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I have moles, freckles, stretch marks and scars, they may not be pretty but THEY ARE ME.
When I was growing up my Mom was ALWAYS on some kind of diet. For as long as I can remember she never seemed to be happy with the way she looked. While my sister and I were pretty healthy children, constantly outside playing in the summer and riding bikes through the hills in our community, both of us developed a complex where we thought we were fat. Just the idea of those words coming out of my daughter’s mouth makes my heart break, but my Mom didn’t seem too fazed by this.
You might think that Mom could have done better at instilling us with self-esteem, and you are probably right. But I try not to blame her too much. If there is one thing that I know to be true, it is that all behavior is LEARNED. If my children see me constantly speaking negatively about myself, there is a much higher chance that they are going to pick up on it and start speaking negatively about themselves as well.
Have you ever been around a kid who watches a lot of one specific show? I would bet that more often than not, that child begins to adopt the way at least one of those characters talks. I have seen it first hand while babysitting my nieces and nephew. They pick up catch phrases, and most of the time, don’t even understand what it is they are saying. The most important gift I feel like I can give to my children (besides being totally awesome like I am) is to end this cycle of negativity with me.
But Julia, how do you plan to do that? I am so happy that you asked, faithful reader. No matter how I feel about my body I will absolutely not discuss it in negative terms with my child around. My goal is to stop all negative self-talk completely, but baby steps. (I have 28 years of bad habits to break here) My mom was always discussing her diets, talking about how bad she looked in clothes, and most harmful, calling herself fat. She even kept her “fat picture” taped to the fridge as a deterrent for unhealthy snacking.
Now, I’m not saying that I’m just going to eat whatever I want 24/7, never do anything healthy and call that body positive. My goal is positive self-talk to achieve a positive body image. We only have one life and I don’t want to waste it hating the way I look. Of course I want my kid to be healthy, which means promoting healthy choices and making it fun, but if she wants to eat a spoonful of peanut butter or a handful of salami, hey, at least she’s eating.
Are there things about my body I don’t like? Absolutely? I was a healthy child, but as soon as I hit puberty, out came the stretch marks. It wasn’t because I was fat, it was genetics. I have moles, freckles, stretch marks and scars, they may not be pretty but THEY ARE ME. If my child is anything like me at all, these things will likely characterize her as well. The last thing I would want to do is make her feel ashamed of them.
In the age of Instagram, Youtube, Netflix and the general connected world I know it is going to be so much more difficult for me to protect my children from the world’s idea of what they are supposed to look like, or what is normal. Therefore, if I can take one tiny step by being a positive example in self-love that is what is important to me. If I want to wear a bikini in the summer, I’m not going to shy away because I have surgical scars from getting my gallbladder removed, or stretch marks from carrying my daughter for 9.5 months. I am proud of these marks, they are proof and reminders of my life experiences.
There was something about being pregnant that completely changed the way I thought about my body. I was no longer ashamed when I looked in the mirror and saw thighs that were bigger than I would have liked, and an overall “squishy” look that I seem to have. I was excited to slowly watch my body change. My hips became even wider than they were, and my stomach slowly grew big and round. It made me so proud that I was finally getting the chance to grow this tiny human. It was proof that I COULD do it, disproving the fear that I may never get to experience pregnancy for myself. It was a long, and not always easy 9.5 months. But when I look back on it now, I feel like it went by so quickly and I miss those days so much.
There are still days when I catch a glimpse of my body and cringe, the bad thoughts come into my head. “How can my husband even stand to look at, or even touch me? I look horrible!” Then I take a breath and remind myself, “Hey, you made a freaking baby! You had surgery 3 months ago! Scars and stretch marks fade!”
As stupid as it sounds, I have some advice for every person reading this. Look at yourself in a mirror, find every single thing that you don’t like about yourself. Then, look yourself straight in the eyes and tell yourself, “I am beautiful the way that I am. My flaws make me who I am. I am perfectly unique, and there is nobody in the world like me.” It’s a baby step; but there is always the chance that one day, you may start to believe it.
“Oh yeah, that’s really common after pregnancy.” WHAT?!
It was about a month after giving birth when I started to feel a little pain on my right side. “It must have been the icecream, it is probably just gas or something.” I said to myself. Thinking it would pass, I strapped myself up to my breast pump and with every little suck of the pump I could feel the little pain getting worse and worse. I took a deep breath and went to go lay down thinking maybe the right position would make the pain go away. Within the next few minutes I knew I was wrong. I calmly walked into the living room where my husband was playing his video game and told him something was really wrong. My first thought was it’s a complication from giving birth, but I had no idea what kind of complication it could be. Pretty soon I was lying on the bathroom floor and the only thought running through my head was “Oh my God, I am dying!” I don’t mean that in the way most people say it, I LITERALLY though that I was dying.
After vomiting multiple times from the pain, my husband was so scared; he was on the phone with 911 to get me an ambulance to the hospital. Funnily enough, after I emptied my stomach, the pain started to fade. By the time the ambulance got there, I felt completely fine. The checked me out and since I wasn’t in any pain, and they didn’t seem to find anything wrong, we decided not to go to the hospital. It was only a few hours later when the whole thing happened again. This time we decided we had better go to the hospital. By the time we got to the hospital I was starting to feel less pain which was a relief. Unfortunately, the emergency room was extremely busy that night and we were not seen until the next morning (Nearly 8 hours). Since I had no symptoms anymore, and nothing showed up on the x-ray they did, the doctor suggested that it could have just been gas.
A few weeks later, it was the weekend of a friend’s wedding, and I started having all my symptoms again. I took my gas relief pills but nothing was helping. After having multiple episodes and having to leave the wedding early because I could feel another attack coming on, we decided we were going to go to a different hospital and hopefully get some answers. I was in so much pain going through triage that I could not even speak to the intake nurse. They gave me a bag to vomit into because I was in so much pain I could not move. Luckily, this time I was seen very quickly by the doctor. After a quick exam he suspected gallstones. A few hours later I was taken to get an ultrasound to confirm. The doctor finally game me the official diagnosis of gallstones. I was referred to some surgeons and was sent on my way.
When we went to meet with the surgeon he asked me about my medical history, and when we said that I had a baby two months ago he said “Gallstones. Oh yeah, that’s really common after pregnancy.” WHAT?! No one ever told me that your gallbladder goes to shit after the miracle of life. Talking with different family members I found out that so many of them had also had their gallbladders removed, usually after giving birth. Thanks for the heads up guys, good looking out. I was able to schedule my surgery for the next week, and thankfully have had no further issues since having my gallbladder removed.
So some advice from me to you if you are expecting your precious little miracle sometime soon, look out for gallstones. They might just be coming for you too.
Did you experience anything crazy after giving birth? Let me know in the comments!
-Cartoon Credit: TheAwkwardYeti.com Instagram:TheAwkwardYeti (Give them a follow, they ALWAYS make me laugh)
“Don’t get too comfortable, there is no guarantee that you get to have your baby at the end of all this.”
Obviously, when you find yourself pregnant after experiencing a miscarriage, you are filled with an unbelievable amount of fear. But as we all know fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering… Not really, but now at least you all know I am a Star Wars fan.
Each time I found myself pregnant, I tried to tell myself that I was going to push all doubts out of my mind and just not worry about anything until there was something to worry about. That works, but only up to a certain point. Usually up until it is 2 AM and you cannot fall asleep because your brain refuses to just shut off. That is when the little doubts creep their way in and you slowly start to become filled with fear, which leads to panic, which leads to you ordering a home fetal doppler to check that you still have a living baby inside you. (Ebay: $40, Peace of Mind: Priceless)
With my last pregnancy, which happily ended with us taking home our daughter, I told myself everything will be fine if we can just make it to our next ultrasound, then the NT Scan, then the second trimester, then until I can feel the baby kick etc. I was never satisfied once I reached any of these milestones. There was always a part of me that said, “Don’t get too comfortable, there is no guarantee that you get to have your baby at the end of all this.” That thought alone is why I HATE miscarriages so much. Not because they are terrible to go through from the mental and physical pain, but because you lose a big part of the joy of any future pregnancies you may have.
You no longer get to be the naive happy pregnant lady who is just so excited to have her baby. You become afraid to make plans, or finish decorating the nursery. God forbid something were to happen, and you have to come home to a house full of baby things with no baby to be found. You don’t want to pick out nicknames for your baby anymore (there were no peanuts, nuggets, or green beans this time around) it is just the baby. You guard your heart and keep yourself from getting too attached because you know how quickly it can all be taken away from you. People ask if you are excited, and sometimes you have to fake a smile because, yes you’re excited but also TERRIFIED.
Miscarriages suck. The fact that up to 50% of pregnancies end in miscarriages sucks. The fact that even though it is so common, yet you probably aren’t aware of anyone you know having one, until you go through it yourself SUCKS. So why don’t we share these losses even though it is so common?
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know I kept my miscarriages mostly to myself for over a year because I felt like a failure. There was no reason why I shouldn’t be able to have a healthy baby. Yet, for some reason, my babies were dying. In my mind it couldn’t have been anyone else’s fault except my own. In reality it was probably something genetically wrong with the embryo. But you don’t blame the 8 week old embryo for dying, you blame yourself for not being able to keep the 8 week old embryo alive.
Here’s the good news, It’s not anyone’s fault. Sometimes these things are out of our control and they just happen to us. It also makes you even more grateful for the things you do have. I was happy for the family that I was surrounded with. I was happy for the health of my husband and myself. And when I finally became pregnant again, I was happy every morning I woke up with morning sickness. I would happily go through every ache and pain, all the fatigue, and lack of sleep all over again to experience the love that I feel every time I look at my baby girl. It made me incredibly grateful for my husband, and how he is able to be there for me through every hard moment in my life. I don’t know how I would have made it through the last 10 years if he had not come into my life.
I was so ashamed to share my story until one day, an acquaintance from college shared her miscarriage story on miscarriage and infant loss awareness day. I was pregnant with my daughter at the time, and I promised myself that no matter the outcome I would share my story the next year. I knew there were some family members that would be shocked and maybe a little disappointed that I hadn’t shared our struggles with them before I shared it with the world, but that was not what was important. What was the most important was sharing that almost half of all women have these stories. I didn’t expect to help anyone with my own story, but to my surprise I received a text from one of my oldest friends, thanking me for sharing. She too had experienced a miscarriage with her fiance, and told me how much better she felt reading about my experience.
I sincerely hope that no one else reading this would have ever to go through a miscarriage, if you already have, I am so sorry. Just remember however you feel, your feelings are valid, and they matter. If you can summon the strength, find someone to share your story with. You never know who may you may help in the process, or who may be able to help you through such a hard time.
Finally, I just picked myself up and said goodbye to all of my hope, dreams, and naivety about what it is to be pregnant.
When I was in high school I made a promise to myself that I would not have sex until after I graduated. Mostly I was just trying to live up to the standard of my older sister, who had said something to that effect to me one time in a random conversation that she probably doesn’t even remember. All I knew was that I was terrified of having sex and accidentally ending up pregnant. I may not have known what I wanted to major in when I went to college, but I knew I definitely didn’t want to be a teen mom. I assumed (as most women do) that it is really easy to get pregnant, otherwise how would so many people have these accidental pregnancies.
Well, when my husband and I finally decided to try and have a baby, I was terrified, excited, and most of all expecting to get pregnant very quickly. After all I was still young (25 when I stopped taking birth control) and healthy, with no reproductive health concerns. Cut to my first positive pregnancy test two years later… I was seriously beginning to think that there was something majorly wrong with me that it took me TWO YEARS to finally get pregnant. After using every period tracking app, basal body temperature monitoring and ovulation tests, we finally just got lucky and nailed it (so to speak) I was so excited to finally be pregnant I told my sister right away, it was right before my Dad’s birthday and I considered telling him that his gift would be arriving in 9 months but, thankfully, I decided against it. A little less than a month later we ended up in the ER because I was having some bleeding and neither my husband or I could get our minds out of the bad place. 5-6 hours, and two ultrasounds later, they told me that everything looked ok, and I should follow up with my OB/GYN to get another ultrasound. A week later we were back in the ER again and the baby no longer had a heartbeat. I was devastated.
They told me that they could schedule me for a D&C, they could prescribe me Cytotec to take at home, or I could wait to pass the baby naturally. I left that night with a prescription for Cytotec, a heavy heart and all the tears my husband and I could cry together. Trying to lighten up the situation, as much as we could, we made a day out of my miscarriage day, we filled the prescription, bought pads and ibuprofen at the pharmacy, rented a bunch of movies and bought all the junk food we wanted to eat. I had to insert the Cytotec vaginally (something I actually had to google how to do) and just wait for the whole thing to start. I was armed with my heating pad and ibuprofen and while the cramping was bad, I can honestly say I have had worse. I passed a lot of blood clots, which was fine, and then I saw this tiny little sac. That tiny little thing that must have been no bigger that the size of a quarter had been my baby. I sat on the bathroom floor and stared at it for a while, wanting so badly to inspect it closer, but also feeling strange about that. Finally, I just picked myself up and said goodbye to all of my hopes, dreams, and naivety about what it is to be pregnant. It was a lovely way to spend my birthday that year.
We had decided that we would wait for a little while before we tried again, but I ended up getting pregnant again pretty quickly and I had realized it right after our anniversary trip to Vegas. Panic immediately sprung to my brain… I’d had that 1 drink at the pool, we had gotten massages, WE HAD JUMPED OFF THE STRATOSPHERE TOWER! I emailed my OB/GYN immediately and they scheduled me for an early ultrasound. We held our breath as we watched that screen and much to both of our surprise, the baby looked healthy, and was a good size with a strong heartbeat. I breathed a little bit and vowed that I wouldn’t hold on to the fear of my last miscarriage, the chances of repeating the same experience had to be lower, right? It was just about a month later again, when we were about to go out to a movie, that I saw the smallest amount of blood. I knew right then that it was over. I came out and told my husband. He tried to reassure me that it could still be ok, but I knew in my heart that I was going to have another miscarriage. Rather than having another expensive ER visit where they would make me wait for hours to find out what I already knew, I waited until the morning to call my doctor. They were able to squeeze me in that morning. Again, I held my breath as the doctor placed that ultrasound wand until she told me what I knew in my heart. She couldn’t find a heartbeat. They did a second ultrasound with a better machine where I had the choice to watch, I did, and saw my tiny little baby there with no movement, no blood flow and no heartbeat.
I sat in my doctor’s office crying as I asked if there was something wrong with me. It had to be a problem with me, since it had taken me so long to get pregnant. It had to be my fault that these babies were dying. She tried to reassure me that sometimes it is just bad luck. She told me that you have to have three consecutive miscarriages in order for insurance to cover any fertility tests, and even then most of the time they can’t find anything wrong. I was sent home again with my Cytotec trying not to make any eye contact with the other happily pregnant women in the office as I made my way out of the waiting room. I didn’t want them to see me as the girl who can’t keep her babies alive. I didn’t want to be seen at all. I wanted to crawl into my bed and cry, and that is just what I did.
We had to wait until my next cycle before we could have sex again due to the risk of infection after miscarriage. and in that month I became determined. If they wouldn’t do any tests on myself or my husband until our 3rd miscarriage, then that’s what I would do to get some answers. My husband reluctantly agreed that we would try again right away so that if it was going to happen again, we could at least just get it over with.
Little did we know, that next time would be the pregnancy that gave us our little girl.
Doctors never had to tell me how important breast milk is to a growing baby… I thought I was prepared, oh how incredibly wrong I was.
You always hear “Breast is Best” and they aren’t talking about chicken. From the second you conceive you will most likely be asked “Are you planning to breastfeed?” If you say no, they will give you a million reasons why you should at least try.
Now, I’m not going to pretend like I wasn’t planning to exclusively breastfeed for AT LEAST a year, because I absolutely was. Doctors never had to tell me how important breast milk is to a growing baby. It provides all of the nutrients the baby could need (except vitamin D apparently) and it even provides your own antibodies to your baby to protect them against illness (how cool is that?). I even signed up for a breastfeeding class provided by my hospital and watched Youtube videos to learn how to use my breast pump and build the best supply possible for my baby. I thought I was prepared, oh how incredibly wrong I was.
They tell you that breastfeeding is uncomfortable when you are first starting until you get used to it. That is such an understatement. Breastfeeding absolutely SUCKS, up until your nipples are so desensitized you can barely feel anything anymore. Luckily my nipples never bled (which totally happens, I know people it has happened to) but they did become cracked and unbearable to touch. There were nights that my nipples were so sore that I was up crying as my baby ate because it just hurt so bad and I knew that I would be doing it over and over and over again all night long. It took about 3 months before I was completely comfortable with breastfeeding and it was a LONG 3 months.
They also tell you that breastfeeding is a supply and demand venture. The more you breastfeed the more milk you will make. This led me to an obsession for at least the first month. I wanted to be able to make the most milk possible for my daughter. That meant not only breastfeeding, but pumping. My entire day revolved around feeding and pumping, pumping and feeding. I would feed my daughter on one side and pump on the other, and then switch sides.
You may be thinking to yourself “I bet you had such a great supply of milk. I wish I could see your freezer stash, full of milk.” That is what I was expecting to have. A freezer supply full of milk so that I would be able to keep feeding my daughter breast milk long after we finished nursing. Well, I currently have 3 bags (15 oz) of frozen milk in my freezer and that is it. I became so burned out from constantly having something attached to my breasts, and feeling like it wasn’t even making a difference that I rarely use my pump anymore, and when I do, it is because we are probably planning on going out somewhere and I want my daughter to have more than just formula (in case she won’t drink the formula). There were only 4 or 5 times that I can remember that I was ever able to pump more than a couple of ounces at a time and I would be pumping all day long in order for my husband to give our daughter a bottle at bed time. It was exhausting, and I hated it. So eventually we started supplementing with formula and it was such a relief. I didn’t have to worry about pumping enough for my husband to feed her, I was able to actually go to bed instead of staying up to pump. I was less stressed, and my baby was fed and full!
They told me that when your baby is full, they will unlatch and be happy. That’s totally true, UNLESS THEY LIKE TO NURSE FOR COMFORT! The only time my baby ever unlatched because she was full and happy was when we had both fallen asleep while nursing. She would stay latched to me all. day. long. if I would let her. Which meant that I was holding her constantly. She woke up and cried any time I would put her down during the day in the early weeks, which led to me having quite a few breakdowns when all I really wanted was 5 minutes to make and eat a sandwich, or go to the bathroom by myself. And forget taking a shower, that could only be done when my husband was home to take care of her for me.
We tried every pacifier we could find, but all she wanted was MY nipple, and it was completely draining (no pun intended). My daughter also had this really fun habit of not unlatching before pulling away from my nipple. I liked to call it the nipple ripper. There were multiple occasions where I had to check and make sure she hadn’t actually ripped my nipple off because it had hurt so badly. Either my nipples are completely dead now, or she’s gotten better, but it is not as bad as it used to be. She still comfort nurses (mostly when she wakes up at night) but I am ok with it now because she is also a little more independent throughout the day. She actually naps in her crib and not in my lap. She doesn’t cry during floor time and plays in her Exersaucer so that I can actually get things done.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love nursing my baby. I actually hope that we can make it to a full year. But I never would have been able to keep my sanity if we had done it exclusively. Sometimes supplementing is necessary, and that is ok. FED is best, whether it be breastfeeding, exclusively pumping, or formula as long as your baby is full, that is really what matters.
How do I become a Mom, without my Mom here with me?
When my husband and I first started talking about expanding our little family, there was one question that kept springing to my mind. How do I become a Mom, without my Mom here with me?
It probably seems like a silly question to anyone who still had their mother around when they started their family. “You grew up with your Mom your whole life, of course you know how to do it.” But, I never thought to ask child rearing questions to my Mom while she was alive, we just talked about life. While I do have a Mother-In-Law that I could potentially ask questions, we just don’t have that close of a relationship, and it has really been my decision to keep her at arms length so that I never feel as though I am trying to replace the relationship that I lost when my Mom passed away 6 and a half years ago.
“You could always ask you Dad, he probably would know the answer,” you might think to yourself, and you are probably right. But how comfortable would you be talking to your father about lightning crotch? Or discussing your miscarriages when he doesn’t even know you were trying to have a baby. These are all things that I would have discussed with Mom at length, and if she were still around I may have discussed them with him as well. However, after her death our relationship suffered greatly and unfortunately, it has never fully recovered.
So that brings us back to my original question, how do I become a Mom, without my own? I had 3 years of trying to conceive and pregnancy to figure it out, and I still don’t have a clear answer. What I did do was watch. I watched all of the other parents around me, how did they parent their kids? I took mental notes of all the good, the bad, and the ugly moments.
Now let me say this, I try my hardest not to pass judgement on ANYONE else and their parenting, especially since becoming a Mom myself. No one wants to feel as if the world thinks they are doing it wrong. THERE IS NO WRONG WAY TO RAISE YOUR KIDS (unless you are abusing them, obviously) That being said, not everything works for everybody. I also took mental notes of the things I didn’t think we would do with our own children and notes of the things that seemed to work really well with other children. I also took note of the things that reminded me of how I was raised. I watched lots of parenting vlogs, I read other blogs, but much to my surprise not many of them seemed to talk about parenting without the presence of their own parents around. (Something I will probably discuss at least a few times here)
Now, here’s my main piece of advice for anyone else that may be asking themselves the same question. How do I become a Mom, without my own Mom around? You just do it. (I know, completely not helpful) But here’s the thing, most of the questions you have about pregnancy, babies, what is or isn’t normal is usually available online. If not that’s what your doctor is there for. And when the time comes that you finally have that little human in your arms, you are overcome with so much love and absolutely nothing else matters in the entire world. As far as I know, no kid has ever come out back-talking or getting into trouble, so the whole parenting thing starts off very simple. Feeding, diapering, cleaning, and sleeping, those are the basics and everything else comes along gradually. As your baby grows, so do your own skills and instincts as a mother. Hang in there, and you will make it through.