow. Most major retailers that sell home goods will sell a nice body pillow. Another tip is to make sure whatever cover you buy is appropriate for the weather and that elevated body temperature you might experience while pregnant.

4. Maternity Leggings

black

Staying active during pregnancy is a must. Whether it’s full exercises or walking it’s important to have clothing that works for this type of activity. This is where maternity leggings come in. In a pinch I’ve found that I can wear my pre-pregnancy leggings folded under my bump, but there’s something so comfortable about having a nice supportive pair of over the belly leggings that just makes exercising easier on your pregnant body – bonus points if they have a little compression to help with blood flow. Keep in mind though, not all maternity leggings are created equal, and this is the one area where you might want to splurge a little bit to make sure you’re getting the bang for your buck. I made the mistake of buying cheap maternity leggings and actually ended up buying new leggings and changing in the car while running errands – I hated them that much. They kept falling off and provided no support whatsoever to my growing bump – I digress. My favorites during pregnancy have been the Blanqi Everyday Maternity Belly Support leggings, which are super ultra supportive and stay in place all day. These are a bit more compressing feeling so if you don’t like tight then they might not be for you. They have sales regularly and will often sell out so make sure you follow them on social media or check their website regularly for deals. I just ordered another maternity legging from them in another style and got two pairs for under $50 which is a major steal. They make these in a wide range of colors which is also fun and makes it so that you feel like you can still be fashionable. My other favorite leggings are from Ingrid and Isabel and come from Target – the Maternity Crossover Panel Active leggings. These are actually the ones I bought and changed into in the parking lot! I love the lower cut back on these for our hot California weather and the material is super soft and breathable making them super comfortable to wear all day long. Both brands make bike shorts as well that I highly recommend if you are pregnant during warmer weather. Having comfortable active wear is great for staying on track with exercising, but it’s also nice to have clothing that is similar to what I wore pre-pregnancy (2020 basically changed my entire wardrobe into active wear). Leggings and bike shorts are also great for later in pregnancy when everything feels too tight but you also want to look cute. You can pair them with almost anything and not feel like you’re wearing pajamas. (Here’s a $20 credit for Blanqi for anyone who might be interested: http://fbuy.me/q6Mp_)

5. Reusable Water Bottle

YETI Rambler 36 oz Reusable Bottle With Chug Cap

If you don’t already have a reusable water bottle (or two!), pregnancy is a great time to invest in one. Staying hydrated during pregnancy is one of the best ways to avoid aches and pains, curb morning sickness, keep your skin soft and overall improve your health. I have a few different options depending on whether I’m on the go or at home. My home bottle has a stainless steel straw which is super nice for lounging around the house. I also have an on-the-go hydroflask style bottle that seals completely so I can throw it in my bag and it keeps my water nice and cool especially if I add a few ice cubes. Reusable water bottles are also just a great item to have in general and will keep you happy and hydrated throughout pregnancy and beyond. There are so many different options these days available at most retailers. Bonus is that you can customize most of them with fun stickers if you want something a bit more personalized.

I hope this list is helpful for all you first-time mommas out there like me. The world of maternity shopping can feel so overwhelming and it’s tough to know if you need to go out and purchase all brand new items to make life easier. I’d definitely skip certain items like the special underwear, shoes, and heck even the crazy outrageously priced clothes. Stick with what you have for as long as it will work for you, and worst case if you end up needing to spend more money you can always order those items later. Good luck and happy baby growing!

Emotional Symptoms are the Hardest Part

I’m almost six months pregnant and I can hardly believe it. The time has gone by so quickly so far and I never expected that it would feel this fast. Pregnancy has brought on many things I haven’t expected and luckily has also left some things out that I fully expected to happen. I didn’t really experience morning sickness in my first trimester, I haven’t experienced any crazy cravings or food aversions, and my weight gain has been fairly steady. Overall, on paper, I’d say I’ve had a fairly easy pregnancy so far. However, the one thing I did not expect, or I guess just never thought about, was the way that I would feel internally. I never thought about being pregnant in terms of emotions, other than wild mood swings of which I’ve only had a few. But, if I’m being honest with myself the thought process around being pregnant and the feelings that I’ve experienced have probably been the most difficult part. From imposter syndrome, to doubts, to anxiety, to body-image issues I’ve experienced a wide range of emotions that I’ve never even considered before, and that I don’t think many people feel comfortable talking about. So here I am, writing this down, so that someday I can look back or maybe I can share it with others so they know that they’re not the only one.

The parenthood anxiety is real. Thinking about being responsible for a little life and caring for a tiny human is a pretty terrifying experience. What if I’m not good at it? What if I fail? And biggest of all, what if I’m not capable of that gushing, unconditional, gooey love that every parent talks about? In the beginning of my pregnancy, everyone asked “are you excited?” and it was difficult because I didn’t know if I was. I mean sure, the thought of having a mini-me is great, but shouldn’t I be over the moon? Shouldn’t I be shedding happy tears at the thought of my daughter arriving into this world? I just wasn’t. And it still sort of makes me feel bad. People’s reactions make it even more awkward because I think they expect you to gush. They expect you to twirl in circles and tell them how bubbly and bouncing you feel about your new arrival. So you learn to sort of fake it, and I guess that sort of makes you feel happier about it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m not excited – I am – but I’m also nervous and anxious and a little bit terrified. I’m trying to take it one day at a time and not think too much about how I feel about it. She’s coming either way and my emotions ebb and flow like they never have before, so I’m learning to give myself a ton of grace and not get too caught up in people’s reactions to my emotive state. I’m not a super outwardly emotional person anyway. I’ve always been a bit more reserved, a bit more private, especially when it comes to the big emotions. So maybe I’m more excited than even I realize, or maybe I’m just excited in a different way.

The other question I’ve gotten, mostly from my mom, is “do you love her so much already?” to which I respond – “sure?” – which again, is not the great overly jovial response that people expect. What is wrong with me? Will I not be excited when she finally gets here? Will I be a terrible mother? If I can’t even be excited now, will I ever? So I’m trying to think of it in another way… I’ve never experienced anything like this. I’ve never had children or had a small human growing inside of my body. I’ve never known how it feels to be a parent loving a child. How would I know if I love her yet, I’ve never even met her. I mean, sure, I can feel her wiggling around in my abdomen sometimes, but I don’t know her, and how can I love someone I don’t know. I love the idea of her so far, and I think maybe right now that’s all I’m capable of. When she arrives, maybe I will gush and squeal and ooze with sappy, teary love, but maybe I won’t. Maybe my love will be fierce, and strong, and soft but also unyielding, maybe that’s just the type of parent that I’m destined to be. And maybe it goes back to just being more private about my emotions. Perhaps I’ll be that way as a parent too – more reserved, more quiet, more stoic. I can’t change who I am, but I also can’t predict the future. I’m learning to let go of control. Pregnancy has been the biggest exercise in letting go that I’ve ever experienced in my entire life.

Letting go of expectations is another huge lesson I’m learning throughout my pregnancy. Specifically with body image and self love. When you see pregnancy ads, or pregnant people in movies or television you see this perfect baby bump on a normal sized body, but if you’re like me, and probably any other pregnant woman in existence you gain weight. Your body changes and not always in the cute perfect baby bump and giant boobs sort of way that you see on TV. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that every pregnancy is different. Every woman grows a bump at a different pace, everyone gains weight differently, everyone is different. In everyday situations it’s so easy to compare yourself to others especially nowadays with social media, but add 25+ pounds to your ever-growing frame and do a search for pregnant women on Instagram and you’ll find it’s SO much easier to scroll for hours and hours when you’re comparing baby bumps – at least that’s how it’s been for me. Is my bump big enough? Have I gained too much weight? Are my arms the same size they were 4 weeks ago? Why does her bump look more round? Why does my bump look different? Am I working out enough? Am I doing this wrong? ALL OF THIS WILL DRIVE YOU CRAZY. You can’t have expectations. Expectations breed disappointment and the sooner we can let go and let our bodies be and LOVE the fact that they still carry us and our babies the happier we will be – at least that’s what I’m learning. I’m trying to pick something positive about my body to focus on every time I feel down on myself because it is amazing what my body is doing and it’s amazing that I could be shallow enough to not appreciate that for what it is. And, although it’s always easier said than done, I’m trying to make this a huge facet of my life right now. What’s helping me most is number one, to stop comparing – this does me no good pre-pregnancy and does even more harm pregnant. Number two, wearing cute clothes and making myself feel pretty every day – for me this is doing my makeup, moisturizing, self-tanner, pedicures, self-care. If I want to feel good about myself I need to do things that make me feel good. And finally number three, I’m taking it one day at a time.

At this point I probably sound like the biggest whiner in the entire world when it comes to my pregnancy, and if you’ve read this far I apologize for seeming that way. I truly am so grateful. Again, I think I’m just so overwhelmed with emotion that I’ve never felt and needed a place to spew the negative for just a moment. Writing this all down and being able to read back on it makes me realize how far I’m coming though. I’m learning so much about myself and I think that’s what surprises me most about my pregnancy experience. I’m surprised at my internal dialogue and the affect that is has on my well-being. I’m even more surprised at how the switch to positivity and self-love can really trigger better days and better moods and better thoughts. It’s amazing what our minds are capable of as well as our bodies. I never thought I would be pregnant. I never thought I would get to experience everything that I’m experiencing and I’m learning to be so grateful for the process. Learning to let go and let be and to be still is such a huge leap for me personally. And I can’t wait to be able to practice these same types of expectation-releasing and calm-breathing, self-loving vibes once my daughter is here. I really am, truly excited, I think perhaps I just need to give myself some time and some grace to process all off the emotional symptoms of pregnancy that not a whole lot of the baby books talk about.

I’m a Pregnancy Imposter

I can’t be pregnant. I mean, I know both pregnancy tests said I was, but that’s impossible. My doctor could be mistaken – right? I know that he said I was pregnant, but what if it’s gone now? What if I go into my next appointment and suddenly it’s not there anymore? What if I just stop being pregnant and I don’t even know it? What if I’ve been wrong this whole time?

These thoughts and more like them have been reeling through my brain since before taking my first set of pregnancy tests. Mind you, I pretty much knew I was pregnant before taking that first test. I could feel it in my body, something was up. As I’ve stated in a previous post, before becoming pregnant I thought there was a good chance that I was infertile simply due to never having a pregnancy scare. Of course this is ridiculous considering I was on the pill, but the mind sometimes thinks what it wants. After taking the tests and seeing the positive result I was flooded with emotions, some good and some not so good. Since that time, I’ve had a difficult time believing that I’m pregnant. Thoughts similar to the ones above would flood my mind before appointments and make me feel like maybe I was just crazy. Perhaps it’s the lack of morning sickness, or the ease of my first trimester that made me feel like maybe I was pretending. Perhaps it’s the anxiety I sometimes feel when thinking about becoming a mother. And perhaps it’s something that is a little more common than I thought, which definitely makes me feel a little bit better about the whole thing.

Pregnancy Imposter Syndrome is a real thing, and as crazy as it sounds it’s fairly common among new moms-to-be. The feeling of playing pretend isn’t something that’s exclusive to pregnancy either. In fact, according to studies done in the 1980s it’s very common among high achievers and even famous people. The feeling of being caught in the act of pretending or being exposed as a fraud is something many people regularly deal with in many different scenarios, pregnancy just being one of them. Personally, I have experienced these thoughts professionally, but I would have never thought that something like this could apply to pregnancy. How could something so physical and so obvious feel like it was fake? Well, I’m here to tell you, it’s very possible and here’s why I think so: Number one – not all women experience pregnancy the same way. Some feel very sick, some feel very tired, some feel pains and aches and some feel a combination of some of these symptoms or all at once. Lucky women, like me, experience almost none of these things. For me, it was concerning to read through every set of symptoms each week but to not feel hardly any of them. Number two – the emotions of pregnancy are like nothing I’ve ever felt before, and they can be very random and sporadic. Some days I feel completely normal and other days I feel like an entirely different person. On the normal days, I find that imposter feeling creeping in more often. Number three – being pregnant is kind of scary! I know it isn’t just me that has experienced some anxiety over becoming a mom. Whether you have a decent support system or not, whether you’ve always wanted children or not, or anything else, I think you’d be crazy to not experience at least a little bit of nerves over this life changing experience. Lastly, the belly bump – not everyone gets their bumps at the same time, and now that I’m 3 months pregnant it feels weird to look down and know there’s a baby in there but that there’s nothing to show for it (okay, except maybe my now giant boobs). Baby bumps can happen so late for first time moms, but they can also come early depending on your build and depending on your pregnancy – again EVERYONE is different. This for me is weird, but it’s also totally fine because I can still wear my favorite jeans.

All this being said, I am happy to be able to talk to friends who are mothers who say that I’m not entirely insane for feeling this way. It’s even more reassuring to look online and see that women I don’t know have also experienced this strange phenomenon. I will also say that I had my first real glimmer of excitement yesterday during our second ultrasound. I was able to see baby’s profile, hands, feet and limbs and even got to see them jumping around like a little jumping bean. Seeing this put my mind at rest a bit, at least for now, and made me believe that there really is something happening in my body, even if I can’t see or feel it just yet.

I thought I never wanted to get pregnant…

I never thought I wanted kids. To be honest, the thought has always kind of terrified me, and it took me getting pregnant to finally understand why…

I’ve always said that I would never have children. I didn’t want the responsibility, the burden, the change. I was adamant. Fast forward to the year of my 32nd birthday – 2020. I had a conversation with my husband and asked him if he still felt the same way. His answer changed but not entirely to a black or white option – “I’d be happy either way”, he said. “I’ve always sort of thought it would be cool to have a kid, but my life wouldn’t be ruined if we didn’t”. As I approached my mid-thirties I started to feel pretty much the same way. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid that at some point I’d completely change my mind and it would be too late. I mean sure, some women have babies as late as 40, but I knew that I didn’t want that. 33 was my cut-off age. By that time I either had to go for it or decide that I would be childless forever. But there was more going on in my mind than I think even I realized that kept me from the idea of having kids…

For the last several years, I thought that I could be infertile. I thought this to the point of telling close friends and even my mother that perhaps I was incapable of getting pregnant. This didn’t make a whole lot of sense since I was on birth control for the last several years, but I still thought that since I’d never had a scare that it was a possibility. I had known a handful of people that had gotten pregnant while on birth control, and I knew that I wasn’t always the best at taking my pill at precisely the same time every day and even had skipped days by accident. I wonder now if this thought was part of my aversion to the idea of having kids. If I couldn’t get pregnant physically, it was easier to accept if I didn’t actually want it. But after becoming pregnant in December (surprise!) I realized this wasn’t the only thing holding me and my heart back.

In June of 2020, I decided to stop taking the pill. A few factors played into this decisions including my age, my past tobacco use and the fact that my husband and I were opening up more and more to the idea of having a child. July was my first month without the pill after taking it for about 11 years. The transition was not easy at first. I got terrible acne, had bouts of anxiety and insomnia and all-in-all it took a few months to feel like I was back to myself. Once the transition period was over though, I felt great. I had more energy, less anxiety and felt like a fog had been lifted from my brain. I was stoked! I decided after about a month to try and track my cycle using my calendar on my phone, and my husband and I decided that if we were meant to have a child that it would happen and vice versa. This ended up being tricky since my cycle was highly irregular. My first period came like clockwork, but every other cycle after that ranged from 30-50 days in length. This made it almost impossible to track my ovulation window making pregnancy a very high possibility. By December of 2020, I was about 40 days into my cycle when I experienced light spotting and thought it was time for that time of the month. Little did I know that this was the first sign of the biggest change of the rest of our lives.

When I finally decided to take a pregnancy test I was terrified. I pretty much already knew that the test would come back positive, I could just feel it in my body – something was up. Sure enough the test came back positive, and I prepared myself to tell my husband when he got home from work. But there was something weighing heavy on my heart, something that I finally realized was probably the biggest and most effectual reason for me being afraid to get pregnant – I couldn’t call my mom. And to me, this feels a little whiny because my mom is still alive and many first time moms don’t even have that option, but in my situation I couldn’t call my mom. She was going through stuff, and still is.. Stuff like alcoholism. I didn’t want to call her and tell her like that, it wasn’t supposed to happen that way, and I wasn’t sure that if I did that she’d even remember. It broke my heart and it still does. Feeling like she’s not here for me is one of the hardest things I’ve had to go through with this pregnancy. And feeling like I can’t call her and ask her all my questions or hear about her experiences makes it feel like she’s not here, or maybe it feels even worse because she is but she isn’t available to me like that. I don’t know. It’s something I’m still majorly struggling with, and I’m not sure it will ever get better. But I’m certain now that this is one of the biggest reasons I’ve been so afraid to be a mother – not being able to rely on my own.

In the end, I’m excited to be having a child. I’m terrified, but I’m excited. I know that even with all of my doubts and all of my negative feelings, that I’m experiencing what many other first time moms experience and that it’s okay to feel this way. I am happy overall, and I think that’s what matters. I’m just taking it day by day now and giving myself a whole lot of grace and time to process this huge event in my life. I will be posting my thoughts here, since much of what I read online about pregnancy and motherhood seems so perfect and cliche. I hope that maybe someday someone like me will read it and know that they’re not alone as I’m sure I’m not either.

New Years Resolution 2021 + 2020 Resolution Recap

2020 was a wild ride. Between the pandemic, the social unrest, and the overall uncertainty of life, I can’t say I did much to focus on my resolutions. Rather, I just tried to live life to the best of my ability without going insane. I will say however, I think that overall I did end up sticking to my resolutions fairly well considering my lack of focus. I’ll recap that here briefly:

Resolution #1 was Dry January and Better Health – I did complete a Dry January, but my healthy eating habits were pretty sporadic. With the California lockdowns spanning most of the year, many of our meals were take out and not always the healthiest options. You can tell from my blog posts that my vegan meal prepping was going strong until about April – which is when the pandemic really started to ramp up. However, I did workout and practice yoga more frequently than ever in 2020 which somewhat counterbalanced my less than stellar food choices.

Resolutions #2 and #3 were to Go Outside and to Grow that Garden – both of these I accomplished without any problem. Having more time at home made it easy to maintain my garden and be outside as much as possible. My garden this year flourished with tomatoes, eggplants, squash, carrots, beets and so much more. It was really, really nice to be able to water every morning and actually watch things grow day by day. Plus, the lockdown made the urge to be outside greater than ever. I spent much of my year outside whether I was in my inflatable pool in my backyard, or walking the trails by the river.

Resolution #4 was to Shop Less, Fair and Small – this was another fairly easy one to accomplish. Not having anywhere to be made it easy to not shop, especially since many of the thrift stores were closed for most of the middle of the year. Shopping fair and small was also fairly easy since when it did come time to purchase things I really took the time to think about who or what I was supporting with my purchase. My main large purchases this year were jeans from Madewell’s fair trade line and a VR set for our Playstation.

Resolutions #5 and #6 were to Create Everyday and to Try New Things – creating every day was easy at first, but this seemed to get significantly more challenging the longer the lockdown went on. Bouts of depression, boredom and general unease made it difficult to find a creative mindset on certain days. Trying new things, at least the new things I outline in my resolution was nearly impossible since everything was closed. The first three months of the year I did go gung-ho and tried a few new classes including TRX, yoga, Pilates and tactical pistol shooting class, but once April hit it wasn’t as easy to find new things to go do. I thought about taking classes online, but again, some days it was just difficult to find the motivation.

2021 New Year Resolution

I only have one resolution this year – be more intentional. This encompasses so many things for me across my life including the food I eat, what I buy, the choices I make day-to-day and the people I surround myself with. Sure, 2020 was crazy, but it taught me alot – alot about myself, about my life and about the life I want to live. So for 2021 I want to put those lessons into action and make sure that everything I do is done with intention and is done in a way to make my life and myself better. Here’s to 2021!

How to Roast Pumpkin Seeds

Fall is pumpkin season! Pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice lattes – everyone is going crazy for pumpkins! But let’s not forget the rest of the pumpkin – let’s remember to roast the seeds. Letting food go to waste is not the business, especially when that food can be a bit pricey when purchased in stores. Roasted pumpkin seeds make a nutritious snack that’s worth the time it takes to make them. Keep reading to learn how to roast your own pumpkin seeds at home.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

  • The seeds of at least one pumpkin
  • Salt, pepper or other seasonings you desire (some use pumpkin pie spice, you can also use chili powder – get creative!)
  • Olive oil, if desired
  1. Once you’ve removed the pumpkin seeds from the pumpkin, remove as much of the pumpkin “guts” as you can with your hands and place in a large bowl of salted water (the amount of salt varies depending on your tastes, I use about 1/2 cup) and let soak overnight.
  2. Once the seeds have soaked, remove from the water and let dry on a foil lined baking sheet to dry overnight – cover with a paper towel if desired to help dry and keep covered.
  3. Preheat your oven to 300°F. If you would like to use olive oil, drizzle some over your seeds now and mix with your hands to coat. Add desired seasonings and mix again.
  4. Bake seeds for about 1 hour, stirring half way through. The seeds are done roasting when lightly browned and their aroma fills the air.
  5. Store in an airtight container such as a food container or mason jar and enjoy!!

5 Ways to Stay Focused When Working From Home

Photo by Prateek Katyal on Pexels.com

Life has been a little crazy lately. Well, maybe it’s not lately, to be honest it’s starting to feel like it’s been this way forever. Currently, we’re on our sixth month of COVID fun-times, and it doesn’t look like things are going back to normal anytime soon (efffffff). But things aren’t all bad, at least not in my neck of the woods, and I’m hoping not in yours either. There have been many people among all of this madness that have lost their jobs. Whether it be temporary or not it’s definitely not anything that can be planned and it makes me feel even more grateful to have the job that I have and to still be able to work. This doesn’t mean that things haven’t changed, oh no, things have most certainly changed. Instead of going into the office everyday, I’m now marching my lucky butt down my hallway to my new home office. Mind you it took me 5 months to get to this point, I was at the kitchen table for the majority; however, this move has made it so that I’m almost always working from home (excepting times when I need to go in to photograph, video or have face-time). And I gotta say, I’m super enjoying it, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy.

Working from home can be a distraction in and of itself. I know when I first started it was almost difficult to separate life stuff from work stuff and to make sure I was dosing a healthy balance of both. It took me some time to get my bearings straight, and a few tricks as well that I want to share with you in this post today. So, if you’re working from home and struggling to keep your head on straight like I was, keep reading to learn more about some simple actions I made to make my work-from-home life a little bit easier.

Have a Dedicated Workspace

Whether it’s a spot at your kitchen table or a separate room that serves as a home office, having a dedicated workspace is a must for working from and staying focused. I started out working at my kitchen table which wasn’t ideal, but I had a few things that helped make it bearable. I dedicated a full drawer in my side table to my work gear – laptop, notebooks, pens, mouse, etc. This drawer made it easy to pull out everything I needed at the start of my day and to put it all away at the end. If you don’t have a drawer, find a basket or a tub or any kind of organizer that you can place your work items in. It’s important to maintain a life-work balance when working from home and this is the first step in not having your work-life literally pouring over into your home. Obviously having a home office you can leave everything out and close the door, but also be sure to keep things tidy like you would at your typical workplace to avoid becoming overwhelmed with clutter.

Photo by Jess Bailey Designs on Pexels.com

Keep a Planner

Keeping a planner has saved my sanity over the last six months more than I could have imagined. When March 2020 arrived I was ready to throw my 2020 planner out, but I’m so glad that I didn’t. I sit down at the beginning of my workday every day and make sure I have all of my daily tasks outlined for the day. I even put personal tasks on the right side of the page to keep my entire life more organized. As you move through your tasks you can check them off or move them to the next day depending on where you are. I also keep what I like to think of as a “big picture” plan which is a list of the larger projects I have on my plate. This makes it so I can list out my large projects and then use the daily planner to break those down into achievable daily tasks. Not only is this helpful to organize my day, it’s gratifying to see my checklist at the end of the day completed and to be able to review everything I accomplished.

Don’t Quit Your Routine

This tip was huge for me! Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you should work in your pajamas every day or stop showering, eating breakfast and moving through your normal daily routine. I like to continue my routine in an almost identical way that I did when I was going into the office. Not only does this make life feel more normal but it helps keep me on track to accomplish my tasks for the day whether they are for work or for my personal life. Don’t let quarantine make every aspect of your life pajamas and couch life – although cheat days are fully encouraged.

Photo by Ivan Samkov on Pexels.com

Background Music

Having background noise is one of the most simple ways I maintain focus. Somehow it helps drown out other distractions and makes me feel like I can zone out on one thing at a time. And it doesn’t always have to be music. Sometimes it’s a television show playing in the background, or even just white noise from a water fountain. I prefer to listen to music that has little to no lyrics and a good beat – Lofi/Chill music on Spotify is my jam! And if I’m going the television/Netflix route, I like to make sure I’m watching something that I don’t have to give all my attention to or something I’ve seen multiple times that won’t be a distraction instead of just background noise.

All in all, times are super tough right now for many if not all of us. If you have the ability to work from home like I do it’s good to be grateful but it can also feel like things are spiraling out of control. Hopefully these small tips can help you maintain focus and find a bit of peace in your day to day.

DIY Dried Herbs

Having a garden can be so fulfilling. From picking to preserving the process can be as long or as short as you want it to be and you can reap the benefits of your hard work for longer than your gardening season if you plan it. When I first started gardening, I started out small with herbs, but quickly realized that I couldn’t use enough fresh herbs to completely use up what I was growing. This became a problem year after year, and I’d feel so discouraged letting my herb plants die feeling like I didn’t get their full use. Jump forward to this year, when I finally took the time to preserve my own herbs so I could enjoy them for the months ahead.

Drying herbs is really quite easy with the bulk of time spent waiting for the herbs themselves to dry out. Other than that it’s just harvest, hang, and store. I’ll outline the steps briefly below. These steps can be followed with all herbs so that you can enjoy them before and after the season is over.

  1. Harvest Herbs – using shears or scissors, snip long stems of whatever herb you’re harvesting. Make sure the stems are long and even enough to put together in a bunch for hanging. The images that I took here show the process with my Oregano plant.
  2. Hang Herbs – pull your harvest into a bunch and secure at the ends. I used a rubber band, but you could also use string, a hair tie or ribbon to secure. Make sure whatever you use is nice and snug around the stems, because as the herbs dry out they will lose some of their girth and could slip and fall out of the band. Then use string or ribbon or whatever you have lying around to create a way to hang the herbs. I used a rubber band to secure and then slipped string through the rubber band to hang by a loop. Hang the herbs in a dry, cool place (I chose an armoire closet in my dining room). Some of the leaves may fall off during the drying process. If the mess concerns you, you can wrap a paper bag around the herbs to catch anything that falls. Leave in cool, dry place until herbs dry out – this will vary by location – just make sure not to remove the herbs until they are nice and crispy. Once dry the leaves should fall off super easily, sometimes with even just a slight touch.
  3. Harvest Dried Herbs – now this step may seem redundant, and I guess it sort of is, but now that your herbs are dry you need to pull the leaves from the stems for storage.