Category Archives: Pregnancy

Hello Pregnancy Anxiety, My New Friend

Prenatal anxiety is a thing. It’s a thing that’s common and often goes undiagnosed. Many of you out there may be nodding.

It hit me around 34 weeks.

Somewhere along the gestational way I lost my confidence. This third pregnancy has been wild and jarring. But I imagined that once I settled in to the routine, my body’s institutional knowledge of pregnancy and childbirth would take over.

I mean, I’ve done this before. I got this.

Sure enough, in the second trimester I found a groove… but I couldn’t rely on it. I seemed to be trying to cross a creek, jumping from one off-balance and awkwardly shaped rock to the next. And around 34 weeks I fell in.

Prenatal anxiety can be about all kinds of things—how you’ll adjust to having a newborn, fear from previous pregnancy loss, medical complications, life stress.

My anxiety centered around actually giving birth. I’ve had two uneventful vaginal births, and somewhere deep down I know I can do it again, but I just don’t want to. I didn’t sign up for this one, and I don’t want to do it. Birth is exhausting and overwhelming and unpredictable. The technicolor feelings of fear and stress about the health of the baby from the first trimester came flooding back, but in new shades of worry: I’m not strong enough. There’s no good way out. How will I survive the weeks of waiting? How will my husband cope as I demand more and more support?

As the third trimester began, I was also diligently listening to the Hypnobabies self-study course I had ordered to prepare for this birth. Everything started out great and I drank every drop of the reassuring Hypnobabies Kool-Aid, but things started to fall apart when I was supposed to imagine my perfect birth. If you can imagine your perfect birth, your mind and body can make it happen for you.

I have spent the last four years eliminating perfect from my vocabulary. It’s a bully word. Perfect sets up high expectations that often aren’t tied to reality, and it’s not flexible. It doesn’t move and change: It just beats you up for being less than.

At the same time, I was becoming increasingly unwieldy, with eczema, heartburn, nosebleeds, and discomfort sleeping. Exhaustion was setting in and I was unable to manage the daily logistics of our life. Holding on to the crumbling façade of my Hypnobabies adventure amidst mounting physical challenges had me thinking: How in the world am I going to manage childbirth?

Then the insomnia started for real. Lack of sleep is always good fuel for anxiety.

Luckily, I kept bringing up my fears and symptoms to my midwife.

Note: If you have anxiety or worries during pregnancy that seem to take over, keep talking to your provider about them. Don’t let your provider make you feel like pregnancy is simply an emotional time. Even though your worries may be on the spectrum of normal, your concerns shouldn’t be minimized: There are so many tools out there to help you manage what you’re going through, and you should be pointed toward them instead of having them brushed aside.

I’m lucky because after the second visit of me bringing up my anxieties over the birth, things clicked with my midwife. “We have a behavioral therapist on staff. Would you like to see her?” Yes!

I have a great therapist I see on a pretty regular basis, but the behavioral therapist connected with my clinic was conveniently located and specifically oriented to tackle issues around birth. She helped my husband and I think about pacing, outside resources, and creating an action plan leading up to the birth (by the way, if you can go to a session with your partner, do it!).

My anxiety subsided by 38 weeks. I’m still dealing with insomnia and lingering worries, but life feels calm and manageable. When I wake at night I’m able to relax instead of spinning the stress wheels in my mind. Now I’m 39 weeks pregnant and in a much better mindspace—enjoying a bit of vacation from the real world as I wait for baby to arrive.

I think there are a number of factors that really helped me:

  • An action-oriented behavioral therapist who gave me tools to use specifically leading up to the birth, including a daily pacing guide and a format for my husband and I to check in with each other at the end of the day.
  • Meal delivery from friends. Normally this starts after baby, but my friend Sara put together a MealBaby registry and I requested to have it start before the birth rather than after, since I was so overwhelmed. (Thank you Sara, Hannah, and Libby for pre-birth meals!)
  • Extra babysitting hours for the boys. (Thank you, Carmen Rose!)
  • Readjusting my expectations around 1) what I can accomplish while pregnant with two young kids, and 2) what the third birth needs to be like (anything goes as long as we’re healthy).
  • Lowering my level of activity so that I wasn’t feeling defeated by all the things left undone.
  • The knowledge that outside resources such as Baby Blues Connection can help deal with prenatal anxiety, even though they’re typically thought of for postpartum depression.

I wanted to make sure to write this post, before the Fairy Pig arrives and I’m in a fog for months, for those of you who have experienced prenatal anxiety, are dealing with it now, or who may know someone who is having a tough time. You’re not alone.

The Third Pregnancy: Almost Done, Almost Done

You reach a point in pregnancy when you start to lose your mind and are willing to sacrifice things to the gods in order to get the damn show on the road. At least I do. It’s supposed to be that every day is joyous and filled with magic and the amazing prenatal bond of mother and baby that can never be broken.

But what really happens is that I eye the squirrels thinking, “Deities, if I sacrificed this tree rodent family for you, would you let me go into labor tonight? I’ll add in the robin on my back porch. Do we have a deal?”

There was a point in my pregnancy with Baby Woww that I was just DONE. And my friend Jamie’s preschooler grabbed my phone and took a great picture that captured it all. I love that post.

This time, our friends’ six-year-old took a wonderful shot for me. It’s more poetic, probably because he was truly tender behind the lens, wanting to capture the baby. Although I have a photo that’s more accurate–with a tampon up my nostril to stop a nosebleed and my pregnancy eczema raging–I really love this one. Thanks, Noah.

Third pregnancy. MomsicleBlog.

“Evelyn, You’re A Mess.”

I’ve been getting nosebleeds for the last couple weeks. This is a first. But a lot of things this pregnancy are firsts: nausea, international flights, girl child

One morning, my husband had the kids in the car ready for me to drive them to school, and my nosebleed from the hour before started again. I grabbed a fistful of tissues, but as blood started dripping onto the garage floor it became clear that this scene from CSI really shouldn’t travel.

A nosebleed seems like a misdemeanor-level injury. You should be able to go about your business without too much interference. I mean, the nose is small, no bones are broken, a little bleeding should stop on its own.

Twenty-five minutes later, I was in bed still working on getting my nose to behave normally. You’re supposed to keep constant pressure with one hand, which makes it very easy to have a pity party, but strangely difficult to do any other activity. Like eat. Or get dressed.

At this point I went to ZoomCare.

Jenn, the physician’s assistant, stuck a light up my nose. “Your membranes look angry: Pregnancy gives you way more blood flow, you have allergies, the air’s been really dry. Apply pressure, use an icepack, buy tampons to stick up your nose… I don’t think we need to cauterize your capillaries yet, which is good news, because that’s painful.”

Great!

“Jenn, while I’m here, can you take a look at the scaly skin around my eyes and nose?”

“Sure! Exczema. Normally I would prescribe a steroid, but that’s not recommended during pregnancy. You’re a mess, huh?”

Jenn was not like the yo mama midwife. As she gamely told me what a wreck I was it felt like we were in on a little joke together. I know, I’m a disaster! And there’s no hope except to push this baby out in June. Until then we’ll watch as my body falls apart from the inside out! Ha ha ha ha ha!

As I was leaving, I picked up my purse, and Jenn saw the giant pound of strawberries sticking out in its grocery-store container. “I couldn’t eat breakfast, so I just shoved those in my purse,” I said.

“Evelyn, you’re a mess!” she laughed.

It’s nice to have an official diagnosis.

***

Epilogue:  Last night at dinner I got another nosebleed in spite of my precautionary work. It was a bad one, and I got really overwhelmed. Having blood spurt uncontrollably out of your nose and onto your clothes will do that to you.

“I should… have bought… tampons,” I sobbed to my husband, hoping he would run out to the store to brave the feminine products aisle so that his incredibly pregnant wife could shove tampons up her nose.

He would have, but we located a box at the back of my cabinet, and now we’ve stashed them around the house ready for my next nosebleed. So if you come over, that’s why three men and a pregnant lady are using tampons for home decor these days.

Yo Mama So Fat…

Treats! MomsicleBlog

Weight gain during pregnancy is a touchy subject.

If you’ve been with me for a while, you might remember the fruit midwife from Baby Woww’s pregnancy. She was worried I was having too many milkshakes. So she did a little PSA about how fruit grows on trees and that in Oregon they sell it at these magical places called farmers markets.

“Maybe you could try boysenberries…?” My response was something like, “Maybe you could stick your wet fingers into a light socket.”

I eat a really healthy diet, and I figure when you have the duty of carrying around a little gremlin, or Furbie, or Fairy Pig for a while, you should be able to treat yourself.

Not surprisingly, in this wild and crazy round three, we’ve upped the midwife ante.

I didn’t gain much weight the first twenty weeks; I was really nauseous. I also started the pregnancy kind of underweight. Anyhoo, the last four weeks I’ve been feeling sloth-level tired, and emaciated-lion-level hungry. Still, I maintain my low-grains, low-dairy, low-sugar diet that is high in veggies and protein. I started this diet overhaul last year in the throes of recurring bronchitis.

But Midwifey’s scale don’t lie. And when I went in last week it said I’d gained 12 pounds.

I was seeing this particular midwife for the first time. Let’s call her Minka. “Twelve pounds in four weeks,” she said. “You know, when some people stop being nauseous, they start eating everything in sight. Have you been eating a lot?”

It was kind of like her saying, “So your husband likes a little meat on his bones, eh?”

I was taken aback. I imagined the midwives at their midwife meeting, discussing the question “What do you tell a patient who is gaining too much weight?” Minka answers, “I start telling ‘yo mama’ jokes. She gets the point.”

I answered her: “Yes, I’ve been eating a lot: I’m hungry. But I eat a really good diet, and I don’t eat a lot of sugar.”

At this point, K-Pants, who along with Baby Woww, make the most terrible tag-along medical appointment team in the world, shouts, “That’s not true! You eat treats!”

Like what, man? Granola and vegan cashew cream? The one ice cream sundae I had in March? Please! Stick to fighting with your brother in the corner instead of ratting me out.

“I do eat a lot of fruit,” I admitted.

“Fruit has lots of sugar.” She decided my high intake of apples and oranges probably wasn’t the problem. It was bananas. “They’re very high in sugar.”

“But I eat them as part of kale smoothies.”

“Well, be careful. We don’t want to see this kind of weight gain again.”

At this point I was mad. I’d just had to do that horrible gestational diabetes test where you drink a disgusting sugar syrup so the medical team can measure your blood sugar. Now I was being told that I was ballooning out of control because of the four bananas a week I eat.

“I’m not changing my diet,” I said.

“Well, maybe you could exercise,” she countered.

“I have a bad cold and I’m constantly exhausted,” I said.

“Well you do have to kick that, first.”

Ha! I’d won!

This being March still, I felt like we were in the last 45 seconds of the second half of a Sweet Sixteen game. It was all stategery and a well-placed zinger. I was going to keep my unsweetened kale, tofu, zucchini, banana, and apple smoothies, dammit. This woman was cray cray. It helped my cause that the gremlins were frothing in the corner and she knew that with a word I could unleash their snotty noses and sharpened incisors.

But when you see me next, feel free to say, “So Evelyn, when you sit around the house, do you sit around the house? [Nudge, nudge.]” According to the midwife, this kind of thing is a sure winner where pregnant ladies are concerned.

Will You Still Be My Friend?

I was that pregnant lady six years ago.

The glowing one. Easily knocked-up, easily growing, plenty of energy, cute and adorable in stretchy outfits. We should have done one of those baby bump photo shoots to memorialize the whole magical experience.

Did you know me then? Wasn’t I irritating?

I’m sorry about that. But don’t worry, karma is a bitch.

Back in October I was so worried about the baby and my health that I thought my anxiety was causing intense nausea. Luckily I have a therapist. “I don’t think so,” she said. “I think you have morning sickness.” I get it now. That sh*t sucks. I tried vitamin B6, Unisom, prescription meds, ginger pills, fresh ginger, ginger chews, sea bands, and a million naturopathic remedies. Nothing worked, except waging a war of attrition in which I was always losing.

There was a brief respite around twenty weeks when the nausea was gone and I had some energy. Now I’m just excruciatingly tired. I look at the dishes and think, I should let those rot and add paper plates to the grocery list.

You might have my phone number and wonder if I’ve changed it. No. I just don’t return your calls, or listen to your voicemails. There’s sort of a text-message-roulette thing I have going.

Am I supposed to send you a reply to something you asked me about a few weeks ago? Did you invite me to do something after 2 p.m.? It’s not happening.

Recently the boys and I came down with colds. Then my husband started to get a sore throat. I was irrationally angry: Who will take care of us now?

I need to rent a wife for the next few months. No sexual benefits, just chores and cooking. I’m working on making the description more appealing. “We provide room and board. You make food and tidy-up. Desired experience: Culinary Institute of America, U.N. peacekeeping forces, downstairs employment in British manor house.”

Until I hire my new wife, please forgive the way I seem to be stomping all over our friendship. I would love to stop alienating you, but I have to take a nap and then get ready for bed.

Where the Magic Is

I’ve thought a lot about this baby’s story.

It starts by surprise. We were adamantly not trying to get pregnant. I couldn’t understand having more than two kids because my boys were filling life up so completely: My cup was running over into its saucer and onto the tablecloth and dripping onto the floor.

Now that the Fairy Pig is on her way (it’s a girl baby!), we don’t feel any need to hide the surprise in the story. In fact, the surprise is the best part. It’s the magic. Suddenly poof! Out of nowhere there’s this little piggie. She’s a gift from God.

There aren’t many decisions we make in our lives that aren’t carefully considered, or at least somewhat considered. But here we are in a passing dream. Honey, I dreamt last night that we were having another baby. I was really pregnant. It was crazy. This is the dream path. The path we might imagine but then easily let go of.

There were so many things we were about to do on the real path, the carefully considered one.

I had a pitch email drafted, proposing how I wanted to cover Women’s World Cup this summer in Canada. We were going to drive up the West Coast, doing some of Lewis and Clark’s route in Oregon and Washington, then heading to Vancouver British Columbia for games. I had taken photos of our house to list on one of those vacation home swap sites.

I’d started horseback riding again. Horses are better than the densest sourdough bread, the crackliest pizza crust, the lightest macaroon, the most caramel-drenched sundae. I recently went up and rode with our family friend in Hood River at her barn next to their family’s apple orchard. It had been nine years since I’d been in a saddle, but my muscles remembered. Then I was invited to work with an experienced horsewoman from church who lives close by, and to ride her horse through the winter.

But I had this dream about being pregnant. Honey, last night I had this dream. I went to the doctor and she showed me a picture of a little fairy baby wrapped in a great cloud of unknowing. It was crazy.

The baby is due during Women’s World Cup. I’m prohibited from horseback riding. Plans of launching into the real life are dashed.

Instead we’re given new life. And I’m reminded that I am not in charge. The circumstances of my life are here by grace, and I need to learn to let go. The letting go has been surprisingly more peaceful than I’d imagined. I like who I am working on growing into now—after five months of emotional and spiritual exercise and physical changes—more than I like the person whom I saw myself becoming.

And we have this magical story to tell.

At first I was worried, Will this child feel unwanted because we were done growing our family before her? Should we talk about the fact that there is no greater surprise in our lives than this baby? But we realized that the magic is the surprise. God gave her to us with a fierce soul that wouldn’t be deterred by any of our plans, and now she’s working on making us better.

Sympathetic Pregnancy Hits the Chaos Team

You know about sympathetic pregnancy: It’s when you are pregnant and your partner starts to gain weight or have cravings, too. (It would be hard to watch your knocked-up other half take naps and indulge and not get a share of the action, right?) In any case, it’s an affliction that’s hit the Chaos Team. While their preschool and kindergarten compatriots are dropping like flies with fevers and colds, K-Pants and Baby Woww seem to be pregnant. You would think the things I do to combat nausea—ginger chews, sea bands, special pills—would be pretty boring, but they love the novelty of it all, and the spicy burn of ginger chews.

“Our tummies feel bad. We need ginger chews.”

“Strange that your tummies feel bad every time you see a ginger chew.”

“We just need one.”

The sea bands were a fun novelty.

“We feel like throw up, Mom. We need your bracelets.”

There are far too many turf wars about food. Normally I’m happy to share snacks, but if the only things I can eat are corn Chex and Granny Smith apples, then there’s going to be a rumble.

“We want your cereal.”

“No, I have to have it because that’s all I can eat.”

“But our tummies hurt. Please, please, please. Just a little bit. We want some cereal. We want some cereal. We want some cereal.”

At this point, I’m usually about to cry as I insist, “No. It’s mine. It’s mine.” We are a very volatile team right now. Often it’s hard to tell who’s acting most like a grown-up.

The biggest sympathetic pregnancy battle yet happened in India. You may have read or experienced that constipation is a common pregnancy side effect. Not knowing how I could take in the crazy amounts of additional fiber I currently need while traveling, I packed a bottle of gummy fiber chews. The children will do anything for stuff that comes in gummy form.

“Mom, we need a poop gummy.”

“But they’re for me.”

“But we need them to help us go poop.”

Then Baby Woww would stick out his little tush and go, “Pooooop!” Occasionally I would wear down and give them a fiber gummy, but they wanted them in amounts that would have caused some serious back-end malfunction. I held strong. One day they were very quiet, and then I received this note. Fiber Gummies. MomsicleBlog In case you can’t read the inventive spelling and are confused by the lack of spaces, it says. “We have to eat fiber gummees!” One can only surmise that the drawings are of gummy chews in bottles and strings of healthy colons. The ensuing negotiations were difficult, but I managed to save the chews for myself. We still have until June to travel this path, so if you see K-Pants and Baby Woww looking suspiciously rotund, know that I simply have no willpower left.