Categories
Children life

Musings of a New Mom

Parenthood is fulfilling. It’s surreal. It’s a blessing. Parenthood is frustrating. And exhausting. And anxiety fueling. Parenting, especially being a mom, is a never ending responsibility. Even when I’m not with her, I can’t help but wonder what she’s up to. And she’s only 10 months old. She’s not even able to leave the house or do anything on her own yet. How will it be in 10 more months? In five years? In ten years?

Being a mom is objectively the most fulfilling lifestyle I’ve incorporated. It’s enhanced my belief in the universe and a higher power. I don’t believe everyone should be a parent, nor that it is everyone’s purpose. I think the conversation about having children is too nuanced for this post, though I touch a little on it here. I do think being a mother is meant to be a part of my journey. Experiencing pregnancy, childbirth, and becoming a parent has given me a new perspective on life. It’s caused me to view other parents in a different light and has made it even easier for me to extend grace to others. It’s similar to how when you’re a child you view adults on a pedestal, looking up to them, only to grow up and realize everyone is really just trying their best and struggling in at least one area of their lives. There’s a different level of understanding of what parenthood is after being an active parent and caretaker.

Something I learned as a parent is that there really isn’t a right way to parent. Objectively there are “wrong” ways, because to a point human development is a science, we experience emotions, and trauma is everlasting, but there is no clear cut, one size fits all, way to parenting. People will shame and judge for minuscule things (like formula versus breast milk) and half of those people won’t even have kids of their own. What’s important is being active, present, and supportive for your child in whatever way works for your lifestyle and family.

Being a mom has given a new meaning to the word sacrifice, especially in the midst of covid. I spent nine months sacrificing my body for her. I’ll spend the rest of my life making decisions I hope benefits both of us. I’ve said “no” to outings I would have otherwise done in a heartbeat. Being a mom has made me more thoughtful and intentional in my actions. It’s made me want and hopefully succeed in being more present in my day to day life and spend less time on my phone and inside my inner world. It’s made me understand and become even more appreciative of the sacrifices and choices my parents have made throughout our lives to give my brother and I the lives they’ve given us.

Parenthood makes me anxious. Because what if one day she just stops breathing when she’s sleeping? (Luckily I think we’re past the SIDS phase). Or what if she hits her head too many times when she’s playing? Or what if I’m not doing enough to teach her and am stifling her development? What if I’m not spending enough time with her? And in this way, parenting really is a sort of projection. It forces you to look at yourself and your fears and your guilt and your boundaries. It forces you to look at how you were raised and decide how you want to parent.

Sometimes, I find myself comparing my daughter’s growth to the babies I’ve seen born around the same time. Sometimes I wonder if other people parent in similar ways than I do or if I’m just completely off mark in some respects. Sometimes, I feel guilty the few times I’m out with friends without her. Sometimes, I wish I had a little more free time and space to be carefree away from responsibilities.

In a few years there has to be studies on the effect the pandemic has made on babies and pregnancy. Being pregnant during a pandemic was experiencing two traumas at once. Being pregnant during a pandemic after graduating college, I could argue was experiencing three. I was experiencing three major changes in my life with little face to face contact with others. It felt like out of nowhere I popped up with a baby because few people actually saw me pregnant. Few people knew until late in my second trimester. And now I have a baby and we’re still in this weird standby with Covid, so few people have seen her in person. One of my friends was asking for more pictures of her, and it’s made me realize outside of social media, I really don’t think to send out pictures or updates of her in texts. I was thinking about why, and it is really for no other reason than the fact that I experienced pregnancy pretty isolated from people outside of my household. And now that the world is sort of opening up and I’m less isolated, I have to link the two realities.

The craziest part about parenting is seeing my little girl develop and do new things she wasn’t doing before. Before having a baby, I have been around babies and toddlers and children, but in their separate stages. I had never seen human development day by day with my own eyes before. Now she’s clapping and trying to stand all the time. She recognizes certain words. She knows her name. In ten plus months my baby went from a solely eating, sleeping, pooping newborn who couldn’t lift her head to a full blown baby who is starting to eat solids, who can crawl, and can sit up and stand by herself. Babies’ development is so drastic in the first year and it’s amazing to see it play out with my own eyes. She’s really growing and learning. She’s really almost a toddler.

Time has been moving so differently since the pandemic and my pregnancy. Sometimes, I worry I will blink and she’ll already be twenty one. She’s only a few months away from being a year, and I still look at her newborn pictures with nostalgia. It feels like it happened so long ago. It makes me want to freeze time.

Around this time (October 27th), a post has been going around Twitter from a mother who was struggling and unhappy in an attempt to shame her. I don’t have a picture of the post but it was a call for help. She was expressing some regrets and frustration about the reality of motherhood for her. And as parents, specifically mothers, it’s worth mentioning that society doesn’t often extend grace to us the way we deserve. The idea of being a super mom has become propaganda. People use the fact the most of the time motherhood is a choice as a weapon against mothers. People expect mothers to be at the top of their game all the time and to care for their kids without complaint or mentioning how their life has changed. (Please note, they don’t expect the same from fathers though).

Most people don’t genuinely know how or have the thought or time to be supportive of mothers. Unless you yourself are an active parent or caregiver, you will never fully understand that amount of physical, mental, and emotional energy that goes into caring for someone else. (Caring for pets can bring similar feelings but it’s different). And when you’re caring for someone else, you’re also caring for yourself and handling your own responsibilities too. That’s double on your plate, assuming you’re only responsible for one other person. I don’t know how people with multiple babies and toddlers do it. I don’t know how truly single mothers do it. I don’t know how teen mothers do it. I have newfound respect for parents and caregivers honestly. I can’t stress that enough.

It sucks that mothers, including myself, feel the need to shower the benefits of motherhood before talking about the harder parts. Why do we have to have the disclaimer– My kid is the best thing that has happened to me– before saying it hurt when she head butted me in the mouth while throwing a tantrum and caused my lip to bleed. Why do we feel so shamed to talk about the frustrations of raising and guiding another human being? Parenting is hard! You have to look at yourself and your boundaries and remember that your baby or toddler isn’t intentionally being harmful when they do hurtful things. One minute my baby is cute and precious and the next she’s testing my patience. I roll my eyes at every tantrum and cherish every moment of affection. No matter how she acts, I still love her the same and will always love her with my entire heart.

Being a parent is a living oxymoron. When she’s fussy, I beg for her to take a nap. And when she’s asleep, I want her to wake up. My daughter makes me roll my eyes when she cries because she can’t chew on my glasses and in a moment can make me smile when she rests her head on me. She makes me laugh when she has a giggle fit. She makes me frustrated when she bites me cause she’s teething. She makes me proud when she babbles back in conversation and makes me grin when she starts bouncing to a song. And when I want a break and leave her with one of my family members, I have the urge to check in after a few minutes. This goes back to the guilt of experiencing things for and by myself. It’s like when it’s summer you want it to be winter. When it’s winter, you want it to be summer. It’s probably best just to embrace the moment.

The reality is once you become an active parent or caregiver, few things are ever just about you anymore. The only time I have completely by myself is in the middle of the night if I can’t sleep and on my commute to work. Any plans made requires approval for someone else to make sure they will watch the baby. Before, I wanted to succeed in my career; now I have to continue gaining experience so that I can thrive in it. Being a mom, for me, means she comes first. There’s a reason airplanes instruct parents to help themselves first, in case of an emergency; that’s not the instinct. Being a mom means I make sure she’s settled before I eat or leave for work. It means she’s asleep or someone’s with her before I go to sleep. It means I think twice before making plans and I give myself an extra hour to get ready to leave the house. It’s means I rush when I do anything that takes my attention away from her.

Being a parent can take away from your individuality. Children need pretty constant attention in the early years of childhood. Everything is about the baby for at least the first year- I’m not sure when that ends. Especially when the baby is a newborn, people will check in on the baby, before checking in on you. They’ll understandably ask to see the baby when making plans with you. And when other people see you taking time away from your child, whether they themselves are parents or not, they tend to have something negative to say. Again, this is more so directed at mothers than fathers.

I have support, so it’s not like I can never have time to myself, but it doesn’t shake the guilt that comes with even the thought of taking time for myself. It’s been ten almost eleven months and I’ve never been away from her for an entire day. The idea of leaving her for that long is still hard. My baby didn’t ask to be born into this world; the least I can do is be present for her. This doesn’t mean that I and other mothers and parents are not still our own people though. It doesn’t mean we don’t deserve time away sometimes just because we chose to have children. It is so important to me that I and others don’t lose ourselves in parenthood and instead let it enhance us and became just another one of our identities.

My priorities, mindset, and perspective has completely changed from a year ago since becoming pregnant and a mother. Creating a happy and healthy life for my daughter and I is my goal in life. She is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I don’t think I can truly express how much I love her with words, even when she gets on my nerves.

Categories
Children life Pregnancy Self Love and Personal Growth

3 Months Post-Partum

It’s been three months, actually closer to four months by the time this is posted, since I gave birth. Giving birth via c-section was an experience to say the least. It was my third turning point on the ride that is the idea and reality of having children. (My first turning point was knowing I want children one day. The second was finding out I was pregnant). What came after were the first days of the rest of my life raising another human being.

My baby didn’t open her eyes for the first couple of weeks because the light was too bright. She was used to the darkness of the womb. For I don’t know how long, she’d eat and poop and pee and sleep. Then she’d wake up and cry because she’s hungry and drift off back to sleep, only to wake up and cry because she fell asleep too soon and was still hungry. Then, one day, she opened her eyes and it’s become a daily thing every time she is awake.

The thing I didn’t know until this experience is that parents lack sleep because babies need to eat every 2-4 hours, including during the middle of the night and early in the morning. If the baby doesn’t wake up by the 3-4 hour mark, you’re supposed to wake them up, and try to get them to eat. Call it efficient, or anxiety-fueled, or the steps a new mom would take, but for the first couple of weeks I set timers to ensure she was eating as often as recommended, especially at night, to make sure she was gaining weight. I don’t set timers anymore, mainly because she’s good at waking herself up when she’s hungry.

In the beginning, she would wake up anytime she was put down. She constantly wanted to be in someone’s arm and could tell when she wasn’t. As time goes on she gets more comfortable not being held all the time, though she prefers it. She still sleeps longer when she’s close to someone. You can tell when she’s knocked out cause her mouth will be open as she sleeps.

Week by week she stays awake a little longer and sleeps a little less. One day she smiled at me for the first time for no particular reason. Another day she laughed while she was awake, versus in her sleep, which was the only time I’d heard her laugh before. She tries to climb up me when we’re sitting down and bawls her eyes out when I clear out the mucus and boogers from her nose.

She’s developed different cries when she needs different things. She whines when she’s tired and is fighting sleep. She smiles when she sees a ceiling fan and the artwork on the walls. She’s curious when she’s in a new environment. She gets excited when she sees me or the friendly and familiar faces of our immediate family. She’s starting to babble more often and in response to us talking to her. She laughs when she’s amused and likes to stick her tongue out at us when she’s feeling playful. She chews on everything, especially her hands. She’s even trying to hold her own bottle.

In three months my baby has grown so much. She’s gained weight and gotten longer. Her eyebrows and eyelashes have grown in. Her umbilical cord fell off and her belly button, which was protruding, is slowly getting smaller and going in. She’s getting more hair on top of her head, which changes texture week by week. She’s gone up in diaper sizes. It’s surreal seeing her grow and noticing the changes in her physicality, personality, and development. She’s growing so fast it’s unreal. It makes my heart melt and ache.

I can talk about her all day. She’s allowed me to experience a different type of love. She’s allowed me to look at other children and other parents with more awe, respect, and understanding than I have in the past. Knowing she came from me is still surreal. She means more to me than I can put into words.

The c-section recovery was hard for me. My incision didn’t fully heal until 10 weeks, 2 1/2 months, after my delivery. It took 10 weeks, 2 1/2 months, for me to be cleared to exercise and go back to work.

Those were hard weeks because I couldn’t be self-sufficient. In the first couple of weeks it hurt to move, sleep, and laugh. It felt impossible to get comfortable. My autoimmune disease was also being a nuisance and I wasn’t cleared to breastfeed with the medication I needed to be on. That being said, I had to make the transition from breastfeeding to formula, which was something I wasn’t originally planning to do so soon.

Breastfeeding in itself is hard work. Breasts get engorged with milk which hurts, so you pump to store, which only stimulates more milk production. I had to ride out the engorging when I made the decision to stop breastfeeding because I was trying to lessen my supply. With breastfeeding it can be hard to get the baby to latch. Though my daughter didn’t have too much trouble with that, with the pain I was in, finding a comfortable position for the both of us was challenging. Also, being woken up every 2 hours, which was how often my daughter woke up to eat at first, was exhausting. It also hurt my nipples when she latched; nipple cream comes in handy with chafing.

I was sad about not being able to breastfeed for as long as I wanted, and held it off for as long as I could. On the upside, once I switched I didn’t have to deal with those challenges of breastfeeding anymore. Also, I have full autonomy of my body back. I can eat and drink anything without worrying if it is safe for the baby. I feel mobile again. I said bye bye to the nausea and the vomiting almost immediately after giving birth.

2 1/2 months later, about a month ago, I started working again. It was the first time I was away from my baby since giving birth. (And I started working sooner than I could have. I could have gone back in May). I mistakenly came back earlier than I was ready for and felt lost. Covid plays a role in all this too. I was on leave and social distancing for so long, it was hard to get into the rhythm of being around strangers and acquaintances. I got annoyed easier, especially when dealing with rude people. I would see children and think of my own baby. My hormones felt all over the place. I mean, I was still and still am producing milk. My breasts leak a little every once and a while and my period has yet to make an appearance. Needless to say, going back to work was a lot.

I rode it out though and am getting used to spending time away from my baby. Still, being a new mom and having a kid who is only a couple months old came with some baggage. I had some guilt about leaving her for work and not being home when she wakes up in the morning. I have trips planned without her to support my individuality but am worried about leaving and missing her. I constantly want to be around her. Sometimes, I need a break and am given one, only to miss her and want her back.

I also experienced anxiety specific to being a new mom. It gets better as time goes on. In the beginning I had a lot of anxiety throughout the day when I wasn’t with her, even if she was just a room away. I had/have anxiety about dropping her. Sometimes, the anxiety has affected my sleep; I wake up instantly thinking about her and go to check on her.

When people say it takes a village, they really aren’t lying. Raising another human being is a 24 hour gig. There’s no days or time off. And even though I go to work and have vacations planned without her, she was, is, and will always be there in the back of my mind. I’m so grateful for my parents and my brother who are always down to babysit when I’m working and watch her when I’m running an errand or sleeping. I can tell they love her as much as I do and that she feels the same about them. I know this experience would be ten times harder and more draining if I didn’t have their help and support.

I will say it is a little weird to call her my daughter still, mainly because of social distancing and the fact that I moved back to my hometown. And although I love speaking about her and my experience and sharing pictures, I don’t talk about her much to others daily, besides mentioning her existence, unless they bring her up first and ask questions. Most people I know don’t have kids and are in the “fuck them kids” stage of their life. Plus, I know it could get a little annoying. It’s also wild that I’m meeting people who will never know me when I wasn’t a mom. Like, every person I meet from now on will always know and see me as a mom among my other identities and qualities versus the person I was before I was pregnant. It’s wild and it just reaffirms that I’m in a new stage of my life. Because, let’s be real; having kids changes you. It’s changed me and given me a new outlook on life.

Society also has a weird thing against moms, especially single moms, especially black single moms. I don’t know exactly how to describe this disdain. I’m sure it’s rooted in misogyny and misogynoir. But there’s this pressure to be a “good” mom whatever that means. There’s pressure to give birth a certain way and to breastfeed. There’s pressure to go back to work quickly. There’s pressure to spend all of your time with your baby without any breaks or time without them. There’s pressure to endure a nine month pregnancy, birth a child, and raise a kid for the rest of your and their life while working and to make it appear as if all those things are done flawlessly, without breaking a sweat. There’s pressure to act a certain way because you’re a mother now. There’s pressure to raise your kids a certain way, especially by people who don’t even have children. There’s pressure to lose all of the baby weight and to lose it all quickly. Regardless, I have to remind myself that I am more than a mom and more than a single black mom. They are parts of me, but not all of me. My life encompasses my daughter’s, but they are still two separate lives. I don’t have to live up to the imaginary standards society places onto motherhood.

The hardest parts about being a mom so far has been the change in sleeping habits, accepting the change in my weight and my body, and the new mom anxiety. The best parts about being a mom are watching her grow before my eyes, experiencing this type of love, and honestly just her entire existence. These three/ four months have been a whirlwind. They’ve also been life changing and worthwhile. I wouldn’t trade it in for anything and it’s exciting to see where life will take us from here.

Categories
life Pregnancy

Let’s Talk About: Childbirth

After a long 39 weeks, I finally welcomed my baby girl into the world. For the sake of the transparency that I offer on my blog about topics I discuss, here’s what I have to say about childbirth, based on my experience.

For some reason I haven’t thoroughly researched, there’s discourse surrounding the way people give birth. I think generally speaking it doesn’t matter which way a person gives birth. It should be a choice made by the pregnant person. No one should be shamed for the way they give birth. It’s divisive for no reason.

There are benefits to both vaginal birth and c-sections. I wouldn’t say one is easier than the other; each one brings about its own risks and effects. Some are shamed for choosing to have a c section as if it’s not a “real” birth. Some are shamed for using pain medication during a vaginal birth. I find all of the discourse arbitrary. All I advise is you research both options and the use of pain medication as thoroughly as you can, talk to your doctor about your concerns, and make a decision from there.

To put it bluntly, childbirth isn’t easy. A pregnant body is able to change to carry a baby and deliver it, but that doesn’t make it easier or less painful. People downplay the dangers and pain that come with childbirth because there’s a beautiful outcome. Your brain also releases chemicals to make you forgot just how awful the experience was. I was asked by some friends how I rate the overall pregnancy and childbirth experience. I rate it a 2/10. It wasn’t fun for me at all, but I also shockingly would do it all again. I look at my daughter and would repeat it all again in a heartbeat.

If you don’t know by now, I’m not going to sugarcoat my thoughts or experience surrounding pregnancy and childbirth. If you’re looking for something to ease your mind surrounding this, don’t keep reading. Look somewhere else. I’m not saying this to be intimidating. Everyone’s experiences are different and there’s no point in psyching yourself out based on my own experience when you’re looking for comfort.

To me, childbirth is a trauma regardless of the way you deliver your baby. Vaginal birth comes with hours of labor and contractions and hours of pushing a six pound baby out of your vagina. For the people who do it without pain medication, I salute you, cause that could not be me. C-sections are quicker and less painful in terms of the initial delivery, but have other effects that don’t make it any less painful of a process.

I haven’t heard many people’s experiences with childbirth. Because of this, I will share mine. There shouldn’t be a mystery surrounding childbirth and pregnancy. I wholeheartedly believe it needs to be discussed with more authenticity. I think the reason it isn’t is so people don’t get turned off of having kids.

I got a C-section because of my autoimmune disease, but if I had a real choice, I would probably still choose a C-section. The idea of vaginal birth is too traumatizing to me; it scares me, especially when considering the tears that you can experience alongside of the delivery. The C-section I got was also traumatic in a different way though, so you really just need to pick what’s best for you and your situation and know that the pain and discomfort is temporary. The end will all be worth it.

My C-section was scheduled. The date was chosen by my Obgyn based on my due date. I researched what I could to have some sort of understanding about what I was going to experience, but stopped when I realized it was making me more anxious. I couldn’t eat when I woke up. I got to the hospital a couple hours earlier than the scheduled time. They gave me IVs, went through a bunch of health questions, discussed rules surrounding Covid, answered any of my questions, listened to the baby’s heartbeat, monitored me for contractions, and took my vitals. My c section got pushed back because of an emergency one. When the time came, they walked me to the operating room.

It’s cold in there, and not just because they regulate the temperature for the baby’s entrance. Everything’s sterile, the room is bright, and the instruments for the surgery were extra shiny. There was also a pediatrician, my obgyn, another obgyn who was helping with the procedure, an anesthesiologist, and three nurses compacted with me in this overly bright room. Eventually my mom would join us. Luckily, everyone was pretty welcoming.

The first thing that happened was the spinal injection. You have to hunch your back for the anesthesiologist to find the right spot to inject. I felt a spark rush through my thigh that scared me and brought tears to my eyes. The rest of the injection didn’t hurt too much. Almost instantly my legs felt tingly. They lied me on the table and hooked me up to more IVs and a heart rate monitor. They told me I shouldn’t feel any pain but I would feel touching, tugging, and pulling.

They did their various tests to ensure I couldn’t feel pain. I also couldn’t feel the difference between hot or cold below my chest; the blocker really worked. As I’ve said in my previous post, I’ve suffered from nausea my whole pregnancy. I was nauseous waiting for the c-section partly because there was no food in my stomach. The epidural is known to make people nauseous. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t move my body. I couldn’t hear out of one of my ears and when I told them, they assured me it wasn’t because of the epidural, that it was probably because of the environment. I realized I was having a little panic attack.

I tried to swallow the nausea but I couldn’t. I mustered enough strength to tell the anesthesiologist I was nauseous. He handed me a bag and I proceeded to throw up in it. But I couldn’t lift my head, so I was throwing up out of the side of my mouth. I barely made it into the bag. As this is happening my mom got brought it. The procedure had already started. My hearing came back, I continued to throw up, and I tried to stay calm. My mom and the anesthesiologist checked in with me periodically to make sure I was okay.

At some point I was warned I would start to feel some tugging. I could feel it as they reached in to pull out my baby. Before I knew it I heard her crying. I felt like crying but because of the shock of the situation I couldn’t. My mom went to cut the umbilical cord and talk with the pediatrician who did a routine check up. The doctors finished closing me up. I was too nauseous to hold my daughter, but I got to see her close by once the check up was done. After the procedure, they moved me to the recovery room where I stayed with my daughter and my mom for a while. They continued tracking my vitals and those of my newborn. I still felt out of it from the procedure.

People downplay the fact a c-section is a surgery. The spinal blocker didn’t wear off until the next day. I had a catheter put in and when it was taken out the next day I had to remind myself how to pee. It hurt to laugh, sneeze and cough, sit down, stand up, walk and do anything that required abdominal muscles. It’s been about two weeks since my surgery and it still hurts to do some of those things. After a c-section you’re instructed not to do anything pretty much. You can’t push or pull anything. You can’t lift anything heavier than your baby. You can’t do housework. You can’t drive. You can’t exercise. You can’t go up and down stairs too much. For me it was hard to find a comfortable position to sleep in.

Alongside the surgery recovery, is the recovery from childbirth and adjusting to a newborn in general. You start bleeding again as your uterus begins to shrink. You can feel cramping and contractions still. The colostrum from your breasts transitions to milk. The hormones are still there. The risk of postpartum depression exists. You learn more and more about your baby and engage in taking care of them day by day.

Childbirth is a whole spectacle no matter how you delivery. A lot goes into it and the recovery. Officially it’ll take about 6 weeks to be fully recovered from the c section. This is the most in depth I could explain

Categories
Food For Thought life Pregnancy

Let’s Talk About: Pregnancy

Pregnancy is bittersweet. Overall, pregnancy is beautiful. It’s a surreal, life changing experience. Sex can really create a whole ‘nother organism by chance with time. A sperm and an egg really turns into a cluster of cells that becomes a fetus and is born into a baby. Overall, pregnancy is awe-inspiring. Day by day though? Let’s talk about it.

What I have to say about pregnancy is solely based on my experience. Everyone experiences pregnancy differently. Each pregnancy is typically different than another, though there are common symptoms. One person will most likely have a different pregnancy experience with each pregnancy they have. I always say it and I always will say, being pregnant has made me more passionately pro-choice. I say pregnancy is bittersweet because, while I love feeling my baby move and hearing her heartbeat at the doctor’s is relaxing, the entire process is exhausting.

I don’t think pregnancy is talked about enough with transparency, when it comes down to the symptoms, feelings, and overall journey. It is about a whole nine-month process that takes up a person’s life, yet the details of it are barely discussed. Maybe it is because I haven’t seen someone’s journey firsthand. Maybe it is because pregnancy can be a personal thing and not everyone wants to talk about the details. Maybe it is because some people have nothing to say about it and walk through pregnancy like a breeze. Maybe it’s because we’re expected to be grateful to be able to create and carry a baby full term. I want to talk about my pregnancy journey, raw and unfiltered, as a 22/23 year old black woman living in a pandemic. And no, it’s nothing like it’s portrayed on tv.

We can start at the beginning, when I first found out I was pregnant. Looking back, a lot of the signs were there. I just wasn’t looking for them. My breasts weren’t sore but they did look bigger to me, which I didn’t question. My sense of smell was slightly stronger. I had the cravings that I normally wanted during my period. I consistently had a very weird metallic type taste in my mouth that wouldn’t go away, even after brushing my teeth. I thought I had gotten a sinus infection because I was getting headaches, my ears were popping, and my nose was a little stuffy. Because Covid is a thing, I was getting temperature checks pretty much every day before work, and my temperature, which is usually around 94-96 degrees was reaching 98 degrees. I felt gassy regularly. I was told I was glowing. I was unexplainably tired all of the time and felt a tightness in my stomach. I noticed my uterus pouch bulging a little, but didn’t think to question why. All of this happened within the first couple weeks of pregnancy.

Technically, I have a healthy pregnancy. I don’t have preeclampsia or gestational diabetes. My blood pressure is typically at a good rate. I’m not gaining too little weight or too much weight too fast. I have yet to have leg cramps or worry about blood clots. The baby moves and is growing where she is supposed to. In this way, I am lucky and thankful. I do see the doctor every two weeks though and have since I started going, which is more often than most people who are pregnant.

My pregnancy experience encompasses the unique experience that I have an autoimmune disease. The biggest hardship has been the flare-ups from the disease. My version of it is considered moderate to severe and is linked closely with my hormones, which pregnancy has a big effect on. The flare ups have made me relatively immobile and put me in an intense amount of pain or un-comfortability for days at a time. I used to give myself a shot in the thigh every week for it. With pregnancy, I could no longer be on the medication, and I was already behind doses when I found out the exciting news. My doctors gave me at least three different antibiotics to try instead and none of them were as effective as the shot I was taking before. It has taken a while for the most recent prescription to help ease my symptoms. The disease had gotten the worst it had ever been during pregnancy, and now, eight months later at the end of my pregnancy, is the most comfortable I have been in regards to flare ups. I spent a good 75%-80% of my pregnancy in pain or uncomfortable and probably 10% of that crying my eyes out solely because of this wretched disorder that maybe one day I’ll explain. It has gotten easier as the pregnancy went on, and with my third trimester it has whined down, but damn it has been rough.

The nausea is the second hardest part about my pregnancy. Some women are blessed not to experience nausea at all. For some, the nausea goes away by the second or third trimester. Mine has lasted throughout my entire pregnancy and it is accompanied by vomiting. Though my doctor hasn’t explicitly told me I have hyperemesis gravidarum, I think it’s fair to say I have that, which is extreme morning sickness. In the beginning I couldn’t even keep down water. Some days I still can’t. Anything I ate I would throw up; for at least two weeks I barely ate anything at all. The smell of food and coffee at my job made me nauseous. I spent so much time in the bathroom and my disease was increasing in intensity, it was best for me to go on a leave of absence.

Throwing up everyday turned into throwing up a couple times a week. There was maybe a month or two where I was vomit-free and that was because of medication. Now, around 33 weeks the nausea has come back. All the vomiting has led to a little blood in my throw up from time to time. Throughout this pregnancy, I have been on at least three different antacids and if memory serves, two different nausea medications. Pregnancy is the first, and only time, I had to get an IV to resupply the nutrients in my blood. That happened recently in my last trimester and I proceeded to throw up in the hospital as well.

There are also other little symptoms that come with pregnancy that I had no idea about until I experienced it. Heartburn is a big one for me, and is also a source of where my nausea comes from. Back pain is the obvious one most people know of. I get headaches more often. Sometimes, not very often, my nipples have been sore. I see un-concerning floaters in my vision from time to time. I’m out of breath easier and towards the end of my pregnancy can really feel my baby applying pressure, which affects the way I move, sit, lie down, and get up.

My heart rate randomly speeds up and is noticeably faster because a pregnant body is working twice as hard. During pregnancy, your joints loosen and your center of balance is different than before. Your feet and hands can swell, it can be hard to sleep, and towards the end, you really do have to pee all the time, which doesn’t help when it is hard to sleep. There is also this thing called sciatica, which is nerve pain in the hips, that was aroused in me for about a month. The constipation that comes with pregnancy can also be annoying depending on the severity. I have luckily only had one really hard morning. UTIs and other vaginal infections are also easier to catch. I am hot literally all the time, even when it’s freezing outside. I’ve been a different type of tired throughout most of my pregnancy. I’m sure there are other little symptoms that pregnancy brings that I can’t remember or haven’t experienced, at least yet. If you’re reading this and are pregnant, contact your doctor for any symptom concerns. Some are signs of bigger issues, they just haven’t proven to be for me.

Those are all the physical aspects of pregnancy that I can remember I’ve been experiencing. There are also the mental and emotional sides too. Pregnancy brain is really a thing. Sometimes, I just can’t think. The emotional rollercoaster that comes with hormone changes hasn’t been as dramatic for me as people claim it to be. Still, things that wouldn’t normally make me cry have made me cry to the point I question why I’m crying. I get agitated easier. Some days I’m just sad for no real reason.

In the beginning, I struggled with if I even wanted to continue with this unplanned pregnancy for months. It was the hardest decision I’ve ever made and it will probably be the most fulfilling. In general, I have anxiety. Being pregnant, especially pregnant in a pandemic, has brought about more anxiety with it. I have worried about all the things that can go wrong during pregnancy and delivery. You honestly never really know what will happen until the baby is born. I have worried about catching Covid, about when it will end, and what it and its effects will morph into when my daughter is older. I worry about the racist, sexist, problematic world I am bringing a child into. I worry about if she is healthy and whether or not I will be okay and survive during childbirth, especially as a black woman. I worry about being neglected by doctors and if there are or will be obvious signs that something is not right that will be missed. I worry about being a statistic and being further stereotyped and about what life will look like when she’s here. I worry about the “dad” popping up in a couple years and having to deal with him. I worry if I can’t feel her move enough or if she is moving too much. I worry that the doctor won’t be able to find her heartbeat. I worry about sudden infant death and the newness of everything that comes with caring for a newborn. And this is all just on the top of my head. Literally anything there is to worry about regarding pregnancy and motherhood, I have worried about it as some point.

Being pregnant during Covid is also a different experience because I am taking Covid seriously. I was immunocompromised before pregnancy; now I’m further immunocompromised. Being on leave of absence, being high risk and acting high risk means I rarely leave the house or see anyone outside of my household and doctors. Few people have really seen my pregnancy bump develop. No one has really felt her move, partly because she tends to stop when anyone tries to feel. Every appointment I have, I have to attend by myself because visitors can’t come in. When I give birth, only one person is allowed in the hospital with me. It is nice to avoid the unsolicited advice and comments from strangers, but pregnancy during Covid is a different experience. I have no base comparison so who knows what else I’m missing out on.

Because of the stage I am in my life and because of Covid, I have chosen to isolate from others. As selfish as it sounds, not reaching out to others often, if at all, has given me space to focus on myself and the start of a new chapter. I haven’t avoided anyone, but I also haven’t engaged much with anyone who didn’t reach out to me first. For me specifically, isolating was a necessary step for growing and educating myself, though it may not be for anyone else, especially since pregnancy is essentially a waiting period. I’ve been waiting what feels like lifetimes for my daughter’s arrival. I’ve been waiting to be able to start working again.

There is also the whole gaining weight to support your baby thing. Pregnancy will be the most I have ever weighed. As someone who has always had her weight commented on, from when I was a fat child to when I was proportioning out to when I was losing weight, there was a time during this pregnancy when it was triggering to have my weight checked often and to explain my eating habits, especially when I was having trouble keeping food down in the first place. For the most part I got used to it, but there are still those days. For example, the IV caused me to gain five pounds in two weeks, and I was petrified up until my ob told me that my weight looked good and that I probably was dehydrated before the IV. Also statistically most people who are pregnant gain more then they’re “supposed” to. I find it a little arbitrary and though it is necessary it is tracked because excessive or too little weight gain can lead to other problems, I do think being super strict about it is a product of society. There is so much going on in your body and mind when your pregnant. Worrying about weight when it isn’t part of a bigger issue will only cause further stress.

Pregnancy in itself can also be a lonely experience, but not because you’re alone. Some know right away what their next step is after a positive pregnancy test is. I didn’t. When you are unsure, it is difficult to talk about making the choice to continue a pregnancy with people who have never been pregnant and struggled with the choice themselves. People understandably project what they would do or their concerns onto you when it is not their life being affected. At first, it was hard and strange to hear “Congratulations,” when the initial excitement that I could actually have kids of my own was taken away from me, when I didn’t feel like I had a choice, when I was being pressured into a decision that didn’t align with what my gut said, when I was unsure about having and coping with an abortion, and when I was overall confused about what I wanted. It can be hard to talk about pregnancy with people who aren’t currently or have never been pregnant because they can’t have a real understanding of it. And honestly, who really wants to hear about the nitty gritty of the experience in a casual conversation? Even with support, and even with someone I am close to being pregnant, there were times when pregnancy was alienating for me.

Being transparent about how pregnancy can be hard and tiring is not something people want or expect to hear. It can sound like a lot of complaining about a beautiful journey that not everyone who wants to gets to experience. People want to talk about food cravings, your growing baby bump, and names for the baby. (I crave a lot of sweets by the way, to the point that they show up in my dreams. I haven’t craved anything I usually don’t like, but sometimes I have craved something, taken a bite, and become disgusted. I also can’t eat some things I like such as spicy food.)

The conversations around pregnancy are usually light and full of excitement. After all, it is an exciting time! All I can think about is seeing my baby and what she’ll look like when she cries and laughs. I just think it’s important to be able to say “pregnancy is beautiful and I am excited for my daughter’s entrance into the world” as well as “fetuses and babies in the womb are basically parasites” without it being controversial, simply because parasite has a negative connotation and because, often times, continuing with a pregnancy is a choice. Also because, by definition, that’s what they are.

Continuing with or ending a pregnancy is a personal choice to be made by the person carrying the baby and should be treated as such by the other party involved, society and law. Even though I didn’t feel comfortable with it this pregnancy, we’re pro-abortion over here, especially because for about nine months, during pregnancy, your body isn’t yours. Your body will neglect you to encourage the growth of the eventual baby. You have to watch what you eat, drink, take vitamins, and ride out all of the symptoms to encourage the healthy development of the fetus . For almost a year. And then after that you are responsible for your baby in every way basically for the rest of your life if you aren’t putting the baby up for adoption and if you’re a considerate parent.

I didn’t research anything about pregnancy until I experienced symptoms and wanted to know if they were normal. There is so much that comes with pregnancy. Pregnancy isn’t all sunshine and rainbows for everyone who experiences it and I don’t think it should be portrayed that way. I decided to share my experience to normalize the hard and irritating parts of it. The truth is, pregnancy, just like life, has it’s good days and bad days. My pregnancy in itself has been good, but the side effects, most noticeably the hormone changes, have triggered other symptoms inside my body that’s not fun to deal with, especially on top of the other common pregnancy symptoms. It would be a lie to say some days haven’t been really hard. I am happy I continued with this pregnancy because after experiencing all of this I don’t know if I want to do it again. It’s made me consider if I really want more children, (which I do but like damn at what cost).

I say pregnancy is worth it, simply because of my mindset behind having children, which is different than the norm, because I’ve always wanted to be a mom and because I made the choice on my own to continue with my pregnancy. I am thankful for this experience. Pregnancy itself has already changed who I am and helped me grow as a person. I will also say I am over it. I have been ready to give birth and hold her in my arms for months. I am ready to eat what I want when I want without worrying about if it’s safe for the baby or throwing up. I am ready to be back on medication I know works. I am ready to stop throwing up and am ready to start becoming nimble and mobile again.

Few tell you the hardships of pregnancy. Maybe they’re focused on the prize at the end of the race. And though the rainbow is beautiful at the end of the storm, it doesn’t change the fact there was a whole storm you managed through to get there. The storm makes me more appreciative. The prize makes it worth it.

Categories
Children Food For Thought life Pregnancy

The Mindset Behind Having Children

A friend texted me the other day regarding my last blog post, which talked about my pregnancy and my decision to keep the, now baby, growing inside of me. She told me that she also envisioned herself having a kid, without the father or a partner by her side. That for some reason, she pictures herself pregnant with her belly out and that’s it.

Texting with her about her thoughts and sharing mine made me think more about how society expects people to have children and to have them a certain way. We’re lowkey taught that babies come out of love and out of marriage. I mean, we were singing on the playground “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in a baby carriage.” Most people do not envision having children until they are married. And I get it because we are taught that. I get it because children are looked at as two people’s legacies. I get it, because the idea of marriage brings about an idea of stability, which is important for babies and children growing up. With marriage, one can assume you would have someone to make decisions with, to lean on, and to help take care of and raise the children. Regardless of my understanding of this thinking, I think society needs to shift its mindset behind it.

For one, not every person with a uterus wants to have children. That, like most ideas regarding children and marriage, comes from a traditional way of thinking. Women were expected to stay home, raise a family, and take care of their husbands back in the day. Hell, some men still expect that now, whether they are aware of it or not, when it is not reality. It should’ve never been the reality, but you know, misogyny. Women are people with their own goals, feelings, thoughts, and lives. Surprise, surprise. Some people with uteruses do not see babies or raising children fitting into their life plan. What’s the problem with that?

And on the topic of tradition, let me just mention real quick that people, mainly women, weren’t really supposed to have sex outside of marriage. Doing so would strip them of their “purity.” They would become “whores” and “harlots,” unwanted by a man they could’ve married for soiling their name. Back then, marriage was a woman’s main role. The concept of virginity was just another attempt by men, and upheld socially by both men and women, to control women and their actions because of their “inferiority.” Effects of this still exist today, including but not limited to, the concept of slut shaming, for example.

There’s still the pushing of people, mainly woman, to just get married and have children already. For why, though? Why rush them into lifelong commitments with a partner or with children? Why rush married people into having children? What if they can’t have or afford children? What is societies need of focusing and controlling other people’s lives?

Don’t get me wrong, I still envision getting married and having more kids one day. Even though it is a want, it isn’t a need. As I said in that previous post, I have always wanted to be a mother more than a wife. Over the years, I began to view children, for what they are: people who come about because of sex. I grew out of the mindset that children were products of love or a relationship. Yes, consensual sex sometimes occurs out of love, but that is not the reality for everyone. Yes, consensual marriage tends to come out of love, and married people tend to have sex, but in the long term some marriages lead to divorce. Some people fall out of love. Some people begin loving someone else. I didn’t and don’t want to feel stuck to someone solely because of another person, even if it is our child. I didn’t and don’t want to stay in a relationship because of a child. I don’t want to rush a relationship because of a child. It’s why I didn’t move in with my baby’s “father” when he suggested it after we found out I was pregnant. I don’t want to have an abortion if I feel ready and am able to raise a child, even if the other person isn’t on board. And ultimately I didn’t have an abortion because I didn’t want one, could adjust my life to raise a child, and I don’t view children as products of a relationship or of love.

When I found out I was pregnant, I wanted to co-parent, especially because I was worried about having a boy. Co-parenting simply put, is two people raising a child together who are not in a serious romantic relationship. From my viewpoint, boys tend to take not having a father around more personally than girls; I only say this because, when girls grow up, they tend to understand the situation because of their own interactions with men. Co-parenting can be just as productive as a married couple or a couple in a relationship raising a child together. What matters is that kids feel loved, understood, and supported. What matters is that both parties are mature, can communicate effectively, are on the same page, and support one another. These concepts can be achieved, challenging, or seemingly impossible while co-parenting. It can be achieved, challenging, or seemingly impossible in marriages and among couples in relationships. Living under the same roof makes raising children easier, but it’s not necessary, especially if you give your child the tools to understand the situation without judgement when they’re older. Why can’t someone choose a specific person to co-parent with? Why can’t two people who know they want children do so platonically without judgement?

As time went on, I realized, with this person, I didn’t want to co-parent. I wanted it because society says children need both parents to thrive. I wanted it because he said he would be there. I wanted it because society looks at people who stray away from tradition differently. Though she may not be the only one, for now at least, she’ll be a girl without a father on Father’s Day. I wanted it because growing up, at least for now, my daughter will think something is missing because society will continuously tell her that, even if she doesn’t feel that way at first.

I changed my mind about co-parenting because I realized the tools I stated earlier that are needed for it to be successful aren’t there. He also isn’t ready for the responsibility, regardless of what he told himself in the beginning. Forcing that to work would only harm her more in the long run. Regardless of what the laws say, regardless of what society says, having both parents in a child’s life is not always the best option, even in non extreme circumstances. People who think their parents should get divorced can understand this. People who have seen children used as pawns or ways for parents to feel control and power can understand this. People who get along with one parent and not the other can understand this. The knowledge of this, however, will not change how a child feels about it growing up, but hopefully with honest communication and the tools needed for understanding, they will come to understand and accept it, without it affecting them negatively.

Another example, to wrap this up, I was watching Insecure on HBO by Issa Rae months ago. I was around two months pregnant. Spoiler alert, one of the side characters ends up pregnant. Of course she’s pregnant by the man the protagonist is trying to get back together with. She tells him she’s pregnant, tells him she was ready to have a baby, and tells him he doesn’t have to help. After all of that, when the episode aired, people were commenting on Twitter that her choice was selfish. That is was weird she was ready to have a child with a man she wasn’t in a relationship with when she had gotten an abortion in a previous, more serious, relationship. That she was messing up his current relationship because she knew he would stick around to help her with the baby.

All of the blame regarding the situation went to her and people questioned her intentions, but no one said anything about the man who got her pregnant. No one said that he should be around because he is also responsible for her pregnancy. No one thought it could work out successfully through co-parenting and the protagonist being understanding of the awkward but workable situation. The new season isn’t out, so it’s unclear what her intentions actually are. Still the fact people’s first response was that she was having the baby to trap him is ridiculous. I’m not saying people don’t do that. I’m saying that we are so conditioned to view children as products of a relationship and of love that even when a fictional woman chooses to keep a baby, even if it means she will be a single mom, people assume it’s to keep a man close by. People are pro-choice when it comes to having an abortion, and rightly so, but when it comes to choosing to have a baby with or without the partner present, then people start acting weird, calling the decision selfish. I can’t tell you how much guilt I was made to feel for making the decision that was best for me.

I always pictured having my first child without a partner. Although I was content with it when it was just an idea, and I am content with it as my reality, it does not change how society views it. It doesn’t change the few people who were surprised I said I was going to continue with the pregnancy, even though the relationship wasn’t serious. It can be hard to ignore the stigma around single moms, especially black ones. It doesn’t change people’s thoughts that a woman would have a child just to keep a man around. It can be hard not to feel a type of way when people say on social media that women should “choose better men” or “not open their legs for bums.” And tell me how a lack of responsibility on the man’s part leads to judgement of a woman?

All of this just made me think, what’s wrong with a person with a uterus choosing to have a child alone? Why must it be a product of a relationship or of love? Why would it be more acceptable if I chose to have a baby for and with a man versus for myself?