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

5 Things Moms Can Do To Avoid Pandemic Burnout

Listen, I don’t care what any of the upbeat bloggers say, having kids during a pandemic is f*cking hard. Frankly, I’m in survival mode. I went from baking cookies and doing “fun” science experiments in March and part of April to hating my kitchen and anything involving crafts or corn starch. My snack drawer is the bane of my existence; it’s usually empty or doesn’t contain what one child wants at a particular time or whim. I mean, I thought I was part of the TV generation, having grown up in the 80s, but now? Sh*t. These kids will be the TV watching, YouTube subscribing, mug cake-microwaving, TikTok-making idiots of our future. Whoops! Let’s just get through it. Right?

But how? How are we supposed to get through it when we can’t get away from it? Between work, homeschooling, the endless task of making f*cking dinner, finding some alone time is as easy as finding a unicorn swimming in a pot of gold over the rainbow. Amiright??? So, how do I do it? I prioritize. MYSELF. MOI! ME! Yup! It feels selfish, but if I neglect my needs, I tend to get really whiny and pissed. Remember how they used to say, “Put your oxygen mask on first before helping others” as the plane was pushing back (God, I miss flying!)? You, mama, are no good to anybody else if you’re no good to yourself. So, embrace putting your damn oxygen mask on first. I’m not saying every day needs to be a spa day, but at the very least, drink some cucumber water and take some calming breaths. Here’s what you need to be doing to make sure you don’t burn out.

1. Make Time For The Things That Are Important To You

Like I said, prioritize yourself. I know you’re probably reading this right now thinking, that’s f*cking great, Deb, but there’s not enough time in the day, let alone time dedicated just for me. I know! I feel that way every day! But, I always make time for myself. Between writing, podcasting, Zoom calls, homeschooling, snack-making, lunch-making, dinner-making, I somehow find a way. I make sure to get a workout in or read an article I’ve been looking forward to, or do anything else that has the potential to put a smile on my face for at least 10 to 15 minutes. And sometimes that means getting up at the crack of dawn, but it’s worth it. And, once you get used to it, it’s not that bad.

2. Have Sex

Remember that you actually love your significant other. Remember that you chose to spend the rest of your life with this person. Remember that you have a partner and that even though your kids need you (all the f*cking time), getting some QT with your partner is just as important as taking time for yourself. Yes, I know that we’re 100% in competition over who is doing more work (and of course we are), but sex feels good, for both of you! And, it’s a great reminder that no matter how hard things are right now, you’re not alone. No S.O.? No problem! Quality time with your hand or personal massager—seriously. You’ll release those same endorphins and help you let go of the stress. 

3. Work Out

Not for a damn six-pack or a beach bod, but because it’s another one of those things that just feels good. It’s kind of like sex… You know how sometimes you don’t feel like doing it, but then about a minute into it, you’re reminded how much you love it and how great it feels? It’s the same thing with working out. I mean it! No time? That’s bullsh*t. See number 1. We make time for the things that are important to us. And especially now, during the pandemic, there are a ridiculous number of workout apps that range in level and time. Make it a habit, a non-negotiable part of your day (like all of those annoying Zoom calls).

4. Two Words: Play Date

Schedule weekly play dates—for you, not for your kids! Obviously, I’m talking about Zoom play dates considering we’re in the midst of a pandemic, but a  Zoom cocktail is a pretty incredible mood-booster. I know that we’re all pretty Zoomed out, but it’s different when you have a cocktail in your hand, some chips (or cheese or cookies or cake) nearby, and the kids are asleep. Catching up with a friend (even over a screen) can be powerful, and allow for those happy hormones (dopamine) to release. 

5. Set F*cking Boundaries

We are so used to being “on” and available that we don’t have any idea how the hell to turn “off”. It’s especially bad now that we aren’t leaving our houses as frequently. We used to be out and about, busy doing errands, etc., which would oftentimes excuse us from instantly answering a text or email. But now that we’re home 24/7, we feel as though we don’t have a reason to be “off” because people know we have nowhere to be. Well, you do have a reason. It’s called self-care. And, it’s okay to be home and unavailable. It’s okay to not be accessible all the time. So, walk away from your phone. Walk away from the urge to respond immediately. Just walk away, and come back when you’ve had a change to regroup. Permission granted.

More than anything else, you are not alone. There are millions of moms (and dads, but we’re not talking about them now) struggling through how to raise our kids in a pandemic. It’s not easy. And it feels almost unbelievable that this is our reality. But it is. And, one way or another, we have to make the best of it. So, start with YOU! Because YOU are important. You are worth it. And, your kids need you to be their pillar of strength. So, get after it! 

Images: 4dgraphic / Unsplash

So Will There *Really* Be A Pandemic Baby Boom?

We’re officially nine months into the pandemic. Couples have been quarantined together all day every day this whole time. It takes nine months to birth a baby. Are you picking up what I’m putting down? As soon as the first lockdown hit came the jokes that there would be a huge baby boom. So given that we’ve been in quarantine for as long as a gestation period, you’d think that everyone is about to start popping out kids any minute now. Right? Actually, maybe not. Allow us to explain the many reasons why there’s probably not going to be a mid-pandemic baby boom anytime soon.

People Are Having Less Sex

I lived with my ex for most of the pandemic, and my single friends and friends in LDRs were jealous that we were having sex all the time—except we, uhh, definitely weren’t. Like, at all. So this idea that ~couples must be banging nonstop since they’re locked at home together 24/7~ is a very fair and popular assumption, but the truth is that’s just not the case.

And I’m not just using my own experience as empirical evidence here—science backs me up. “Although we might imagine that more time with our partners might result in more sex, we’ve seen the opposite in our 2020 Relationship Health Report, with people reporting a 15% drop in sex since before the pandemic,” explains Briony Leo, psychologist and head of coaching at relationship coaching and self-care app Relish

It’s not just couples feeling the effects of quarantine, either. Singles are having less sex, too. “Experts like those interviewed in the journal Nature say that the effects of a crisis on people’s sex lives is very individual, and depends on the nature of the crisis it is and how long it lasts,” explains Julie Graves, MD, MPH, PhD, associate director of clinical services at sexual health company Nurx. “COVID is unique in that for single people, it makes it both risky and logistically difficult to meet sex partners. There’s anxiety that you could get COVID from a partner, plus there are fewer social events where you can connect with potential partners.” I mean, none of this surprises me. The risk of dying or getting others sick definitely isn’t worth getting laid, IMHO. 

Libidos Have Been All Over The Place

If you’re just not feeling sexy right now, you’re not alone. Our sex drives are drastically impacted during times of economic recession or global depression (like in a pandemic). “Research tells us that stress does impact our sexual activity,” explains Leo, noting that the more stressed we are, the less sex we want to have. TBH, same.

Another study found that half their respondents had seen a change in their sexual activity since COVID, with factors such as having children at home, depressive symptoms, and loneliness shown to predict a decrease in sex and a decrease in bonding behaviors like holding hands, cuddling and hugging,” says Leo. She adds that although some people experience spikes in libido during stressful times and use sex as a “stress management tool,” stress generally seems to shut down our sex drives to help us focus on coping and getting through (read: surviving) hard times. 

Relationship Satisfaction Is Low, Too

Another win for the single people: turns out everyone quarantining with their partner is probably not living in bliss rn, either. That’s because not only does stress impact libido, but research shows it impacts relationship satisfaction, too. “We’re also having less sex simply because we’re arguing more with our partners or finding them more annoying,” Leo says. Wonderful! But I mean, not surprising considering you’re bound to get irritated by your S.O. at some point if you’re stuck together 24/7 (if you’re abiding by the recommended guidelines and staying TF inside like you should be).

Couples Are Heavily Focused On Pregnancy Prevention

For most couples who are making it through this sh*t show of a year (first off, congrats), their baby making plans have largely been put on hold. “Researchers at the Brookings Institution have forecast that there could be half a million fewer babies born in America next year,” says Dr. Graves. That’s 500,000 fewer babies! Why? Well, there are a few factors at play. 

Leo claims that uncertainty is a main factor in couples’ decisions to put off baby making. “Many people are putting off becoming pregnant during COVID, due to understandable concerns about the stability of their employment, accessing hospital care during this time, and even giving birth without loved ones present due to COVID restrictions,” she explains. “A lack of certainty about what will happen in the next year has resulted in many people putting big plans like this on hold.” 

Obviously, some couples are becoming pregnant in 2020 (looking @ you, every celebrity), but the majority of couples are being extra cautious about having babies right now. “Nurx saw a 50% increase in requests for birth control prescriptions when the pandemic hit in March, and we’ve experienced sustained growth all year,” says Dr. Graves. People obviously take birth control for other reasons than not wanting to have a child, but she notes that “the big jump seen in birth control demand suggests that couples are still having sex but taking pregnancy prevention seriously.” To drive that point home even harder, she adds that the company has also seen a 40% increase in demand for the morning after pill. People are really saying “no babies this year” loud and clear. 

In summary, everyone’s focused on work, health, relationships, politics, social justice, and literally just staying alive—all things that can impact a person’s libido and overall relationship happiness. So having babies is low on the priority list right now.

Okay, But What About A POST-Pandemic Baby Boom?

After this dumpster fire of a pandemic is over, people will (probably) be happier and having more sex. So can we expect to see a post-pandemic baby boom? Sounds like another decent assumption, but probably not. “Experts interviewed in the Atlantic don’t seem to think there will be a baby boom, but that birth rates should return to pre-pandemic levels,” says Dr. Graves. 

However (!), Relish’s report might hint toward the opposite. “In our report, we did find that of the couples who had made it through the pandemic without breaking up , 40% were actually happier in their relationship now as compared to pre-COVID. This tells us that, once things settle down, there may be more couples taking that step towards starting a family,” says Leo. She believes that due to the reduced amount of stress, isolated, uncertainty, financial insecurity, and all that other fun stuff, people are probably going to be celebrating by having *a lot* more sex (which could lead to *a lot* more babies).

I mean, let’s look at what happened after WWII. “We can look to history for other phenomena, such as the ‘Baby Boom’ where families who had put off having children during the Second World War started families (with the average age of first time mothers decreasing from 22 to 20 during this time),” Leo adds. “A major part of this was the perception of safety and that this was the right time to start a family, so we may see some parallels with COVID and when the world is ‘safe’ again people will make this decision.” 

So, yeah. It’s a hard “maybe” to a potential post-pandemic baby boom and a hard “absolutely not” during quarantine. In other words, we’re basically left with one big looming question mark with everything until this pandemic ends, but I guess it’s safe to say we won’t be seeing a ton of babies being born any time soon. Will we even be alive to see the end of COVID? Who knows! I mean, who TF wants to have a baby ever during a pandemic when our own lives are in danger anyway?

Images: Alekon Pictures / Unsplash; Giphy (5)