In celebration of The Hills: New Beginnings returning to MTV, I wanted to share a special story from one of my longest and dearest friends, Dr. Jennifer Dunphy. You may have heard of her back in her heyday when she was formerly known as "Jen Bunney from The Hills." Despite what you see on the reboot of The Hills today, much has changed for Jen since then. Not only has she successfully completed her PhD making her a doctor, but even bigger, she recently became a mother. But the road to having a baby and recovering from childbirth wasn't easy. In fact, Jen would agree that her work on her doctorate and as a top executive at a major healthcare firm seemed like a walk in the park compared to her initial introduction to motherhood.
Today, I wanted to share her birth story that reflects both the beauty of childbirth but also the difficulty that sometimes follows labor and delivery. Her story is here to elucidate the things that often go untalked about. But not today.
Similar to Jen, as you will read in her story, I suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety. A story that you can read here. While both of our stories are entirely unique in their own right, we hope to make it clear that postpartum trauma is real, happens more often than you think and comes in a multitude of forms. Not only that, but it is something we hope can be discussed openly - both individually by mothers and collectively by healthcare organizations. Personally, I had very few tools to deal with my postpartum situation that ensued six months post delivery, which included a loss of vision, panic attacks, insomnia, migraine headaches, depression and anxiety, all wrapped up in an inability to care for my two young children. Partner that with doctors without answers, and it can leave a new mother feeling very vulnerable when she is already in one of her most vulnerable states.
Coming from two women who had relatively uncomplicated, low risk pregnancies, and then to be faced with life-threatening symptoms and zero answers, we hope more stories can be shared. Not to place more fear around labor and delivery and the aftermath that may follow, but to educate women for preparedness in hopes of achieving more answers, and also so that women no longer feel alone. Again today, I share Jen's story. In her words. Buckle in!
Jen's Story: In Her Words
I just texted my best friend, “Wow. How intense having a child is should be a PSA”. Spoiler alert on my labor story… I had a hard time. I always knew about post partum depression and what signs to look out for, but no one ever, not once, mentioned anything about post partum anxiety. Nor, did they mention that there is a difference between normal anxiety that you may suffer from in everyday life, even bad anxiety, and what I like to call the post partum apocalypse. I have grown into a fairly private person, but because of the severity of what I perceived my experience to be I decided to share it.
The first thing you should know about post partum anxiety is that the symptoms closely mimic life threatening symptoms. So, when you experience a “panic attack”, you generally are experiencing symptoms, which if you have after delivery, probably do warrant a trip to the emergency room just to make sure. It also makes having post partum anxiety TERRIFYING, because it could ALSO be heart failure or some other very serious condition during a very high risk period for moms. Thus, you basically have your anxiety and then anxiety about your anxiety.
I had to be induced as I was quickly approaching 42 weeks without a lot of progress in dilation , I had no major complications during my pregnancy other than some very bothersome nausea/migraines. But, at the end of the day although it was uncomfortable I was healthy and the baby was healthy as I was going into labor. I felt very lucky to have gotten through my ~ten months of pregnancy with a healthy baby and with none of the scary conditions some of my friends have had like pre-eclampsia. I didn’t want to be induced as I felt GREAT in my third trimester (much better than the first or the second), but it was time because studies show that the risks go up (for both mom and baby) if the baby doesn’t come before 42 weeks and so I was 41 and 3 days scheduled for my induction.
On my way into the hospital I started to get really nervous not knowing what to expect and I remember the thought flashed through my mind, what if I don’t come back out. We checked in and they made us wait an hour and then go back home because someone had taken our room who was 7 cm dilated (I was zero). Fine with me! Finally, they called us back in at 11 pm on February 28th 2019. We were admitted to L&D and my goal was to remain relaxed as much as possible. Still, I started trembling uncontrollably once we were back at the hospital and wouldn’t stop full body shaking for the next 30 hours.
When we arrived they checked out the baby in the first room to make sure he was good and he was doing GREAT, they said they rarely see a baby heart rate and ultrasound look so good at almost 42 weeks. This gave me a lot of (false) confidence. They transferred me to the delivery room and hooked me up to the IV’s, they also started my antibiotics because I was GBS positive. This was no big deal for me, I don’t love needles but I also am not a scaredy cat and have a high pain tolerance. After that they gave me the pill to start labor called cytotec--the nurse told me its a very common first step for inductions, and hardly has any side effects….she said it would take 4-12 hours to work and start dilation by instigating mild contractions. They gave me the pill and told me to relax. I took the medication--down the hatch--and told my husband to start a movie for us so I could calm down and relax and get into this experience which seemed like it would be a long haul since I was 0 cm dilated. I was feeling good and ready to get the show on the road. This whole induction thing wasn’t so bad so far….
Within about 5 five minutes I started feeling sharp pains, I told my hubs, I feel something weird it actually really hurts. Since I have a pretty high pain tolerance I thought this was odd, but maybe my body was just adjusting. The pains continued and I tried to distract myself with the movie. All of a sudden the nurse rushed into the room and called for help. They tried to act calm but I could tell something was wrong. I couldn’t IMAGINE what, my baby and I had been healthy together for 10 months what could go wrong NOW?! She said the baby is in distress (heart rate was too low for too long a period of time) and is not tolerating the medication you took. I started very frantically asking questions about why, and she basically told me to shut up because we need to concentrate and fix the problem. She asked me to lay on my left side and take deep breaths. It wasn’t working. I was starting to hyper contract (very fast and hard contractions)--this was a very odd reaction to a medication supposed to cause only mild contractions and dilation over the course of 12 hours. Then, I was told to get on all fours and they gave me oxygen. At that point, facing the wall on all fours in my hospital bed breathing in oxygen from a mask I figured I was just seconds away from getting rushed into an emergency c-section to save the baby. I told myself that the only thing that mattered was getting the baby out in time and to do whatever was humanly possible to make that happen. Then they told me they had to give me a shot to reverse the effect of the pill and stop the contractions. They gave me the shot in my butt while I was still on all fours--within what seemed like seconds the baby stabilized with normal heart rate. Thank god. However, the shot made my heart go very fast and I started throwing up and got really sick (a small price to pay my baby was okay) I was shaking so badly it was like I was convulsing. To put this in context, this was only about fifteen minutes into my labor experience. Needless to say, I was off to a rocky start. I believe this experience was the start of my anxiety and I never really was able to relax after that--for months.
The rest of the labor went by pretty seamlessly, but I will give a quick summary. I wasn’t dilated at all, so I had a doctor attempt to thread a foley balloon--which actually WORKED. They also started low dose pitocin and within 12 hours I was dilated to 5 cm. At that point, they decided it was time to progress the labor and break my water (which I was not looking forward too). I haven’t mentioned pain because I wasn’t in any (really, it was weird). I know I have a high pain tolerance but I did not expect zero pain. Sure, I was a bit uncomfortable, but I expected pain like in the movies and I was ready for it but it just didn’t come.
When they came in to give me epidural the anesthesiologist asked me to rate my pain level 1-10, I told him 1 and he asked why I wanted it. I had heard things really pick up after getting the water broken so I decided to go ahead and get it since I was afraid of how bad it would become after the water was broken. The epidural was truly painless and the drugs made me numb legs down as expected. The OB came in not five minutes later and broke my water, which was also completely painless, and then they inserted a catheter and an internal contraction monitor so that they would know how high to put my Pitocin dosage. From there they upped my pitocin so that my contractions were exactly the interval apart that they wanted. After a few hours of this, post water breaking I started to feel some pain and had to push the button to up my epidural a few times but it was honestly no big deal and I could have been fine without more meds I was just getting more uncomfortable and my discomfort seemed to be coming with less time of relief in between. The nurse told me to press the button because she said when the pain starts and people want relief the meds often “can’t catch up” to the pain. I didn’t want that to happen and had no idea how bad it was going to get it, so I PUSHED THAT BUTTON! At this point about 27 hours in I was STILL shaking uncontrollably and all they would give me to calm down and rest was a low dose of benedryl. Even so, I did not sleep the entire labor, not for a minute.
The nurse said if you start to feel pressure call me, so when I did she came and checked and I was 10 cm dilated! I pushed for about 30 minutes and a beautiful healthy baby boy was delivered on March 1st 2019! I was SO relieved to be done, I couldn’t believe the baby was here and I wasn’t pregnant anymore. I was actually feeling good, my nerves finally, finally calmed, I was so tired I could hardly see, I just wanted to relax and when the baby came I was in shock/completely sleep deprived and just sort of stared at him. As the doctor was finishing up and the cord was cut the next ball dropped…
My OB told me I had started hemorrhaging. To stop the bleeding they had to give me yet another shot, they said it was different than the last shot. I remember telling the doctor I felt fine and ask if I really needed the shot, he said yes. I didn’t want it, especially after what happened last time. I obviously wasn’t tolerating these shots very well. This one was called methergen. About 5 minutes after I got it ,my heart started going very fast and I became to experience chest pain and overall I just didn’t feel right. Shortly after that I started throwing up, which doesn’t really happen to me personally unless I am very sick. It felt like my heart was going to beat out of my chest. I had never experienced anything like this before and to top that off, I was 29 hours sleep deprived. My blood pressure started going up and my heart starting skipping beats and I felt like I had just run a marathon (which maybe I had). I was scared I was potentially having serious cardiac complications. I kept asking them to check me out, and they kept telling me I just had anxiety and maybe they should call in a social worker. (WTF) Finally, at my husband’s request they did some blood tests to check for a heart attack including measuring troponins, and performed an EKG. (they also checked me for anemia) I asked for something to calm me down to see if that would help relax my heart rate and they gave me a little ativan in my IV which did seem to help. My values were elevated but not abnormal, and since everything checked out and baby was fine, they moved me into the post-delivery room where we stayed for two days. Everything was fine whenever they checked me out, the bleeding slowed, and I was cleared for discharge two days later. I was extremely tired and had trouble moving around easily, getting out of breath, but I figured that was normal considering I just had a baby. I was discharged on a Sunday and by Monday I definitely felt like something was wrong.
Back At Home
At home, I was having trouble doing simple things like going to the bathroom and going upstairs without feeling very out of breath and feeling the urgent need to sit down (like you just worked out as hard as you can and if you don’t sit down you will pass out). I would also get dizzy breastfeeding. I had pain when I took a deep breath, my heart rate was pretty high all of the time and I was having some high blood pressure readings (although no swelling). I also felt like I had fluid in my lungs or pressure (like an elephant sitting on my chest) whenever I bent down.
Back to the Hospital
Then in the afternoon the day after I was discharged I was breastfeeding and started seeing black spots and my heart rate accelerated out of nowhere. I took my blood pressure and it was 140/100 and my i-watch told me my heart rate at rest was 135. So I layed down and tried to calm down, lucky my mom was with me and my husband was around the corner running an errand. After about 3 minutes it got better and I sat up and then it started again. I thought I was going to pass out for the first time in my life my heart was beating so fast from no stimulus at all and my body started feeling like something was happening to it. My right side started to feel really weird like it was swelling but on one side only, my vision wasn’t right either. Since I was in such a high risk period and experiencing some pretty scary symptoms of which I had never had anything like before, I ended up calling 911. I thought I could have been having a stroke or a heart attack. The paramedics rushed in my house and all I could think of was, I really hope they save me in time. They told me all my vitals were stabilized and it was safe to get driven to the ER. My husband took me to the ER where they performed a series of tests including a chest x ray, CT scan of my chest, EKG, blood work and an echo cardiogram.
We weren’t actually expecting to find anything so when the ER doctor told us he thinks he found fluid around my heart we were shocked—this is called a pericardial effusion and CAN be life threatening, but not necessarily. It was horrible and my monitors were alarming the whole time because my heart rate and blood pressure were out of control. I had never seen my husband look worried before in his life and he did at that moment. Finally, the cardiologist came in to tell us more. The first thing I remember asking the doctor is I am not going to die right, and he didn’t answer me--just launched into what was going on. That also didn’t help. On top of that I knew that heart failure in pregnancy, of which I had all the symptoms, had a 30% mortality rate. I kept thinking my beautiful baby is only 3 days old, he needs me to survive. I don’t want him to grow up without a mom, I can’t leave him now. I kept thinking what bad luck this all was and I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. I even thought about telling my husband how I wanted to raise him and to bring him to me if I needed to be admitted to the hospital so I could see him one last time. At this point thinking I was going to potentially not make it multiple times in one day, and this all going on only 2 days after giving birth with hormones and sleep deprivation, resulted in me basically losing it. If you imagine a scale of flight or fight adrenaline with 1 being sleeping and 10 being going down on a burning plane, I was a 10.
My husband kept telling me I needed to calm down because we didn’t know what was wrong yet and this extreme anxiety could make it worse--that didn’t help. The next step was finding out how much fluid there was. The doctor said that if the fluid was too large, or there was hemodynamic issues (meaning the heart wasn’t beating right and the ejection fraction is too low) I would need to drain the fluid and have a heart procedure--right away. That next period of time , waiting to see what was going to happen to me, was the scariest of moment of my entire life. They did the chest CT and luckily, it showed the fluid was not causing my heart to function poorly and I could probably go home. Finally they decided I could come home to my baby and didn’t need to be admitted. No one wants to think about dying but I actually thought it could to happen to me that entire afternoon and evening. After that experience, I wasn’t able to calm down.
When I got home I was still on edge, I hadn’t had enough tests to know what was going on yet, and I still felt miserable. To be honest, the next few weeks were all a blur. After I got home, I couldn’t reset my system from extreme panic to normal. I refused to take any medication for 6 weeks because I wanted to breast feed and was scared about transferring any to the milk. The doctors asked me to monitor my blood pressure, which I was doing about 4 times a day. One person mentioned you don’t want blood pressure too high because you can have a stroke. So, every time I would take it I would get extremely anxious it was going to be high. I think it was a lot higher than normal but then it would go even higher whenever I would check it. This would then trigger an extreme panic attack. I was getting readings of 160/110 with HR of 166. This was not a mild panic. Once I was able to calm down the blood pressure would go low to about 95/60, so they never put me on BP meds. My body was more or less just completely freaking out and no one had any answers for me. Inside, I was still constantly scared I was going to die.
My next echocardiogram showed my heart was functioning normally and that the fluid had gone down quite a bit (but was still there). Still, physically it looked like things were okay. And maybe the fluid could cause a few of the symptoms, such as inflammation or chest pain. But, not all of them. After a few weeks, I finally got in to see a specialist who was both an OB and cardiologist well versed in these issues-- who said the fluid around my heart was likely caused by a virus I had at the end of my pregnancy or the fluids/stress/inflammation from labor and wasn’t dangerous to me. My other symptoms they never figured out other than I have a very sensitive system and my autonomic nervous systems was having trouble regulating the changes in fluids and blood pressure and therefore going a little crazy (of course no one tells you this is even possible when you hear what to expect after delivery). Of the six doctors I saw in person, and four others I consulted with over the phone everyone was stumped--no one knew what was causing my symptoms. But, the thing they agreed on was that they thought I was going to be okay--physically (so thankful). I was very relieved I wasn’t on the verge on heart failure, but still felt very off and I was caught in what I call a terror tornado. Every single day, with the sun shining and looking out into my garden on a beautiful day in a safe neighborhood I was feeling extreme terror. I was scared every moment of the day it was almost as if the calming center of my body decided it was going to go on permanent vacation. I was literally in abject terror from the moment I woke up to when I would go to sleep every day for weeks. Although my anxiety had a trigger—this experience I just described-- many with postpartum anxiety have no triggers at all and can have the exact same feelings. More than that it is quite common--much more common than society tells you. I hear so much about postpartum depression but I never even knew postpartum anxiety existed. I thought I was the only one going through this experience. I didn’t want to leave the house and did not want to be left alone with the baby in case I had another attack. I always felt scared and couldn’t relax no matter what I tried. This went out for about 5 weeks straight, day in and day out. My husband and mom did their best to take care of me but no one could understand how I could be doing so badly when the scary part was over--I was going to live, I might even be healthy. So, what was WRONG with me? I couldn’t really take care of the baby without getting a panic attack, my own baby. I couldn’t get up to change a diaper without feeling super dizzy and out of breath like I had to sit down right away thinking about even getting up to get something made me anxious. There was definitely a component of the physical recovery in all of this in that I was physically not myself, but the anxiety on top of it made everything unbearable. As the days and weeks went on and I kept expecting to feel better and when I didn’t I would get increasingly frustrated. I wasn’t bonding enough with my baby because I just felt horrible all of the time and spending time with him would peak my anxiety. Breastfeeding made my anxiety worse and the cycle would repeat itself with triggers everywhere. There would be glimmers of feeling back to normal and then something would trigger panic. It felt like getting caught in a rip tide and just when you were able to bring your head above the water to take a breath of air you were just as quickly pulled back under again. This cycle continued for quite some time and no one really knew what to do with me. I had people tell me to take medication, to stop breast feeding. But, I was stubborn and didn’t want to do either. So, I just let time pass. Finally, starting at around week 5 I started to notice that things were beginning to improve VERY slightly both physically and mentally. I could get up and not be out of breath and my blood pressure seemed to be slowly stabilizing. It didn’t hurt as much when I took a deep breath and I was getting my appetite back some. I also decided it was time to go on a little bit of medication and I started taking anti-anxiety medication at a very low dose which helped me sleep better and allowed my body to recover and my mind to gain the strength it needed. But, it wasn’t until ten weeks that I really felt any semblance of normality again and I still have anxious/bad days to this day. There is no clean ending to this story, I still have good days followed by bad days but I am significantly better than in those first six weeks. I really wish postpartum anxiety would have been discussed with me as a possibility. In fact, I didn’t even know it existed and when I did find out more about it the dialogue didn’t really expand beyond you may be prone to anxiety after labor. The resources say things like, you may feel irritable toward your partner, or nervous when going out to shop…not you may feel like you going to die every waking hour for approximately 42+ days…and not just kind of feel like you are going to die but actually fully believe you will not live (I didn’t see that anywhere!!!!). The extreme nature of postpartum conditions is played down. Further, there is hardly any differentiation from postpartum depression within any major information resources --but the symptoms are completely different. Postpartum anxiety can be severe and can affect you physiologically including dramatic swings in blood pressure, and heart rate. With more awareness we can get to a more rapid diagnosis and treatment. My baby is doing great, gaining weight and getting good reports from the pediatrician and the better I feel the more we are able to bond and the happier I think that he is. Looking back I would have started on medication sooner, but I know what would have really helped is knowing this exists at this level and talking to someone that had been through this experience to tell me that this isn’t completely crazy and it has happened to them, which is the reason I wanted to share my story.
Hi all! I can't believe I am now counting down the weeks in single digits. I can't wait to meet our little angel. Here is my latest pregnancy update...
Pregnancy Symptoms at 31 Weeks
Restless legs: at night before bed. Not enough to keep me up at night, but present on and off.
Sciatica: was most prominent a few weeks ago - around 28 to 30 weeks, but has since lightened up. I have a little bit of lower back pain just because I have two boys to look after and carry, and also because I'm working out. So I'm demanding more of my body when it feels a bit more vulnerable.
Lower Uterus Cramping: I can't tell if this is round ligament pain or cramping. I haven't had many Braxton Hicks (tightening sensation); just a lot of cramping and/or round ligament pain.
Trouble Sleeping: A bit of this, simply because I am waking up to use the restroom. Also, I am usually a tired person at night and lately, I feel like I have lots of energy before bed. Almost like I am a bit wired. I am still able to fall asleep, but feel like I have more adrenaline pumping than usual.
Hungrier: This also brings me to the fact that I am hungry before bed. I eat my usual diet but feel some hunger urges right before bed. If I have a little snack it helps me nod off a little better, but quite honestly, I feel nasty in the morning. And it
Swelling: not too much swelling, but a little bit. If I am standing for long periods, I feel the fluid retention in my legs. My wedding ring is getting a bit tight, but fluctuates during the day.
Shortness of breath: I noticed this when I was reading to the boys the other day. I could barely get through a sentence without needing to catch my breath! Weirdly, it doesn't effect me during my workouts.
Vivid Dreams: I had a dream the other night that my mom birthed my baby! How weird and twisted is that? And my mom is the sweetest, non-dominating person ever. I was so upset that I had carried the baby and then she got the glory of childbirth, ha! I also dreamt that it was a boy and we called him the name that we have in mind :)
General Discomfort: yes. I hate to complain because I do love being pregnant, but I am starting to feel uncomfortable. I am starting to feel bloated and fat, ha! A bit more fatigued; just like I want to sit down all of the time. And also soreness from my workouts and from recurring injuries that I've had from the past. They seem to be flaring up from the relaxed ligaments.
Heartburn: Not a ton of heartburn, but I need to be careful not to eat too much food or too quickly. Generally, I can eat a lot more in one sitting than I can at this point in pregnancy.
Frequent Urination: yes! I usually have to leave my workout class once to pee. I also get up in the middle of the night once or twice to pee.
Diet + Exercise
My diet has been okay. I feel like I've been saying this my entire pregnancy. Sometimes I feel like I am doing great, and other times I feel like I am doing not so great. Today, I feel like I am doing not so great. It is getting harder and harder to eat healthy for whatever reason. I think it is because I feel so large that I am more inclined to eat more. Isn't that an oxymoron? I have always been like that. You'd think I'd eat less because I am bigger. But no. I am eating a tad bit more. I also feel hungrier at night; like I am not satisfied before I go to bed. Usually, I would try and just fall asleep, but I tried the other night and I had a very restless sleep. So then the next night, I tried having a little banana, almond butter and milk before bed, which helped me fall asleep and stay asleep, but then I got that disgusting feeling in the morning from eating before bed. Can't win!
On the flip side, I do great in the mornings for breakfast and also for lunch. First thing in the AM, I have a large glass of lemon water, and don't need a whole lot else before getting a workout in. I will take bites off of the kids' meals before I drink my Nespresso pod with creamer, just to ensure I have a little bit of something in my stomach. I feel kind of big and gross in the morning, so it makes me not want to eat. After my workout, I will usually pack something - either leftover gluten-free oatmeal with banana/almond butter or I'll make myself a green smoothie. My lunches are very healthy. Today, I had quinoa, garbanzo beans, chicken, broccoli, sweet potato in a Buddha Bowl topped with some hummus and spicy mayo. Again, I feel that big and bloated feeling after my meals, and didn't even eat that much. Then shortly after I feel hungry again but also have a little bit of heartburn and acid reflux, which makes me not want to eat. Dinners are pretty standard. I try not to overeat to avoid heartburn. And then again, I've been having some dessert after dinner. I wish I didn't but then again, I am pregnant and figure I can treat myself. But then after I do I feel kind of nasty. Such a weird sensation to have all of this nasty, bloated feeling during pregnancy! That is one of the major things I am looking forward to after childbirth - just being able to consume a normal diet. Or wait, is that possible with breastfeeding? :)
As for exercise, I am still working out daily. This is saving me both mentally and physically! Mentally, I need the workout to rid myself of that big, bloated, nasty feeling. I also feel so energized and positive after my workouts. I love it. Physically, I feel good and bad. Again, I feel energized, but also feel that the workouts are making me a bit more achey at this point in pregnancy. I am still maintaining the tabata workouts and modifying when needed. I also love step class and a Kayla workout on the weekend with the hub :).
I walked into the room that will be the baby's room for the first time ( it is a guest room and is generally a room I don't go into often), and it overwhelmed me BIG TIME. I think it stemmed from the fact that I had done nothing to prepare for the baby. So it felt like this big guest room was staring me in the face and it was hard to picture a baby coming home to this room, not to mention to our family! Since, I have slowly gotten the room ready. I washed the baby clothes, folded everything Marie Kondo style, bought diapers and hangers, a changing pad, and really organized the room with all of the pertinent baby gear, books and toys. Now that the room has slowly come together and feels more alive, I am getting more and more excited to welcome a baby into our home! Not going to lie, I was nervous for myself at first, but now that the room is together, I feel a lot more calm and excited about it all. Like really excited!
I am also growing more and more confident about being a mother to three. Some days, I worry about it, but for the most part, I am very excited about how my oldest will handle the transition and I also love the idea that my (now youngest) Vance, will have his older brother for a support system when the baby is here. Last time around, Rhett had no one, but me. So I think it kind of takes the pressure off now that the two older boys have each other, and that they won't be solely relying on me. In addition to that, I am looking forward to my husband taking some time off to be with the boys so that I can be with the baby. I think it will be a really nice welcoming to our transition from a fam of four to a fam of five!
I do think about the postpartum period with respect to myself because of what I have gone through in the past. In the past, I've had a hard time losing the baby weight (I retained it while breastfeeding my second) and I also had postpartum depression/anxiety with my second. So ya, I do wonder intermittently about my postpartum recovery. That said, I try not to obsess about it, and honestly don't. I feel pretty confident that I won't go through postpartum depression this time around. I don't know why, but I just feel good about it. At the same time, I don't want to be naive about it and not have a support system in place should I encounter it again. So, I probably will start looking into therapy and support should it happen again.
When it comes to the baby weight, I feel a bit more confident in knowing that it is possible that I may not lose the baby weight right away and that I might actually hold onto weight while breastfeeding, like I did last time. I think the hardest part about holding onto the baby weight after my last pregnancy was the fact that I worked so hard to maintain my weight and stay in shape during my pregnancy and did so beyond belief. But then after birth, not being able to lose the weight, I felt as if my efforts were almost all for nothing because I held onto the weight while nursing. In addition to that, I hated the unknown of whether or not the baby weight would even come off at all, and if in fact it was the breastfeeding that was causing me to retain it or if I was stuck 15 pounds heavier forever! Needless to say, the baby weight came off after I stopped breastfeeding and also came off from using the Postpartum Slimdown. So now that I know that I may retain weight while breastfeeding and am prepared for that, and also know that the weight will come off, only in a matter of time, I feel more confident going into the postpartum period. At the same time, I know that secretly I have expectations and hopes that I may be lucky this time around and might lose the baby weight magically while breastfeeding. But I don't want to cling to those false hopes only to be faced with weight gain and weight retention. I guess we will see how I handle the situation. All I can do is try to remain positive, but I will say that it is getting harder the more weight I gain in pregnancy.
At 31 weeks, I am 24 pounds! I am really trying to keep my weight in check, but also must come to the realization that a lot of the weight gain is outside of my control. I think the hardest part in gaining the pregnancy weight for me personally, is the fact that I feel fat. I hate that feeling! And then sometimes when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and it is a bad angle, I kind of gasp and freak out inside. In saying this, I remember the same thing happening during my last pregnancy; having those same fat feelings. When I look back on my pregnancy photos of times that I felt SO fat, I actually look rather skinny for a pregnant girl. This time around, I am trying not to let my mind go to those negative places, but it can be hard. I really wish I wasn't so obsessed with weight, and I do pray about it and ask for peace about it, and for God to put my mind (and body) where it needs to be. But honestly, amongst women, I do struggle with this big time. The stretch marks don't bother me much, the cellulite doesn't even bother me much, it really comes down to the number on the scale, how my clothes fit and how I FEEL. But anyways, all I can really do is continue making healthy choices, and keep along! Sorry to be all boo-hoo about it, I really want to stay positive, but also want to be real so women can relate who may feel the same way.
Boy or Girl?
I am pretty certain that we are having a boy. I don't know why, but it is almost this comfort thing. The boys think it is a boy and have been calling the baby by our boy name on occasion, and it only feels natural that we would be having a boy. I also think there is a higher likelihood after having the same gender twice that you have the same gender on the third. Not sure if this is true or an old wive's tale. On the flip side, my heart would explode if we had a girl! I wouldn't know what to do with myself, but I would also be over the moon happy. Either boy or girl, we are thrilled to be having a third little one. Please note that I don't have a preference, just a feeling!
Well, here I am at 27 / 28 weeks pregnant! I think this means that I am finally 6 months pregnant.. or somewhere in the ballpark, and just one week shy of the third trimester. Here is my update!
Pregnancy Differences: This being my third pregnancy, it is interesting to note the differences between my pregnancies. And as I close in on the third trimester, I wanted to shortly recap those differences. While my three pregnancies have been very different, they have also been very much the same. My second and third pregnancies have been the easiest; probably the second being the overall easiest in terms of symptoms (or lack thereof) and also the least amount of pregnancy weight gain. After having three pregnancies, I do believe (for me personally) that the two variables of pregnancy symptoms and weight gain correlate, where increased symptoms usually means more weight gain and decreased symptoms means less weight gain.
My first pregnancy was by far the most difficult. I think this is par for the course for most women. With my first, it was difficult for me to feel comfortable at all with the whole idea of being pregnant and pregnancy itself. Thereby, I feel like my pregnancy symptoms were exacerbated by this, and thus my weight gain followed. My body felt out of whack, I ate for two and often past fullness, which is something I assumed you should do when pregnant, especially coming from a person who is somewhat aware of a controlled diet. This increase in caloric intake, partnered with zero exercise (exercise felt unsafe during my first pregnancy), I packed on the pounds, like exponentially and hit over 55/60 lbs by the end of my pregnancy. I was highly dramatic and pretty self-centered throughout the whole process. I probably felt the all-around worst during my first pregnancy, and probably because it was my first pregnancy experience. Sorry Rhett (my first - he turned out perfect and is brilliant, so I don't think it factored in)!
Fast forward to my second pregnancy, and I felt like a pro, especially because my pregnancies were pretty much back-to-back (my boys being 22 months apart). I knew what to expect and also felt very in control, especially with my diet and with weight gain. I also had the right mindset and was committed to having a healthy/fit pregnancy, hopefully with a weight gain closer to 25 pounds. My symptoms were minimal, I was very active and gained about 30 lbs. I kind of say this laughing because my diet was very clean, and I still managed to gain 30 pounds (based on how I was eating and exercising, I probably should have gained much less, but I guess you can't control everything!).
This pregnancy is more similar to my second pregnancy, but feels a little more unfamiliar at the same time, probably because the gap between this pregnancy and my last was larger than the one before. My first trimester morning sickness was pretty bad - maybe more similar to what I felt during my first pregnancy as opposed to my second pregnancy (where morning sickness was present but not particularly bad). I also noticed that my body changed very quickly earlier on with this third pregnancy. I noticed my arms got flabbier and my thighs gained weight as early as the first trimester. In comparison to my second pregnancy, I only started to put on that fat during the final trimester. Albeit, my second trimester has been wonderful in terms of the way I feel - energy and such. I do feel bigger and less mobile in my second trimester as opposed to how I felt during my second pregnancy at this time. It is a bit harder for me to run after my four-year old and keep tabs on my two-year old... so maybe it isn't the fact that I am less mobile, but instead that I have more kids to care for, and they are more active and at an older age than Rhett was at this point in my second pregnancy (he was only 1.5 years old).
So all in all, my second and third pregnancies have been the best. In terms of weight gain, I am about 5 lbs ahead of where I was during my second pregnancy. Overall, I am pretty happy with that! My takeaway is that sometimes your body will gain differently in different pregnancies, and sometimes it really doesn't have to do with food consumption. I definitely ate the cleanest with my second pregnancy, but it was also a lot easier to eat cleaner and I noticed that my body gained slower anyways. I've been eating pretty clean this pregnancy and exercising more than I did during my second pregnancy. I think I've relaxed my diet a bit because I had such a hard time losing the weight after my second pregnancy that the strict conscientiousness of pregnancy weight gain was kind of all for nothing. I mean, yes, I felt amazing during my second pregnancy, but also couldn't lose the weight so it was even more of a let down. Maybe this time because I have more to lose, I will lose it at a more gradual pace rather than getting stuck at a number and retaining it for breastfeeding. I guess time will tell!
Breastfeeding: Speaking of breastfeeding... I have breastfed both of my boys and have LOVED it. Well, I say that I loved it - but it was actually quite difficult to get started with my first. There were a lot of tears and a lot of pain, and I often worried if he was getting enough milk. However, when I got the hang of it, I absolutely loved nursing my first. It was a dream and I nursed well into my second pregnancy, until Rhett was about 15 months. With Vance, breastfeeding came very, very easily. I had only taken about a four month break from the time I stopped nursing Rhett til the time I started back up with my newborn, Vance. The ease of nursing Vance was a dream, and the biggest issue I ran into with Vance was that my body was retaining and even gaining weight. I also had some postpartum depression/anxiety which messed with my milk supply for a short period of time and sort of aggravated the nursing process. Because I struggled and was so confused about my weight, I stopped breastfeeding him earlier than I would have liked - at about 10 months. Still, I feel very proud to have gone this far with him. Given my circumstances, this was the best I could do.
Now that I am going into my third newborn cycle and I feel a bit better equipped given my experiences, I now know that there is a strong likelihood that I may hold onto weight while I breastfeed. I think *knowing* this will make the nursing process a little bit easier on me. Last time, it was so hard on me because I didn't know whether or not it was the nursing that was causing the weight retention. I feared that maybe I wouldn't ever be able to drop the pregnancy weight, and to be honest, that scared me and made me want to stop nursing so that I could see if I could drop the baby weight sans breastfeeding hormones... and I did. It did take my hormones several months (like 5 months) to even out, but once they did, I used the Postpartum Slimdown and was able to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight. Phew. So I guess in knowing that I may retain weight while nursing on baby number three, but in also knowing that I can and will eventually lose the weight, I feel confident in the nursing process. I hope to breastfeed this baby until about 10 months to a year, depending on how I am feeling. If you are a mother who holds onto weight while nursing, it isn't very fun. I tend to hold strictly fat in my mid-section and thighs. No matter what I do (diet/exercise), the fat stays put. It can be frustrating when you are a person who operates on efforts and results! So I'd like to think that I will breastfeed for a year, but to be honest, not having my body for 2.5 years is a long time. As I am such a huge proponent of breastfeeding, I also believe that a mother's health and well-being is vital. The fact that I nursed Vance shorter than Rhett doesn't bother me. I mean ideally, I would have loved to be one of those mothers who lost the baby weight while nursing (as I did with my first), but that didn't happen to me with my second. So given my situation, I will just play it by ear how long I nurse for. Long story short... I WILL be breastfeeding my baby unless a serious health complication prevents me from doing so and I will breastfeed for at least 6 months. I believe that is a realistic expectation and also what studies show to be beneficial for baby!
Doctor's Appointments: I have the glucose tolerance test on Monday! I will update this portion of my post after the appointment. There is a big part of me that thinks I definitely don't have gestational diabetes, but you honestly never know. So we will cross that bridge when we get there! Update: I had my glucose tolerance test and omg, the drink was disgusting this time. And this is coming from a girl who actually didn't mind, dare I say liked the drink in times past. Not this time. For whatever reason, I felt nauseated the rest of the day. The syrupy sweetness of the drink was too much and did not sit right with me at all. The good news: I passed! A few days later, I received a call for both the glucose test results and for anemia test results. I passed both, which is very good news. At the doctor, I weighed in at 150 lbs. We checked baby's heartbeat - nice and healthy. Other than that, the visit was very routine.
Baby's Name: I am pretty sure that we have our boy name. I love it - it is unique and strong. We are still working out the girl's name, but I think we are getting close. We have narrowed it down to about 5 names that we like and will go from there or wait to decide once we get to the hospital. There is a big part of me that wants one of the boys to decide. I keep asking their opinion and they playfully respond with their favorite names. Not so sure if they are taking it seriously, but maybe once the baby is here they can really help us nail it down. Ideally, I like to be prepared before getting to the hospital so we don't make a rash decision about the name. I mean, it is going to be this little human's name forever!!... and it is super important. That said, it is baby number three and I would love the boys to see him/her and make the final decision.
Baby Prepping: So we definitely need to get the nursery (baby room) organized. I know that I posted a nursery reveal here, but this is technically Vance's room still and I think we will keep him in there for awhile. Baby's current room is our upstairs guest room. Luckily, we have two guest rooms, so I don't feel like we are losing a guest room and will have nowhere to offer guests to stay. But currently the upstairs guest room is decorated as a guest room, so it has a queen bed and other cute guest room furniture. It looks amazing, so I think we will keep it as such and simply add a crib in the corner and maybe a rocker and a changing table.
I also still need to go through all of my old baby clothes from the boys and wash them. The other day I opened the box of baby clothes and they wreaked of old baby breastmilk (yuck!!). So I still need to rummage through them, give away old/tattered outfits and organize the remainder in the drawers and in the closet.
Labor + Delivery: I still need to pre-register with the hospital. Update: I pre-registered, yay! I will be delivering at a hospital. I am a huge proponent of this and would have it no other way. I totally respect moms who do things differently, but personally I would never risk birthing outside of a hospital in case a complication arose. My plan is to get the epidural. I have really enjoyed getting the epidural with both of my boys and also feel the pain makes labor so uncomfortable ... I also don't see any benefit or any studies that point to the fact that unmedicated births are scientifically superior to medicated births. Correct me if I am wrong! So yes, I will be getting the epidural. There is a part of me that may try to go for it without one, seeing that my last labor was like 3 or 4 hours with Vance, but I don't want to get ahead of myself. And I honestly don't know why I am considering not getting one. Maybe I will ask them to do just a light dose - is that possible? Sometimes they way overdose it and your legs are totally numb - I feel like I'd want an epidural light if that is possible! The main reason is I just would love to be able to move around after delivery - but I guess that probably wouldn't be very healthy anyways. Mama needs rest. So we shall see how it goes!
That's all for now.
23 weeks, and I'm feeling great. Not a whole lot to report this week other than the usual diet, fitness, weight and symptoms. Here we go...