So, as you guys know I’m pregnant with baby #2, and it’s got me thinking about all the things I know this time around that I didn’t know the first time... but that I wish someone had told me.
There is a proclivity towards celebrating the beautiful, happy parts of pregnancy with our girlfriends. We tend to talk about the registries & baby shower gifts, the color of the nursery, and the best products to stock up on.
But what about the REAL REAL?? I think no one talks about it because as mamas, a) we don’t want to “scare” our friends, b) we don’t want to be judged for having had less-than-positive feelings about motherhood, and c) a lot of it is wildly personal and semi-embarrassing.
When I had Mason, I had exactly TWO girlfriends who kept it real (other than my sister, who thank God is always the real deal). One texted me while I was still in the hospital and asked how I was doing emotionally, and when I said “I’m great,” she texted back “cut the shit and tell me how you’re really doing... and just know when I had my first, I cried for two weeks and wanted to give her away.”
THANK GOD, I thought. So it’s not just me!
The other friend texted me and asked how I was doing, physically, and when I told her I was “on the struggle bus,” she shared that after having her last child she had a hemorrhoid so big she and her husband named it.
Not only did that make me laugh - a welcome emotion - it allowed me to relate, and to know that it’s normal to experience insane body mutations that feel like they’re never going to heal… but do.
There were also some happy surprises, which I’ll share here as well. All told, pregnancy and childbirth were a total trip, and I remain in awe of the things our bodies can do, and what we women endure to bring our beautiful children into this world.
The good news is… after all is said and done, it is SO. DAMN. WORTH IT. But getting there is hard, and women shouldn’t feel alone, embarrassed, or surprised by any of it. So here we go…
1. Pregnancy can make you feel like a superhero.
Let’s start with the good stuff.
When I was younger, I always assumed that someday I’d get pregnant, gain a zillion pounds, and feel pretty crummy about myself. I just thought that was the way it worked.
What actually happened? I learned it doesn’t have to go down like that… at all!
After the first trimester nausea wore off, I got back to the gym and I ended up feeling fitter throughout my pregnancy than I had ever been in my life. I started back slow (like, really slow!), learned how to modify so my workouts were pregnancy safe, and then I GOT TO IT.
Something “clicked on.” I had a “I am woman, hear me roar” kinda vibe to me. A goddess glow that was unmistakably evident. A don’t-fuck-with-me, I’m building a human and also lifting a goddamn heavy weight so WATCH OUT kinda attitude.
I discovered I could still run, and it made me feel ALIVE. I loved the looks I got when I’d show up to run (ok, jog) a 5k, with my baby bump proudly poking out of my running shirt. People knew I was a trooper. A warrior. A badass mama. It was all true... and I was ready to OWN IT!
I did Barry’s Bootcamp all the way through my due date. I loved showing up to class with George each morning, knowing these were the last of our precious workout dates before everything would be different. I wore a fitbit with a heart rate monitor to ensure I stayed below 140 bpm, and George would run on the treadmill next to me to make sure I didn’t run too fast (he would literally push the buttons to slow my machine down). If George wasn’t there, I made sure to turn to the person next to me and say “I just have to tell you, I’m pregnant and planning on running slow… if I don’t tell you that out loud, I will try to race you”
(Our ego is a crazy thing. Hey, I never said I was perfect!)
You can’t work your frontal abs while you’re pregnant, so I did a ton of obliques (side bends for dayyyyys!). By the time Mason came out and they “hosed me down” (ok, it was a sponge bath, but I felt like a barnyard animal!), the nurse gasped and said “oh my God, girl, you have abs under there!” And she was right… I kept the right parts of my core strong enough so by the time I delivered, I was already poised for a comeback.
Now let’s talk about the comeback… and the associated trials & tribulations.
2. “Your vagina might break,” and other simple truths.
My “comeback” took a while. I thought I’d be able to workout during my maternity leave, but in reality I had to wait almost 8 weeks until I was ready, and even then I wasn’t really.
I had pelvic floor issues which made it feel like my insides (uterus, bladder, etc) were going to fall out. Yup, it’s a lovely thought. But the reality is, I was far from alone. The National Institute of Health reports that nearly 24% of U.S women have one or more pelvic floor disorders. In other countries, it’s normal for women to see a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist after having a baby - but here, it’s just not as common. For me, it was totally necessary… I was in a full panic, thinking I had a condition called prolapse (I didn’t), that it would never get better (it did), and that I was “ruined forever” and would never be intimate with my husband again (don’t worry!).
I also had painful hemorrhoids and a wicked bad time healing from my episiotomy (where they cut you to help the baby come out). Fun times!!
People always ask “how was the delivery??” as if that’s the hard part… it’s not! Or at least it wasn’t for me. The hard part is postpartum and trying to heal. Having to wear medical granny panties with giant pads while you bleed for the next 6 weeks. Not being able to wipe after you pee, and not wanting to (or being able to) poop because you’re scared you’re going to pop a stitch. It’s all more than I had ever considered. I wish someone had told me… just so it wasn’t such a shocker. I also wish someone had told me to focus on strengthening my pelvic floor while I was pregnant by doing my kegels.
(So if you’re preggo now…. DO YOUR DAMN, KEGELS, GIRL!)
So now we’ve discussed the physical joys… let’s talk a bit about the emotional journey.
3. Pregnancy and postpartum can feel very lonely, even if your partner is right there with you.
When you’re pregnant, there are symptoms that can feel relentless... the main one being a feeling of “bigness” that you can’t really describe unless you’ve experienced it. Oh, also heartburn, insomnia, nausea, super swollen feet (mine looked like elephant feet) and random stabbing pains, to name a few.
You can complain all you want, but at the end of the day, there’s nothing anyone can really do to help, and people will get tired of hearing you complain.
Plus - you rationalize - “millions of women have babies every year, so I should really suck it up.”
But that really doesn’t make the sucky parts suck any less. And it’s doing ourselves a disservice to not honor the struggles we are enduring or to not pat ourselves on the back for each day completed. Nine months is a long freakin’ time. You don’t realize how long until you have a kid.
The good news is, by the time nine months is up, you’re so ready to deliver that you lose the fear of childbirth. At least I did! So you just roll up to the hospital and do the damn thing, and BOOM, the baby’s out… but then what?
That brings us to the next reality…
Postpartum “emotions” run the range, and although I don’t think I had classical postpartum depression, I found it to be one of the trickiest times of my life.
My hormones were going crazy, so much so that I was literally convinced my husband was going to leave me because this was all “just too hard.”
Like… THAT'S how crazy I was. The reality? George is NOT leaving me (he’s stuck with me!), not to mention we did IVF to have our son, meaning we conceived with love and INTENTION. It wasn’t an accident that we suddenly found ourselves with a baby!
My point is this: I WISH SOMEONE HAD TOLD ME that it’s ok to feel this way. The beginning doesn’t have to feel like rainbows & butterflies and “I’ve never been so in love!” Mine felt more like hormones & stitches and “who is this alien who just came out of me??” And that’s NORMAL. But no one told me.
Which brings me to my last point…
5. It’s ok to not feel connected to your baby at first.
Phew, I said it out loud. And I stand behind it!
When Mason was first born, I looked down at him, waiting to feel immediate love, and all I felt was massive fear. I was overwhelmed, and this little human person who had been inside me for nine months felt like a stranger… only one I was supposed to hold and cherish and allow to chew my nipple off.
It felt scary and I felt resentful… both at him and at myself for having the feelings in the first place.
The reality is, not feeling an immediate and strong connection to your baby is actually a fairly common experience (studies suggest up to 70-80% of new mom’s report this). We are told to expect a sudden and overwhelming love, and women who don’t feel that often worry that they’re bad moms.
The God’s honest truth is… It took me a little while, but to say I grew to love Mason is obviously an understatement. I adore him...
But don’t get me wrong... and here’s another BIG reality, comin’ in hot: The first 6-8 months with an infant can straight-up SUCK! The baby does little more than cry, poop, and screw up your sleep. You’re a prisoner in your own home for a while, which can feel isolating. Your husband goes back to work, and you’re sitting around in a milk-stained robe, feeling like a cow (in every way).
The key is knowing deep in your soul that it’s only temporary. That “this too shall pass.”
I honestly didn’t know that the first time around.
When I had Mason, I felt for a few months like I had maybe ruined my life and it would never get better. And then it did. WAY better. Amazingly better. And now I’m a full-on mommy... and I wouldn’t change it for THE WORLD.
Now that I know what to expect the second time around, I think it will be a lot easier. Had I been prepared for it the first time, maybe things would have felt smoother… or maybe not. Who knows. But I hope my sharing honestly about this helps someone else.
This is also why I’m so grateful for blogs & instagram... every single day, I’m able to read experiences from mom friends and people I follow that give me HOPE & feelings of IDENTIFICATION.
It’s the brutally honest posts that inspire me the most. I read a post by a mom-blogger who talked about feeling gender disappointment and I could totally relate. All of a sudden, I didn’t feel bad anymore, and my feelings of guilt and shame over having these feelings in the first place magically disappeared. (*back story: when I found out Mason was a boy around 20 weeks pregs, I had mourned the loss of all things girly… but now that I have him, all I want is more boys!!).
Those “everything is dreamy and I feel blessed every day” posts are lovely, but honestly I find them wildly unhelpful at best... anxiety inducing at worst, as they make me question my myself.
So I will continue to be honest with you guys, no matter what.
The moral of the story is this: I made it through, everything healed and got better, and I’m doing it again, so hey… that’s got to say something!
And best of all… I have a 3.5 year old who climbs up into my lap for his nightly “snuggle party,” and throws his arms around my neck to impulsively tell me how much he loves me on the regular.
And he knows I feel the same way about him.