As you may have noticed, I’ve been on a hiatus for a little while. Life has basically been throwing me a few curb balls and sitting down to write something has been difficult. I try to keep this blog lighthearted, for the most part, but there’s been too much darkness these past few weeks – in the world, on the news, and recently, to a dear friend. Today, I was going to forget about the post again, and wait until the water cleared, but something makes me want to share. I started this post prior to the recent tragedy I learned about and the finished shortly after. The impact of these past few days will forever be part of me.
My favorite room in our house is Abby’s Room. I love sitting on her multicolored throw rug, just staring at the green walls, gray furniture, and detailed décor. It brings me back to the road that led to the Dr. Seuss sayings, the purple lettering spelling out her name, and gray crib that I knew she needed. And I smile as I remember the day we brought her home. But I also cry as it reminds me of the past and the struggles. It took so many tear-filled nights and fake smiles to get to where it is now.
We bought our home to fill with children. It was step two of our plan (step one was getting married, step 1.5 was getting a dog – our cat was part of the prologue. Step two – house. Step three – baby). We moved in, got settled and were ready to build our family. I played it smart – found a doctor first. Had a checkup and spoke about my plans. Everything was in order. I was healthy. We were cleared, in my mind, to start trying. I remember thinking how insane the concept of “trying” sounded. We weren’t going to “try to have a baby,” we were just going to have one – plain and simple. My doctor said if nothing happened for a year, then we could talk about other options. I saw no other option. This wasn’t going to take a year. It wasn’t even going to take months. It was happening. And then, the first month came and went. No baby. I shrugged it off. Then the second month. Still no baby. It was by the third month that I started blaming myself. It must be something I did to warrant this “complication.” So, I worked out harder. I stopped eating junk-food. And I stopped drinking (mostly) – hey, a girl has her needs, wine needs.
Every month had the same routine. Start out hopeful early on. Take an ovulation test daily. Try. Get disappointed. Cry. And repeat. And every month I would blame myself. Blame my body for not cooperating. Blame my mind for stressing out, which I was convinced was the reason nothing was happening in my uterus. It took a while for me to even admit this to John. I felt ashamed that my body was defying me. Having a baby is human nature – completely natural – but not for me it seemed. When I finally did let John in, he was amazing through it all. Trying his best to convince me that these things take time and it wasn’t my fault. We refrained from telling the world or anyone that we were “trying.” In the beginning, I think it was mostly due to my desire to surprise the world by our incredible news but towards the end, it was basically to avoid people asking for updates. I think I feared their judgments as to why it was taking so long more than anything. It sounds ridiculous now, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was my fault. Something I did. I was being punished for some wrong decision. And through all of this, it felt like almost everyone around me was announcing pregnancies or giving birth. It was as if the entire world had attended the fertility party and my invitation had been lost in the mail. I smiled through baby showers and birth announcements, and pretended that we weren’t ready to start our family when people asked.
And this brings us back to Abby’s room – or the empty room, as I was referring to it then, because even the thought of referring to it as “the future baby’s room” was far too painful. Originally, this room consisted of blue carpet (then stained with cat puke because apparently that’s how our cat responds to us making her move), bright blue walls, and empty space. At around month four of trying, I would walk into the empty room and bust into tears. Shortly after, I kept the door closed, at all times.
It took us nine months before the pregnancy test read positive. And it would be another six weeks after that before it would be deemed a “viable pregnancy” by my doctor. And it would be another 12 weeks before I would walk into that empty room and allow myself to dream about the day we’d bring our baby home and the memories she or he would create in this space. During the pregnancy, we would still be faced with some concerning signs later on – that luckily turned out to have no negative outcomes but felt like the world was crumbling at the time. But, I still allowed myself to let the fantasy live again.
“Trying for a baby” was probably one of the hardest mental struggles I have faced, especially since the world has conditioned me to believe that because I’m healthy and under 30, I should have no problem. I never wanted anything as much as I wanted this baby. I hadn’t even met my baby, felt my baby kick from inside, or heard the heartbeat, but I knew I needed this baby. I loved this baby before she even existed. To some, nine months may seem like nothing. And to others it may seem like a lifetime. I know people on both sides of the spectrum – those who got their baby with little effort and those still waiting, years later. And when things didn’t go as planned, I immediately assumed it was my fault. I was being punished. A friend told me she heard that the average woman gets pregnant within three months of trying and if it takes longer, their must be something wrong. But there wasn’t. We are and were both healthy. It just took longer than we expected or wanted. But every month I was crushed just made me want my baby even more.
And today, I sit in Abby’s room and remember. Remember the struggles. Remember crying over a child I didn’t know and worrying that the world was punishing me. And I remember fighting past it. And I remember convincing myself each month that it would happen. And I remember the day the test read positive. And I remember tearing up as John and I picked out paint colors before we knew gender. And I remember feeling her kick as I held onto her crib, just weeks away from her due date. And I remember her first night in her crib – and barely sleeping as I kept staring at the baby monitor. And now I sit, on her multicolored rug, and watch my baby girl sleep in my arms. And kiss her forehead as she drifts even more into dreamland.
Getting to this day, to this finished room, was my hardest challenge. But it was also my most rewarding. I know that there are people out there, people who may be reading this, who are still waiting for their own baby. I want to let you know that I’m sorry you are struggling. And I wish there was something I could say to make you feel better – and I wish someone had said that magic phrase to me during my struggle. But there are no words. I’m sorry that you’re struggling. I’m sorry that you feel alone in this fight. I’m sorry that it feels like the world is blanketed in fertility while you’re lying in the cold. Going back, I wish I had reached out to someone – aside from John. After Abby’s birth, I discovered other people who’s journey to parenthood was (or is still) long. I wish I didn’t let myself suffer alone. Reach out. Talk to someone, anyone. Everyone has a story – share yours and hear theirs.
As you can see, my story had a happy ending. But, unfortunately, not every story does. My heart breaks for those who haven’t gotten their baby yet, for those who are still trying and feel as though it is their fault, for those who had to say goodbye before even saying hello. My heart breaks. I’ve been struggling to wrap my mind around why the world would allow such pain to exist. I wish there was some thing I could say to make sense of it all, or some potion that would take away the pain. But there are no words. There are no potions. If anyone ever discovers it, please tell me, please tell the world. I want to say, I’m sorry you are hurting, struggling, and feel the world is going on when you’re standing still.
“A person’s a person, no matter how small”
― Dr. Seuss, Horton Hears a Who!
Since getting pregnant, I joined way more online mommy groups than I probably should have and I’ve left a majority of them just as quickly. The ones I’m still in consist of three groups – those that provide interesting and scientific research; those that I’m a member of just because of sheer laziness to leave; and the very few that I’m completely in love with. Seriously, the moms and moms to be in that last subgroup are filled with some of the most amazing women I know. It really is a lifesaver knowing you are in a close group with people who are going through the same things as you. They are there when you have a question about bottle types, need some advice on poop color, amount, time-between, etc. (yes we talk about poop consistently), or when you just want to complain about the fact that your two week old will only stop crying if you are standing and swaying non-stop, even after five hours and when it’s 2 am and all you want to do is pee or just eat a banana. That’s when real bonding happens.
Anyway, recently a few of the moms-to-be in my groups have been opening up about being harassed about bullied about their birthing decisions – specifically, having a c-section. Once again, why do people feel the need to judge? And, more importantly, how do moms even have the energy. Right now, I’m bouncing a baby old on my left knee, petting a pup with my right foot, and attempting to drink my coffee before it gets cold (while blogging). And, if I had any more mental capacity, it would be used to figure out how to warm my coffee in a microwave so it tastes fresh and not like a layer of burnt espresso on top of day-old cold coffee. Seriously moms, how do you have the energy for anything else?
So, as someone who was berated before, during and following Abby’s delivery, I thought I’d share some insights about C-section judgments.
Here are a few things you may hear if you are scheduled for or had a C-section:
“You took the easy way out.”
Oh yes! Having a C-section is 100% the “easy way out.” Being numb from your neck down while someone slices through you is completely “easy.” Climbing out of a bed while your abs are still healing to feed your newborn is an incredibly easy way out.
“It’s unhealthy for the baby / You should know better.”
Yes, we were meant to birth children through our vaginas. I get that. But guess what – that doesn’t happen in every case. Apparently, in many cases, a c-section is necessary for a variety of factors (such as the baby being breech, low heart rate during delivery, etc.). And Abby was perfectly healthy at birth and is perfectly healthy now.
“You poor thing, forced to have a c-section.”
I want to set the record straight. I was not forced to have a c-section. I actually didn’t want one. I wanted to have Abby the “traditional” way, but that didn’t happy. And guess what, I tried very hard to push out my 9 pound + baby, but I couldn’t. And at the end, a c-section was the only way to get her out. So I made the decision to do what was best for her. No one forced me to do anything.
“You’re not a real mom if you don’t have your baby natural” (aka vaginally).
So what does that say about people who adopt? I guess they aren’t real parents. Nope. I guess being there for your child whenever they need, holding them when they are sick, and soothing them when they are sad does not make you a real parent unless you birthed that kiddo through your vagina.
This last comment actually is the worst one I heard. And it was the one that actually resulted in most of my tears leading up to Abby’s birth and even after. You see, when you have a c-section, you don’t get to hold your baby right away. Your arms are frozen to the operating table and your baby will be brought to you. If you deliver vaginally, and everything is on par with your child, he or she is typically handed to you or laid on your chest. In my case, John got to see Abby as they cleaned and checked her. I heard her crying from across the room but couldn’t see her. Finally, he brought her to my face and all I could do was turn my head. And then, she and John left as I was sewed back up. I didn’t get to hold my baby for more than an hour. And during that time on the table, hearing the surgeons laugh and nurses tell me how adorable my baby girl looked, “you aren’t a real mom” kept replaying in my head. And in recovery, I couldn’t move my arms for what seemed like an eternity. I kept hearing nurses and doctors tell me how beautiful my baby girl looked, but she wasn’t with me. I finally was reunited with Abby in my postpartum room – hours after her birth. While other moms may have held their baby moments after birth, attempted breastfeeding, and smiled at their newest treasure, I waited with those voices replaying in my head. You’re not a real mom.
When I finally got to hold her, I didn’t let her go for a solid two hours. I soaked in as much of her as I could in this moment I wanted. And in an instant, I remember she moved slightly in my arms, opened her eyes briefly, and I cried. That was the moment I knew I was a real mom.
So, to all of my fellow moms and moms to be – you are a real mom, no matter how your child comes into the world.
- Real moms birth babies vaginally
- Real moms have c-sections
- Real moms adopt
- Real moms are the moms who are there for their child for the rest of their lives
- Judgmental moms are not worth your time!
Don’t let anyone ever tell you differently. And, for anyone who decides to share their “enlightened” look on the world in which you are not a real mom because of XYZ, you have my full permission to flood their inbox until it’s filled to capacity and no one can ever email them again with selfies of you with your baby. That is the sweetest revenge.
When you’re pregnant, people praise you for gaining weight. When you’re pregnant, people pay no attention when you finish a jar of peanut butter (well, they might, but you don’t care). When you’re pregnant, that bump under your shirt is glorious.
When you’re no longer pregnant, people still ask you about your weight, but in a much different way. “How is your post-pregnancy diet going?” “Remember, breastfeeding will help you lose that baby weight faster.” I hate those people. I really do. And when you’re no longer pregnant, you still dream of peanut butter but now people stare at you when you dip your spoon into the jar (those people are not your friends because those who can resist peanut butter are not worth your time, your friend is in that jar – damn, I love peanut butter – what were we talking about again?) Oh yea…. When you’re no longer pregnant, that “bump” is the now your stretched skin that I like to refer to as my pregnancy pouch. It’s a terrible bastard that is harder and harder to hide.
Since being cleared to work out again, I’ve spent as much time as possible sweating at the gym, running/walking on the trail every chance I get, and that jar of peanut butter has gone untouched. That poor poor jar, sad and lonely. (Guys, do you think I have a peanut butter problem – no, I didn’t think so – ok moving on). And now that I’m under my pre-pregnancy weight, I look back at these past few weeks, my hard work, my strength to skip dessert, and stare at my post-pregnancy, under pre-pregnancy weight body and think to myself – “Wow, so not worth it.” Despite my hard work, I still have the pouch, I still have those sneaky stretch marks that didn’t show up until week 40 (sneaky jerks), and while I can fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans, my muffin top spills over the top. And honestly, once you have worn maternity jeans, there really is no going back. Let me paint a picture – these are jeans that hug you in the best places but feel like sweat pants! It’s AMAZING. Oh, and of course, it is now officially summer, meaning that I can’t hide those unwanted rolls under a bulky sweater – well I could, but the smell of poop is usually close by, I would prefer not to add in my own stink (though I could probably just blame it on the baby as well – I’ll have to keep that in mind).
Oh, and of course I’m now bombarded with ads about losing baby weight fast, stroller running groups, and classes that will “bounce my body back.” Can we just stop assuming our bodies will bounce back, because here’s the honest truth – THEY WONT! You’re body is COMPLETELY different. You grew a human (or in some cases, multiple humans)! Your organs were moved, your skin was stretched, and your uterus grew to crazy sizes to ensure this human had enough room. Then, after all of the stretching and growing, you birthed that baby either by pushing it with all of your might or having major surgery. None of this is easy – NONE.
You’re lucky that I can still walk the dog after all of that!
So, since having Abby, I’ve been trying to love myself more to teach her that she should love herself. I want her to be confident, even if I haven’t always been. And if someone puts her down, I want her to raise her head high and walk away (and flip them off as she walks away if she’s anything like her mother).
Here’s to loving your stretch marks, embracing your scars (both physical and emotional) and not caring if someone stares as you eat from that jar of peanut butter. You deserve that peanut butter!