The Rise of the Anti-Mommy

After my sadfest over Diastasis Recti, I decide to reach out to a friend who is also new mom and fellow runner. If anyone would understand mourning the loss of control and muscle mass, it would be her.

My email went something like this:

Something gross happened this weekend. My abdominal muscles separated.

Pregnancy is disgusting.

In worst parenting move of the century, I actually cried yesterday and proclaimed “I hate this baby.” Not true, of course, but it better turn out really cute and love the crap out of me. Right now it is just kicking my diaphragm, which is hard to find adorable.

Honestly, that’s how I feel sometimes. Pregnancy is disgusting. Conceptually, I understand why I’m going through all these changes. In an abstract way, it is downright fascinating– I am building a human. That’s some science-fiction level shit.

In reality, that’s some science-fiction level shit… and it is happening TO ME. When it is my body being occupied, when my boobs are massive, when my butt has expanded to the size of my baby bump, my organs are rearranging and I can’t breathe…all for this person who I don’t even really know yet? During my lowest moments over the past few days, I’ve actually worried that this child won’t care about me at all, and I will have literally turned my insides out for no reason. Cue the crying and hating of the baby.

Her response:

Unfortunately, there’s yet many times you can decide to temporarily despise the baby and be the worst mommy ever. But there are more times that balance it, I promise.

Like so many things in our culture right now, the media images of pregnancy/motherhood are filtered and airbrushed. It’s more layered, complicated, and messy. And more interesting, I think.

I was tempted to type that it gets better, but it’s more that it changes. And the variety is what makes it interesting.

Ah, now there is the truth, isn’t it?

Nope. Not how I feel at all.

Nope. Not how I feel at all.

I have struggled with my own feelings about this pregnancy. For many, many reasons, but specifically because I always think I should be “happier” about it. Some of this stems from the fact that I’m navigating a lot of emotional stuff right now.  (For those just catching up, my mom died in January, my father lost his marbles for a bit, and Mr. O’s dad is still not speaking to us for no discernible reason.) But alongside that epic maelstrom of crap, I’m berating myself that I can’t override my own complicated feelings and just be some glowing, happy earth-mother who doesn’t wear shoes and blissfully allows her body to be taken over by her cherubic baby.

Maybe I am the worst mommy ever. Cue the crying and hating of myself.

I have had more than one person insist that they had a connection with their baby whilst in utero. They “knew” things about their child. I know nothing, except that Chick is alive, well, and currently punching my right side which it prefers over the left. I do not have a psychic connection with Chick. And I will admit I felt bad when I couldn’t respond to these comments with “Oh, yes… I know Chick already has a flair for international diplomacy because of blah, blah, blah.”

Another person insisted that I must “know” what the gender of my baby is. I explained (for the BILLIONTH time) I’m not finding out– to which they responded “But you must know! You must have some gut feeling if it is a boy or a girl.” Look, I have a hard time telling if Chick is moving or if I’m just having gas. How in the name of all that is holy would I be able to tell the difference between a penis and a vagina?

This is, I think, compounded by being infertile. (Yes, I still own that title. A post for another day, perhaps.) Because Mr. O and I tried so so hard, I know what it is like to feel as though the very act of pregnancy is out of reach. I should be happy to go through all this pain because I know what it took to get this far. I know people who will never be able to have children. It seems wrong and selfish not to think this is a delightful miracle accompanied by unicorns and rainbows.

Medea, the ultimate

Medea, the ultimate “Bad Mommy”

It isn’t that easy. I can’t airbrush the very real fact that my feelings about pregnancy are complex. They don’t fit into a neatpink/blue box, which means at times I feel as though these feelings don’t fit. Period.

There is no room for women to feel ambivalent about pregnancy and motherhood. If you express anything other than bliss and joy, you’re labeled unwomanly, a bad mommy, a Medea who is clearly about to murder her young.

Why can’t our feelings be messy when all of us know that every aspect of life is messy? It is, as my friend points out, what makes it interesting.

The Non-Scare

Oh, what a weekend I’ve had… Lest you worry, Chick and I are fine. Okay, CHICK is fine. I am fairly convinced my insides are going to fall out any minute.

Thursday evening was my 24 week check-up. As I drove to my appointment, I felt this strange burning pain right at my breast bone. Nothing incapacitating, but also very odd. Good thing I was going to my check-up, eh?

As I lay down on the table, I explained to the midwife what was happening. The usual “Does it hurt when I do this? What about this? Or how about this?” ensued. To which I responded, Yes, no, and no. Acute pain, but mostly localized to a 1 inch square. The midwife seemed worried.

“You see, that’s where your uterus is…”

“What? How did it get all the way up there?”

Concerned looks, either because I have no concept of pregnancy anatomy or because something terribly wrong is going on with my insides.

After conferring with a few others on staff, the midwife sent me home with instructions to rest and call immediately if things get worse. This is not something one wants to hear from a medical professional, though admittedly it could be worse.

At this point, the pain was really really real. I hobbled back to my car and went home for some rest. Though the pain didn’t get worse, it didn’t really go away either. Additionally, it traveled down slowly over the course of the evening until it landed right around my belly button.

Meanwhile, Chick was moving like a prize fighter. Had this not been the case, I wouldn’t have slept through the night. Ironic, isn’t it? My baby punching my insides made it easier for me to sleep.

Come morning the pain had not gone away. Midwife wanted me to come in for an ultrasound to make sure Chick was alright, and the soonest I could get in was 1:30.

Again, not something one wants to hear from a medical professional.

Holy balls– do you have ANY idea how long the wait from 8:00 to 1:30 was for me? As fortune would have it, I had a therapy appointment with Dr. Macaw that morning, and spent my entire 55 minutes crying. Though I rationally knew this would probably be fine, irrationally I could not handle one more fucking thing in my life breaking down.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have reached my limit for very bad things. No more. Not open for business. I wish I could say I’m some strong, courageous bad ass who can handle any and every speed bump with a smile. But let’s be real. This camel is one straw away from losing her shit.

Strangely, it felt really good to admit this to another person. Outloud. In earnest. Through lots of snot and tears. Between my mom’s death, my dad’s slow climb toward normalcy, my siblings and their own stuff, the completely unnecessary drama from Mr. O’s dad, and upheaval at work, I need this pregnancy to be okay. Perhaps the Universe would listen to me this time when I’ve said I have had enough.

Perhaps.

The next several hours at work were totally surreal. I had an “important meeting” that I couldn’t get to because it was smack in the middle of my ultrasound. Had a moment when I thought about conference-calling in, then realized that was completely stupid. I made my excuses and arrived back at my doctor’s office for the second time in 24 hours.

The ultrasound tech was the most beautiful, decent human. She was chipper and reassuring. With every snapshot she took of Chick, she’d say something like “Now we’re looking at the kidneys, which look totally normal…. This is the heart, which looks absolutely healthy…” And so on and so forth until we established that Chick is still fine. (And still very shy about their face. Someone is not ready for their close-up, Mr. DeMille.)

At this point, it was time to meet with another midwife (my dr/midwife duo weren’t available at this time, which was fine with me.) After looking at the results and examining me, I have been diagnosed with…. Diastasis Recti, or separated abdominal muscles. (Do not google this. It is gross. Or at least it is gross when you realize it is happening to you.)

Truth be told, I sort of forgot what the midwife was saying after she confirmed Chick was okay. I heard “Baby is okay! Mumble, mumble, Diastasis Recti, mumble, mumble, one finger apart, mumble, can get up to three, mumble, mumble…:”

Deep breaths. No one is dying. I’m just experiencing pain like a burning zipper up and down my abdomen. No big deal.

I spent the rest of the weekend wincing around my apartment, and having to ask Mr. O anytime something had to be lifted up or put down. It was tedious, and led me to one or two bouts of feeling sorry for myself.

My abs, once my pride and joy, have separated about one finger width apart. This is not uncommon in pregnancy– approximately two thirds of pregnant women experience this to some degree. It is, however, uncommon so early in a pregnancy or women carrying my size baby. If this were my third trimester or if I was carrying Gigantor, it would make more sense.

No one can quite figure out why this has happened when it did. As my loyal readers will know, this annoys me to no end. I want “Why?”, but it seems my body only responds “Why not?!” One speculation is that my muscles were so tight to begin with, there was little stretch in them. (I had similar lower abdominal pain weeks ago, which one nurse thought might also have been intensified because those muscles were well-developed. This is what 8 years of running does to you.)

I hope this doesn’t sound like a humble brag. Because I am sooooo not into this. Had I know that being in excellent shape with well-defined abdominals prior to pregnancy would lead to tearing? BLECH. I would have cooled my training and eaten more ice cream.

In the meantime, I have no idea what I can/can’t do anymore. From my midwife, I can keep running until my body says no. (But this isn’t no? What the hell does this mean? Talk about completely unhelpful advice…) She also suggested I ditch the pilates and take up yoga, but I’m still convinced this will just make matters worse. Maybe I should just become a bedridden shut in… In my most paranoid moments, I don’t want to breathe too deeply deeply because I’m pretty sure my organs will fall out. Which is shear nuttery but that’s where I live these days.

Just when I am on the brink of crying because I feel tender and sad, Chick tickles me from the inside out.

It is hysterical and glorious.

It is the yin to this weekend’s yang.

POST: Nightmare Parents Write Letter About Baby’s Nightmare Birthday Party

Ah, interwebs… You never cease to entertain me.

The other day I was mindlessly trolling Feedly, when I came across this post from Jezebel:

Nightmare Parents Write Letter about Baby’s Nightmare Birthday Party

I clicked on the link, and prepared myself for feeling morally superior in every way. And then… not so much.

You see, the Nightmare Parents in question have sent an email out to everyone invited to their child’s birthday party with very specific instructions for gift giving. There are only four items on the list. That’s it. Only four, and pleas not to deviate from this list in any way, shape, or form. Other highlights include:

On straying from the list:

If you are unable to get these items, please let us know so that we can buy them right away for him.

It should be noted that none of the requested presents are imminently life saving. We’re talking about a water table or a play tent here. Where is the urgency, I wonder?

On including receipts with presents not on the list:

When we return items without receipts, we only get about 50% of the value, so it is like throwing away money if you don’t include the receipt with the gifts.

Most people harbor the illusion that their gifts are so fabulous, returns will be unwarranted. No one buys a present and thinks “I’m so happy I’m going to be throwing away money on this present for XXX!”

On encouraging literacy:

We suggest no more books beyond the Cheerios one cited above. Right now, XXX has 32 board books on his shelf, and 25 additional books waiting for him in storage.

The book nerd in me thinks 32 isn’t enough, but we all have our preferences.

On permission to buy anything else than what is on the list, just in case you were thinking about it:

Please let us know if you have any questions about any items not on this list that you are considering purchasing, and we can let you know if we already have it or if is in storage waiting for him.

Noted. Do not stray from the list. This couple has a magical, never-ending storage facility somewhere that produces age appropriate toys upon request.

As much as I think this is nutty, I also saw a wee bit of myself in this– particularly after creating the registry this weekend. There is just enough pragmatism to this that I can see how they justified it. I mean, I get the impulse. If people are going to be spending the money on you, you might as well get what you think you need, right? I would be lying if I said I didn’t think some of these exact same thoughts. The only difference is that this couple had the balls to write it down and hit send.

Lost in all this, of course, is the very purpose of gift giving. It is meant to honor the person receiving it as an expression of love from the person giving the actual present. On a large scale, none of this is really about the accumulation of things. It is about showing support. It is about caring. Ultimately, who the hell cares if this couple gets a 33rd book (NOT THE CHEERIOS ONE!) if it comes from a place of enthusiasm for the future happiness of their kid?

Our Choice to Terminate

One of the unusual side effects of my experience with infertility is that I have become steadfastly pro-choice. Though I’ve always supported an individual’s right to control her body, IF has given me an entirely new perspective on what “Reproductive Choice” means.

Before anyone freaks out, I’m not all “Yay! Abortions are great!!!” In fact, the decision to terminate a pregnancy can be exceptionally hard. As a society, we do ourselves a disservice when we pass judgement on these choices, because few of us have had to make this call.

The debate over abortion is so heated in large part because we reduce the discussion to black and white scenarios. The truth is most of us live our lives in shades of gray.

With that in mind, I hope you’ll read My Perfect Breakdown’s recent post about her decision to terminate her pregnancy (reblogged with her permission.) I admire her honesty, and urge you to listen to her story from a place of compassion– not judgement and fear.

My Perfect Breakdown

We chose to terminate one of our pregnancies. I’ve written about it only once, and re-posted it on another blog, 1 in 10, dedicated to sharing stories of women who have terminated for medical reasons (TFMR).

On August 14, 2013 we ended our precious baby girl’s life. Since we said goodbye to our little girl it has been:

616 days,or

1 year, 8 months and 8 days, or

88 weeks, or

14,784 hours, or

887,040 minutes, or

53,222,400 seconds.

I do not spend a lot of time writing or talking about the way in which our third pregnancy ended for two reasons. First, simply, it’s hard on me to remember that day, yet not a day goes by that I don’t remember.

I long to hold our little girl in my womb for just one more day.

20150422 - My Choice to TerminateI would give anything to have had a healthy little girl who could…

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Dominating the Baby Registry

I am a champion. CHAMPION.

After weeks of putting it off, I finally tackled and defeated my mother-fricking registry this weekend. This two day tour de force was a group effort, mostly thanks to my friend Sparrow.

Some of you may recall my recent freak out at a local mega baby store. Given that I’d like to avoid a police record before my child is born, I decided that doing this online with a similarly pragmatic mom would be a better alternative. So I parked my butt on Sparrow’s couch on Saturday, and we got down to work. After a few hours, I had narrowed down to the things I *think* I need.

Sparrow was sooooo helpful in large part because she gets where I’m at. I don’t want a whole lot of stuff, I just want things I’m actually going to use. My goal is safety and sanity. That’s it. At no point did she imply I would be a terrible mother if I didn’t get something. It was the exact opposite of Mega Store David.

Armed with Sparrow’s advice, I set down to actually create the registry on Sunday morning. I chose to work from Baby List, which I’ll wax on poetically about in a few minutes. Though this site was really easy to use, the actual decision making wasn’t so straightforward. All of a sudden, I was faced with two frustrating realities.

  1. Gender neutral stuff is reeeaaallly hard to find. Let’s say that you’re searching for onesies. If you’re on Target, your first result set will turn up 65+ options. If you narrow it down to neutral, you get 10 at best. I would find a bib or footie pajama that I liked, and it would be coupled within the boy/girl set encouraging Chick to be either a truck driver or a princess. (Though I would gladly welcome clothing that encouraged all children to become truck driving princesses…)
  2. There are some truly ugly things for babies out there. Like, sweet baby Jesus wouldn’t even be caught dead in some of this stuff and he was born homeless in a barn. This realization lead me to freak out about anyone else buying bedding items, which I broke down and bought myself on Zulily. (Why bedding? I have no idea. Blame the baby hormones.)

I settled in for the registry building at around 10:30. I wasn’t done until 1:30. THREE HOURS LATER. After I was done, I brought in Mr. O to see what I had done. In 5 minutes, he declared it good enough, and shuffled out of the room to resume cleaning of our office/soon-to-be nursery.

In some ways, I’m fortunate because I’ve gotten a ton of stuff from friends and co-workers. Thanks to them, a lot of the big ticket items have either been donated or are “spoken for.” Even so, when I calculated everything on my list, the grand total in gifts comes to $1,314. Yes, babies are expensive.

All in all, this process was still fairly overwhelming to me. When it comes to subjective things like clothes, blankets, sheets, etc., I realized even with my meticulous selections, people will buy whatever the hell they want. It sounds ungrateful of me to be critical of people who just want to give me and Chick presents, but… this is more than just aesthetics for me. It boils down to my own philosophy of parenting, which is to allow Chick to become whoever he or she wants to be. My job is to provide as blank a canvas as possible. That is a lot harder than I thought it would be.

But before I sign off, get ready for a little product promotion… I am absolutely in love with Baby List. It will aggregate all your registries into one list, and allow people to shop from a number of online stores. It also has space for you to ask for non-monetary gifts, like home-cooked meals and baby sitting.

My favorite part is that they will generate a personalized checklist based on answers to a survey, including questions like

What’s your shopping strategy? (My answer “Go thrifty or go home!)

Which celeb most personifies your approach to baby planning? (I went with “Beyonce, a busy mama on a mission.”)

It was helpful to do this after I created the list so I could double check to see if I had missed anything.

So all you mamas-to-be, good night and good luck on those registries.

Running for Two

Throughout my pregnancy, I have maintained my practice of running. After I was given the all-clear post-IVF, I put my running shoes on and started out again. Slowly. Very Carefully. With just a hint of trepidation.

At first, I had to stop and walk a lot. I was tired and out of practice for the first time in 7 years. This annoyed me to no end. I am a seasoned runner, damn it! Walking is for sissies! Rationally, I got why I was slowing down. But as any runner will tell you, it is a mental game more than anything, and mentally I felt like I should be pushing myself harder.

I had to change my expectations. Instead of running with my gadgets that calculate distance, time, and pace, I just run for time now. I set the clock for 35 minutes, then run/walk until I’m done. This sounds so simple, but it is huge shift for me.

It has also helped me reconnect with this sport I love so much. I run now for the grace of it. For the joy of being outside. For the clarity I get on each run. It also reminds me that even as my body changes, I’m still incredibly strong. Sure, my glutes and quads are not what they used to be (let alone my abs. HA!) But I’m out there and this requires a particular kind of courage: To do my best that day, no matter what that day brings me.

Exercising while pregnant is weird because it follows the opposite path of what you’re used to. Instead of improving over time, I have been slowing down or having to modify workouts. Instead of getting stronger each week, I’ve had to figure out what I can’t do anymore. It’s a downer if I think about it too much. I’m used to literally feeling the progress that comes with exercise. Again, it’s about changing my expectations. So now it is less about performance and more about simple movement.

I realize at some point running while pregnant will not be a good idea. As my doctor put it, my body will tell me when it is ready to stop and I just have to listen. I’ve also started adding pregnancy pilates to my work out. Truth be told, I find it exceedingly tedious, but it is good for me. It keeps my legs and core strong, and it keeps me moving. At the moment, I’m running 2-3 times a week, and doing pilates 2-3 times a week.

On this morning’s run, I was feeling electric. The weather was perfect– 50 degrees and sunny. Chick was cooperating by keeping movement to a minimum. I felt strong and empowered, even as other runners breezed by me like gazelles. “Yeah, but are you running and carrying a baby? I AM A WARRIOR!”  As I stopped mid-run to stretch, I took a photo of the view from where I stood: My running shoes peeking out from my baby belly. Feeling good about where I was at that moment, I posted it to Instagram and finished my run.

Which is when I realized that I kinda, sorta forgot about my and Mr. O’s “No Social Media Pregnancy Announcements.” I also forgot that there are some people following me who don’t know about Chick. So I got a flood of “likes” and “OMG” style comments. In my exuberance, I inadvertently outed myself as pregnant. Oops.

It isn’t that I want to avoid social media altogether. It’s just that I remember being ambushed by the announcements of friends. I hate the idea that someone saw my picture and had a similar reaction. I also want to be so mindful of Chick’s own privacy– Chick may not want a kabillion pictures all over the interwebs before they can even get born.

Thankfully, Mr. O didn’t seem to mind my slip, and was one of the first to “like” my photo. Along with 23 other people… and counting.

ARTICLE: After IVF: Pregnant, but Still Stuck in the Past

I’ve been struggling a little bit with the idea of being “happy” during my pregnancy. I would never want someone to think I wasn’t happy about it– good golly, I did enough to get here. But I’ve been a little bit disappointed I haven’t been that crazed, over-the-moon, pregnant lady I envisioned at the beginning of all this.

Maybe it is because infertility is a total shit show. I feel as though I can’t trust anything. Unless Chick is moving at this VERY MOMENT, I have a tiny wave of panic that something is wrong.

Maybe it is because my mom died in the middle of my first trimester. I’m still feel that loss so acutely every day. The joy of being pregnant is tempered by the fact that my mom is gone, and Chick will never know her.

“I think I have I.V.F. PTSD.”

This comes from today’s reading selection, “After IVF: Pregnant, but Still Stuck in the Past”. This blog from the New York Times gets at about half of what I’m feeling, and probably resonates with so many of you.


Thanks to Hound Mamas for sharing!