Category Archives: pregnancy

Moms Club

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Moms Club

We were living in a shore town in central New Jersey when I had my son. I purchased the house five years prior when I was single and wasn’t worried about the school district or extra storage space. It was two blocks from the beach with easy access to New York City. That was the selling point; location, location, location. Now that our family was growing our priorities shifted.

We found a house in Pennsylvania which was just over border from New Jersey. Still a reasonable drive for relatives, better property taxes, an excellent school district and closets galore. We kept the beach house because we thought we could rent it out and we weren’t ready to sell it.

At this time our son was seven months old and I was still struggling to find my groove as a mom. I made a few mom friends at the beach house but I knew we were moving so I kept it casual. I missed the camaraderie of working friends, adult conversation…some shred of personal identity. When we moved to Pennsylvania, I was determined to join a Moms Club and get involved.

Within a week of moving I was scheduled to go to my first meeting. I hoped the desperation didn’t ooze out of me like sweat, I was in dire straights. I’m sure I spent more time figuring out what to wear than some people spend getting ready for the prom. This was important. So for the first time in months I wore makeup, did my hair and dressed like someone who could pass for an adult.

There were only a few moms in attendance. In my mind, they were all smarter, prettier, better educated and had gobs more confidence than me. Two of them became close friends, Amy and Trish. Amy had a daughter and Trish had a son – all three of our babies were born within a week of each other. We spent the better part of the next two years together. We got ourselves through that crunch time before preschool when, unless you have “help” your kid is glued to you all day, every day. (I didn’t have a lot of help)

When our babies were turning one, Amy announced that she was pregnant. I congratulated her and promptly said something cringey – “Better you than me sistah!” Amy laughed, her angel baby slept through the night. I was still dreaming of Tylenol PM and four straight hours of sleep.

About a week later and several discussions about how stressful Amy’s life would get once Baby #2 arrived, I found out I was pregnant. This was not in the PLAN! My husband and I weren’t against having another baby, it was just risky business given how scary the first delivery was… and I still wasn’t sleeping on the regular.

I gained almost 50 pounds in my first pregnancy and on my son’s first birthday, I was within 3 pounds of my pre-pregnancy weight. I’m not going to lie, I was pretty excited about that, it took A LOT of work. Prior to becoming pregnant I was the skinny chick. I always exercised regularly and ate well, so it wasn’t some genetic gift and I was afraid of getting huge again.

The trio of moms with babies took turns hosting play-dates. I would always bust my ass to keep the house in some kind of presentable order when they were coming over. My natural tendencies lean toward hoarder meets a tornado, so it took effort. We would all put out snacks for ourselves and the kids. I had an old greyhound at the time named Scooby. I remember one time in particular, I was hosting when Trish busted Scooby eating from the cheese tray.

I also took my son to weekly activities including, a variation of mommy & me music. It consisted of sitting in a large circle with other moms and their babies. We would sing awful songs, play toy instruments (Jimmy Fallon style except we sucked)  and humiliate ourselves through some form of interpretive dance.

Dear Gawd I don’t know how many hours I lost to this activity. I was desperate for company and my son seemed to like it. One time I was running late and got a speeding ticket. Here I am visibly pregnant with a toddler in the back seat getting pulled over for speeding. What kind of a weirdo is so desperate to get to mommy & me music that they get a speeding ticket. Um, me. To add insult to injury I needed to haul my pregnant ass into traffic court to get the fine reduced (speeding points are the devil).

At some point I switched from music class to an activity at the YMCA. I was in the beginning of my second trimester and I waddled around the gym floor trying to keep pace with my son.This is where I made a new friend named Kristy. Her son was a couple of months older than mine. Her family had recently moved from New York. She was soon folded into our little mom club and our trio of moms became a quartet.

What a gift it was to have these women in my life. Such a comfort to have friends I could depend on, peers for my son to play with and memories to be made. We had many adventures together in that early phase of parenthood. Sometimes it was a walk in town or along the canal. Other days we would meet at a destination like the zoo, the beach or a children’s museum. These people saved me from a postpartum depressive spiral and I don’t think I could ever properly thank them for that.

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An Accidental Stay at Home Mom

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An Accidental Stay at Home Mom

My plan, our plan, THE plan was that I would go back to work after our son was born. I took three months maternity leave and after two weeks of being back on the job, I got laid off. I worked for a software company at the time and all of the Project Managers were “let go.” Wow that was a lot to wrap my head around, now what??? I never intended to be a stay-at-home mom (SAHM).

Honestly, I was scared. Financially we could swing it (thank you husband) but mentally the idea of not working was completely foreign to me. I hadn’t considered it before, it wasn’t in the plan. This wasn’t a choice, it was an unexpected circumstance. I worked most of my life up to that point, from the time I was 16 until I got laid off at 35 and there were several years that I worked multiple jobs. Before I was legally old enough to work, I worked.  I raked leaves, shoveled snow, cleaned, weeded, babysat…I hustled.

 

I was raised by a single mom and we were broke. I worked because I needed to if I wanted anything beyond the absolute necessities. Through observation, I took in many lessons from my single mother. She always said things like “don’t become a secretary” and the not always verbal but always present and paramount life lesson – don’t depend on a man. Well damn, now I have a 3 month old baby and no J-O-B and a husband OK with me staying home.

The medical complications of my pregnancy and necessary follow up also had a profound effect on me. Part of me was just happy to be alive. I had to talk myself through the not working thing. I questioned myself, if this was my last day on earth, how would I want to spend it? Working some random job or taking care of my baby.Truth be told I did send out some resumes but it was a half-hearted attempt. I could not justify making a choice to work and leaving child care up to someone else a big chunk of the time, simply because I HAD a choice. It’s a different game entirely if it isn’t a choice, I get that.

It didn’t take long to see some hostility between SAHM and working moms…my theory is guilt. Only my theory based on my own experience not a universal truth so calm down…your theory may kick my theory’s ass at recess…I don’t really care.  I had guilt as a SAHM because I was used to being financially independent and I had to constantly tell myself it’s OK, it’s best for the family (and it was best for us).

It was still hard to shake the guilt because of the lessons my mom taught me growing up. I was falling short by depending on a man. I think working moms feel guilt because they don’t see their kids as much. It’s just a hard frickan’ job whether or not you work outside the home.

I had to step away from my practical, always working self and do something completely different from what I had carefully planned. Sorry atheists…but for me being a SAHM was an act of faith. You see at that time between the health issues, unexpected unemployment, moving and other changes…I really felt like the universe was telling me to stay home, so I did. Honestly it is not something I did gracefully. It was out of necessity and circumstances that were bigger than me.

A week or so after my son’s first birthday, I took a pregnancy test and it was positive. This was unexpected. After the complications of my first delivery, my husband and I were a little scared. We “planned” on having one child. We were wrong. So one and done became two and through with lots of monitoring of my high-risk pregnancy.

Knowing what to look out for in the second pregnancy was helpful but it didn’t alleviate all of my fears. There were weeks when my husband traveled internationally and it was just me and our son. My fear was that I would throw a blood clot which would incapacitate me and my son would be the only one around. It was not an irrational fear.

Late in my second pregnancy, we were having a New Year’s Day dinner at my mother and father in-laws house. My sister in-law and her family were there as well. My husband was joking about some minor health issue he had. I laughingly said something like – “Sure you get a man cold, meanwhile, I’m throwing blood clots like a pitcher in the Major Leagues” – something stupid and yet (cue the the creepy music) prophetic.

The next day I felt that familiar dull ache behind my knee and I called my OBGYN. This time she had me go directly to the Maternity Ward at the hospital and did the ultrasound there. Sure enough I had another blood clot behind my knee. This granted me a 5 day stay in the hospital with an IV of blood thinners and mandatory bed rest.

When I was released from the hospital, I had instructions to inject myself in the abdomen twice a day with a blood thinner. Say whaaaaat? Every twelve hours I had to psych myself up to jab a needle into my very pregnant belly. Dare I say, super cringey stuff.

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We decided to temporarily move back to New Jersey to be near the hospital and closer to family. I injected myself twice a day for a month before the Hematologist and the OBGYN got together and decided it was time to schedule a C-section. They were both afraid of a bad outcome (fatalities really mess with their malpractice insurance and I think they liked me). I had another retractable filter inserted. This time I demanded a mild sedative for the procedure, much better.

At 35 weeks/6 days of my second pregnancy our daughter was born via C-section. Me, my husband and our trusted doctors, all decided it was best to perform a tubal ligation after the C-section. Apparently I suck at being pregnant. I was 36 and survived two high-risk pregnancies. We had one healthy boy and one healthy girl, no need to get greedy.

Our second baby was so much easier. Perhaps because we knew the drill and our expectations were not as regimented so we could relax more. We knew we couldn’t “plan” every aspect of things so we just rolled with it. Bonus this baby wasn’t colicky and slept a reasonable amount from a very early age. (You mean they don’t all scream for several hours continuously and wake up 4 times a night…for years?)

Fast forward many years and I can see how being a SAHM served me. If I am honest, I got the perks and the liabilities in good measure. The perks are obvious, I haven’t missed a thing with my kids. First steps, first tooth, first haircut, first day of anything – I was there for all of it. We had so many special day trips that wouldn’t have been possible if I worked outside the home. They don’t remember most of them. I do, and I suspect they are the days I will reflect on in old age.

When I walk into my kids school, I know half the faculty, the school board and at least 60% of the kids by name.  I have created a network of go-to moms that can get me through to the finish line or at least high school graduation. I have volunteered for just about everything in the district (exception: I refused to get on the school board, that is just bat sh*t crazy).

The liabilities are pretty stacked too thankfully some of them have passed.  My first born was a colicky baby who had night terrors and did not sleep through the night for FOUR years (4 mofo years). My kids are about 20 months apart and (aside from my hospital stays) I got up with both of them every single time. Every. Single. Time. During those years I fantasized about being alone with a fist full of Tylenol PM in a dark quiet hotel room. Sleep was like trying to catch vapor in those early years of motherhood.

Being a SAHM was great but I had no time to myself. I thought it would be good to get away from the littles few hours a day, I couldn’t. I looked forward to medical appointments to get some “me time.” Some days it was easier to have the blood drawn than to be home. And sometimes I had to take two kids with me to those appointments. When they were toddlers I would play hide and seek just to get a few minutes to myself in the kitchen pantry (there may have been Oreos in there).

 

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Sketch by Lisa McMillen http://www.cicalisadesigns.com/

Being out of the workforce for a decade didn’t do me any favors career-wise. This may be the biggest hit that a SAHM takes. That and the guilt about doing anything for yourself because you get to stay home. What saved my ass was a small group of women in a Moms Club. Unlike me, they “planned” to be SAHM and their friendships have had a huge impact on me.

 

 

 

Stayed tuned for future installments of #SuperCringe

Becoming a Mom

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Becoming a Mom

I was one of those doe-eyed first time moms who took the birthing classes, read libraries full of books and even (and I still chuckle at this) created a birth plan. My birth plan included a leisurely stroll on a New Jersey boardwalk while admiring the view of the Atlantic Ocean. This would be followed by a trip to the International House of Pancake (IHOP) where I would consume my soon-to-be-born baby’s weight in pancakes.

 

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Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_bhofack2′>bhofack2 / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

 

Full disclosure, I was a vegetarian when I became a human incubator and instead of embracing the holistic lifestyle, I decided to reintroduce meat. In fact, I fell off the vegetarian wagon during my first trimester when I ordered a hot dog at the San Francisco Airport. I was of the mindset that if my body wants it, I must need it. I was an idiot. My birth plan included stacks of pancakes and bacon, glorious bacon.

At 39 weeks pregnant, I had an ache behind my left knee. Whenever I tried to sleep on that side (I know who sleeps at 39 weeks pregnant) it hurt more. I told my doctor about it and she sent me for an ultrasound. Shortly after, I discovered I had a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and needed to go straight to the hospital. This was NOT in the birth plan. Sh*t got real very fast but I still wasn’t entirely aware of the danger.

The panicked looks on the medical staff in the Maternity Ward alerted me to the seriousness of the situation. A blood clot could have easily broken away from the DVT and instantly killed me or my baby. I was told to make one last trip to the bathroom, put on a hospital gown and then, DON’T MOVE!

A few hours later I was taken to the trauma unit. The plan was to insert a retractable filter in preparation of childbirth (apparently giving birth is fertile ground for throwing blood clots). The filter would, fingers crossed, break up any clots before they got to my lungs, heart or brain.  I was petrified. I sent my husband on an errand to distract him. I told him to get me a tuna sub because, hello…pregnancy cravings.

I silently begged God not to take me or my son away. Thoughts of my husband raising our boy alone were excruciating. I was placed on an operating room table and told to turn my head and not move. First they inserted a needle in to my jugular vein to numb the area (thank you and how about a little something to take the f*cking edge off) then the retractable filter was gently guided in to place.

 

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Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_megaflopp’>megaflopp / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

I don’t remember how long it took, it was an overwhelming blur. I do remember a sweet nurse holding my hand and telling me it would be OK while a stream a defiant tears made their silent escape. I wanted to ugly cry with sobs, snot and a heaving chest but the procedure did not allow for that. First lesson of motherhood, put your issues on the back burner honey, you have a small human depending on you now.

The retractable filter became my “get out of jail free” card (or try not to die card). The doctors and nurses were pretty sure that I wouldn’t clot out so they transitioned from let’s-keep-this-woman-alive to let’s get-this-baby-out. Shortly after the filter was inserted (tuna sub, consumed) I was told that labor would be induced.

Well, YAY! What first time mom doesn’t look forward to that. This was also NOT in the birth plan. I got the prostaglandin insert which is basically a tampon that is supposed to prepare the cervix for labor. I had mine “in” overnight. The next day was removal time and lucky for me they sent in Nurse Krueger for the process. She could not get it out despite her claw-like hands. Finally my OBGYN came to my rescue and removed it, humanely. Then we just waited for the magic to happen.

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The nurse must have been related to this guy.

The hours ticked by and I happily took the epidural.The idea of biting on a stick or focusing on some object to get me through this seemed a bit ridiculous. At this point I was happy to be alive. My whole beach walk, pancake eating birth plan was out the window. Eventually it was time to push. I pushed and pushed and pushed some more.

Two hours passed, then three, my OBGYN told me she had to go to NYC that night.  I pushed harder, she told me about the doc who would fill in for her (gasp, a man). Four hours of pushing, then five. My baby wasn’t coming out and my sweet doctor stayed with me. I have no idea what she sacrificed to stay with me that night but she did and I will always be grateful for that.

At one point during this process a group of eager looking med students came by to ask if they could observe.That was a big “HELL NO!” from me. I wouldn’t even let my mother in the room. It was just me, my stubborn refusing-to-be-born baby, my husband, my doctor and two nurses.That was enough of an audience.

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Scrubs: “Can we observe your tremendously complicated child birth?”                                                     Me: “Hell No!”

Back to my non-compliant baby…at some point it was obvious that my baby wasn’t coming out the traditional way and a C-section was in order. Great let’s do it.  Whaaaaaat? I have to wait for an operating room? Oh come on and there is a backup for C-sections. What are we at Newark airport, waiting to take off?

Since my baby wasn’t in distress, I needed to wait. I was grateful my baby was not in distress, I on the other hand was exhausted. About an hour later we got in and my son was born via C-section. I will never forget the relief I felt when I heard his cry. I was able to hold and nurse my son soon after delivery. It was miraculous especially after such a stressful delivery. It didn’t matter, nothing mattered except that my boy was healthy. Of course there were medical issues that I needed to confront and those would once again alter my plans.

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Actual photo of my birth plan...(not really).Photo by Movidagrafica Barcelona from Pexels

I had planned to breastfeed for six months. I figured once the teeth started to come in, I would transition out of it. I never considered not nursing in my “plan”. Apparently, that wasn’t in the cards. I was to be given a blood thinner for a minimum of six months as follow up treatment for my DVT. The retractable filter that was inserted could only stay in for two weeks.

The first time I felt like a sh*tty mom was the night of my son’s birth. I was talking to a friend (a staunch breast milk advocate) on the phone and her disappointment in my inability to breastfeed was palpable through the phone. I may have muttered something like “you know I almost died” while she extolled the benefits of breastfeeding. This is how it is for moms…you can come within a millimeter of death and someone will say something ridiculous to try and make you feel bad. I just wasn’t “Mom Enough” (screw you TIME Magazine).

I remember being somewhat shell-shocked the day we left the hospital. They let us leave with our son, I didn’t think we were qualified. My husband is an engineer and proper car seat installation was a bit daunting for him (unusual). The early arrival threw him off balance as well. Our son arrived a week before his due date.

My husband had a plan too, a project plan. We renovated our kitchen during my pregnancy. Kitchen renovations during pregnancy are a bad idea. You have to eat out all the time and wash the few dishes you do use in odd places like tubs or the laundry room sink. Our laundry room sink was in the basement with uneven stairs and my stomach was the size of 5 basketballs tethered together. The hubs had a renovation plan detailed out by date and the finish date for the renovation coincided with our son’s due date (feel free to laugh at the naivety of that one). I have no idea how he pulled it off but he managed to finish the kitchen before we came home from the hospital.

I don’t think we ever discussed it but when we got home our residential census grew by three – our newborn son and my in-laws. My mother and father in-law just moved in with us for the first week. Thank God they did, it was overwhelming. I remember sitting in the living room chair feeling like my breasts were two flaming bowling balls. I looked down a few times to make sure they were not actually on fire. My mother in-law brought me ice packs and happily held the baby.

Having your first baby is life changing. Having a newborn with your own medical complications ups the ante. Suddenly I had doctor appointments with a hematologist, and a pulmonologist, I had to get the “gist” of my condition. I also had to have my blood tested weekly to determine if the medication was effective.

Two weeks into the parenting thing, we felt like we were getting a handle on things. That was short-lived, out of nowhere our son started screaming, continuously…for hours at a time. We took him to the pediatrician and were basically told that we won the lottery and got a colicky baby.

He would literally scream for hours. We would hold him, rock him, swaddle him, sing to him, feed him, change him, drive him in the car, attempt bribes, nothing worked. It got to the point where I looked forward to blood draws and the doctor appointments just to get away from the screaming.

On top of this, I had to have my retractable filter removed. Keep in mind this was my safety net. I insisted on having an ultrasound on my leg to see if the DVT was gone before they removed the filter. You may think that would be a given but I had to advocate for myself to get that done. The prevailing thought was the filter needed to come out whether there was a clot or not. I needed to know.Thankfully the DVT had resolved.

A few weeks later, the blood thinners I was taking were giving me unusual symptoms, tingling in odd parts of my body like the bridge of my nose or my forearms. This prompted more visits to the “ists” – a neurologist and a radiologist to see if I had Lupus or MS. It was such a daunting time, it was a lot to juggle.

Things started to settle into a new normal and three months in, my maternity leave was coming to an end. I had it all worked out, my mother and mother in-law would each take one day a week and I found a great sitter for the other 3 days. I could work from home most days so I would be able to check in on my baby throughout the day. My new plan was on track (cue the foreboding music).

 

 

Mother’s Note: I want you to know that the once colicky baby is a great teenager today. In fact, once he got past the screaming non-stop for hours every night and not sleeping phase, he became the best behaved kid on the planet.