3 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Ectopic Pregnancies, Like Mine

A little over a month ago I had emergency surgery to treat an ectopic pregnancy. 

It was scary and painful and unexpected and I am still recovering physically and emotionally. I am lucky to live somewhere where, when the doctors realized it was not a simple case of appendicitis and I was already open on the operating table, they did not hesitate to perform the surgery that saved my life. My abdomen was already full of blood, and my fallopian tube on that side—which had to be surgically removed—was ruptured due to the expanding embryo. I was about five and a half weeks pregnant at the time (I know specifically, down to the day, since I’m an IVF patient). If it had been possible to preserve the pregnancy somehow, I would have done it happily, but science hasn’t found that path yet. 

Some questions I ask myself: Was it an abortion, since an implanted, fertilized embryo was removed from my body? Was it a miscarriage, since it could never have grown to term, no matter what anyone did? Does it matter? To me, it doesn’t, since the outcome would always be the same, and I have absolutely no issue referring to it as an abortion. An ectopic pregnancy is never viable, and I was already bleeding internally when I went into surgery. To the rest of the world in a post-Roe v. Wade society, that seems to be a very important question. Whatever you want to call the operation that was performed on me, it saved my life. I just wanted to take a minute to remind people of that, especially the Supreme Court and certain Oklahoma senators who ask why exceptions to trigger law abortion bans have to include treatment for ectopic pregnancies. (Because they lead to death. That’s why. Without care, you die.)

I was genuinely surprised by the way my ectopic pregnancy unfolded, and by the things I found out after—from how common they really are, to signs that you should go to the hospital.

It’s Not As Rare As You Think

According to the American Pregnancy Association, the rate of ectopic pregnancies is 1 in 50, or roughly 1 to 2%. To me, that doesn’t sound that rare at all, even though it is still classified as a rare diagnosis. I felt this on a physical level when I came into the emergency room and it still took over 12 hours to get me into surgery, and even then it was for what was assumed to be appendicitis, not an ectopic pregnancy. There is a genuine misconception that it’s such an uncommon diagnosis that it probably isn’t happening to you. 

Here’s another kicker: it’s slightly more common in IVF patients, so I was already at a higher risk. There are other risk factors I didn’t have, but even having one seems like enough of a reason to consider it more seriously early on. I think a part of me was also a bit in denial, and I kept hoping the doctor would tell me I could go home. It’s a good thing I didn’t.

It’s The Leading Cause Of Maternal Death In the First Trimester

If an embryo implants anywhere but the uterus, it isn’t a viable pregnancy and requires medical treatment. In cases like mine where the ectopic pregnancy is in the fallopian tube and the tube has ruptured, surgery is necessary. I don’t need my fallopian tubes as much now that I’ve moved from IUI (intrauterine insemination) to IVF (in vitro fertilization), because the embryo will be implanted directly by a doctor as opposed to a fertilized egg traveling down my tubes. That’s my silver lining: one less tube, one less potential problem! 

Ectopic pregnancies can be diagnosed at different stages, and not all need emergency surgery like mine, but they are the leading cause of maternal death in the first trimester. That’s a scary statistic. They do happen, and when they do, they’re dangerous—even if they are caught early on and can be treated without surgery.

Getting A Diagnosis Can Be Confusing

I wasn’t bleeding, as far as I could tell. I wouldn’t find out about the internal bleeding until later.  My stomach felt distended and uncomfortable, but bloating is common in early pregnancy. I’ve always had digestive issues, so the G.I. symptoms and pressure weren’t all that uncommon, either. I think the real moment when I should have started feeling more alarmed was when I had intense pain and extreme pressure in my lower abdomen on one side. 

I remember a moment where I was on my hands and knees on the bathroom floor. When I stood up, my legs shook uncontrollably and I had to try not to pass out. I went to the emergency room shortly after that; it was probably in those minutes that my tube ruptured fully. For the next 12 hours or so, some of the sharpest pain subsided, but there was a consistent throbbing, sick feeling in my stomach. It still took hours and hours to diagnose. So my advice would be to seek help immediately if you have pain like mine, and to ask the doctor early on if an ectopic pregnancy could be possible. I assumed that because I’d told the treating doctor in the emergency room that I was pregnant, they’d take the possibility into account, but sometimes (always, as someone with a uterus seeking care) you do have to push harder. Don’t dismiss it, or wait to see if it gets better, and ask to talk to the ob-gyn on call if you can’t see your own. The sooner treatment can be given, the better.

When I woke up from what I thought was an emergency appendectomy to a doctor telling me I’d actually been treated for an ectopic pregnancy, I was devastated. But I also knew that I was alive, that my fertility treatment didn’t depend on my fallopian tubes, and that I could probably try IVF again. In all the time spent trying to get pregnant, an ectopic pregnancy wasn’t an outcome I expected—and I thought I was prepared for all the worst possibilities: failed embryo transfers, miscarriages, complications, the works. But this one I didn’t see coming.

It’s important to realize ectopic pregnancy happens more than you’d think, and when it does, it can be life-threatening. I’m lucky to be healing well from that day. Every day I feel stronger. It’s a weird sensation, to feel lucky after having gone through what I did, but I received the care I needed in time. That’s a miracle in itself in this country right now.

Images: Sergey Filimonov /Stocksy.com

Can You Be Body Positive And Still Miss Your Pre-Baby Body?

When I was pregnant with my first baby, a friend cautioned me, “listen, right after birth you’re going to look like a deflated balloon and you’ll think you’re doomed to look that way forever, but trust me: it isn’t permanent”. She was right (on both fronts: yes, I looked like a deflated balloon, and yes, it went away). As my due date with my second approached, I readied myself for the changes ahead, assuming they would also be short-lived. Maybe subsequent pregnancies have a cumulative effect on the body, or it is the fact that this was a “geriatric” pregnancy, but it seems this time around, things weren’t bouncing back so quickly.

And it really bummed me out. 

At a time when body positivity messaging is omnipresent and self-acceptance inspiration is finally mainstream, I’m struggling to admit that I miss my pre-baby body. 

Years ago, magazines and tabloid sites were full of horrible sanctimonious criticism of celebrities and who got their post-baby body back the quickest. It felt awful to watch the physical toll of motherhood be reduced to such pettiness. And sure, that commentary still exists, but there’s also a brilliant and powerful body-positive counterculture, stunning women who wear their stretch marks like beautiful badges of honor. If these responses to post-pregnancy body imagery are on opposite ends of a spectrum, I struggled with where to put myself. It prompted me to ask some uncomfortable questions: Was I a lesser feminist for missing how my clothes fit before I had children? Was I shallow for wanting to devote some of my very limited time trying to claw back a bit of my old self? How much of my motivations are rooted in health versus vanity? And, at my deepest, most insecure self, I wondered whether “good” mothers still care about their appearance or is that also sacrificed at the altar of motherhood?

Beauty, as they say, is skin deep. The changes that I readied myself for were swift. Soon after delivery, I went from pregnancy glow to oh no. In a matter of days, my forehead looked like a blotchy spray tan gone bad. After scrubbing it raw with a washcloth and then eventually turning to concealer, I sought out the help of a dermatologist who said the culprit is likely pregnancy mask, ie., melasma. For some, melasma can be caused by a myriad of factors and is chronic. For others, it will disappear on its own months after pregnancy, along with the line running down one’s stomach in pregnancy, linea nigra, another hallmark of pregnancy hyperpigmentation. Time is the deciding factor in whether or not it is chronic. Short of getting in a time machine and seeing what the future holds for my skin, I just try to ignore it. You read that right: I literally try to ignore the upper third of my face when looking in the mirror. Instead, I gaze upon the plump, perfect little faces of my children, so full of promise and collagen.

I thoroughly enjoyed two pregnancy’s worth of bombshell hair but know that it is a good time, not a long time. After giving birth, 40 weeks of good hair days went down the drain (literally), like a ginkgo tree dropping its leaves. 

 Hairstylist and salon owner Jason Lee explains that hair has a natural life cycle which includes both a growth stage (anogen phase) and a shedding phase (exogen phase). “Pregnant women experience a continual anogen phase where they describe their hair feeling thicker and fuller and growing longer than usual”, Lee says. While nothing can speed up how quickly hair grows, I can’t pull off the cool mom top knot, so I invested in a very, very good haircut that doesn’t make me feel like I’ve given up. It feels, I don’t know, almost French? With the hair situation under control, imagine my delight when my eyelashes and eyebrows started falling out, too. I don’t wear a lot of makeup and feel oddly naked without lashes and brows. 

The cause of this is the exogen/anogen cycle back on its bullshit. Ashley Woodroffe founded Extra Goodie lash serum after her own experience of motherhood set her on a path for clean ingredients. “Eyebrows and lashes go through the same type of growth cycles and can also be impacted by the new balance of hormones that comes with having a baby,” she explains. Aging compounds this, as growth phases naturally decrease and the diameter of hair shafts shrinks. With a lens on clean, non-synthetic ingredients, Woodroffe created a serum to give hair follicles the nutrients they need to yield thicker, longer lashes. Would age eventually rob us all of our lashes and brows, with motherhood simply fast-tracking the process? Maybe, but this feels like a very low-stakes, potentially high-return situation. Gimme the serums, please and thank you.

In addition to once having fairly good if not low-maintenance skin and hair, I used to enjoy the metabolism of a hummingbird. Two children later, my once-athletic build now looks like Mr. Burns: rounded back and shoulders, in a permanent hunch. I saw a chiropractor and acupuncturist with a focus on perinatal care, Dr Aliya Visram, who assured me this is common, albeit uncomfortable. “Pregnancy strains joints and shifts one’s center of gravity, causing rounded shoulders, a tucked-in pelvis (or flat bum) and a hunched neck”, she explains. Then of course, after the baby arrives, the hunching continues as we feed, hold, change and wear them. 

My posture is a hill that I’m willing to die on. I feel like my joints are made of concrete when I’m sedentary and exercise is the cornerstone of my postpartum mental health. I’ve resolved to move my body, in any way that I can, every day. It won’t exactly wind back the clock, but it goes a long way for boosting my mood. Plus, I want to role model an active lifestyle to my kids.

Ah, right. My kids. The family that I wanted so badly that I feel guilty for wanting to replace one lost hair on my head because I love them so fiercely. There is no hiding that motherhood has impacted every part of my life, including what I see in the mirror. Mirrors, however, don’t always tell the truth. I met Karmen LaMer, founder of The Tight Clinic. We both had cancer as young women and talked about the dichotomy of never being more grateful for your body and health, whilst also being accurately aware of bodies inevitably change (and not always in ways that we like). She points to Forma as a very effective treatment to rebuild collagen, which she credits with replenishing her own skin after cancer treatment. “I exhausted EVERY technology, the risk of complications from some are scary as fuck. For Forma, there’s no pain, no downtime and no risk – effective as rebuilding collagen anywhere in the body, particularly for firming the face and tightening tummy tissue after pregnancy,” says LeMer. FORMA EVERY INCH OF ME, I was thinking as she spoke. She delivers her dose of optimism with a chaser of realism. Sure, some treatments can help with some things here or there, but she’s often left asking women what’s really behind their motivations for certain treatments or procedures. She sadly sees many women who have developed dysphoric relationships with their appearance. She would rather turn away potential customers than perpetuate unhealthy self-imagery. “This industry is happy to take women’s money and promise them results they can’t deliver. I have integrity and am honest about what a treatment can and can’t do”, explains LaMer.

When it comes down to it, am I losing sleep over a thinner ponytail or curvier body? Heck no. I don’t have any of that to spare (no, literally, I need every minute of sleep I can get). I’ve decided to enter the next phase grateful for the miraculous work that my body’s done, and with a heaping dose of reality about what changes will unearth pieces of the old me. If I thought it was so horrible to see celebrities’ bodies picked apart for how they look on the beach after having a baby, why would I ever do that to myself? Now more than ever, I see that getting to know my postpartum body is a perfect metaphor for motherhood: being uncomfortable and never more confident at the same time. 

Image: Brat Co / Stockys.com

Expecting? Congrats! Here’s How To Maximize Your Baby’s Brand Integration

So you’re having a baby! Congrats! Have you considered what this change will do not just for your body and lifestyle, but for your brand? In the ever-changing media landscape, it’s not enough for brands to be brands. Brands are brands, but people are also brands, which can only mean that the people who come out of those people are also their own, smaller brands—so small, in fact, they don’t even know they’re brands yet. Kind of like, micro-micro brands. And when you own and are a brand, you must be constantly ensuring that your branding is consistent, which is why you need to maximize your micro-micro-brand’s integration into your umbrella brand from day one. Actually, before day one, depending on who you’re asking. Consider this your comprehensive guide.

The Pregnancy Announcement

First of all, if you think the branding begins with the sonogram post, then it brings me no pleasure (okay, it brings me some pleasure) to inform you that you are already weeks behind. Do you think wedding planning begins after you get the ring? Silly, no, you have to have been keeping multiple binders, bookmarks, and Pinterest boards months, if not years, before the question was popped. Otherwise, you’ll simply never catch up on the latest trends (and you could get caught wearing a flower crown, can you imagine?). When it comes to introducing your new heir little one to the world, it’s all about the lead-up. Half the publicity fun is having people guess that you’re pregnant before you actually reveal that you are. Start wearing more flowy tops. (If you used to be a crop top addict before this, great—stop that altogether, suddenly, without addressing it.) Crop your photos from the chest down, no matter how awkward it looks. Post photos where you’re (gasp) eating. When you go out to group boozy brunch, don’t order an orange juice to blend in—make it a club soda, and make no effort to obscure it on your Instagram stories. The more comments in r/blogsnark you can rack up speculating on whether you’re pregnant or just gained quarantine weight, the better! That way, when you finally do post a carousel of your (so-tiny-it’s-barely-noticeable) bump and sonogram, you’ll get maximum engagement congratulations.

The Gender Reveal

This is a tough one, because of course you don’t want to kill anyone… but at the same time, you’d get a lot of free press for that. Maybe just injure someone–only superficially, you’re not a monster. Nothing above the shoulders. After all, what better way to say congrats on your baby boy/girl than a quick trip to the hospital? It should go without saying that you will not be returning the gift of the injured party. Why should your innocent moneymaker baby suffer for your mistake?

The Instagram Reveal

Oh right, I mean the name reveal. You must consider your brand identity when choosing the name that’s going to represent your company for the next 18+ years. And while some might think incorporating your business’s name into your child’s is weird, narcissistic, and a nightmare only capitalism could spawn, those people are missing out on crucial synergy. Whether you decide to post about your baby’s dedicated Instagram account before or after birth is a personal decision between you, your engagement metrics, and your lawyer, should you need to send any cease-and-desists to the person or people who own your desired username. Who cares that she was born in 1972, that handle is in perfect symmetry with my branding. That lady only has 134 followers and is private! Plus, we already trademarked the name for the baby clothes line!!

The Birth Post

As much as it may almost literally kill you, this is the time to forego the glam (obviously discounting the requisite eyelash extensions and touch-up of subtle foundation and highlighter) and show your followers the real, raw, unfiltered* you. The caption should be equally vulnerable, detailing the difficulties you experienced during pregnancy and labor. The photo, meanwhile, should look messy but still pretty. The goal is to leave your followers wondering how did she do it? No, literally, I need an itemized list of all her products and steps. Which, for a small affiliate commission, you’ll be happy to provide!

*as far as we’re concerned, playing with the brightness, contrast, shadows, highlights, and tint does not constitute filters.

Baby’s First Instagram

If you can’t get it sponsored, don’t even bother. Until you can secure an environmentally friendly baby wipe company; dairy-, cruelty-, and pain-free free formula company; sustainable, reversible carrier company; or recycled, reusable waste-free diaper company to partner on your baby’s debut, fill the void by posting pictures of your post-pregnancy body, which is somehow even more lithe than your pre-pregnancy body. Make sure your captions discuss the societal pressures to return to said pre-pregnancy body and include your coupon code for laxative tea.

We know this sounds like a lot of pressure. But when it gets too tough, remember what’s important. It’s not likes or engagement. It’s not even follower counts. It’s the fact that you have a happy, healthy, cute brand manager who can one day take over your empire.

Images: Treasure & Travels / Stocksy.com

Being Pregnant In a Pandemic Made Me Realize My Travel Habits Were Toxic

If I was to describe my pre-pandemic life, you could easily tell what I did for a living simply by seeing the suitcase by my door and the heavily stamped passport. Up until COVID-19 decided to decimate all that we held dear, I made my living as a travel writer for the past three or four years. But now that the world has come to an indefinite standstill and we’re making like hideaway hobbits, I’ve had to pull a pandemic pivot with my career, like countless others in my industry and many others. 

But if there’s been a silver lining to the whole “my adventures as a travel writer coming to an abrupt halt” thing, it’s been that I’ve acquired a whack-load of introspection. I’ve taken some time to reflect upon the places I’ve traveled to (nearly 70 countries) and it dawned on me that many of my travel habits were actually toxic. This realization came from an unlikely source: my pregnancy

In lockdown, my husband and I were grateful to have some solace in a safe space to strengthen our relationship (and as a result, why we decided to try for a baby). But in pre-pandemic times, I hardly ever saw him. I was hopping on a plane every 2-3 weeks, chasing foreign destinations, deadlines, and pitches. However, what was once exhilarating quickly became exhausting. I was always in a frenzy. While my body was physically in Abu Dhabi, for instance, my mind was elsewhere. I was obsessed with chasing that elusive notion of being a “jet setter”, someone who could boast about how she visited X amount of countries in a short period of time. And I’m not a travel influencer by any stretch of the imagination, but clearly something was causing me to dread the feeling of having my feet on solid ground in one place for too long.

Very quickly, travel became a drug I was hooked on—it became an almost toxic game of being proud that I was never home, that I was always in an “exotic” destination. As a result, I lost touch with my value systems and identity. I missed out on major milestones like loved ones’ weddings, and my connection to my homeland of Toronto, Canada dwindled. It was like I was pretending it was “cool” to treat my city like a layover, rather than a place to put down roots.

Why did I succumb to this behavior? TBH, I think it was easier to interact with strangers in foreign places. There’s nothing at stake, no risk of judgment or fear of their reactions. Additionally, at that point in my life, I was going through a LOT of life changes. I was severing ties with abusive individuals, attending more intensive and draining therapy sessions, getting used to my fiancé’s side of the family and contending with all those new dynamics, feeling pressured to have and honor large wedding traditions and plan the wedding, dealing with the expectation of moving into a larger place shortly after, being asked about having babies and starting a family—all at the same time. It was all-consuming and overwhelming. It was too much for me. I went from a life that was manageable and comfortable, me and my boyfriend living in our cozy apartment, to suddenly being handed this chaotic tsunami of life-altering stuff. So what did I do? I escaped. I fled the country as often as possible. But clearly, this was not a sustainable solution, because every time I touched down from my latest trip, real life was becoming more fractured with many unresolved issues I didn’t want to deal with.

The worst part was that this travel-based blur never fully afforded me a sense of purpose: I didn’t appreciate the opportunity enough to absorb the incredible nuances of each destination I was in, which included the people, culture, and beauty that surrounded me. I remember being on a four-hour sailing excursion in Croatia bobbling along the Adriatic Sea. Instead of soaking up the sights, sounds, and smells, I felt frustrated, restless, and anxious. I decided that this was a waste of time and that I could have used these precious minutes instead to be on land and hit up as many landmarks as possible. I was too preoccupied with this arbitrary checklist, and having a “what’s next” mentality almost stopped me from enjoying it at all. 

I guess it’s true what they say about getting your priorities in check when you have a mentally and physically life-altering experience such as having a tiny human grow inside you. The surge of hormones, the more frequent Zoom sessions/calls with my midwife, the slew of regular phone/virtual therapy sessions—all coupled with being in lockdown—acted as the catalyst to the introspection I needed to reflect upon my life. Lockdown has been a blessing in disguise for me. Without it, I wouldn’t have had the time or opportunity to figure out my travel habits weren’t good for me. Ultimately, I realized that I need to grow up and be a responsible adult (and future parent) who can teach my child about travel being an incredible privilege and not a right. I’ve also realized that less is truly more. When it comes to exploring new places now, I’m going to focus on quality over quantity.

When I first began traveling for a living, I hoped travel would shape my core being, but in the past year, it dawned on me that it actually caused me to lose touch with myself. It also explains why, when I was abroad, I would fill my arbitrary agenda with random stuff to do. When left to my own devices, I was super uneasy in my own skin. In previous stories I’ve written for Betches, I mentioned that I’ve contended (and still do) with a myriad of mental health issues. In a nutshell, these elements hijacked my identity and I was filling the void with travel (in addition to using it as a form of escapism from IRL problems). It will take some time, but this realization was revelatory, and now I’m taking time to rediscover who I am, simply by trying out and testing random activities and determining what appeals to me (so far I’ve tried pottery, painting, strategy-based board games with hubby, and archery). With a renewed sense of wonder, I will now approach travel with more thoughtfulness and grace I probably couldn’t have conceived of in my pre-pregnancy and pre-pandemic days. 

Imags: Clement Souchet / Unsplash

The Truth About The 4th Trimester

What is the fourth trimester anyway? No, it’s not an extra three months of pregnancy (praise be). The fourth trimester is defined as the 12-week period after the birth of your baby, and is definitely more taxing on your body and mind than pregnancy itself. It’s a time when you are adjusting to being a first-time (or second-, or third-time) mom and your baby is adjusting to the fact that they are an actual person. There isn’t much talk about how difficult this trimester is on new moms, probably because the new baby is way more interesting to people than the woman sitting on ice packs and walking sideways.

There Will Be Oh So Many Tears

Tears from the baby, tears from mom, probably even tears from dad. Remember those hormones that made you cry at every dog commercial during pregnancy? Those are now being flushed out of your body at an alarming rate, making you somehow even more emotional than you were during pregnancy. Even if you aren’t really a touchy-feely person, prepare yourself for some big emotions as your body tries to regulate itself. 70-80% of moms experience these postpartum blues, including you non-sensitive types. Not to mention, sleep deprivation will make anyone want to cry. 

There’s A Weird Combination Of No Sleep And Lots Of Sleep

When I say lots of sleep, I mean your newborn. Newborns average around 16 to 17 hours of sleep a day. So why do you hear that new parents are sleep deprived when the baby is only awake for 8 hours max a day? Probably because your baby uses torture tactics like waking up every hour to eat, and you’ll be too paranoid to sleep anyway. Most have day/night confusion as well, which basically means they’re ready to party at midnight. Fortunately, with lots of light during the minimal amount of time they’re awake during the day, this issue should resolve itself over time. While your baby is snoozing away endlessly during the day, watch all the Netflix (unless you’re napping) and don’t feel guilty about it. Your baby has no clue and the mental escape is needed.

There Is No Sense Of Routine And No Rules

There are zero rules or routine in the 4th trimester, which may make your head spin if you’re a control freak. It’s sort of like the airport, where you can get a sh*tty glass of red wine at 9am for $25 and not be judged. Similarly, in the 4th trimester (partially due to the ’round-the-clock sleeping/not sleeping), do whatever you want and don’t you dare clean. Snacks that require cutting? Forget about it. Even reheating all those homemade freezer meals you ambitiously made while 39 weeks pregnant may feel like a stretch. Let yourself be lazy AF.

Recovery Takes A Long Time

Your day or two hospital stay is not a good indicator of how long you’ll actually be recovering from the birth for. You’ll probably be hobbling out the hospital doors at one mile per hour with an adult diaper on (friendly reminder to wear the baggiest sweatpants you own). You’ll likely be bleeding for a month or two, and taking some form of painkillers around the clock for weeks. For some reason, another thing that people don’t talk about enough is the fact that you’ll experience contractions after giving birth. Yep, you heard that right. Your uterus is trying to shrink itself from two pounds to two ounces, and does so by pretending like you’re in labor again for a couple of days after birth. Usually they’re not nearly as bad as regular contractions, but they may take you by surprise.

The bottom line is that it’s important to take care of yourself during the 4th trimester as well. It’s not selfish, it’s necessary.

Breastfeeding May Be Natural, But It Definitely Isn’t Always Easy

Did you ever go to a breastfeeding class offered by your hospital while pregnant? If so, you may have seen a video of a day-old newborn baby naturally finding its mom’s breast and learning how to feed on its own. The reality will look more like two nurses and your partner squishing your boob just right while simultaneously opening your baby’s mouth and slamming it into you. Yet even with all that effort, your nipples still bleed.

A mom’s milk supply takes a couple days to come in as well, so new moms get to worry if their baby is starving every time they cry until the next check-up. When it does come in, you may produce so much that you give yourself mastitis, or you may not produce enough. Sometimes it gets better (usually by the end of the 4th trimester), and sometimes it doesn’t (formula is totally cool too). If you are agonizing over the decision, remember that you have no clue which of your coworkers were formula fed vs. breastfed and it would be really weird if you did.

Feeling Isolated and Totally Overwhelmed is Normal

Some moms hate the newborn stage, or at best are totally overwhelmed for weeks and feel guilty AF for it. So if you know someone in the 4th trimester, can we make a pact to ask about how mom is doing first? And maybe bring a meal or clean the house while you’re at it? That would be great. 

If you are in the thick of it, remember it’s a stage that will pass. You will eventually form a bond that is absolutely unlike anything you’ve experienced, like a weird “I’d kill for you” type of bond. On the other hand, if you love the newborn stage, don’t feel any shame in taking in those newborn snuggles and not sharing your babe with anyone else. 

Don’t feel any obligation to anyone or anything besides you and your baby during this time. Fortunately, your body and mind have a funny way of blocking it all out so you probably won’t remember much of the hazing anyway. It does get better, and seemingly out of nowhere they’ll turn into this funny, smart toddler that you couldn’t picture life without. 

Images: PorporLing/Shutterstock

How To Avoid Being The Buzzkill Mom

We love our kids with a fierce passion, but let’s be brutally honest. Kids do the dumbest sh*t, throw tantrums over nothing, and can be generally difficult to live with sometimes. Do you feel like you are ALWAYS saying things like no, stop, and please don’t put the keys in the toilet? Especially these days, when the only people you get to hang out with are your kids and significant other, and it’s easy to start fantasizing about starting a new life alone on a beach somewhere.

Let’s start by reiterating that we all lose our sh*t sometimes with our kids, and that sometimes is definitely more frequent during a global pandemic. If that perfect chick from high school constantly posts pictures of her smiling family of four with captions like “live laugh love,” just remember she probably didn’t get to poop alone today and definitely counts down the minutes to bedtime. Kids make you lose your mind, and that doesn’t make you a bad parent—but you don’t want to get into the habit of always saying no and killing all the fun.

Now that we’ve reiterated that we are all superstars regardless of how our kids act sometimes, let’s get to some actionable steps to try to be a little less of a buzzkill when kids do their best to ruin the vibe daily. 

Options Are King

Kids love feeling like they are real people that make very important decisions, even though they literally have no clue which is their right hand or how to count to 15, and definitely won’t contribute to society for a solid 20 years. Instead of telling them they need to brush their teeth, ask if they would rather brush their teeth or put their clothes on first. The choice makes them feel in control, when in reality you’re just taking the opportunity for them to say no away.

Redirect Before It Turns Into a Tantrum

Does your kid seem to lose it every time the TV gets turned off? Redirect to the next activity before they can work themselves up too much. Bring out their favorite activity and ask them to do something creative (“what do you want to build with the Legos today?”). It may work 90% of the time or 20% of the time depending on how stubborn they are. Either way, one less tantrum in a day is a win in my book.

Validate Their Feelings

Tantrums are going to happen, it’s a normal part of development.  Kids just don’t understand how to cope with all those big emotions. The past year has been hard on everyone, can you imagine not knowing how to express how you are feeling properly? When your kid flat-out falls on the floor in agony about their pancake being too hot, try to react as calmly as you can. Let them have their moment, because nothing you say or do during the tantrum is going to get through to them. Get on their level and validate their feelings (“I understand you’re frustrated and it’s okay to feel that way, I’m here for you”). By doing this, you’re letting them know that they can feel safe to express themselves around you and that you love them no matter what. This may happen over and over for what feels like forever, but it’s getting through to them and they’ll learn how to communicate with you someday.

Don’t Give In

It’s tempting (especially in a public place) to give in to tantrums to mitigate the sheer embarrassment that your kid is a nutcase. During these times, remember that most people understand that kids in general are a handful and that it has nothing to do with your parenting. And the others can kindly f*ck off because they either don’t have kids or it’s been an eternity since they have. So please ignore the old man that grumbles at you on the plane and the lady who offers unsolicited advice in the cereal aisle. Giving in to tantrums won’t teach your kids how to properly manage their emotions, and may unfortunately make the next outburst worse. 

Remember that you’re still a great mom, even when you say no, yell, and tantrums happen on the daily. It’s a stage that will pass, and you simply showing up every day is proving to them that they can feel safe with you and are loved, which is all a kid really needs. And let’s be honest, as soon as they hit their preteen years, you’ll be a total buzzkill no matter what, so embrace it. 

Images: Alvaro Reyes / Unsplash; Giphy

Why Paris Hilton Is Coming Under Fire For Talking About IVF

Infertility is a problem many people struggle with, and although it is often considered only a woman’s condition, both men and women can contribute to it. While the topic has long been considered hush-hush, in recent years, conversations about fertility struggles are becoming more normalized, with even celebrities opening up about their difficulties. Typically, you’d expect that when a celebrity publicly discusses issues related to infertility, they would be met with an outpouring of support. Not so for Paris Hilton, whose recent comments about her decision to undergo IVF are causing outrage.

On a recent episode of a podcast called The Trend Reporter With MaraHilton opened up about her decision to start a family, remarking that she and her boyfriend Carter Reum had decided to try IVF. She explained that her friend Kim Kardashian was the one who recommended IVF in the first place, saying that before Kardashian’s recommendation, “I didn’t even know anything about it.”

The CDC reports that 1 to 2 percent of all U.S. births annually happen via IVF, and according to WebMD, only about 5% of couples with infertility seek out IVF, so Hilton’s decision to speak publicly about her decision to undergo the process is significant. Although infertility is a fairly common struggle that couples go through, with about 1 in 8 couples having trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy, the stigma of it persists, and women may be on the receiving end of the worst of that stigma. According to a 2019 survey conducted by Modern Fertility, about 1 in 5 women reported that they experienced discrimination or prejudice because of their infertility, which led to them feeling guilt and shame. In addition, 59% of the women who participated in the survey felt that women who are infertile are unfairly treated.

So while Hilton being open about her decision to undergo IVF is commendable and can help lessen the stigma for other women and couples going through the same process, her reasons for going that route are coming under fire. Hilton explains on the podcast, “We wanna have twins first, and then I don’t know, like either 3 or 4 children.” When host Mara Schiavocampo asks if she’s considered surrogacy, because it’s kind of hard to plan twins, Hilton reveals, “we have been doing the IVF so I can pick twins if I like.” Later on, when Schiavocampo asks Hilton what made her decide to undergo IVF, Hilton explains, “I think it’s just something that most women should do just to have, and then you can pick if you want boys or girls … I want to have twins that are a boy and a girl, so the only way to 100% get that is by making it happen that way.”

Hilton’s comments quickly earned backlash and were called “insensitive”. First, there’s the casual remark that every woman should just undergo IVF just to be able to have the option of it, which completely leaves out the fact that for many people, IVF is prohibitively expensive. The average IVF cycle can cost anywhere from $12,000 to $17,000 before medication and not including genetic testing, and it may or may not be covered by insurance. Furthermore, it usually requires more than one round. Most people are not Paris Hilton with net worths of $300 million, and doing IVF is a huge financial undertaking.

And that’s saying nothing of the intense emotional and physical side-effects. Felice Gersh, M.D., an award-winning OB/GYN and founder/director of the Integrative Medical Group of Irvine, in Irvine, CA and the author of PCOS SOS Fertility Fast Track, tells Betches that with IVF, there is a risk of “tubal pregnancy and hyperstimulation of ovaries leading to very enlarged ovaries and illness from too much estrogen produced.” This is on top of “all the issues of any pregnancy”, plus the risks of any procedures, such as infections and bleeding. Most common? The “risk of failure and disappointment and emotional toll is great,” she says.

There’s also the fact that having twins, even through IVF, is risky for both the mother and babies. According to the Fertility Institute, IVF multiple birth risks include the babies being born preterm (almost 60% of twins and 90% of triplets are delivered preterm), which can in turn result in low birth weight and increased risk of long-term issues such as cerebral palsy, vision loss, and hearing loss. There are also serious risks to the mother; complications such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia are more common in twin pregnancies. (Kim Kardashian suffered from preeclampsia during her pregnancies, which is why she ultimately decided to use a surrogate after the birth of her second child). Twin pregnancy is also associated with greater life-threatening maternal complications. Also, age is one of the most common risk factors for high-risk pregnancies, with women over 35 being at greater risk. Hilton is 39. The point is, having twins through IVF at any age should not be taken lightly. Dr. Gersh emphasizes that undergoing IVF with the express purpose of having twins “should never be the goal, as multiple gestational increase risks to the mom and babies.”

And while Dr. Gersh says that “male and female factors for infertility are the usual reasons” for choosing IVF, couples sometimes go this route “to choose gender due to sex linked disease.” Gender selection can happen during IVF if parents choose to have their embryos screened for genetic abnormalities. During that process, the doctors can also look at the sex of the embryo, at which point, parents can choose the embryo. Chrissy Teigen did this when she was pregnant with her daughter Luna. She subsequently was criticized for choosing her child’s sex, forcing her to explain that it was only one part of the process, writing on Twitter, “I think I made a mistake in thinking people understood the process better than they do.” Dr. Gersh says that choosing the sex “would be a personal decision between all concerned” and “is not an issue in the vast majority of cases.”

That said, there are couples who specifically undergo IVF so they can choose the sex of their baby, a practice which is controversial, and Hilton’s comments seem to imply that she may fall into the latter camp.

Shannon M. Clark, MD, MMS, FACOG and creator of the Instagram accounts @babiesafter35, responded to Hilton’s comments in a number of IGTV videos. She asserts, “The idea of being able to ‘pick twins if I like’ is not only incorrect, it’s dangerous and it’s irresponsible to put out there as a choice that anyone could have—because it’s not a choice that anyone could have.” She adds, “IVF is not available to everyone, and twins are a high-risk pregnancy.”

That said, we do not know precisely Hilton’s reasons for undergoing IVF, and given that she is 39 years old, she may very well have been struggling with infertility. Gender selection may have been a plus side of, but not the entire reason for, undergoing IVF. Still, the way she expressed it was flippant, and that could potentially have adverse consequences (though I kind of doubt anyone is seriously looking to Paris Hilton for family planning advice). We may never know exactly why Hilton is undergoing IVF unless she tells us, and the backlash to these comments might make her less inclined  to open up any further. Her comments were out-of-touch and IVF is not feasible for everyone (for a multitude of reasons), and just because Hilton did not seem to experience serious side-effects does not mean it is an easy process. That said, there is a way to correct and provide context for her statements without coming for her personally, and unless we are told otherwise, we should give her the benefit of the doubt in assuming that she made the best decision for herself and her family under the guidance of medical professionals.

Images: Andrea Raffin / Shutterstock.com;

There’s No Such Thing As The ‘Right’ Reaction To Finding Out You’re Pregnant

When life gives you a pandemic… some of us get pregnant, apparently. I realize this outcome was also a recurring joke on social media: the fact that if we were collectively sheltering in place with our partners, one of two things could happen: we’d either destroy each other or make a baby. I guess my husband and I were the latter (although we sometimes dabbled in the former on our off days). Real talk, though: while the timing was funny, my pregnancy didn’t come as a surprise to either one of us—my husband and I had planned to start trying for a baby this year, pandemic be damned. However, the element that caught me off-guard was my initial reaction when I saw that positive pregnancy test result: disappointment. It was pretty much a WTF moment.

Let me rewind and set the scene for you. My husband and I began to “seriously” start trying in mid-September. My family physician, Dr. Tina Chanchlani, informed me that, statistically, about 50% of women get pregnant within 6 months, and 85%-90% would conceive within about 12 months of trying. Sounds reasonable, but based on my volatile health record (mental health issues which include trauma, anxiety, depression, an eating disorder which resulted in my losing my period for about a decade), I fully expected to have trouble getting pregnant. And I was completely okay with that—in fact, I had mentally prepared for the likelihood of my needing to seek out a fertility specialist.

So, plot twist—within a month of trying, my husband asked if I had my period in October, and I informed him that I had missed it. He hastily went out and purchased First Response. I thought he was being an eager beaver, but I indulged in his curiosity even though I was thinking, “there’s no way I could be pregnant so quick”. Then, boom: I took the test, and a “YES” and “+” sign were staring back at me. I was pregnant.

What hit me next was unexpected: a tidal wave of anxiety cascaded over me, leading to a full-fledged attack with blood rushing to my head and my brain going numb and body feeling like a floundering jellyfish. 

“Sh*t,” I thought to myself. I then found myself swimming in a sea of guilt and disappointment. I felt like an asshole for not having a more positive reaction. 

“What’s wrong with me?” I thought. I should feel euphoric, grateful, and overjoyed—not freaking out and having panic attacks. Right?!

Don’t Buy Into The “Right” Or “Wrong” Reaction. It Doesn’t Exist.

Society and pop culture have royally f*cked us over. Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, a part of us has subconsciously absorbed the so-called norms and reductive scripts regarding a woman’s relationship with pregnancy and being pregnant. 

“There is an expectation that has been perpetuated in our society that women should be blissfully excited upon discovering a new pregnancy. However, many women do not have that reaction, which is completely normal. This idea of blissful excitement and anticipation is unrealistic,” explains Dr. Megan Gray, an OB-GYN with Orlando Health Physician Associates. Because there is this undeniable societal pressure to exhibit the “correct” feelings, there’s not much flexibility and understanding of alternative reactions: “there is not a lot of room on the emotional spectrum—the ‘right’ emotion is ‘HAPPY’. That’s it.” adds Behaviorist, Author and Confidence Coach Shane Kulman, Founder of The Awkward Academy. In reality, there are many emotions one can feel upon receiving that life-changing news, and it’s time we acknowledge them.

Expectation Vs. Reality

Part of my disappointment stemmed from the realization that I had fallen prey to one-sided depictions of how a woman “should” react when getting positive pregnancy news. The thing is, it’s unavoidable—we’re all human and susceptible to this kind of societal brainwashing, whether we intend to or not. And that’s okay, so long as we remind ourselves that these narratives are rarely ever accurate displays of real life.

Dr. Barbara Frank, OB/GYN and medical advisor to sustainable wellness brand Attn: Grace, explains, “there are so many factors that play into the way a woman feels during pregnancy. If you find yourself comparing your bump online with other moms or scrolling through ads of smiling new moms who look like they all have it locked down and under control, remember that you are only seeing one side of the picture.”

Dr. Frank does note, though, that there is a small and growing community whose authenticity should be spotlighted:  “I applaud those moms that share the real pictures, the real, raw emotions, the ugly-crying (in love and sadness), the trouble getting out of bed in the morning, the fear of harming your newborn walking down the stairs…” Ultimately she advises mothers-to-be to “be honest with yourself and try to manage your expectations.”

Recognize & Accept Your Feelings With Thoughtfulness

My anxiety attack was followed up with harsh self-talk that I had pretty much failed right out of the gate. I was consumed with self-sabotaging thoughts like, “wow, does this mean I secretly don’t want to be a mom? Am I going to be a bad parent because I wasn’t initially overjoyed?” This subsequently led to an anxiety spiral of overanalyzing and replaying every little second of the hows and whys to understand what was going on in my brain. Take it from me: this is hellishly exhausting, both mentally and physically. If you ever find yourself in a similarly destructive thought pattern, Dr. Gray advises the following: “The first step is recognizing the feeling and giving yourself the grace to feel the emotion. Then trying to nail down the source of the anxiety. Why are you anxious? Write it down.” 

It’s also important to realize that you don’t have to be alone on this journey. Dr. Gray says, “don’t be afraid to seek out a professional who wants to help you. Talking to your physician about any medical concerns you may have associated with pregnancy may allay some of the fears. I would encourage women to talk with an obstetrician or certified nurse midwife about the ins and outs of pregnancy and avoid relying on the internet for information.” Lastly, and an important FYI, Dr. Frank explains that if you find that your mental health issues are affecting your quality of daily living, it may be advisable to seek out a mental health professional.”

A Baby Is A Big F*cking Deal

Creating life is pretty incredible and a big f*cking deal. You definitely know that there are going to be a LOT of life changes, and that knowledge can feel distressing and overwhelming. These are legitimate sentiments to have! Dr. Gray assures us, “It is completely normal to feel anxious about a new pregnancy for so many different reasons. These feelings may be completely different and valid for each individual woman.” In addition to worrying about changes in career, friendships, etc., it’s also normal to be thinking about your well-being: “other women worry about the risks involved in pregnancy for themselves and for the fetus.” Regardless of the trigger, Dr. Gray cites that all of these worries are valid and normal.

Self-Care & No Negative Vibes Allowed

Kulman says that in this scenario, it’s okay to think of yourself and prioritize your needs first: “the best practice is to become as selfish as ever, take on no obligations, to bow out or say ‘no’ gracefully, and have no qualms about using the sentence, ‘I’m sorry I have to say no, it’s best I rest’, with no other explanations necessary.” Kulman follows this up with a self-care plan of action: “self-appointed rest, and moving through life with slow and gentle care is best.”

She also advises, “put the nap times on the calendar, and be purposeful in actions when in productivity mode” and to tag-team it up with your significant other. “Ask for help, help in practical ways, and emotional ways. Have a set time or meeting with your partner about expectations, get excited together and talk about fears and worries—always begin and end the communication time with positivity.” And don’t forget to document your pregnancy adventures. Kulman encourages women to keep a daily journal: “it can be something as simple as bullet points, but regardless of how you choose to express yourself (e.g. draw/write) it’s healthy for many reasons to document this process, or it will be a blur.”

In building upon your self-care regime, it’s also great to have a game plan in mind when you are pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant. Surrounding yourself with nurturing support systems and people is an essential best practice to help you deal with feelings of worry and anxiety. Dr. Gray suggests that soon-to-be moms set up a checklist.

“For mild symptoms (e.g. not affecting daily living, not causing distress), here are some options to help cope with new pregnancy anxiety/issues: 

  1. Find support: primarily trusted friends, family members, partners. 
  2. Get outside and move! Both exercise and being outdoors has shown to improve mood.
  3. Practice gratitude: keep a journal of what you are thankful for. This practice has also been shown to improve mood. 
  4. Talk to your doctor: find an obstetrician or certified nurse midwife that you feel comfortable with. Ask LOTS of questions. Keep the answers in a notebook or on your phone. Refer back to the answers when you need reassurance. 
  5. Take one day at a time. Don’t look too far into the future. 
  6. Talk with a mental health therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist.”

When I found out I was pregnant, I feared that I was being an ungrateful “debbie-downer” and “ruining the moment”  when I informed my husband that I was freaking out and having an anxiety attack. Additionally, everyone else that I spoke to told me that they were nothing but elated (especially those who had struggled for a while to get pregnant in the first place). So I’m not gonna lie: I was worried about what others would think or say about my reaction. What genuinely helped was that I didn’t keep these thoughts trapped inside and shared them with someone I trusted and loved (my hubby), and the fact that my husband didn’t judge me for how I felt. Instead, he told me that he was kind of freaking out too. But he had this reassuring glow to him, explaining that, “yeah holy sh*t—our lives are going to be different, but we have each other to explore this journey together. So while it’s scary and unpredictable, it’s also kind of exciting.” 

Dr. Frank offers, “Like most things in life, and even more so in this case, it’s not all going to be or feel like you might want it to or even expect it to. That baby in your belly didn’t read some master manual, and you and he/she/they are going to have to get through things together, learning as you go.” So she says to not be too hard on yourself.

With so many changes afoot, it’s important to keep afloat of mental and emotional hijacking. Nothing is static and each person’s pregnancy is an unpredictable, yet exhilarating fluid ride. Dr. Gray says, “finding out you are pregnant can induce a multitude of emotions, and it is not always like what you see in the movies or on Instagram or TikTok. However, just because your first emotion is not complete elation does not mean that over time you will not develop some sense of excitement throughout your pregnancy.” Ultimately, it’s about shifting perspective and being honest with yourself without reservations when it comes to your own experiences in being pregnant.

Images: George Rudy / Shutterstock.com