Late again with my weekly update. I’ll happily blame a toddler cold and some well-earned social time this weekend. I seriously don’t understand how other moms carve out time to blog several times a week, or daily. Don’t you like sleeping? Doesn’t your kid assume an open laptop means an episode of Daniel Tiger paired with a barrage of snacks? Don’t you have goats to feed?
Anyway, last week was Pregnancy Week 27, the last week of the second trimester. I’m officially rounding the bend toward the finish line (and, you know, the starting line to a much harder and longer journey that is parenting another child. Holy crap, we’re going to have two kids soon.)
Baby: Is about 2-ish pounds and 14.5 inches, head to toe, or about the size of a head of cauliflower or a bunch of bananas. Is opening and closing his or her eyes, packing on fat, and undergoing some serious brain development.
Mom: I am feeling “bigger, bigger, bigger!” as The Toddler likes to say (not just about me, in general. At least that’s what I tell myself.) I’ve succumbed to the daily Prilosec, as heartburn has gotten the best of me, and I need to sleep. And also eat.
Speaking of The Toddler, this is also the point at which his bladder control is better than mine. Aside from one unfortunate nap-related accident (someone was too tired and belligerent to sit on the potty, or perhaps it was engulfed in flames I couldn’t see, judging by his reaction to my trying to get him to go), he’s been using the potty like a champ, and as soon as the next load of laundry makes it through, he’s got a new set of 2T-sized boxer briefs with trucks on them to officially move him into underpants territory permanently. We also are giving up diapers for nights and naps, because we’ve found a night pee buys us a much later wake-up call in the morning, and he never wets his diapers anymore, anyway.
Also this week marks the official beginning of my heavy-handed hint-dropping at The Husband in the form of strategically placed literature on his nightstand. I went to an honest-to-goodness bookstore this week (instead of Amazon, although it was still a Barnes & Noble) to pick up the latest edition of The Birth Partner, and I am confident (very hopeful?) he’ll get through all 400 pages before I go into labor. (Honey, I know you read this. You have the rest of your life to read about Ulysses S. Grant before bed. <3)
As I’ve mentioned before, we’re not hiring a doula this time around, even though having her was very helpful with our first baby. The combination of added expense of delivering at a birth center and the assumption (and sincere hope) we’ll have an even quicker labor than the last time just suggested it made more sense to equip The Husband with the tools to act as my sole labor coach this time around.
Though, honestly, it’s hard to imagine carving out any sort of time before Baby 2’s arrival to really focus on childbirth. I know I’ll feel differently when I’m as big as a house and truly can’t reach my feet anymore, but I don’t feel at all ready for this pregnancy to be over. There’s just so much to do.
Today closes out week 26 of my pregnancy with Baby 2, and also wraps up the nesting frenzy that started last week.
First, a quick stats and symptoms rundown:
Baby weighs in at about 2 pounds and measures 14 inches from head to foot, or the size of a butternut squash, a slow loris, a bowling pin or an adult human skull???
Me? Oh, I’m good, thanks. Just rushing through this post on my way to nap-town because I was awake for hours last night with insane heartburn, which was 100% deserved because I celebrated my (presumed) passing of my glucose test by eating the following yesterday:
Breakfast: Homemade apple pie (my husband is amazing) and most of an everything bagel (split with The Toddler) and Neufchatel cheese
Lunch: Homemade apple pie with vanilla ice cream, also half a mango
Afternoon snack: Vanilla ice cream
Dinner: French fries
I am contrite. This college freshman diet will not happen again during this pregnancy–if not for the sake of my unborn child’s health, then for my own sake.
Speaking of my husband is amazing, we plowed through a ton of to-dos over the week he took off work, despite the unrelenting heat wave. Rather than rewrite the list, I’ll direct you to my Instagram post listing off all the stuff he made possible.
What I really want to talk about this post is what’s been weighing on my mind this week aside from prepping our physical space for another baby: Impending labor, and how I hope to approach it this time around.
My first childbirth experience went pretty much how I hoped it would. While we were bound by insurance to deliver in a county hospital with 90 percent+ epidural rates and limited accommodations for anyone pursuing an unmedicated birth, I managed to get through L&D *without an epidural and felt like a goddamned rock star. (Here’s my birth story if you’re interested.)
.*I super don’t care how you gave birth or plan to give birth–alone in the woods, with an epidural in place beginning at 36 weeks, or a scheduled C-section and tummy tuck, so please don’t take my satisfaction at my birth going how I wanted it as judgment about your birth plans or experience.
That said, there were parts of my experience that I hope to improve upon this time around, and now that I’m approaching the third trimester, I’m starting to consider these goals in more concrete terms. I’ll probably tackle this topic from a few directions in the coming weeks, but I thought I’d start with a general list of worries and hopes, and go from there:
I hope my labor is shorter than last time, but not alarmingly so. With Baby 1, it was 12 hours start to finish. I waited as long as The Husband could stand it before we left for the hospital, but back then it was a (very difficult) 10-minute drive. This time, we’re looking at a 40-minute commute, so I’m hoping to balance getting labor off the ground at home and not pushing our luck on the road.
I’m worried my more sedentary second pregnancy is going to make this labor harder. I wasn’t insanely in shape the first time, but I was walking 3-4 miles almost every day, and that’s just not in the cards this time around. I’m trying to work exercise into my days when I can, but I don’t know if it will be enough to give me the strength, stamina and flexibility I had last time
I want pushing to go better this time around. I talked to one of the midwives at my appointment this week about how the directed pushing (the counting, the nurses and doctor telling me when to push and how long) just didn’t feel right, and how it resulted in some moderate (and painful) tearing, along with a lot of popped blood vessels in my face and eyes. She told me she doesn’t ascribe to this method, and generally advises moms to let their bodies tell them when and how to push, so I’m hoping with enough preparation on my end and a more supportive environment at the birthing center will mean a better time of pushing, and less damage control in the aftermath.
I hope my husband feels equipped to help me with birth, without a doula, this time. This birth is costing us more, so we’re not hiring a doula, and while The Husband was a great labor partner last time around, it was also really nice to have a doula to support us both. He’s got some studying up/refreshing to do (hoping to get a hold of this book soon), and I also need to do my own work to figure out what types of affirmations, massage, positions, etc. I remember being helpful last time or that I think I’d like this time so he can be ready to help me get what I need when the time comes.
As I think is extremely common with second-time moms, I’m anxious about how we’ll make sure The Toddler feels included in welcoming his new sibling, how our relationship will evolve, and (of course) how the heck I’m going to survive on 3 hours of sleep a night for a few weeks while also being responsible for a 2-year-old.
Speaking of The Toddler, looks like he’s not going to be napping for awhile, so neither am I. Better wrap this up.
Pregnancy Week 25 has come and gone, and with it came a rush of crazy nesting instincts.
Baby is approximately the size of an acorn squash, a rutabaga, a cabbage, or any number of other fall vegetables. (Translation: 13.5 inches from head to toe, and about 1.5 lbs.)
As far as how I’m feeling, mostly the answer is big and cumbersome. I caught myself waddling a few times this week, which horrified me. Mostly it was because I ended up wearing heels to the wedding I went to last weekend (dumb) or otherwise over-exerted myself (which, sadly, means I walked 3 slow miles behind a stroller, but that’s my current fitness threshold.)
Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I kept up my once-a-pregnancy tradition of audibly farting in a prenatal yoga class. What is the purpose of a personal blog with your real name attached to it, if not oversharing and publicly humiliating yourself? Whatever, farting is funny.
Speaking of funny, a friend texted me the link to this video comparing a first pregnancy to subsequent ones. Enjoy:
Hehehe. Accurate. (Minus the “all the drugs.” I’m doubling down on an unmedicated birth this time around. Call me crazy, but I’m looking forward to it!)
Oh, yeah, I was going to talk about the nesting instinct. The first time around, I had little else beside my day job and the guidelines that I should avoid paint fumes to prevent me from going buck wild fulfilling every nesting fantasy that crossed my mind at 4 a.m. (Here’s a snapshot of the nursery in our old house–the fruits of my intense nesting instinct and my equally intense ability to boss my husband around.)
The finished nursery – Note the poster (very well secured!) over our changing table.
Dropcloth curtains, a perfect little thrift store chest of drawers and a rocking chair in the corner.
My favorite Jenny Lind crib, with a wooden thrift store duck and a framed set of six vintage postage stamps on the wall.
This time, nesting has been primarily limited to fantasizing about what I would like to do with the house before Baby 2 arrives, because all my actual time and energy is devoted to laundry, chasing chickens off the porch, loading the dishwasher after The Toddler finally succumbs to sleep, reading stories to The Toddler while he poops, vacuuming up broken dried pasta from the living room rug (haha j/k, that’s also just a fantasy), and frantically trying to throw together dinner at the last second before we all starve.
By the time I get through even the most rudimentary daily housekeeping tasks each day, it’s 9 p.m. and I’m falling asleep sitting up against my headboard, waiting for the Tums to kick in so I can collapse for the night.
This week, though… this week is different. The Husband took a bunch of days off and I have mapped out every waking hour of every day to maximize our to-do list.
Already in the past three days, we’ve done a bunch of furniture rearranging, cleaned out half of the garage, moved the goats to a new patch of jungle, taken a minivan load of my grandparent’s stuff to Goodwill, made an equally large pile of stuff to drive to the dump, bought materials to finish trimming the floor in our kitchen (which we’ve been trying to do for more than a year), and ordered a new bed for The Toddler.
And we still have four more days of backbreaking, unrelenting nesting. I’m in heaven.
The Toddler and I stopped by the playground around the corner from our house on the way back from the dry cleaner’s, and I ran into a few library story time friends who asked me how far along I was…and I absolutely could not remember.
It’s that time again, the no man’s land between the earlier part of the second trimester, when you emerge bleary-eyed and excited from first-trimester fatigue, and your belly pops so you can start to feel cute in your maternity shirts, and the mid-to-late third trimester when you once again start to question your ability to survive the fatigue and aches and pains, but you also get to enjoy the building anticipation of meeting your baby.
I’m at the point where I feel like I’ve always been pregnant, and always will be pregnant.
Baby size: Cantaloupe, eggplant, Atlantic puffin, a package of Oreos, or 13 inches long and a pound and a half.
Symptoms: Last night marked my first extended insomnia-via-heartburn event, during which I got up and read on the couch for an hour or so after tossing and turning for the same amount of time.
I’ve also started noticing that gross, shifty-bones feeling I suffered the last time around, where if I sit for an extended period of time in a slouched position, or am on my feet with any extra weight (say, a large toddler), I can feel “stuck” because my joints are loose and it hurts to move. Thanks, relaxin.
I don’t have a whole lot else in the way of updates this week, other than I’m psyched to be leaving The Toddler with my parents this weekend to head off to an out-of-town wedding with The Husband. I’m going to do some napping in the minivan on the way down, some dancing, some mocktail-sipping, and probably, yes, testing the limits of those pregnancy spanx. More than anything I’m looking forward to a nice, long sleep.
I’m late again for my weekly update, but I have plenty of excuses!
I am in the middle of potty training The Toddler. I’m not going to talk any more about it until we’re successfully on the other side, so reserve your horror stories, advice, dismay, etc. because it’s not up for discussion, other than for me to mention I have been watching my kid like a hawk.
I have a miserable cold. How I got it is a mystery, because every illness I’ve had since The Toddler was born came directly from his sloppy sneezes into my immune system, but he’s (*knocks on wood*) fine.
I enrolled in an online creative writing course through my local library (you guys, do you have any idea how many free resources are available through your library? It’s miraculous) so my writing time lately has been devoted to trying to stretch my creative muscles and work on avoiding cliches, run-on sentences and passive verbs. (Don’t expect to see this effort here, on my blog, because of #1 and #2 and I just don’t have the energy for it.)
Now that I’ve wasted 200 words on explaining why I’m a day late despite no one caring, let’s talk about Pregnancy Week 23!
Baby size: Papaya, large mango, Barbie doll, box of Kraft macaroni & cheese, can of WD-40. Or somewhere around 8″ crown to rump/11″ total and a little over a pound.
Symptoms: Heartburn, of course. Also this week I started noticing periodic tension in my abdomen that must mark the beginning of Braxton-Hicks contractions, which I didn’t experience the first time around (except for one day late in my pregnancy when I had to literally run home from work to make it to our breastfeeding class on time). It seems BH are more common in subsequent pregnancies, and they have become a regular feature in mine. I’ve been trying to chug water when I notice them and give myself a break when I can, but toddler mom, blah blah.
Baby #2 is also kicking more frequently and with more force. I felt a little nostalgic lying in bed one night this week with The Husband’s hand on my belly, catching the feeling of kicks as he drifted off to sleep. I remember him doing that with The Toddler and felt such tenderness thinking about how he’ll fall in love with this baby just like he did before. I wonder if he’s more excited this time around (maybe rather than nervous) since he knows what is to come. I guess I should ask.
Speaking of childbirth, my other main symptom this week has been growing anxiety about having everything (anything?) ready by the time Baby #2 arrives. We haven’t touched our plans to rearrange the bedrooms, we have literally zero boy names that we can agree on (and don’t know the sex of the baby, so we need a shortlist for both), and I can’t help but think I should count how many weekends we have left before the due date. And then maybe sign The Toddler’s grandparents up for a few long-term babysitting gigs so we can get anything done.
Speaking of that, we’re headed to a wedding next weekend sans-Toddler. I’m looking forward to potentially sleeping in (or at least just watching TV in the hotel room). I frantically drove out to the mall yesterday with the realization that I needed to purchase a maternity dress for the occasion, and My. God.
Malls are terrible, I’m glad they’re dying, it’s incomprehensible to me that the one I visited was filled with people, and the whole experience filled me with a judgy, frustrated befuddlement. There were two puppy-mill purveying pet stores and still a place to physically buy CDs, but there were maybe six wedding guest-appropriate dresses for pregnant women in the entirety of that sprawling monument to bougie suburban consumerism.
Only H&M and Motherhood Maternity had any maternity clothes. H&M had a small section, and of the three dresses I tried on, only one came close to working but was too long. I wish I could find the one online that had a floral print with ladybugs and a pair of boob-bisecting ruffles that made me look like I was cosplaying as a pregnant eight-year-old 90’s-era Sunday school student, but you’ll just have to use your imagination.
Motherhood Maternity, as usual, was a laughable combination of headache-inducing prints, unforgivably cheap construction and insulting prices. I walked out with a form-fitting black dress made of the same polyester you’d find if you bought a ballet leotard at Walgreens, and something I never thought I’d own… a pair of what amounts to pregnancy Spanx.
Not feeling great about my MM purchase, I stopped at a nearby Kohl’s, bought two more dresses without trying them on, consoled myself with a Halloween-themed Cadbury egg at the checkout (now that I own pregnancy Spanx, why not?) and went home, feeling defeated.
Obviously, I should have just shopped online. But the three hours to myself were, admittedly, pretty nice.
Pregnancy Week 22 has come and gone. According to people whose job it is to identify things that might be the size of a fetus at any given time, 22-week-old Baby #2 is about the size of a sack of six supermarket bagels (yummmm), an ear of corn (which is not at all the same size as a big bag of bagels, am I right?) a spaghetti squash, or a standard hatchet head (what?). In more literal terms, about 7 inches crown to rump (or a foot long head to toe) and finally hitting the one-pound mark.
Symptoms-wise, I don’t have much to add that I haven’t already said before (or that I’m willing to permanently attach to my Google-able Internet identity… all I will say that certain digestive and circulatory issues have arisen that are less than pleasant and that are quite common among pregnant women, according to What to Expect and the Internet at large. Shall we move on without further comment or speculation?)
The baby is kicking up a storm this week, though it seems to still be more of an internal sensation than one people can feel with a hand on my belly. The Husband felt two or three of the dozen successive kicks I felt as we were going to bed the other night. The Toddler even claimed to have felt a kick at one point this week, though he’ll say “Yes!” to just about anything.
While every kick was a novel thrill the first time around, with this second baby I feel a sense of guilt along with excitement every time I sense movement. Because I am definitely not as focused on this pregnancy as I was before. The Toddler demands so much of my attention, that while I see my belly in the mirror and try to eat well and exercise when I can, I feel like I’m only halfway in tune to this baby. So the kicks feel like a, “Hey! I’m still here! Take a second and think about how crazy and amazing that is!”
Other things those kicks seem to be saying to me, with increasing insistence as the pregnancy progresses:
“You don’t have a SINGLE boy’s name picked out that you’d be okay with calling me? What if I’m a boy? Shouldn’t you get on that?”
“Um, where will I be sleeping when I get here?”
“I feel WIRED!!! Are you really drinking coffee? You didn’t drink coffee the first time around. I’m going to come out CRAZY.”
“Remember all those green leafy vegetables you ate with my brother? Idk if a prenatal vitamin is going to make up for the fact you’ve eaten frozen yogurt ice cream sandwiches for lunch every day this week. Also, don’t blame that muffin top on me.”
Is this how it usually is with second babies?
Oh also, I had a really fun pregnancy nightmare that had me crying so loudly in my sleep that my husband had to shake me awake. I dreamed I went for a routine brain scan (as one does when pregnant?) and the doctor told me I have a giant tumor that will kill me within six months, and that it also spread to the baby’s brain, making the baby incapable of surviving outside my womb, so I’d have to terminate. Ugh.
On a lighter note to end, we did end up getting a minivan: It’s a 2014 Honda Odyssey with a ton of miles on it, but it’s also loaded… backup camera, built-in vacuum cleaner, bluetooth, heated seats, remote start… we figured if we were going full dork, we might as well enjoy some luxury. I gotta say, it’s not the worst thing ever.
Baby is the size of: A baby bok choi, a carrot, a head of endive, a baseball hat, or a “least weasel,” depending on who you ask. Or about 10 1/2 inches long and 12 ounces.
I’ve been feeling plenty of kicks this week. They’re mostly way down in my pelvis because I no longer have any abs to speak of to hold my uterus aloft, so I haven’t been able to offer The Husband quite as many opportunities to feel the kicks as I did the first time around. These low kicks have also been making bathroom trips pretty suspenseful if I ever drink more than a teaspoonful of liquid.
Other symptoms: Heartburn, heartburn, heartburn. You know that feeling when you get water up your nose at the pool? I feel that low-key almost all the time. You’d think it would stop me from eating so much, but nope. I apparently favor being full all the time over sleeping more than six hours a night. My current lazy pregnancy craving that I try to justify as healthy is plain yogurt with mini chocolate chips and whole almonds.
I had an appointment with my midwife this week and forgot all but one question I had. I also went grocery shopping and bought almost nothing we needed, and cannot remember the rest of the things I’ve forgotten this week and hoped to list to illustrate how bad my memory is. Suffice it to say I have a serious case of mom brain.
Quite a bit of this can be attributed, however, not to my fetus but to my 20-month old, who is hellbent on giving up naps and went four days in a row without one.
Four days. In a row.
I came as close as I ever have to a nervous breakdown on Tuesday, and found myself stomping my feet and yelling in the dark of the pantry, having a full-blown tantrum because The Toddler wouldn’t sleep, and I was so, so tired. And of course, there’s nothing more guilt-inducing than completely losing your cool at an angel-faced baby who just wants to “pway!!!” in his words. So I spent a good chunk of Tuesday afternoon wallowing in terrible feelings.
Finally, on Wednesday, I figured out that I could get him calmed down if I put him in the Boba carrier and rocked him to music. He’s just so amped up on playing and reading and talking and exploring that slowing down for a nap feels like torture to him. I get it–I can’t go to sleep just because someone tells me to, but holy shit, I need a break during the day.
Anyway, so for now at least, naps are fixed, and I am working really hard on being patient with my increasingly opinionated toddler.
Tomorrow, The Husband and I are heading out to test drive a minivan and probably buy it. I am not at all pumped about this dorky progression in our lives, but my little Subaru hatchback can barely accommodate one rear-facing carseat and a stroller.
Unfortunately, living on a farm means we can’t walk to anything, so if I ever want to leave the house with both my children, we’re going to need a bigger ride. I know I conceded 99% of any coolness I ever possessed long ago, but this really feels like the end of days for my non-mom identity. Somebody please tell me it will be okay.
I am consoled by the fact that buying a minivan is at least one thing we can check off the seemingly endless list of Things That Must Be Done Before Baby 2 Arrives.
Pregnancy Week 20 recap! I’m a day late, as today technically marks the beginning of Week 21, but it’s been a busy weekend. I hope no one was holding their breath.
The Internet says my baby at 20 weeks is about the size of a banana, a stapler, an endive, or 6.5 inches head to butt and about 10 and a half ounces. I say it’s big enough to kick me pretty good. We had our anatomy scan ultrasound on Thursday, and got to see fingers and toes and profile and fluttering heart chambers, but no genitalia — like last time, we’re keeping the baby’s sex a surprise.
While I was very comfortable with this choice the first time around, I had really mixed feelings–it seemed silly and artificial to shut our eyes for that part when we were literally seeing everything else, including parts of Baby 2 we’ll likely never see again. But The Husband was certain he didn’t want to know, and I waffled, and in the end didn’t request a sealed envelope with the news.
Symptoms-wise, the broken record of tolerable heartburn remains. Additionally, my chin has blossomed with pregnancy acne and the on-again, off-again relationship I’ve endured with eczema throughout my adult life is decidedly on again, in the form of a persistently itchy, red, peely, burning right pinky and ring fingers, which makes the 175 daily hand-washings all the more fun.
My bump is getting bigger, and my twice-weekly 3-mile stroller walks seem to be wearing me down more than they have been in the previous month or so.
Some people (those who encounter me on a regular basis) might also tell you I’ve been especially irritable lately.
Those people can go to hell. (Kidding! Sorry!)
This week also marks the beginning of, what I recall from my pregnancy with The Toddler, a long running theme of childbirth-related dreams. The weirdly comforting part of this is that I at least have an idea of what to expect, and so even though they’re still stressful, there isn’t quite the daunting element of mystery I remember the first time around.
I had two pregnancy dreams this past week, and the theme of both centered around not having enough time: In one, I was afraid we wouldn’t make it to the birthing center on time, and the other, I was afraid my husband wouldn’t make it home from work in time. In the second one, though, I also had what felt like a rapidly progressing, intense labor, but when I got to the hospital I was dilated zero centimeters. Either way, I have at least another 18 weeks to subconsciously build the dread and anticipation of the big day, and I suspect my dreams will be rife with more of these scenarios as time goes on.
In terms of my day-to-day toddler mom life, pregnancy Week 20 went a little better than Week 19, in that none of my pets died. It still wasn’t great, as The Toddler is fighting naps like his very life depends on it, and nothing breaks me like a missed nap.
It’s been seven days, so I think I can say officially that he is weaned. (Hallelujah/*sob*) On Monday, when he fidgeted through his usual pre-nap nursing session and then very much did not go to sleep, I decided I was done.
I had been reluctantly hanging on to that last nursing session, as it had been a nearly surefire guarantee that he would nap (and, conversely, a withheld nursing session promised a wide awake, cranky and endless afternoon).
Now that this doesn’t hold true, we’re stumbling our way toward a new nap routine, with varying success. He did nap each week day after a protracted rocking-to-sleep-while-begging-to-nurse routine that I hope to fade out, but he staunchly refused to nap all weekend. I’m hoping that as long as we don’t compensate by letting him go to bed early, he’ll eventually rack up enough of a deficit to surrender to a recovery nap the next day.
Just in case he doesn’t, though, I have finally (and, very possibly, temporarily, as my most notable personal attribute is inconsistency) found some routine to inject into our afternoons through my local library’s T.O.T. boxes: They’re file boxes filled with specially themed books, games and activities. I have reserved a different theme for the next five weeks and plan to spend a chunk of time each day reading stories, having messy play, doing a craft project, or taking a field trip related to the theme. Tomorrow kicks off Gardening Week at TLMB house. I’m looking forward to it! (But looking forward to a nap even more!)
Today concludes Week 19 of my pregnancy, and may I say, Good Riddance.
Pregnancy-wise, things are going blessedly well. According to the creative souls who come up with these things, Baby #2 is the size of: A zucchini (I’m assuming your standard supermarket zucchini and not the neighbor’s garden variety from which you could carve out a canoe), a Gameboy, a hotdog, or a pair of sunglasses. Hmm… OK. In real terms that means it is about 6 inches long and 8.5 ounces.
My symptoms haven’t changed much; the heartburn remains a near-constant but still tolerable presence, and I have found myself getting winded more quickly when I climb stairs, but otherwise I’m feeling pretty good. This upcoming week we’ll have our anatomy scan, and the following week is my next appointment with my midwife, during which I will likely plead for heartburn relief of some kind.
(Incidentally, I saw a video on Instagram or somewhere from a mom explaining that pregnancy heartburn easily is eliminated by taking 100 deep breaths. I haven’t found the time this week to string more than five deep breaths together at a time, and I don’t mean to be a complete cynic, but… I expect this is bullshit.)
The real theme this week has been, unfortunately, loss (that, and toddler diarrhea, but nobody wants that recap.)
Last weekend, my beloved cat, Bills, died suddenly from an undetermined illness. In the span of 24 hours he went from seeming perfectly fine (he even hopped into The Toddler’s crib on Saturday morning to indulge in some tentative snuggling) to weak, with labored breathing that had me rushing, too late, to an emergency vet.
Soon after, I had to make the urgent and heartbreaking decision to have him put out of his misery. In the end, he was too dehydrated to have any blood work or to be able to get an IV inserted, so I have no idea what killed him, and I wasn’t allowed to be in the room when he was euthanized. My husband and I buried him under a white pine tree and sprinkled wildflower seeds on his grave.
I know that the price you pay for the unconditional love of a pet is the inevitable goodbye at the end, but God, it’s hard. Bills slept as my “little spoon,” with his head on my pillow, almost every night for the past eight years. He was the through line for every scene change, major milestone, disappointment and triumph of my entire adult life.
He wandered into the backyard of the first house I rented with my then boyfriend (now husband), who named him “Bills” in an unsuccessful attempt to deter us from taking in a pet we could hardly afford at the time. Bills reluctantly traveled with us through five moves, tolerated and eventually loved the second cat and the dog we brought home, let me cry into his fur when I had a miscarriage, and sat with me in the predawn Christmas morning hours while I started timing the first contractions that brought my son into the world. He was a steadfast, uncomplicated source of comfort, and that was the hardest part of losing him: He wasn’t there to console me.
So that’s the bittersweet cloud that has hung over the past week, as my belly gets rounder and time marches on. My family shrunk a little even as it grows. Though we suffered a loss, we get to keep the memories. And that’s something.
It’s been a heck of a week already (more on that later), so I am *super* glad I reached out to an old friend from high school, who just launchedher own blog to help people coping with eating disorders (and, oh yeah, NBD, had her second baby) to help me out with a guest post, Q&A style. As the reality of being a mom of two sets in, I am grateful to have her share some wisdom on motherhood.
Without further ado, I am pleased to introduce Erin.
My family and I recently moved to St. Louis from Georgia for my husband’s job when I was about halfway through my second pregnancy. The Second Kid, a baby boy, is now 4 months old and The First Kid, a girl, turned 2 years old at the end of May.
In Georgia, I owned a private practice as a dietitian specializing in eating disorders and related issues. Right now, I’m staying home with the kids until we’re ready for me to go back to work part-time. Until then, I’ve been enjoying writing my blog atRecoveringWithGod.com.
How were your two pregnancies different? In general, do you like being pregnant or is more of a necessary but miserable means to an end?
I thought I liked being pregnant until The Second Kid! I had more nausea, fatigue, and discomfort with the second pregnancy. I think moving out of state and chasing around a toddler made the experience much different.
What were some things you learned in your first pregnancy, childbirth experience or early parenting days that you wanted to be sure you did differently the second time around? What were some important consistencies you wanted to maintain between the two?
This is a BIG question. The short answer is: get less tests and be choosy about health care professionals. The explanation is long and intense, but worth sharing with you and other parents.
We almost lost my first child based on a diagnosis that was made in utero. We were told by a specialist doctor that our baby would likely not survive to term and if she did there was a 0% chance that we’d have a healthy, normal baby. The doctor insinuated that terminating the pregnancy was the way to go based on a growth he spotted on the back of the baby’s head at 11 weeks. He said that it was an encepholocele, a type of neural tube defect in which brain matter protrudes through an opening of the skull. He left us with very little hope, no follow-up appointments, and no recommendations for other consultations or specialists.
It was the absolute worst day of my life. But our friends and family prayed. After I made the initial call to the abortion clinic (please no judgments), I felt God nudging me to get a second opinion. More prayers.
The second-opinion-doctor made us feel like we were in this together and gave us options. We waited. With every visit thereafter, the growth miraculously shrunk or stayed the same size. By the third trimester, the malformation was no longer detectable and the issue was considered resolved.
Against the odds, our baby was born as healthy as can be.
SOOOOO, how did all this change the second pregnancy? Well, the reason we went in for that 11-week ultrasound with The First Kid was because we were going to test for a genetic disorder that runs in my family that has the potential to be fatal. With The Second Kid, we decided NOT to get that test. We learned that (1) test results don’t always predict outcomes, (2) the test results wouldn’t change our actions during pregnancy—we wouldn’t terminate, and (3) God can heal.
I’m not really sure how to segue from that, but there are plenty of other things I did differently as well. I chose a birthing center instead of the typical hospital setting to give birth. Reasons include the following experiences that I had at the hospital with The First Kid: (1) getting my membranes stripped without consent, (2) my birthing plan was not followed or even saved in my chart to refer to, (3) I had to wait for the doctor to arrive before I could push, even though my body was screaming at me to PUSH! (4) Oh yea, I had to go through the transition stage of labor in the crowded waiting room, like WITH THE FAMILIES (who were staring at me because I was apparently making scary noises). In contrast, I loved the birthing center. Their practices were in line with everything I wanted, so I didn’t have to constantly worry or double check what they were doing. They listened. They didn’t rush. Gosh, I loved them so much. If you don’t like your healthcare team, look for someone else. I say that as a healthcare professional and I would say it to my clients too.
How were your two labor experiences?
I was told the second labor is typically half the length of time as the first. This made me quite nervous because I barely made it to the delivery room with The First Kid, but it was true! I was in labor from about 6pm-midnight for The First Kid and 9pm-midnight for The Second Kid. (To the women who have long labors, I am sorry and you are all amazing warriors).
There were no false alarms with The First Kid—once contractions started, they were regular and the real deal. With The Second Kid, I experienced contractions that didn’t turn into labor, which drove my anticipatory anxiety out the roof!
I labored at home longer for The First Kid because I was only 1 cm earlier that afternoon. With my second labor, the midwives never checked dilation at any appointments, but I knew I had to leave ASAP once contractions were at regular intervals.
Both babies arrived the day after their due date.
Both labors were medication-free. I used some Hypnobabies concepts with both labors even though I personally think it’s a bit cheesy. I really enjoyed the practices in Mindful Birthing by Nancy Bardacke and highly recommend that book. It’s more evidence-based, less judgmental, and the skills can be used throughout the parenting experience. I need to go back and reread some sections!
I keep being reminded to expect my two children to be very different from each other, though it’s hard to imagine my second baby beyond what I know from my first. How are your two babies different so far?
The First Kid came out small and dainty and always falling asleep. The Second Kid came out sturdy and big and eager to eat. The First Kid was laid-back and The Second Kid is usually tense, but both happy. The First Kid was very observant and could entertain herself easily, interested in the smallest of details. The Second Kid (at least in this stage) seems to need a lot more stimulation. Thankfully, he loves watching his older sister as she runs around, dances, and gives him toys.
How did you prepare your first child for the arrival of your second? How has she adjusted to being a big sister? Are there any specific books/philosophies/etc. you relied on to help guide you through getting her prepared?
We talked about baby brother while I was pregnant and read the book “I Am a Big Sister” by Caroline Jayne Church, which I highly recommend. I’m not sure how much she understood, but she does mimic the girl in the book by helping. I also instituted “special time” with her while I was pregnant. We sing a song about special time, set a timer, and I spend 10 devoted and undivided minutes with her. Quality (attentive time) is over quantity (distracted time).
She’s loved and adored her baby brother since she met him. It was an adjustment (aka Tantrum City), of course, but she took her frustrations out on her dad and me for not giving her enough attention. She never acted resentful toward her baby brother. I’d say it took about 3 months for her to adjust. Now that she’s adjusted, she can truly be a big help to me at times even though she’s only two.
Talk about the first few days/weeks of being a mom of two, in general. What was the hardest part? Was there anything that went easier than expected?
The hardest part was definitely not having the ability to be there for my little girl. There are moments when you have to choose which child to attend to first, and the crying baby usually takes priority. Thankfully, The First Kid encourages me to go help The Second Kid when he cries, but she forgets that means she can’t get what she wants right away!
Taking care of a baby in general has been easier this time because I knew what to expect. I’m no longer trying to follow every rule or sift through all the conflicting baby advice on the internet…there’s no time for that!
I had a really rough time getting started with breastfeeding the first time around. If you nursed both times (and are willing to share), what was it like starting again?
It was a cinch! I had some insecurities the first time around, which I think most women do, and a naturally petite baby, which our first pediatrician freaked me out. However, a year’s worth of practice with the first child makes a huge difference for the second. Now the real challenge is breastfeeding while doing other tasks, such as reading a book with The First Kid in my lap, pouring a glass of milk, or putting on a shoe!
How did you and your husband adjust to having two?
In general, my husband watches the The First Kid and I’m in charge of The Second Kid, especially in the beginning when I was nursing non-stop. We had visitors the first several weeks who we could hand either kid off to, which was loads of help! Then we were forced to figure out how to handle both at the same time when my husband returned to work and I had occasional appointments I needed to attend. We’re still figuring it out!
In general, what advice that I may not have covered that you’d offer to parents expecting their second child?
Go easy on yourself. You won’t be able to do it perfectly, if there is such a thing. It’s okay to plop your toddler down in front of the TV to attend to the baby, or *gasp* get a moment to yourself. (My husband is constantly reminding me of this). Are they smelling a little ripe because you haven’t bathed them in awhile? They won’t remember! Did you just yell at your toddler for a stupid reason? Genuinely tell him you’re sorry and that you feel sad/mad right now, and hey it turns into a teaching moment! Even if you don’t muster up the apology, life goes on and you are a good mom. Some mood swings and bending the rules won’t change that.
Do what’s easiest. Opt for grocery delivery, Amazon Prime, carryout meals, a cleaning service, and any other convenience you can find. If you’re thrifty like me, tell yourself it’s just for this season. You’re in survival mode the first couple months, so only expend energy on the priorities.
And finally, picking your nutritionist/disordered eating expert brain, I wondered if you had any wisdom regarding self acceptance/body positivity for new moms and/or setting a good example of this for your kids.
It’s important for postpartum women to give themselves space to grieve their old bodies. We have constant messages thrown at us to “lose the baby weight fast”, and then we’re also told to “appreciate our stretch marks and mommy tummy” because it’s “so worth it.” We feel guilty if we can’t get back to our pre-baby bodies AND we also feel guilty if we aren’t “positive” about this new body.
It’s okay to feel sad about your body sometimes. It doesn’t mean that you’re vain or shallow. It doesn’t mean that you lack gratitude. Avoiding feelings and pretending you’re fine never ends well. Journal or talk to a trusted fellow mom. Give yourself grace—your body just went through a traumatic experience, you’re healing, your hormones are crazy, you’re tired. Look the way you look and feel the way you feel.
Try to accept both your body and your feelings, and don’t beat yourself up if acceptance is a tough concept right now.
As for setting a good example for your kids, be nice to yourself. Even when we think they may not be looking, kids notice those under-the-breath remarks in the fitting room or self-deprecating comments over second helpings of ice cream. Then they mimic us. Give yourself the love and respect that you give to your kids.
There you have it! Aren’t I lucky to know her? She shared such an incredible story — I’m stunned at her strength through the terrifying diagnosis in her first pregnancy and utterly appalled at her hospital experience with her first childbirth!!! — and so many good ideas — the “Special Time” idea is getting implemented STAT in our house, and I’ve got some new reading to tackle. (As usual, nothing on this site is sponsored, so the Amazon links are just for your convenience.)
I really needed some encouragement today and was so happy to find Erin’s words in my inbox. I hope you enjoyed it, too.
While her blog is a faith-based resource for people struggling with disordered eating, and not a mom blog, I know that there certainly is overlap between those two groups of people. In addition to selfishly picking Erin’s brain to prepare myself for parenting two, I also hoped that connecting with her would help connect any of my readers who might be struggling. If you are (or know someone who is) dealing with an eating disorder, visit RecoveringwithGod.com for words of encouragement. (And, as Erin points out in her bio, you should also seek treatment with a health care professional.) Take care of yourself, Mama.
P.S. I can’t figure out how to get someone a draft for review on WordPress without it going live, so sorry if you got a blank/password protected email post!