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

Is Premarital Pregnancy Trendy?

When I was a teenager and started hooking up with my first “totally wrong for me” boyfriend, the thing I was most afraid of was getting pregnant. I never messed around without condoms, and even then, I’d make him pull out every time just to be extra careful. It wasn’t due to the fact that my parents said they’d disown me if I got knocked up—I’m pretty sure we only had one awkward conversation about it in the car, and I’ve mostly blocked out the memory due to the sheer humiliation of it all. No, it was the way they talked about relatives who accidentally got pregnant or how my mom looked disappointed yet resigned when I asked to go on birth control at 17.

Even as I got older, went to college, and started getting my sh*t together, the implication was there: don’t get pregnant before you’re married. The reason, of course, was that my life would be over. Destroyed. I’d be a ~ruined woman.~ So, I used condoms, pulled out, and went on birth control that destroyed my libido and made me not want to have sex in the first place, all in an effort to avoid the dreaded pregnancy out of wedlock.

I put a lot of work into not getting pregnant, but now, as a married, professional (lol) woman in my late twenties who spends an ungodly amount of time scrolling through Instagram, I’m starting to wonder if that was the right choice. As my biological clock starts to tick, it makes sense why some women would decide to get pregnant despite not being married. Unless you’ve somehow managed to avoid all media for the past couple of years, there’s a good chance you’ve been privy to celeb pregnancy announcements. Kylie Jenner, Khloé Kardashian, Mindy Kaling, Emma Roberts, and Gigi Hadid are just a handful of the mommas out there who had a baby (or babies, in Mindy’s case) sans spouse. Granted, they are superstars who have money and the ability to hire people to help them. But it’s not just people who can make bank from one #SponCon who are bucking the “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby with the baby carriage” norm. It’s regular people as well.

Despite the outdated taboo, a few friends of mine got pregnant and had babies before getting married, and at first, I didn’t think much of it. But then, I saw more and more women my age posting stunning bump pictures without a partner (or at least, without a ring) and dressing their babies up and casually chatting about shared custody or their happy unmarried family unit. When I saw my 10th announcement within a few months, I pulled a Carrie and couldn’t help but wonder: Is getting pregnant sans marriage… trendy?

As someone who went the “socially accepted/expected” path (college, marriage, house, maybe babies in the future), I can’t speak to the hows and whys of the influx of single moms, but it’s definitely not just an Instagram coincidence. Before the 1960s, premarital pregnancy was pretty f*cking rare, according to 2017 data from the United States Congress Joint Economic Committee. Back then, about 5.3% of births were to single ladies. Since then, however, births to unmarried women started climbing. In 2008, 40% of births were to unwed moms, and today only about 9% of those are followed up with a good old fashion shotgun wedding, as opposed to 43% back in the early ’60s.

So, the big question is: Why are millennials choosing to have children outside of marriage?

Basically? We don’t view marriage the same way our parents and grandparents did. “Previous generations viewed marriage as the first step of adulthood. Many millennials, however, look at marriage as one of the last milestones you get to after you are financially stable,” relationship therapist and coach Jaime Bronstein explains to Betches. “Since many millennials aren’t gaining that financial security at the peak of their child-bearing years, they feel like they should just have a baby regardless of their relationship status while they can.”

Baily, a 27-year-old mom of a 1-year-old, agrees. “In my grandma’s generation, you just did not get divorced. It was against the church. In my mom’s generation, everyone’s divorced,” she explains. “This generation isn’t bothering. I never grew up wanting to get married. I was never that girl. I don’t look at wedding dresses or rings online. I just wanted to be a mom one day.

Despite not being married (although she is in a serious relationship with her baby’s father), Baily’s decision to get pregnant wasn’t totally accidental. “I’d be lying if I said alcohol wasn’t involved,” she admits, “But I had very knowingly canceled my birth control subscription to eventually try. It just happened a lot faster than I thought.” Since she’s with a man eight years her senior who, she says, “was on an ‘I wanna be a dad kick,'” having a baby just made sense. 

Sarah, a 29-year-old regional sales manager, is currently 33 weeks along in her pregnancy and in a serious, committed relationship with her baby’s father. The mom-to-be agrees with Baily, saying, “I think as a society we are becoming less traditional as a whole. Part of the shift from tradition is making the decision to have a baby regardless of marital status.”

When it comes to her relationship, Sarah says, “My pregnancy has only strengthened our relationship. It’s been such a joy to watch him settle into fatherhood.” She adds, “It’s funny how things that once felt so major (like a wedding) seem so insignificant once you’re expecting a child together.”

For Adriane, a flight attendant with a 3-year-old son, it was the legal freedom that came with being unwed—as well as the chance to see how her S.O. handled the changes—that made her feel like it was the right decision. “You get to find out how your partner deals with stress and big life changes. Like a trial period,” she laughs.

“You can always cancel if you don’t like it,” Samantha, an unmarried mom of two, agrees. “You see everything about a person before you decide to spend your whole life with someone. I think that cuts down on your chance of divorce. If things don’t work out, it’s a lot easier to break up than to divorce, and that will be easier on your kids.”

And while the moms I talked to (all of whom have some level of post-secondary education) are in agreement that they made the right choice in having their children, being unmarried can add a level of uncertainty.

It’s easier to leave when you aren’t married, and that has been a worry of mine at times,” says mom of two, Jenn. “A new baby is tough. Especially postpartum when my hormones are crazy, and I’m a mess crying all the time… There is a lot of gross stuff that goes on during pregnancy and after you have the baby which your partner is going to see. It definitely made me nervous that maybe he wouldn’t find me attractive or sexy again after seeing my body change so much and seeing me in such a vulnerable position.”

Luckily for Jenn, her partner is proving to be as doting—if not more so—than the husbands of her friends, which is something Baily noticed as well. “Men can be very irritating, and I’m a big ‘I’ll just do it myself’-er. I luckily still have a lot of support,” she explains. “My boyfriend is great, and he’s such a great dad too. But I see my single friends managing just fine without a man.”

Baily and Samantha both feel the societal shift will continue to grow as women see close single friends and “everyday women” rear children without a spouse. Add in the fact that single influential celebrities are also having babies and the whole trend gains speed. 

“Celebrities have a large influence on the minds of impressionable individuals. Naturally, you compare yourself to those in the public eye and wonder if their reality can be your reality,” explains relationship expert Spicy Mari. As the female empowerment movement continues to push forward (about damn time, amiright?), there’s a good chance unwed pregnancy will continue to become more popular.

As women become more financially stable, they feel as though they don’t need to be married to gain the financial benefits they once needed that came along with marriage,” adds Bronstein.

Ultimately, every relationship is different. For some, a legally binding commitment will make them feel ready to have a child. While 60% of pregnancies still happen post-wedding, a growing amount of people just don’t need that sort of declaration. Whether you’re married or not, things like judgment from older generations and sticky logistics should the relationship not work out are factors to consider, but will probably come either way.

Anne*, a recently divorced mom of a 1-year-old, advises anyone thinking about getting pregnant, “to ask themselves: ‘Can I co-parent with this person if we don’t work out?’ and ‘Am I willing to see less of my child if we do end up co-parenting?'” She adds, “Obviously, that can happen if you get married. But married couples are more likely to work things out than couples who don’t have that commitment.” 

Ultimately, deciding you want to get pregnant in 2021 isn’t necessarily contingent upon being married, so you have to decide what’s best for you and your child. “Think about your personal pros and cons. Think about the meaning and purpose behind both,” advises Bronstein. “Everyone needs to do what is best for them.” There’s no wrong answer here, as long as you’re emotionally, physically, and financially ready to care for a child.

“A commitment is a commitment, and a baby is a HUGE commitment. Nothing says ‘you’re mine forever’ like literally creating a life together,” says Baily. “Don’t let government papers, a wedding dress, or bitchy bridesmaids dictate how old your kids will be when you’re 40 on a cruise ship drinking margs, and they’re all off to college already.” We’ll cheers our mocktails to that. 

*Name has been changed.

Images: Camylla Battani / Unsplash; Giphy (5)

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 I Learned From My Miscarriage

“The pregnancy is not developing. I’m sorry.” I sat on the exam table, masked, alone, and completely bewildered by what I’d just heard. Of course, I’d always known this was a possibility. Hell, I’d spent weeks avoiding friends and family members and keeping my pregnancy a secret because it was still early. But “knowing” and knowing are two very different things. We all “know” that pregnancy loss happens. Just a couple of weeks ago, Chrissy Teigen bravely shared with the world that she lost her baby after experiencing complications with her pregnancy. Yet many were shocked or uncomfortable that Teigen revealed something so personal in such detail, confirming that stories like hers are still too often spoken about in hushed tones. I for one am over this. October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, and in keeping with the spirit of the day, I’d like to share what I’ve learned after going through my own miscarriage.

It’s Surprisingly Common

Miscarriages are the most common cause of pregnancy loss, and they happen frequently. The statistics vary, but some tell us that about 10-20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage, while others state that the rate is as high as 1 in 4. Anecdotally, it feels like it’s even more than that. Once I decided to open up and share my experience with other people, I started hearing so many others’ stories of pregnancy loss. If it hasn’t happened to the friends I’ve told, it’s happened to one of their friends or family members. While I’d never wish my experience on anyone, it’s comforting to know that I’m in the company of so many other strong and accomplished women.

Talking About It Helps

When I first learned my pregnancy wasn’t viable, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to share it with anyone beyond my closest friends and family members, for a couple of reasons. First, the experience can be hard to put into words. I barely had time to acclimate to the changes in my body and my identity before suddenly they were rendered obsolete. And yet, I was devastated, grieving for something that barely was. The abrupt shift was jarring, maddening, and totally disorienting. How do you explain that to someone who’s never been through it?

I was also afraid of burdening those around me with the news. It seemed strange to reach out, only to share something so awful. But then I had a revelation. I’d spent weeks isolating myself from the people I cared about when I was pregnant and it was anxiety-producing and depressing. Why double down on behavior that wasn’t serving me in the first place when I actually needed people? So much of pregnancy is shrouded in secrecy. Well-meaning secrecy, perhaps, but secrecy nonetheless. And those secrets were making me sick. Once I decided to open up to my family, friends, and therapist, I was overwhelmed by the love and support I received, which is just what I needed to start healing.

It’s Not Pretty

I think the main reason we don’t talk openly about pregnancy loss is because it doesn’t jibe with the picture-perfect ideal of motherhood that we expect women to uphold. Motherhood is supposed to be pretty and, above all, easy. The content on social media seems to confirm this. After all, it’s much more pleasant to post a joyful pregnancy announcement or serene maternity shot than it is to share the gruesome details of your D&C. Don’t get me wrong: we absolutely should celebrate the happy moments, especially during a time when we’re all looking for a glimmer of hope. But the ideal of motherhood is just that. It doesn’t tell the whole story, especially when so many women struggle with loss and infertility.

The ugly physical side effects that accompany a miscarriage are almost nothing compared to the emotional ones. Grief is already a non-linear process, but as the hormones produced during pregnancy begin to leave the body you may very well feel like you’re losing your mind. In my case, I’d go from moments where I was watching my favorite trash on Bravo and laughing like old times, to moments where my anxiety would take hold, convincing me that I’d never be able to have a child, and leaving me curled up on my couch in hysterics. One study found that one in six women who miscarry suffer long-term PTSD. Symptoms like these are invisible and insidious, exacerbating the anxiety and depression that underly an already traumatic experience. The hopelessness can feel so real you take it as fact, even though it’s not.

It Takes Time To Heal

If you’d spoken to me in the first week or two following my miscarriage, I’d have told you that I didn’t know if I would ever recover. But somewhere around week three, as I confided in friends and family, made peace with the fact that this happened to me, and let go of the shame, I started to feel like myself again. The key is to allow yourself time to feel better. We’re all built differently, and dwelling on how you “should” and “shouldn’t” be feeling is useless. Acknowledging your pain and letting yourself feel it is essential to the healing process.

Ask For What You Need

Just like it’s okay to let yourself feel the pain, it’s okay to ask for what you need from loved ones. It’s not uncommon for there to be a disconnect in the grief experienced by the person who lost the pregnancy and the partner who cares, but doesn’t fully understand what the other is going through on a physical and emotional level. While some resentment is natural, it helps to model the behavior you’re looking for by asking, compassionately, for some compassion. The same goes for friends and family members who don’t know what to say and may not understand that silence isn’t always golden. If you want to talk about it, let them know and explain that a safe space to air your feelings is all you’re looking for.

This rule also goes for your medical care. If your doctor isn’t showing you the care and empathy you deserve after a pregnancy loss, there’s nothing wrong with looking for a new doctor. The doctor-patient relationship during a pregnancy is a long and intimate one, and it’s important that you and your doctor are on the same page about the kind of care you need to feel safe and comfortable.

Pregnancy loss is heart-wrenching, but it’s not insurmountable. Talk to those you trust and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. There’s strength in laying bare your weaknesses. While I have no idea what the road ahead looks like, I’m grateful I don’t have to walk it alone.

Image: Kinga Cichewicz / Unsplash

The 5 Most Awkward Birth Questions, Answered

Having a baby is beautiful and a miracle and all that, but anyone who has gone through it knows it’s also awkward AF. There’s nothing quite like your mom texting the whole extended family about how many centimeters dilated you are to make you realize that fact. There are a lot of unspoken questions about birth that expecting moms might be too embarrassed to ask their friend, sister, mom, or even their OBGYN. We’re going to do every first-time mom a favor and dive right in to some of the most awkward birth questions that you’ve been dying to know.

1. Will I Poop During Labor?

So this is probably an obvious one that we’re all just in denial about—understandably, because who enjoys pooping in front of someone else? Pushing a baby out is literally exactly like pushing the biggest poop of your life out, and you will be using every muscle imaginable to get that baby out. So yes, most women do poop while giving birth.

If this automatically makes you sweaty and uncomfortable, know that it’s incredibly common. Nurses are completely unfazed by it and clean it up so fast that you’ll have no clue anyway. 

2. Will I Be Able to Cover Up And Not Be Totally Naked?

 

View this post on Instagram

 

So what I’m hearing is you’re not coming home with me but what I want to know is why? // credit/permission @melreiscosta

A post shared by @ betchesmoms on

The short answer is not really. However, it’s very important to note that even the most modest mom will give approximately zero f*cks about being naked mid-contraction. You’ll have a hospital gown on, but it’s pretty difficult to keep anything below the waist covered when it’s time to push. If you’re having a C-section, you’ll likely be naked from the waist down. You’ll have a sheet between you and the surgery, so at least you don’t have to watch. 

Either way, you are singlehandedly (with the help of your nurses and doctors) bringing life into this world, which is pretty incredible. Not a single person in that room will care about you being naked, including yourself. 

3. Will My Partner See Everything And Will It Affect Our Relationship?

See above about the fact that it’s pretty impossible not to be totally naked from the waist down, so unless your partner stares intensely at your face the entire time (which is definitely even more awkward), they will see some stuff during a vaginal delivery. That is, of course, unless they’re a fainter. 

If your partner thinks any differently of you or your body after bringing his/her baby into the world, it better be positive. That’s all I have to say about that. Generally, though, there tends to be a resounding sense of amazement from partners. Choose the person or people that will be in the room with you wisely, because they will be your biggest cheerleaders throughout—not to mention, they may be cussed at a lot.

4. How Long Will I Bleed For?

 

View this post on Instagram

 

We’re being REALLY real with you guys. (It’s ALL worth it)

A post shared by @ betchesmoms on

This is a case-by-case basis, but typically up to six weeks, even if you’ve had a C-section. Unfortunately, you do still bleed if you have a C-section (although usually not for as long). It doesn’t seem right or fair since C-sections are invasive enough as is, but if all of this were fair, then men would have to give birth and humanity probably wouldn’t survive. 

You may also be a bit sore and swollen, which might come as a surprise the first time you take a look down there postpartum. Remember that the ice packs provided by the hospital are your best friend. The good news is that the bleeding and swelling will eventually subside, and you then get to look forward to your first postpartum period. Isn’t being a woman fun? 

5. Should I Shave/Wax?

The least of your doctor’s concerns are your unshaved vagina, and WHO recommends not shaving prior to labor to minimize your risk for infection. It’s ultimately up to you, but if you’re tempted to, you may want to run it by your doctor first. If you are having a C-section, they’ll shave around the incision site, but they may have more specific instructions for you to prep for your surgery.

If you’re modest and feeling a bit anxious about all this, remember that the doctors and nurses are very, very used to anything weird that happens during labor and don’t actually think any of it is embarrassing at all. You also absolutely won’t be thinking about any of this when the big day comes.

Image: Ömürden Cengiz / Unsplash; betchesmoms (2) / Instagram

Why Do People Say The Dumbest Things To Pregnant Women?

What is it about seeing a pregnant woman that makes some people lose all common sense? I know what you may be thinking: why is a man writing this article? Well, let me tell you—this man lived with a woman who was pregnant for 20 out of 24 straight months. So…yeah, I’ve learned a thing or two about how people seem to treat pregnant women, either by witnessing it firsthand or hearing about it later through frustrated tears and scoops of ice cream.

To get rid of the elephant in the room (no, not my wife!), my wife and I had two kids literally back to back. Our kids are 367 days apart, to be exact. Essentially, my wife went back to work from maternity leave pregnant, again. I left my wife and newborn daughter in the hospital to take our son to his one-year pediatrician checkup. You get the point. So I’ve heard a lot.

Some of you may be thinking that the majority of insensitive comments towards pregnant women probably come from men, which I assumed would be the case as well. Let’s face it: if you’re a guy and you’ve never had a kid, you’ve been somewhat trained to run in fear at the sight or even thought of a pregnant woman. And if it’s not fear, it’s a sense of being mesmerized at the thought of a baby growing inside of a human body, often resulting in silly questions like “can I touch it?” (as if that’s ever a normal thing to ask anyone). There was even the one dude in our apartment elevator who compared my wife’s stomach to the shape of a basketball. Huge technical foul! Because elevator rides weren’t awkward enough. But from my experience with my wife, it seemed like some of the strangest and most off-putting comments came from women, too. And even stranger, it was often employees at the stores we were shopping at.

For example, one time when my wife was shopping at Trader Joe’s and went to buy cookie dough, a checkout lady at the store politely told my wife that cookie dough isn’t good for pregnant women to eat because it contains raw eggs. Umm…what? As if my wife was going to buy cookie dough, go home, and just peel back the wrapper and start going to town on it, like it was a banana…? How did, at no point, the thought occur to this woman that my wife might be planning on, I don’t know, actually baking cookies like most civilized people do? Not only that—the cookie dough was for me! And while I admit, sure, I’ll snag a piece of dough or two, but the majority of that roll is getting baked. I’m sure this woman meant no harm and was only trying to be helpful, but what would have actually been helpful would have been to treat my wife like any other customer that day and not provide extra bits of knowledge that were uncalled for. If you want to do something extra, allow her to cut the typically long line and/or offer to help carry her bags out. Don’t cookie dough-shame her.

If people typically say unwarranted things to pregnant women in general, you can imagine the insensitive things people would say to my wife when she was five months pregnant and walking around with an eight-month-old. One time, we were looking around in a furniture store and one of the managers looked at my son in his stroller, commenting on how cute he was. At that point, I liked her. Then she proceeded to raise her eyes upward from my son’s smiling face towards my wife’s pregnant stomach, and the smile quickly turned to confusion. The conversation went a lot like this:

“Wait, how old is he?”

“Eight months.”

“And you’re pregnant…again!?”

“Yep…Five months. ”

“Wow…”

She was like Rain Main trying to calculate the math in her head. Now, this isn’t the craziest reaction in the world, as it’s a comment we’ve heard often and still hear today. So at this point she was still OK in my book. And then she continued:

“My niece had Irish twins also…She was miserable. Really hard stuff when they’re so young!”

Umm…OK, lady. Now I no longer like you. We did not ask about your family history or your input on the matter, but thanks. And she didn’t even stop there:

“It’s still so tough on her. They fight over everything. It never gets easier.”

Never gets easier? Can’t even give us a little glimmer of hope? And to think—we’re customers in her store. I hid my true anger behind some sarcastic remark and immediately exited the store. There was not a chance I was giving this woman a dollar of my money, but part of me did want to drive back there later without my wife and break a few lamps as I really let loose on her for how inappropriate her comments were. My wife was going through a lot both physically and emotionally, and the last thing she needed was the manager at some furniture store to be comparing us to her miserable niece. If you ask me, her miserable niece has a pretty miserable aunt.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

PSA: No ones listening

A post shared by @ betchesmoms on

Ultimately, these are only two instances that I’m referencing here in detail, but there were a ton of other off-putting conversations, too. It feels like some people think that when they see a pregnant woman, they have to address the matter in some way, whether with a joke, bits of advice, or some comparative story—when the truth is that sometimes they’re better off just saying nothing at all. It’s OK to just treat a pregnant woman like any other person. I do believe people should always help by opening a door, offering a spot on line, or helping them carry something heavy, because those are all considerate things to do. But striking up a conversation where you let them know about your miserable niece is not necessary at all! Just let them go about their day as they were; there’s enough on their plate.

But again, I’m just a guy who was married to somebody pregnant for a considerable amount of time. I mean for zero husband-splaining. I don’t know what it’s like to be pregnant, emotionally or physically. The only physical toll my wife’s pregnancy took on me was the scars on the bottom of my feet from constantly walking around on eggshells. I just really didn’t appreciate when other people sprinkled more eggshells in my path.

Image: Tai’s Captures  / Unsplash; betchesmoms / Instagram

5 Things To Think About Before Having A Baby

The time has finally come. Whether you’ve always dreamed about having a family or you’re finally entertaining the idea because you’re fairly sure you want kids and can’t put it off any longer your biological clock is ticking, you’re seriously considering getting pregnant. On purpose. As beautiful as that is, the idea can be overwhelming. How do you even begin to prepare? Before you start tracking your ovulation cycle and lifting your legs in the air after sex, here are some things you should consider.

1. Your Financial State

It’s no secret that having a baby is expensive AF. Even if you’re not living in a major city where daycare costs the same as an additional rent payment, paying to clothe, feed, and care for an additional human being adds up quickly. How will this impact your current lifestyle? Will you have to move, and is that something you’re willing to do? Not only do you need to consider your income (and that of your partner, if you have one), but also your spending habits. If you spend most weeks subsisting on ramen because you blew through your paycheck or you consider withdrawing cash from the ATM your own personal version of Russian roulette, then it may be time to reassess whether you’re really ready to support another person.

2. Your Emotional Maturity

Right up there with the financial piece is whether or not you’re emotionally ready to have a child. Although we all know that having a baby changes your life dramatically, it’s important to think concretely about the ways it will change your life specifically. For example, if you, like me, are someone who likes to sleep in past 10am late on the weekends, you’re going to have to make peace with the fact that bringing a new life into this world is likely to give a whole new meaning to the word “exhaustion”. Similarly, if you’re used to going out every weekend, you’ll need to think seriously about whether you’re willing to have your social life take a back seat to bottle feedings and diaper changes. Having a baby is the ultimate act of selflessness, and it’s important to be confident that you’re in a place where you’re ready to be a little less selfish.

3. Your Support System

They don’t say “it takes a village to raise a child” for nothing. While many superwomen (and supermen) can and do raise children on their own, it’s incredibly difficult. Assuming you have a partner, it’s important to discuss upfront your expectations as far as the division of labor goes and make sure you’re on the same page. If you’re expecting to share feeding and changing responsibilities pretty equally and your significant other expects to only do, like, 10% of the work, dump that significant other it’s best to work out those kinks before the baby comes. If you’re thinking of raising a baby on your own, are there friends or relatives you can lean on when needed? The more support you have in place, the smoother the rough patches will be.

4. Your Health & Wellness

We all know that having a baby can wreak havoc on your body. But besides coming to terms with the weight gain, fluctuations in hormones, and other common bodily changes that come with performing The Miracle of Life, you should also make sure you’re prepared from a health and wellness perspective. This may mean talking to your doctor about any necessary dietary or lifestyle changes, the medicines you’re currently taking and the skin care products you use, as certain adjustments may be necessary when pregnant. If you’re concerned about passing on a certain genetic disorder to your baby, you may also want to consider pre-genetic testing for yourself, and if needed, your partner, so you have all of the information needed to make the decision that’s right for you.

5. Your Parenting Style

Cool mom

Will you be a regular mom or a cool mom? All kidding aside, now is a good time to start thinking about how you would like to raise your child, especially if you’re sharing the responsibilities with a partner who likely had a very different upbringing than you. Aside from the more obvious subjects like religion, are you and your significant other on the same page about the kinds of values you want to instill in your kid? Will one of you take on the role of disciplinarian, or is that a role that both parties should share? Getting aligned now can save you from conflicts down the road.

While no one is ever 100% ready to have a baby, thinking through some of the things on this list can help you to get in the right mindset and confirm that you’re on the right track. If you’re making these plans with a partner, communication is key. You may not agree on everything, but an open dialogue now will pay dividends later, both for you and your relationship. What else should someone consider before having a baby? Let me know in the comments!

Images: Xavier Mouton Photographie / Unsplash; Giphy (5)

How Much Can You Actually Work Out While Pregnant?

As someone who gets 75% of her sanity from regular exercise, when I found out I was pregnant last February, I suddenly started thinking twice about lacing up my running sneakers. Would my regular four-mile runs hurt the baby or me? What about the yoga classes I went to three or four times a week? 

While I was lucky enough to have an easy first trimester without any nausea or energy dips, I did have a little bit of spotting. That only made my anxiety about exercise worse, which made me want to exercise more… and so the cycle continued. 

What I wish I’d had back then was an expert-approved guide to how much I could actually exercise while pregnant. And while you should always consult your doctor with any specific questions, here’s a roadmap to help you get started. 

Is It Safe To Exercise While You’re Pregnant?

The answer to this, according to OB/GYN and sexual health advisor Angela Jones, is a resounding yes. “Exercise during pregnancy does a body good and a pregnancy even better,” she explains. “Exercise helps expectant moms feel better and it gives them more energy. Exercise also helps stave off certain medical conditions such as gestational diabetes or hypertensive disorders that may occur during pregnancy.”

Another major perk of exercising during pregnancy? An easier labor and delivery. “Exercise helps moms get ‘fit’ for labor,” Jones says. “Labor means work. A more fit body is able to perform better during the labor and delivery aspect of the pregnancy.”

But how much exercise should you be getting, exactly? “The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity weekly,” Jones notes. “If you are active enough to raise your heart rate, break a sweat, and still speak in complete sentences, you’re probably hitting the mark.” 

That said, some people do need to be more careful than others when it comes to exercising while pregnant. When my doctor investigated my particular spotting issue (which unfortunately continued until the 20-week mark), she said that while the baby was fine, the intensity of my exercise was probably causing irritation, which was what was leading to the spotting. She recommended shifting from running to walking and light yoga.

While my situation was mild, there are other more serious cases when exercise should be put on hold for a while. “In the case of certain types of heart or lung disease, cervical insufficiency (or if you have a cervical cerclage in place) or placenta previa, you should back off the exercise,” says Jones. “Other reasons could include hypertensive disorders such as preeclampsia, risks of preterm labor, or if your water has broken, or you’re anemic. These are all situations where exercise would not be recommended during pregnancy.”

Everyone’s situation is different, though, so the most important thing you can do is chat with your doctor to get exercise recommendations based on your specific pregnancy. 

Pregnancy-Friendly Workouts

In most cases, working out while pregnant is totally fine. But not all workouts are created equal, especially because as your belly grows, some forms of exercise will just get uncomfortable. “Many women enjoy dancing, swimming, water aerobics, yoga, Pilates, biking, or walking,” says Jamie Hickey, a personal trainer and nutritionist. “Swimming is especially appealing, as it gives you the welcome buoyancy of floatability or the feeling of weightlessness. Try for a combination of cardio, strength, and flexibility exercises.”

And then there’s the “workout” that was recommended to me: walking. “Many experts recommend walking because it’s easy to vary the pace, add hills, and add distance,” says Hickey. “If you’re just starting, begin with a moderately brisk pace for a mile, three days a week. Add a couple of minutes every week, pick up the pace a bit, and eventually add hills to your route. Whether you’re a pro or a novice, go slowly for the first five minutes to warm up and use the last five minutes to cool down.”

There are also some moves that you should flat-out avoid while you’re pregnant, according to Hickey. These include bouncing, anything that requires you to lie flat on your back (after the first trimester), leaping, or sudden changes of direction. And if you’re a yogi like I am, avoid doing closed twists as they put a lot of pressure on the abdomen. 

Long story short: For most people, exercise is a very good idea when you’re pregnant and comes with endless benefits. If you’re concerned, chat with your doctor so you can find the right pregnancy workout regimen for you. 

Images: 4 PM production / Shutterstock.com