Anna Maria Locke

motherhood

Thomas' Birth Story!

2019Anna Locke
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Ben and I welcomed the arrival of our baby boy, Thomas Adriaan, on Friday August 9th at 10:49pm, one day past his estimated due date! He is named in honor of Ben’s late father Tom, and my dad and brother’s middle name.

A bundle of squishy perfection, I never knew I could be so obsessed with anything. My love for this little human is so intense that it’s been hard for me to process and handle it.

I love hearing birth stories even more now that I’ve lived through my own, and have been wanting to share mine for the last 6 weeks, but of course in true Anna fashion I didn’t want to leave anything out, and new baby survival vortex + perfectionism procrastination is not the most effective combo.

But here we are!

Also in true Anna fashion, I am going to keep it real. I didn’t experience any major trauma and had an overall positive experience so I don’t think I need to add a trigger warning to this post, but if you are currently pregnant and prefer your birth stories filtered with magical golden rainbow light of baby wonder and joy so you can remain in denial of the realities to come (which is TOTALLY UNDERSTANDABLE!) — you might want to pass on this one for now.

The “Birth Plan”

I didn’t have much of a birth plan because luckily most of my preferences were standard procedure with our hospital’s policies and the certified nurse midwives group I worked with. Things like delayed cord clamping, intermittent fetal monitoring, being able to move around the room in labor, etc. I also loved that the c-section rate of the midwives was 9% (vs 20-30% of typical hospitals in the US) and that our hospital allows you to eat and drink anything you want and also is the first in Chicago to offer nitrous oxide as a pain management option. I don’t have anything against drugs, but knew I didn’t want an epidural unless my labor stopped progressing and I needed to rest. I’ll share more on my epidural stance at the end!

Since we live five minutes from the hospital, I also wanted to labor at home as long as possible, which I discovered is one of those “be careful what you wish for” things.

(my very last bump pictures, on our EDD 8/8)

How it all started

I felt absolutely fantastic until I hit 39 weeks. That Friday (August 2nd) I started to feel a shift in my energy and some light menstrual-like cramping, which I experienced off and on the final week as well as tons of Braxton Hicks and a little more low pelvic pressure as baby dropped. If you’ve ever noticed that dreamy-like zone you feel right before your period starts, it was kind of like that only more intense to the point that I decided to stop driving, stopped walking, basically went into hermit mode. It’s like I was in a constant state of deep meditation and calm. 

Physically, I think I’ve blocked that last week out of my memory because all I remember was feeling really uncomfortable and anxious to not be pregnant anymore!

As any 38+ week pregnant woman will tell you, you hit a point where all your fear of labor goes *poof* and you find yourself googling all the things you can do to inspire baby to GET THE HECK OUT ASAP! Not much is scientifically proven to naturally induce labor, but it felt good to at least feel as proactive as possible even though it’s impossible to tell what “did the trick” since the baby will come out eventually.

Here is what I tried to prep for and naturally induce labor:

-I ate 5-6 dates every day from about 36 weeks on, which is clinically shown to help cervical effacement (it worked! This is the #1 thing I would recommend to all pregnant women in the last month. Plus I have lots of delicious recipes here.)

-I had also been doing “Labor Prep” workouts from the Bloom Method to strengthen my core and pelvic floor connection. This worked too, at least when it came to pushing! Click here for my affiliate link to try a month of their pre/postnatal workouts.

-I drank 16 oz of raspberry leaf tea every day the last few weeks, which is anecdotally supposed to stimulate contractions, and drank this noxious extra strong brew at 40 weeks (to be honest I will NOT be doing that again because my contractions were extremely intense and I can’t tell if this played a role. Plus it was absolutely vile.)

-Walked with one foot off the curb to rock my pelvis and attempt to move baby into optimal position (he was always in a great position the last couple months so not sure if this did anything, but it was a fantastic booty workout!)

-Membrane sweep (THIS ultimately did it! More below…)

Our estimated due date was Thursday August 8th, and Ben’s mom had to fly home the following Monday so obviously we all wanted him to be born before then, although I was trying not to put any unnecessary pressure on myself.

I had a feeling that he would be born the week of his due date, and I swear I had an even stronger and faster intuitive connection to my baby and could transmit messages from him. Yes this sounds nuts, but it was the coolest thing ever. So I asked him if he would come before Pat (my mother in law) flew home and instantaneously heard him said yes, he wanted to meet her.

But as the days ticked by I started to get more impatient and doubt my intuition.

At my 40 week appointment on Thursday (my estimated due date), I opted for my first cervical check and was dilated 1 cm so I decided to get a membrane sweep. This means the midwife/OB sticks a finger inside your cervix and manually detaches your amniotic sac from your uterus, which can stimulate labor but isn’t guaranteed. Yeah it’s uncomfortable, but at that point I was so uncomfy in general I didn’t mind at all and figured we might as well give it a shot. I had more cramping and spotting the rest of the day but I wasn’t sure if it was actual pre-labor or just side effects from the sweep.

That afternoon my friend Amanda came over, I chilled on the couch chugging my swamp water aka labor day tea and binge watching Say Yes to the Dress to get the oxytocin flowing.

(Amanda will want to interject that her presence is what triggered labor, since we tend to be together during all times our uteruses spazz out, anything from miscarriage to IUD clots.)

That night around 9:30pm as we went to bed I noticed the cramping was starting to align with my BH, and the cramps woke up at 3:30am, when I went to the bathroom and passed a bloody chunk of mucus, which was really exciting to me because it was a sign that things were happening!

Side note: during and after labor your body will eject every imaginable kind of discharge: mysterious liquid, blood, clots, slime, poop, urine, so be prepared for it and just surrender to losing all control of your bodily functions. Laugh about it if you can. If I didn’t know about the mucus plug, I think I would have freaked out.

I tried to go back to sleep but that was obviously impossible. Every book that tells you to relax and sleep through early labor has obviously never gone into labor.

A little after 5am I felt my first “real” contraction, which was significantly different than the general menstrual-like achiness. I can’t describe lt except by saying that it felt like a brick wall hitting my entire uterus, it was unmistakeable and I instinctively recognized what was happening.

Everyone says that during labor the front part of your normal rational “thinking” brain gradually shuts off as your primal animal brain takes over, and that is 100% accurate.

My next instinct was to hop in the shower to wash my hair and put on make up so I felt somewhat normal and not a complete hot mess and could maybe get some semi-cute post delivery pictures. HAHAHAHAHA. I do recommend showering because it feels good, and washing your hair because it might be the last time that happens for the foreseeable future, but if you are planning for a first time unmedicated birth just prepare yourself as if you’re about to run an Ironman triathlon because that’s how you will probably look and feel afterward (if anything, waterproof mascara!)

Around 7 am I woke Ben up with the classic “I think I’m in labor!” moment, and he sprang out of bed and proceeded to panic clean the entire apartment while I continued to lay on the couch watching “Say Yes to the Dress” to distract and get the oxytocin flowing. I also remember finishing packing my hospital bag with random shit I wouldn’t end up touching, and remember Ben telling me I looked really good. So I guess the make up was worth it for that moment.

Laboring at home

I was prepared for the sensations of early labor, mainly irregular contractions many minutes apart, with periods of rest in between. For some reason which will eventually be revealed, my early labor felt like the description of active labor which was extremely confusing.

My contractions were intense enough by mid morning that I couldn’t talk through them, lasted 45-60 seconds, and my uterus never released in between so I had a hard time knowing when one contraction began and ended but they seemed to be hitting 2-4 minutes apart. I wasn’t able to rest and relax in between so it was hard to distract myself.

My favorite position was bouncing on the ball, or laying on my side in bed with my top leg drawn up to my chest with a pillow under it. I tried to remember the whole point of labor is to be as uncomfortable as possible because that means the baby is descending and things are happening. This is tough mentally when all you want to do is find relief from the discomfort!

This continued allllll day. I knew I should eat as much as possible but felt like I was in the middle of a race, my appetite was gone and all I could tolerate was juice and smoothies.

Our doula Celia came over around noon and tried to mentally prepare me that this “early labor” could last a while, potentially days, and I didn’t know how I would make it!!

She had me try a walk with Ben to keep things progressing and we made it one block and 2-3 contractions before I could barely move anymore.

I was so in the moment that time actually passed much faster than I anticipated, and I remember looking at the clock at 5pm and being relieved and excited I’d made it 12 hours at home. For some reason that felt like a milestone, and I knew that it wouldn’t be too much longer.

Since things seemed to be progressing really fast, we called Celia again and she came over and had me run a bath. Before I stepped into the tub I sat on the toilet to pee and with an immediate GUSH my water broke! Ben was relieved he didn’t have to clean it off the floor. I was proud of myself for having such great timing and aim. #winninglabor

I immediately knew I didn’t want to sit in the tub because I couldn’t move, so I got out after a couple more contractions and more of my mucus plug dropped out like a jellyfish onto the bath mat. Good times.

Contractions started coming fast and furious after this and I was experiencing more and more pressure as baby’s head dropped into my pelvis, so I knew I NEEDED to head to the hospital and things started to feel extremely urgent. Celia told Kate (the other doula we worked with who took the evening shift) to meet us there. The car ride was rough but not unbearable, thanks to our proximity.

It was around 6:30pm at this time.

Check in and triage was rough, as I was having nonstop extremely intense contractions. Apparently it was a busy night for babies and they had to wheel me to 3 rooms to find an empty triage room to take my vitals and check on baby. Apparently during this time Ben drove the car back to our street so he didn’t have to pay $4 for hospital parking, and then sprinted back to the hospital — he has no idea why he thought this was important when his child was about to be born, but it’s kind of funny.

I met the midwife on call, Kim, who told me I was 4cm dilated but 100% effaced — YAY DATES! I wasn’t discouraged that I was “only” 4cm because I think I knew things would move fast from here. How could they not??

Our doula Kate had me walk to the delivery room to encourage the baby to keep moving down, which felt like the worst idea ever and I was that stereotypical pregnant woman moaning in agony, doubled over every few steps as another contraction ripped through my body. Did you ever notice there are railings on the halls of the hospital? NOW I KNOW WHY! After walking what felt like miles, we made it to the delivery room and I felt a bit of emotional relief, like yay this is finally happening.

Kate encouraged me to try different positions with Ben and her for support, which all felt like torture and the worst idea ever but I went along with it and my fave was sitting on the bouncy ball leaning over one of them sitting on the bed.

Before labor (“BL”) I assumed I’d like to lean up against the bed or be on my hands and knees, but by this time I was much too exhausted and shaky to do any position with my legs supporting me. I even ended up getting an IV since I felt so depleted and lightheaded. So it turns out I didn’t need or even want to move freely around the room at all (my “birth plan”) since I labored so long at home.

All I cared about was wanting to know that I was progressing, and I remember I kept begging Kim to check me every time she came in the room. I think I was checked at 6 cm not long after?? Before too long I started getting an all-consuming urge to push, and Kim came in and said contractions seemed to be extra intense, I think she told me to do 3 more of those “push” contractions before checking again.

By then I was at 7cm, and baby’s head was just really really low. I was using the nitrous to try and get some pain relief, but not sure if it helped at all?

Kim told me we needed to wait until I was fully dilated at 10cm before I could start pushing, so my cervix didn’t get injured. It felt completely unbearable to go through the most intense transition contractions while resisting my body which was going into “MUST PUSH NOW” overdrive.

This is when I hit the wall of self doubt, and didn’t know how I would make it.

Kate tried to remind me to focus on one contraction at a time, instead of freaking out about how many hours were left, but it was impossible not to panic and feel trapped in the unsustainable all-encompassing pain.

I mean, I had no illusions about childbirth going in but nothing can really prepare you for it. My entire body was wracked with the intense pressure, and still I felt like I could never get a second of relief in between contractions.

My mind gave up and I decided to toss my idealistic “natural” birth plan out the window and ask for the epidural. In the back of my mind I remembered learning in birth class that you shouldn’t ask for pain meds at the peak of a contraction, so like a good student I waited until one ended and made what I considered a really well thought out case for myself, LOL.

I remember cry/yelling “THIS IS AN EMPOWERED CHOICE!” to Kate and Ben.

So the nurse took my bloodwork and started the process, but Kim was great at encouraging me to stick with my natural birth plan and try different positions etc, reminding me I’d only been admitted like 3 hours earlier (obviously the last things I thought I wanted to hear). I knew I didn’t want to get back in the tub, I just didn’t wanna move, everything was excruciating.

Looking back, I appreciate having the support of Kate and Kim so much. Kate and Ben played the role of support, “do what you need to do,” while Kim played devils’ advocate while still honoring my decisions.

Since it was such a busy night in L&D I’d have to wait at least an hour for the anesthesiologist, and when they told me I’d need to hold still for 10 mins for the insertion I knew I wouldn’t be able to since contractions were wracking my entire body almost constantly. (Kim knew we wouldn’t have time before I was ready to actually push).

I distinctly remember bouncing on the ball with my head in our doulas lap, deciding to ditch the epidural, “OK let’s do this!!!”

This was my most empowering moment, and when my own energy and adrenaline started to shift.

So I got back the bed with a peanut ball between my legs and continued to suffer (doula reminded me birth is supposed to be survival mode) through a few more contractions while resisting the urge to push. I can’t even describe how intense this was, and it’s hard for me to type it out in words. Still couldn’t find any relief or rest between before the next wave hit. Had to scream through the peak, then breath nitrous, then horse lips to blow out urge to push, but I also knew by now that the end was in sight and I had a goal to work towards.

Basically this was the “gone primal” moment, and my voice was hoarse for two days haha.

While in my dying animal zone I kind of registered a rush of activity as more nurses came in and the incubator was turned on and I knew we had to be close which gave me another surge of confidence and motivation.

Then Kim told me I was at 9.5cm and just had a small cervical lip getting in the way of the baby’s head. She offered to try manually pushing the lip to the side while I tried a push and that sounded like salvation and ended up being my favorite contraction. IT FELT SO GOOD. Like, you know when you have to poop sooooo bad but it’s really huge and so the gas/size of the poop painfully stretches your rectum but also is the best relief? Imagine that x100. Like your poop log is 6 inches wide. And coming out of your vajay, not your butt.

And it worked! And then it was push time!

I was so relieved to finally be able to let my body follow its instincts I’d been overriding. I didn’t fully realize the double pain of this phase since you push during the most intense kind of contraction plus feel your baby’s head stretching you beyond all limits, but I welcomed the burn as a familiar kind of pain I felt I could actually handle.

BL I had assumed I would want to push on my hands and knees or an “alternative” hippy position but by that time I was so beyond exhausted I don’t know how I could have even moved, so it actually felt best to push on my back. I assume the bed was tilted up a bit for gravity to assist?

Ben and Kate grabbed my legs (so Ben’s plan to stay by my head kind of got trashed too), I grabbed the railings and pushed with literally my entire body. I was so ready to get this baby out I would have pushed nonstop for as long as it took, but Kim reminded me to take a break between contractions to let my body stretch and I appreciated her coaching because I had no idea what was going on down there.

Around this time it occurred to me that the love of my life and father of my child was also in the room, and had a distant thought “I should look up at Ben to share the moment” (like you see in the movies??) so I did for like one second, then went back into my zone. Hilarious.

What does it feel like to push? First it felt really weird to feel the bulk of my baby’s body moving through my pelvis, and also felt like my rectum was literally turning inside out. I definitely pooped on the table, and think I said “I’m pooping!” and Ben and everyone reassured me it was no big deal assuming I was embarrassed, but how could I be embarrassed after everything that had already happened? HA! Mostly I just felt concerned about laying in my own shit. Somewhere deep inside under all the intensity and adrenaline and pain I wanted to laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation.

At each contraction I just desperately wanted it to be the last. It felt like I pushed for hours and just wanted to hear the cliche “there’s the head!!!” but all I heard was Kim say “oh, it’s a hand” and then all of a sudden I saw my baby being pulled out of me, screaming and covered with blood and dropping his load of meconiun (tar like newborn poop) all over me as they placed him on my chest.

Apparently I pushed for 15 minutes and the baby was born with his hand next to his face!

Thomas Adriaan, born 10:49pm the day after his due date, weighing 7 lb 8 oz and around 19 inches long with curly hair.

We had two hours in the delivery room to deliver the placenta, do skin to skin while I got stitched up (getting shots of lidocaine in your inner lady parts that had just been ripped apart was unpleasant but after going through labor I didn’t even care), attempt breastfeeding, allow the nurses to run Thomas through the battery of newborn pricks and prods, and help me hobble to the bathroom to pee (they like you to prove your bladder still works) and teach me how to assemble my mega pad/ice pack creation.

By the time they wheeled us over to the postpartum recovery room it was about 2 am and I was still pretty much delirious. I remember sitting in the wheelchair and looking over at the bassinet holding my baby being wheeled next to me. 

The most surreal experience of my life!

We ended up spending only about 36 hours in the hospital, and I barely slept an hour for about 4 days straight. I remember almost panicking because I didn’t know it was humanly possible to go that long without sleep and not die, but the adrenaline and mother instincts are fierce. The hospital stay is a complete blur to me, I remember the gush of blood and fluids every time I stood up to go to the bathroom (and the subsequent murder scene when trying to pee), feeling insanely weak and dizzy (I barely had the energy to pee and re-assemble my pad, much less pose for those awesome “look at my postpartum bod in my awesome mesh undies!” selfies you see on Instagram), and asking for endless cups of ice water. Out of all the things I meticulously researched to pack in my hospital bag, I ended up using only the juice boxes and snacks, make-up, toothbrush, and body wipes to feel somewhat human, annnnd that is literally all. I couldn’t even fathom taking a shower until the day after we got home (no energy), and since I was still leaking so many fluids didn’t really want to change out of my hospital gown. 

And Thomas’ grandma Pat was able to come visit us at the hospital and again at home before she had to fly back, yay! 

Things that surprised me the most about labor/delivery:

-Your contractions//early vs active labor might not feel like the textbook descriptions you learn about. This shouldn’t be surprising but it was.

-ALL THE BODILY FLUIDS. Mucus plug, blood, amniotic fluid that would gush at each contraction, urine, poop. So messy. But you won’t even care.

-I spent so much time figuring out the perfect items to pack in my hospital bag and literally touched NONE OF IT except a couple toiletries. You are going to be discharging so much bodily fluid and doing skin to skin/non stop breastfeeding, you don’t even need clothes just wear the hospital gown and rock the topless look, tres Euro chic.

I have so much more to share!

But I’ll save it for future posts since this is already a novel.

I thought I’d miss being pregnant, but although I cherish the memories it’s a huge relief to have my body back, and to have my baby here! What a wild rush.

5 tips for surviving the first trimester when you feel like a blob

2019Anna Locke
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Now that I’m heading into the home stretch of this pregnancy, I finally feel like I’m getting used to being preggo. Or at least getting used to the fact that my body feels different literally every single day!

One of my favorite parts of being so open about my journey is being able to connect with other women at a similar season of life, whether they are navigating miscarriage, trying to conceive, newly pregnant and haven’t even told friends and family yet (perks of being a stranger on the internet!), it’s such a gift to remind each other that we aren’t alone.

I love getting messages like this:


“I'm 7 weeks pregnant and having horrible morning sickness and food aversions! Pregnancy has been such a roller coaster of emotions! I feel like I'm losing myself because I haven't been able to eat or exercise or do the things I want due to feeling poorly! For instance my body craves carbs and salt right now so I eat what help me get food in my stomach but i'd love to be eating healthy but when I try some days it'll make me gag! Also lots of nights in so exhausted there's no way exercising or walking is an option and this makes me feel worse about myself! And all this stuff no one tells u! They act like as soon as you get positive test you will love baby and be excited and fit and beautiful 24-7 n reality is it just feels like I'm getting over a cold and a leach is inside me sucking all of my strength energy and motivation and I don’t see it feel it or hear it so I don’t have major connections to it yet. And pregnancy for me hasn’t been beautiful and charming its been bloat and hormonal acne and and clothes not fitting lol.

This is an exciting stage in my life how do I embrace it and make the best of it?”


Ohhhh girl. This sums up first trimester so perfectly, doesn’t it?

It’s freaking hard to go from feeling on top of your life, career, workouts, social life… to literally overnight feeling like there is a parasitic alien possessing your body and turning you into an exhausted, moody, bloated, nauseous blob. Not to mention the expectations and internal pressure to be the radiant glowing joyful goddess depicted by society and the media.

When we experience anything less than pure happiness and health, we start to second guess our experiences or feel shame and self judgment for not being more grateful, excited, or energetic.

In doing so, we diminish and discredit the profoundly ENORMOUS transition we’re experiencing physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, relationally as our bodies and entire identities shift into a new role - motherhood.

Any type of growth and change — even if it’s welcomed and positive — is bound to be uncomfortable and overwhelming as we shed old layers of identity and step out into the unknown.

(Also, two words: HORMONE ROLLERCOASTER)

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Here are some of my personal tips for surviving the first few rocky months of pregnancy.

Please keep in mind these opinions are coming from my limited experience as a first time mom, so take or leave anything I say with a grain of salt and always consult your doctor first! My personal advice is geared towards first time moms who are in a supportive relationship and are having relatively uncomplicated, healthy pregnancies and not suffering from complications such as hyperemesis gravidarum. Make sure you’re seeking the level of support you need for your unique situation.

1. GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO EMBRACE YOUR NEW BLOB STATUS

Your body has been possessed! Give yourself grace and do what you can, but the first trimester is about rest and self care and adjusting, and it does usually get better!

Your body is putting on weight and fat stores now to fuel your baby as it grows, which is tough because while your fetus or embryo is still tiny you just feel bloated and gross... but it all balances out! View the first 12-14 weeks as survival mode. Embrace being lazy but explore gentle movement to see if it helps your nausea and fatigue. One of the only things that helped me feel better was getting outside in the cold winter air for a walk. It never sounded like a good idea, but it always felt good to move my body and get fresh air. My personal mantra was “it TAKES energy to MAKE energy.”

If you’re dealing with nausea, vomiting, feeling constantly motion sick or jet lagged, don’t beat yourself up about not being able to eat healthy foods. Try your best to figure out what you can tolerate, try to eat plenty of protein and healthy fats, and trust your prenatal vitamin will fill the gaps. I discovered that smoothies were tolerable, and used them to sneak in fruit and veggies. My favorite combo is a scoop of Vegan Chocolate Shakeology (full of superfoods, whole food nutrients, and pre/probiotics that helped settle my stomach) with half a frozen banana, almond milk, a handful of spinach, peanut butter, and ice.

One crazy factoid: our blood volume increases 40-50 percent during pregnancy, so that is partly why your heart works overtime and you will feel constantly out of breath. It doesn’t mean you’re suddenly out of shape or lazy, it just means your body has a lot of internal demands.

You will get the fitness back eventually, but in the meantime your body is working overtime on the inside! Just because you can't see it doesn't mean it's not happening.

If you do feel well enough to squeeze in a short workout with your doctor’s approval, it’s totally safe to continue doing what you were doing before pregnancy. I will be sharing my personal tips and favorite resources for prenatal health and fitness in a future post!

Sleep as much as you can, and practice delegating more chores to your partner.

Affirmation: “I’m not lazy, I’m pregnant.”

2. IT’S OK TO NOT FEEL EXCITED AND HAPPY 24/7 (or at all)

I went into pregnancy fully prepared for all the physical discomforts like nausea, fatigue, the random stuff your body does (hello bloody noses, flaky scalp, clogged toilets), but you can’t really prepare for the mental and emotional rollercoaster until you’re in it.

Pregnancy is hard because you are literally losing yourself, or the version of yourself you’ve known up until now. Your entire life as you know it is about to change, in obvious ways like gaining weight, stretch marks, and being responsible for an infant, but you’re also losing a lot of freedom along the way. No more last minute brunch dates with your girlfriends, sleeping in as long as you want, hopping on a plane for a long weekend getaway without any extra preparation, being able to focus on work or your business.

However, you’re also gaining a new version of yourself and your life, and I like to remind myself to focus on what I’m GAINING versus what’s being lost.

But along the way, whatever you are feeling is valid. Even the seemingly selfish feelings of grief for losing your old way of life.

Some typical first trimester emotional triggers:

  • Navigating the unknown

  • Miscarriage anxiety

  • Money stress

  • Overwhelm of adjusting to new reality

  • Feel like you are strapped on a rollercoaster and can’t get off

  • Feeling isolated or alone, especially at the beginning before you share the news, or if you don’t have anyone in your inner circle to relate with

  • If you experienced miscarriage, fertility struggles, or challenges in trying to conceive (or a close friend or family member is going through challenges), you might feel a broad mix of emotions or feel guilty for feeling anything other than gratitude and excitement

It’s ok to feel all the feels. We have the capacity to feel sadness, grief, overwhelm, fear AND love and joy and gratitude all at the same time.

You don’t have to rationalize your emotions. They aren’t supposed to make sense.

There is no one way you "should" feel and no one is happy and excited all day every day. That is completely unrealistic to expect of yourself while pregnant, especially when you’re also dealing with the hormonal hijacking, exhaustion, nausea, and all the other ups and downs of life. You might also be dealing with complicated family relationships, processing anything traumatic you’ve experienced to get to this point, maybe your own mom isn’t around anymore and you’re facing that loss again in a brand new way.

Emotions might be a rollercoaster but you WILL have exciting and joyful moments along the way, like seeing your little gummy bear on an ultrasound for the first time, hearing a heartbeat, watching your partner get excited too.

it definitely gets easier once your bump starts to grow and people know you’re pregnant, and you can get excited about preparing for an actual baby vs. just feeling like shit. But until then, it’s ok to feel like shit.

Fortunately, we have 9 months to feel the feels, come to terms with all the changes, and prepare for becoming a mother, which might not feel like enough but it is a lot of time, so try not to rush through to “get to the other side.” Meet yourself where you’re at even when it is hard.

3. SET BOUNDARIES TO MANAGE OVERWHELM

I almost said “to avoid overwhelm” and then laughed because that’s going to be impossible. You WILL feel overwhelmed. It’s ok. It’s part of the process of expanding into a new identity and role, and being swamped with brand new experiences and changes.

Welcome the overwhelm and understand it’s just part of the growth process.

I’m obsessed with reading and learning everything I can get my hands on, but my doula told me to avoid anything that triggers fear or anxiety, and to get outside for a walk when the weather is nice instead of obsessing about my pregnancy or getting sucked into the baby development/registry/Google vortex. Great advice.

Speaking of advice, you’ll soon discover that everyone and their mother - literally - is chock full of “advice” and opinions when you’re pregnant. Practice the art of the “smile and thank you,” and remember that you get to decide who you listen to, and what advice you take into consideration. It might help to make a mental list of whose input you value (e.g. your doctor, mom, sister, BFF, etc), and then allow everyone else’s input to slide right off, no matter how well intentioned they may be.

Get used to asking for what you need, and receiving help!

4. CHOOSE TO EMBRACE THE JOURNEY

I recently started reading the book What No One Tells You: a guide to your emotions from pregnancy to motherhood, written by two psychiatrists who offer the perspective that pregnancy isn’t just some medical condition, or a means to a baby, but rather a bigger transition or initiatory stage of life called “matrescense,” or becoming a mother.

They compare it to adolescence, which is a culturally recognized phase we’re taught about in school when our hormones go nuts and we grow from a little kid into a pre-young-adult.

Matrescence involves a similarly massive shift in identity, hormones, body changes, and mental and emotional upheaval, yet we don’t ever really acknowledge it.

Our society focuses on the baby but it’s important to focus on the mother, too.

it's a journey for sure! But you will be fine and you WILL do what is best for your body and baby, learning how to trust in your body and your intuition is one of the most amazing parts of these 9 months.

Try not to get caught up in the future or wanting to get to the next phase, and practice mindfulness and being present in the moment, even when you feel crappy.

5. REMEMBER IT’S ALL TEMPORARY!

You probably feel different every single day, which is a reminder that your body is literally constantly changing. The days might feel long, but the weeks and months will fly by, and eventually this too shall pass. I try to remember that this is the only time in my life I’ll experience my first pregnancy, and it helps give me perspective and feel extra grateful and present in the moment.

Enjoy the learning journey, take things day by day, and practice tons of self compassion and grace. The self care you establish now will serve you well in the future once baby is here and life is turned upside down.

But until then, it’s not upside down yet!

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Pregnancy has humbled and challenged me in so many ways. I think the first trimester is such a SHOCK to the system because we need to be literally forced into a new reality, as we transition into motherhood.

Everyday is different. Roll with it.

I’m learning how to adjust my expectations, set priorities, and give myself so much grace along the way.

Will I ever feel like myself again?? Or do I just need to suck it up for the next 18 years?

I guess the answer is: I’m still myself. Just changing.

xo Anna