Brittany Knows #momlife – Pregnancy

This is the first in a multi-part series about my pregnancy, birth experience, and the first year with my son. This series is inspired by one of my best friends who, when speaking with her candidly about my experience, told me I needed to blog about it. This isn’t going to be a picture-perfect depiction of #momlife. What it will be is real. Often embarrassing. Sometimes beautiful. More often flawed. Definitely messy. Full of the self-deprecating humor I’m known for, and, undoubtedly honest.

What I want every mom, soon-to-be-mom, curious woman, prospective parent, casual bystander, and grandparent to know above all else is that everyone’s experience is different. Each person is unique. Each child is a person, and therefore, also unique. What worked for me most definitely won’t work for you. But you might enjoy the story.

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If you pay any mind to Old Wives’ tales, carrying a boy is a lot easier than a girl. If there is any truth to it – my only experience so far has been with my son – then this must be because boys are exhausting once they exit the womb and Mother Nature, being all about balance, is giving you a break on the front end of the parenting gig. So, let the eye rolling commence, but I did absolutely love being pregnant. Before I dive into it, let’s back up a little to the precursor to pregnancy: conception.

We were fortunate in that conception happened really quickly for us. I’m not sure how much of a difference this makes, but I had been off of my hormonal birth control for about a year and a half before we tried to conceive. Also, Ireland. Might have been the whiskey, or the fairies. Probably the whiskey.

Once you find out you are pregnant, which we did around 6 weeks with a home pregnancy test, you discover due dates are confusing. Technically they start the clock from the end of your last monthly cycle – so you really only have a fertilized embryo and the symptoms that go along with it for closer to 7 or 8 months, rather than the 9 months we’ve all come to associate with pregnancy. I just used a handy due date calculator on the BabyCenter app.

The primary symptom of my first trimester was fatigue. No nausea, no insomnia, no morning sickness. I felt pretty good, but a little tired. By the second trimester, I had a burst of energy. It wasn’t until around 38 weeks that I started to feel huge, unwieldy and ready for Baby G to make his appearance. This was mostly psychological because we had convinced ourselves he would be early (BIG mistake!)

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Again, everyone’s experience is different. I’m not sure how much of this made a difference or not, but during my pregnancy I did the following:

  • Yoga – I was taking hot yoga through my first trimester as I was still teaching and taking at Arrichion . By second trimester, I had dialed it back to non-heated prenatal yoga at Yoga for Life off Morehead near uptown Charlotte. It was only once a week, and we focused a lot on breath work, feeling connected to baby, and keeping our hips open and flexible. My favorite exercise was our “mock contractions,” where we essentially held a wall sit until our thighs burned and learned to breathe through it. While there were definitely physical benefits to the practice, it was being surrounded by other women and sharing resources that I enjoyed the most.
  • Walking – I work uptown, and so around midday I would go and do laps around Romare Bearden park. After work or on weekends, Brian and I would walk around our neighborhood, Wesley Heights, or the nearby greenway.
  • Chiropractic care and acupuncture – I have a terrible fear of needles. I did acupuncture primarily to face my fear in preparation for getting required blood work at my birthing center, although we did focus on acupuncture points to help relieve the stress and physical symptoms of pregnancy. I did about 4 or 5 sessions, and by the last one I actually found it pretty relaxing. We also did regular adjustments to help relieve back pain, and keep Baby G in a good position as much as we could. I highly recommend Dr. Bailey.
  • Therapy – Again, fear of needles. And medical procedures. And blood. And doctors. Not a good recipe for deciding to get knocked up. I saw a therapist for a few months to help find some coping mechanisms to keep my anxiety from becoming overwhelming. I felt a lot of the techniques were similar to those in my yoga practice, so I ended up ending my sessions after awhile. I do think it was helpful at the start though. There was a lot of ugly crying, vocalization of fears, and raw honesty. Easier to do with someone who is paid to listed, and who you probably won’t run into socially.
  • Reading – What To Expect, although my doula and almost everyone else I talked to said I should have skipped it. That it creates a lot of unnecessary fear. I didn’t read it all, but what I did read I didn’t find to be too bad. I did enjoy Mindful Birthing though, which aligned with my decision to go for an unmedicated birth experience. I had ambitions to read Yoga Mama, Yoga Baby, but never got around to it.
  • Diet – I tried to keep a mainly healthy diet, but I pretty much ate like normal. 80/20, sometimes 60/40, balance of good to indulgent. My only real pregnancy symptom was a need to devour cake. Often my daily walks found me at a nearby cupcakery.
  • SupplementsGarden of Life prenatal, a probiotic, and an Omega-3 supplement. After the second trimester, I drank a few cups of red raspberry leaf tea a day. It is rumored to help with unmedicated, vaginal delivery. I like this blog post from Mama Natural about it. She presents a pretty unbiased view of popular remedies. I also ate a ton of dates. I primarily put them into oatmeal, but if there is a next time, I’ll try making some homemade granola bars with dates. Near the very, very end, I used Evening Primrose oil, which was recommended to me by a few moms who found it helped kick start their labor. I did start taking it two days prior to my water breaking. And yes, I did try The Inducer pizza from Hawthornes, but no luck. I think we were too far from our due date.

As far as pregnancy gear, I got this pillow, which came in handy afterwards to prop myself up when nursing. I didn’t end up with any stretch marks (aside from one on my boob from my milk coming in), which may be attributed either to genetics or that I didn’t have any rapid weight gain, but I did use this Lush massage bar at night after a recommendation from one of the yoga moms. I received this Bella B Honey Tummy Butter in a Bump Box from my sister-in-law, and used it each morning. For clothing, at first I just purchased flowy tops and wore elastic banded pants. Athleta has some great options in the pants department. For work, I went to Motherhood Maternity when there was a sale and got over-the-bump, ankle-length, dress pants in almost every color. I paired those with white or black maternity tees from H&M, and was able to wear my normal blazers. Also, don’t forget your mom friends. Hand-me-downs rock.

 

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With the practicalities of pregnancy aside, what I loved about pregnancy the most was how little I cared about my physical appearance any more – or rather – how beautiful I found myself and how low my self-criticism narrative got dialed down. I probably rocked a bikini more comfortably with my 7 month baby bump than at any other point in my life. It is fascinating the way your body morphs to accommodate this little parasite growing inside of you. When you realize the work your body is doing to help knit together a new life, it is perspective-altering. Yes, I got a bit of a “glow” – but I think it was less glitter emitting from my pores and more just being fascinated and enchanted with the whole process which meant my typical RBF was replaced with a constant smile. Also, my hair got wavy. All my life I wanted wavy hair – so I was pretty stoked.

And the best part of all? When that little parasite starts to move. Wow. Just wow. Baby G would hiccup all the time, and he loved to kick me in the ribs right before bed. It is when the movement started that it all felt real, and magical, and also terrifying.

My number one recommendation – relish the experience. Good or bad. And do all the things you won’t be able to later. Weekend getaways. Sleeping in until noon. Netflix binges. Hot cups of coffee (or tea). A full workday at the office. Shopping trips. Long showers. Car rides with the radio blaring. Go see movies. Lots of movies. And cuddle.

Anything you all would like to know more about?

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A Year of Wedded Bliss (plus another year, and some change)

About a year and a half ago I wrote this –

Today is the first anniversary of my marriage. I am by no means an expert on love or marriage or happiness or monogamy or any of that. I am; however, someone who is married – and happily so – to a man I think is the most incredible person on the planet. This is my blog, and so I am going to take this space to unabashedly gush about how much I love my husband. If that makes you squirm, then you might want to skip this post and catch the next one.

As I sat reading it today, I was really disappointed I hadn’t finished and posted it back then. Brian was then, and is now, the best thing that ever happened to me. Really and truly. What better way to reboot my blog (yes, again!) than with tribute to the person in my life who inspires me to chase my passions, and always hints that I should start writing again. This one is for you, love.

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Our second wedding anniversary was a bit different than our first, but all the more memorable for it. As a wedding gift we were given bottles of champagne to commemorate marriage milestones. On our first anniversary we cracked open the bottle in honor of making it to one year. On our second anniversary, we got to celebrate by opening the bottle in honor of our first child.

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So today, we are 2.5 years and one child (get the pun – and change) into this marriage gig. Life has changed for sure. Where once we were constant companions, we are often now dividing and conquering when it comes to Baby G and household duties. We might not be able to sweat it out side-by-side on our yoga mats any more, and brewery visits are a bit different with a baby in tow. When we do find time to come together though, there is still no one else I’d rather have by my side (or downstairs on your Xbox while I’m up in the loft on mine while we play Destiny 2 together – which has become our nightly ritual for after Baby G goes to bed #gamers).

You’re still my favorite. And choosing you is still the best decision I’ve ever made.

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The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Here we are at nearly 39 weeks. The nursery is ready. The house is ready. We’ve read books, we’ve mentally prepared, we have bags partially packed, ingredients on hand to make homemade cookies for our labor team once it’s go-time, and I’ve got all my postpartum care supplies ready and waiting. Waiting. That is what we have left to do.

Since starting to practice yoga, I’ve been fairly in tune with my body and aware of any changes. This makes the waiting even more frustrating as I can feel all these subtle changes, but at the same time there is no precise sign that says “hey, this is happening today or tomorrow, or not until next week.” I’m noticing more of a pronounced waddle – which is my hips expanding and opening in preparation for birth, an observation which is corroborated by my fabulous chiropractor who has noticed increased movement in my pelvic region. I can feel Baby G has dropped. His feet, which used to jut out to the left when looking down at my stomach as he stretched out, now they stretch out farther up into my rib cage indicating he has more vertical room and his head has descended. I have to pee every. 30. minutes. At least!

What triggers labor is still a mystery, but apparently it is the precise combination of hormones from both mom and baby. I have to trust that when Baby G is ready, and even though I might feel ready maybe my body just isn’t quite there yet, that this incredible process will begin. So for now, I just need to keep busy and find a few new projects to keep myself distracted.

Luckily, I have my writing as an outlet. So, for the next few days I’ll talk about my experience with pregnancy, what we’ve found helpful, the birth we have in mind, the resources we’ve engaged, and anything else I can think to offer. That being said, pregnancy and birth is an incredibly personal experience. I’m sharing mine in the hopes others might find the information helpful, but not in any way from the view point that this is the “right” way. It is *a* way, and what has worked for me personally given my background, experiences, and values.

The most important thing to remember, and which I remind myself of constantly, is that I have to listen to my body and my intuition. Take what serves you, leave the rest. This is when it comes to advice from friends and family, from that expert in the book, and even when it comes to your care providers. Certain things are absolutely necessary, others can stand some questioning and may even be avoided if that is what you feel is right for you and your pregnancy.

If I were to impart only one nugget of advice, I recommend finding an experience that makes you feel involved, empowered and informed.

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The Things I Do For Love

Long-time readers of this blog, or knowers of me, are well aware that I have a severe needle phobia. Actually, to call it a needle phobia is an understatement. I have a crippling fear of any kind of medical work which involves me, my blood, pointy objects extracting my blood or touching my skin, and doctors in general. So, deciding to get pregnant was the ultimate in forced therapy. After a few months of actual cognitive therapy, some intensive internal work, and good medication, at 28 weeks pregnant I was able to accomplish my first ever blood draw. And I mean ever. Nearly 30 years of life and I’d escaped with no more than a finger prick or two and no shots since middle school.

After jumping that hurdle, I thought when my nurse midwife told me I should get a Tdap vaccine to help protect Baby G from pertussis (whooping cough), that it would be no sweat. Then, she told me they didn’t offer them at the birth center due to requirements around storing vaccines, so I could just pop into a CVS or Target – really any pharmacy, and just get one. That’s when I started to get nervous. It is one thing to face your fear in a nicely decorated room with a nurse midwife you’ve been bonding with over the past few months, some relaxing music, effective medication, and your husband squeezing your hand. It is another to walk up to a Publix pharmacist and ask them to perform a procedure on you in the middle of a grocery store which is literally the thing you fear most in the entire world. Like, seriously. I can’t undersell this. I’m so okay with child birth, and totally terrified of a tiny needle. Why? Because one is totally my body going into action and doing something it was programmed to do. The other is trusting someone else to inflict pain on my body for ultimately good reasons. It’s a mental thing. Totally mental.

So, yesterday was the day. Although he probably didn’t need it, I asked Brian to go with me and get one too. I then asked him to go first, totally chickened out myself, violently ugly cried, and told him this wasn’t happening. Poor Publix pharmacist. Probably the worst day of work he ever had. He was super nice and patient though. Mad props to Publix. I couldn’t have asked for a better person to do it, honestly, except for the nurses I’d been working with at my birth center. So we left the pharmacy area. I was so mad at myself, but just couldn’t face my fear. We go to check out (because we also came to buy groceries, duh), and I’m just mentally berating myself. The check out lady starts looking at Brian like he is a horrible person because my face is all red from my ugly cry. I can’t stand to hear her kindly asking if I’m okay, so I stalk off to the bathroom to give myself a pep talk.

“You can do this,” I say. “You will not let your baby be 1 of the 20 who die each year because you can’t handle a stupid prick which will take less than 5 seconds of your life. You are going to get back out there, walk up to the counter, and let Ryan (the pharmacist) give you this damn shot.”

And I did. Because already, I love this damn kid more than anything in the world. And although the chance might be a tiny one, whatever I can do to protect him where I can, I’m going to do it. And, just like my dad and mom used to do for me when I got those shots back in the day, I treated myself to ice cream after.

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Miss or Mister?

This weekend we held our gender reveal party for Baby G.

Disclaimer: To be completely accurate it would have been called a “sex” reveal since I acknowledge that gender-identity is not synonymous with biological sex; however, hosting a sex reveal party raises some eyebrows as to the family-friendliness of the event. Therefore, we conformed to the PC term “gender” reveal. We did find a few ways to work in the correct terminology. Example #1 below, keep your eye out for #2.

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The event was absolutely fantastic. My sister pulled everything together and did an amazing job. We were surrounded by friends, family, good food, and a few games.

After stuffing our faces at the incredible spread, we polled the attendees on which of us was most likely to perform a series of actions related to Baby G. For example, by overwhelming agreement we determined that Brian should under no circumstances sing lullabies (not really, just my opinion), but he should totally serve initial diaper duty, and that I’m more likely to be obsessively Instragramming our bundle of joy. Oh, and after selecting that Brian would be giving more midnight feedings, I realized that he lacks the proper equipment (ahem, the boobs) and so I corrected my answer.

Next up was a series of scientific inquiries intended to predict the sex of Baby G. And by scientific inquiry, I mean totally unproven Old Wives Tales.

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But, were they accurate? A final contest of agility and coordination would ultimately reveal Miss or Mister for our little nugget.

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That blue splatter means that it’s a boy! Brian and I are absolutely thrilled to welcome Campbell James Guild to our family this Spring. I wouldn’t want to begin my son’s social media history with a picture of his junk, but let’s just say it is definitely a boy. No question about it.

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I’m not cut out for Vegas (aka a travel guide for someone who hates gambling)

My husband and I recently returned from a trip to fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada. It was my first visit back to the Strip since I was freshly 21 – so nearly 9 years ago. Let’s just say, it will probably be at least another 9 years for me to forget yet again why I am not cut out for Vegas and decide to make a return trip. That’s the schedule me and Sin City have. We reconnect every 6-9 years, realize it isn’t going to work out, and go our separate ways.

My first trip was when I was about 15. Our family was on a cross-country trek in an RV that was going to last most of the summer. I think it was around 2002 or 2003, and my main concern was making my parents as aware as possible that I was extremely upset they were forcing me on a tour of the US when all I wanted was to spend the summer with my boyfriend. Ah, the stupidity of youth. What I wouldn’t give to go on that trip now that I actually realize how awesome it was to see the Grand Canyon, the California sequoias, Yellowstone, and numerous other national treasures.  One stop on our tour was Vegas, and our first date was a good one. I wandered the Strip, taking in the amazing decadence of each casino and spending my parent’s money at the shops at Caesar’s. We visited Circus Circus and rode the indoor rides. Between the lights, the shopping and the coasters, I was enamored. I couldn’t wait to go back when I was old enough to drink and gamble. It was a typical first date. We were both on our best behavior.

My second date with Vegas was a few months after my 21st birthday. My mom and my three aunts and I decided to take a girls’ weekend. We had high hopes of winning big and living large. My mom won a few hundred bucks on a slot machine. Me – I lost my modest budget of $300. I’d never seen money vanish so fast. And that’s when I learned that I hate gambling. That, and that you really shouldn’t gamble if you aren’t emotionally stable enough to lose. As a poor college student working two jobs, I worked too darn hard for my money. There is nothing worse for my competitive and logic-based brain, and my anxiety-laden psyche, then trying to figure out how to find some semblance of skill and strategy in games of pure and random chance. I did, however, enjoy the shows. We saw Bette Midler and she was absolutely fabulous. We all took a trip up the Eiffel Tower. Nonetheless, Bette & faux Paris weren’t enough for me to continue a love affair with Vegas. When our flight was cancelled and we were forced to spend an unplanned night in a crappy motel room off the Strip, I was cursing Vegas and vowed never to return.

Nine years had passed, and now that I was a fairly successful adult with disposable income and a wonderful husband as a travelling companion, the faults I found with Vegas in the past seemed just a matter of circumstance. I thought that this time I’d be able to set a budget and be okay if I lost the money set aside for gambling. I was wrong. By the time I’d saw my final chip lost to the roulette table, I was near tears. Why, for the love of all that is good, could I not win once?! Slots – lost. Roulette- lost. Blackjack – lost $300 in a blink. I mean, come on! I was losing my money so fast I wasn’t even able to have any fun with it. Finally, after our third date, I learned that Vegas and I just aren’t compatible. I am not one of those types who likes the thrill of trying to win big. I’d rather just keep my money. Should Vegas and I attempt to reconnect again, I’ll stick to dining, shopping and shows. The casinos and I just aren’t meant to be.

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It wasn’t all bad. I scored a cute pair of black booties at a steal. I ate the most delicious Spanish tapas in the gorgeous Aria. We laughed (and cringed a bit) during a variety vaudeville and Burlesque act called Absinthe. We got a dose of political satire and incredible slight-of-hand from Penn & Teller. When the soul-sucking casino games drew our final dollar from us, we retreated to our room and paid way too much for a pay-per-view movie, but there is nothing better than curling up with my honey. After all, $20 for nearly two hours of entertainment is quite the bargain in Vegas. Alone and away from it all, Brian and I got a chance to really connect and have a few deep conversations – one while we gazed over a panoramic view of the Strip while dining on Alaskan king crab legs and filet. Oh, and we saw Britney, bitch.

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Maybe I’ll give that crafty vixen one more try after all…

If you are looking for a non-gambling centered visit to Vegas, full of food and entertainment, here are my recommendations:

Day 1

  • If you are travelling from the East Coast, reminder that Las Vegas is on virtually the opposite side of the country. It is waaay closer to California than I remembered. We still managed to tough it out and fit in a great dinner and show. To get you in the Vegas mood, and help motivate you through the three hour time difference, do yourself a favor and check out Julian Serrano at Aria for Spanish tapas. The rioja was delicious (I only was able to have a sip because I’m preggers, but it was amazing!), the braised oxtail was the best thing on the menu, the pan con manchego was scrumptious, and there were a number of other dishes I wish I could have fit in. We made reservations, but it wasn’t too crowded on a Friday in January.
  • Next, keep yourself entertained with the fast-pace and raunchy humor of Absinthe at Caesar’s Palace. Be prepared for graphic descriptions you wish you could be unheard, but some of the most incredible acrobatics you will ever see. Not suitable for children.

Day 2

  • Do yourself a favor and contact The Massage Couple for a wonderful in-room massage. They offer a 90-minute massage and take the stress out of reading through a million spa reviews. Prices are much more reasonable than the hotel spas (most of which aren’t that well-rated). If you prefer a spa environment, and price isn’t a concern, then there are a number of great places to check out. Either way – take some time to relax.
  • After a relaxation session, head to Mon Ami Gabi at the Paris casino for a terrific French brunch. The ambiance is really great, and the food was amazing. We recommend the baked goat cheese and mussels. The fresh French baguettes are addicting, and the chocolate mousse is superb. Reservations are a must!
  • For the evening, pick one of the many concerts. We saw Britney, but there are a ton of others to choose from. A Vegas concert is more intimate than you’ll find other places. The Axis at Planet Hollywood, for example, only seats 4,600. Because they are shows with long runs, the stage and props are always spectacular.

Day 3

  • For breakfast, pick a buffet. They are all fairly comparable. We hit up the Spice Market at Planet Hollywood because that’s where we were staying. It was pretty decent and had a range of cuisines. (We don’t recommend the PH as a place to stay, however. Rooms were nicely sized, but our floor reeked of cigarettes, housekeeping was lousy, and they were stingy with towels. There are much nicer places to stay.)
  • Instead of gambling, shop the Miracle Mile shops at Planet Hollywood. There are tons of sales, and your $500 will go much farther! Just be sure you have room to take all your loot home.
  • For your last evening, catch a magic show. We saw Penn & Teller at the Rio. Be prepared for some political comedy and impressive slight-of-hand. If you are more into vanishing airplanes or gimmicks, then there are several other magicians to choose from. If you do wind up at The Rio, which is a little off the strip, then The Voodoo Steakhouse offers a good meal (although a little pricey). The view is pretty impressive and gives you a panoramic of the Strip. We split the Land & Sea so Brian could have his steak and I could have some delicious crab legs. There are certainly better meals- and at better value –  so don’t make the trip unless it’s convenient.

 

 

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Lazy writer, yep, sums it up

I was shocked to look at my blog and find I hadn’t written a post since April. I mean, I knew I had been slacking, but that’s the longest hiatus I’ve taken since starting my blog back in 2011. In my defense, I’ve had a lot going on.

I went on my bachelorette cruise to the Bahamas with my favorite people.

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I got married to my best friend.

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We built a house.

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Oh, and I’m working on my MBA. Plus, I’ve got that whole full-time job thing going on. So, totally lazy slacker over here. But, now that we are settling into our new home and hoping to avoid any major life changes for at least a little while, it is time to get back to it! I look forward to filling 2016 with more self-deprecating humor, foodie adventures, stories from my yoga journey, dog pictures and foster tales, and recounting my world travels.

I might pop back in for few more posts this month, but in the meantime, wishing you all a safe & happy holiday!

xoxo, Brittany