Blog

Uncategorized

I think kids are irritating. Does that mean I’ll be a bad mom?

Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

Nope. There are plenty of women who stiffen at the sight of kids but are still great mamas. You’re allowed both. And if it’s any comfort, I naively thought the fact that I love kids would make motherhood a breeze. I was mistaken.

For those who find comfort in a controlled environment where social norms are followed, kids can be jarring enigmas. If you’re one of these people, you might feel like you’re missing a part of the brain that allows you to relate to the littles, which could understandably make you uncomfortable interacting with them. And there is nothing wrong with feeling this way. We all have different things that make us tick and trigger discomfort. If kids are one of your discomfort triggers, it doesn’t mean you’re a monster, it means you’re a human who finds it hard to relate to people who seem to be in their own world half the time, and who poop their pants.

Something that will have your back (and heart) as you get to know both your child and who you are as a mother is oxytocin, the “love hormone” or “social glue” that helps humans attach to their babies, even if that attachment takes a while. When you engage in common acts of mothering like feeding, holding, cooing, and smelling that yummy baby head, the pituitary gland releases oxytocin, which reinforces nurturing. So the more you nurture, the better you feel. And as you’re reveling in this feel-good hormone, your baby will be doing the same. This love juice doesn’t make you start loving all the babies, but it’ll make you really like your own (at least most of the time).

If you notice a lack of pleasure when interacting with baby, your body might not be producing adequate levels of oxytocin. As this could be a sign of postpartum depression — which is not your fault — check in with your care provider to ensure you receive quality support.

In addition to oxytocin, there’s also the little thing where motherhood cracks you open. It shakes up all your preconceived notions and turns you into a new version of your pre-pregnancy self. This new version might still find other kids irritating, but it will have a new skill set that helps you care for and relate to your little human. You’ll also develop deeper empathy for the kid-crew as you gain insight into why they do what they do. For example, after you have a baby and hear another baby crying, you might find that you’re no longer irked by the sound but instead recognize it as a request for a clean diaper or some boob. Realizing how much parenthood changes you can be equal parts overwhelming and fascinating.

The most drastic motherhood change I’ve seen took place in my friend, whom I’ll call Clarissa. When a kid would run up to her, babbling about kid stuff, Clarissa used to recoil. She would give them a tight smile and excuse herself. The few times I saw her hold a baby, they would start crying — one time Clarissa started crying! So I was shocked when she became pregnant. Yes, kids freaked her out, but she said that because she and her partner came from small families they wanted people to hang out with as they grew old. Fair enough. But because her desire to have a baby was inspired by thoughts of what life would be like when the child was an adult, she had serious doubts and anxieties about her ability to care for a baby. She was so sure early motherhood would be awful that she asked her doctor to preemptively prescribe antidepressants. But she never needed them. When the baby was born, a switch flipped and her maternal skills turned on. She still finds other kids intolerable but adores her own. Her partner is in charge of “mommy and me” gatherings and kid parties, and Clarissa takes the reigns at home. It works for them.

That maternal skills and all-consuming-love switch might not immediately flip for you, and that’s okay. Even women who adore kids sometimes find it difficult to tap into mom mode. Be gentle with yourself, ask for support (professional support if you’re really feeling blue), keep nurturing that baby even when it feels uncomfortable, and take care of your own needs, as they’re still essential.

What to do

Remember that each mother and baby have their own way of relating. While these relationships may look similar on the outside, every mother and baby duo has a customized thing going. And you will find your thing as you navigate parenthood. You and your baby, and the rest of your tribe, will figure out the care systems and types of bonding that work best for you. It might not fall into place immediately, but continuing to follow your intuition regarding what feels right for you and your family will help you eventually find an individualized system that works. And don’t worry if your system looks totally different from what other families are doing. All that matters is that you figure out a way of life that gives everyone involved the opportunities to be happy, healthy, and fulfilled.

Tip: Because it can feel really strange (and a little boring) to talk to a human who can’t speak, begin practicing by talking to your baby while they’re in the womb. As you practice this skill, know that you don’t have to speak in simple sentences, or in a baby voice. Feel free to read aloud from the newspaper, sing along to your favorite opera, or talk to your belly about your thoughts on climate change. The point is to expose baby to your voice and language, so you might as well talk about things that interest you. This exercise will peel away one of the many layers of newness you’ll experience during early motherhood, helping you feel a little more prepared for the unknown.

Get your copy today.

Uncategorized

I break out in a cold sweat every time I pee, in fear there will be blood when I wipe. Is blood a definite sign I’m miscarrying?

Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

My husband Eric and I had just had sex, and I was going pee. I wiped, and froze. There was bright red blood on the toilet paper. I was ten weeks along, so according to a study published in British Medical Journal I had about a 9 percent chance of miscarrying. I know this because I immediately used my shaking hands to look up miscarriage stats. Then I did what any normal woman would do and called my mom while crying so hard I was snorting. She’s an RN and always does a spectacular job of under-reacting to most physical ailments. The first thing out of her mouth was, “Blood is not a definite sign you’re miscarrying.” Because we have no boundaries, I told her the blood came after sex. She assured me the blood was likely coming from my cervix, which bleeds more easily during pregnancy because blood vessels are developing in the area. Because of her aforementioned under-reacting, I still made an emergency appointment with my OB, who seconded everything Mom said. I was fine.

So while it’s never a bad idea to check in with your care provider if you experience vaginal bleeding, you don’t need to panic like I did. Beyond sex, there are many reasons why a bit of blood may flow out as your body moves through all these wild changes. For one, it’s common to have light to medium bleeding as the embryo is implanting in the uterine lining, about ten to fourteen days after fertilization. In addition, the cervix goes through a process called “cervical remodeling” that includes softening, ripening, dilation, and postpartum repair. The softening begins in the first trimester and can cause bleeding in some women; the ripening begins a few weeks or days before you go into labor; and the dilating and postpartum repair stages are self-explanatory. Additional causes of bleeding include a vaginal exam and excessive exercise.

To assure you even more that bleeding is pretty normal, I’ll cite a study, published in Pediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, that found that 22 percent of women experience vaginal bleeding during pregnancy — and many of these go on to have healthy babies, even those that had some heavy bleeding. The study also reported slightly higher rates of bleeding in women of advanced maternal age, those with passive smoking exposure, or women who have had a prior preterm birth or multiple miscarriages or induced abortions.

While I’m here to uplift and not to freak you out, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the more alarming causes of vaginal bleeding, which include miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, placenta previa (when the placenta covers part, or all, of the cervix), placental abruption (when the placenta separates from the uterus), and early labor. But know that these are much less common than the other mentioned causes of bleeding.

What to do

If your trips to the bathroom are shrouded in fear, take five long and slow breaths before sitting on the toilet. These breaths help to pull you out of fight-flight-freeze and allow calm, rational thoughts to return. You can also say an affirmation, like “I am on the exact path to motherhood I’m meant to be on” or “My self and my baby are glowing with health.” Say whatever you need to return to a space of trust.

Then, if blood does appear when you wipe, repeat the process — five deep breaths and repetition of your affirmation of choice. Next, take note of the color and amount of blood, and check to see if any clots or tissue is present. If there is enough bleeding to require absorption, use a pad — never a tampon. Finally, give your care provider a ring to talk through the possible explanations for the bleeding, and then decide whether you need to be checked. All the while, keep breathing and reminding yourself of all the nonthreatening causes for a bit of vaginal bleeding.

After you’ve received the all-clear from your care provider, they might still recommend the following: Netflix-ing and chilling, drinking more water, propping up your feet, backing off physical activity, and not lifting anything over ten pounds.

Anxiety Release Tool: To enhance that deep breathing and affirmation practice, try the tapping technique EFT, which stands for Emotional Freedom Technique. This can reset any fearful, chaotic energy running through your body. Instructions can be found here: yourserenelife.wordpress.com/eft/  

Get your copy today.

Uncategorized

I’m pregnant with my rainbow baby and am so terrified I’ll lose this pregnancy that I barely leave the house. What are the chances I’ll have another miscarriage/stillbirth? What can I do to avoid it? And how can I calm down and enjoy my pregnancy?

Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

I can’t imagine a tragedy greater than the loss of a child. From the incredibly brave women I’ve worked with who have navigated this heartbreak and from experiencing it myself, I have learned how common it is for fear to encase the heart after loss. Although the conception of a rainbow baby, a baby conceived after a pregnancy loss, is a joyous discovery for many women, it also marks the beginning of a fraught experience. An experience that’s a swirl of guilt, hope, anxiety, healing, and fear that the cruelty of loss will strike again. And then there’s the stress of being stressed: you know stress isn’t good for pregnancy, but you just can’t shake the stress that stems from your trauma. It can feel like an impossible situation.

But here’s a stat that can hopefully soothe some of those nerves. According to a study published in the Journal of Human Reproductive Sciences, only about 2 percent of women will have a repeat miscarriage (pregnancy loss before twenty weeks’ gestation) — most go on to have a healthy pregnancy after the initial loss. In regard to stillbirth (pregnancy loss after twenty weeks’ gestation), a study published in the British Medical Journal found that while women who have had a stillbirth have a higher chance of experiencing another one, the likelihood of this occurrence is rare.

And now for the murkier component of this question, the emotions. Some women feel like they’re turning their back on the child they lost by allowing themselves to be happy and hopeful about the new baby they’re carrying. But you have every right to let joy bubble to the top of your swirl of emotions. And when you keep making the choice, over and over again, to allow yourself to feel positive emotions — even if it’s just glimmers of those emotions — you begin teaching your brain (and heart) that it’s able and allowed to move forward, and you begin to realize that moving forward doesn’t mean leaving your angel baby behind. Throughout it all, keep reminding yourself that your angel baby will always be in your heart, even on days when you don’t think about the loss.

What to do

Find a care provider who is vigilant about helping you understand (as much as possible) what happened in your last pregnancy and is confident about how to support you through this one. This type of care can help you relax a bit more into pregnancy. If you had a stillbirth, consider hiring a maternal-fetal medicine specialist (MFM).

In addition, ask for more prenatal visits if you feel anxious something will happen in the interim. A family member of mine who experienced a stillbirth requested a prenatal visit every two weeks during the first two trimesters of her next pregnancy, and a visit every week in the third trimester. And don’t be afraid to check in if you feel like something is off. Soothing your fears is more important than not calling your care provider too often.

Is there anything else that can help prevent a subsequent pregnancy loss? Maybe. According to the aforementioned study published in the Journal of Human Reproductive Sciences, there are various factors that could potentially help you avoid another pregnancy loss, if your initial loss was unexplained. And a study published in Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology found that 50 percent of miscarriages are unexplained. But many of those are caused by genetic abnormalities, which can’t be avoided unless preimplantation genetic testing (PGT) is utilized during an in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle.

Because there’s some debate about the most effective strategies for preventing pregnancy loss, talk with your care provider about whether the following interventions could be useful for your unique situation. Keep in mind that because research is ongoing with many of these treatments, your care provider might not be comfortable recommending them.

  • Folic acid: Stay on top of taking your 400 mg of folic acid daily, as it helps prevent major birth defects in the baby’s brain and spine.
  • Emotional support: Seeking support from a therapist can help you move through the unique fears attached to your pregnancy. In addition, utilizing alternative support (after your care provider gives you the go-ahead) like acupuncture or hypnotherapy could alleviate stress. You can also use the following link to access a guided meditation I made for women wanting to experience more joy in their rainbow baby pregnancy: yourserenelife.wordpress.com/rainbow-baby/.
  • The norms: Promote a healthy pregnancy by eating a nutrient-rich diet, exercising regularly, taking your prenatal vitamin, and staying away from no-nos like alcohol, cigarettes, and illicit drugs.
  • Environmental factors: Limit exposure to harmful products like mercury, solvents, paint thinners, pesticides, and heavy metals. Talk with your care provider about other hazards to avoid.
  • Chronic conditions: If you have chronic health circumstances such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or other ailments, make a plan with your care provider about how to stay on top of treatment.
  • Sleeping on your side: Because sleeping on your back could impact the flow of blood and oxygen to the baby, sleeping on your side is the safest option. A pregnancy pillow does wonders for making this comfortable.
  • Aspirin: Some believe that taking a daily baby aspirin can help prevent pregnancy loss in women with high levels of inflammation. But do not take aspirin without explicit instructions from your care provider.
  • Progesterone: In some cases, progesterone can help prevent miscarriage in women who experience bleeding in the first trimester.
  • Low molecular weight heparin (LMWH): The use of LMWH has sometimes been found to help minimize the chance of pregnancy loss.
  • Human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG): Because hCG plays a critical
  • role in the establishment of a pregnancy, it’s believed that hCG injections might help prevent early pregnancy loss.
  • Steroids: The steroid prednisolone has been found to reduce the amount of a type of cell called uterine natural killer (uNK). Women who have had recurrent miscarriages often have elevated levels of uNK.
  • Intravenous intralipid solution: Much like prednisolone, intravenous intralipid solution therapy helps prevent natural killer cells from attacking a fetus. While not all women are candidates for this treatment, it’s often beneficial for those with endometriosis, autoimmune disorders, connective tissue disorders, or rheumatoid arthritis, as these women are more likely to have elevated levels of active natural killer cells.
  • Immunoglobulins: This is a type of antibody made by the immune system to battle bacteria, viruses, and other not-nice invaders. Injections of immunoglobulin are especially needed for immune-deficient patients, in addition to those with a negative blood type. While controversial, immunoglobulin therapy is sometimes used to help prevent pregnancy loss for a woman who has experienced recurrent miscarriages.

With all that said, I want to stress how important it is to avoid blaming yourself for your loss. While there are many ways we can promote a healthy pregnancy, a loss is often caused by circumstances out of our control. Give yourself credit for all you’re doing to nurture your well-being, and do everything possible to release guilt and adopt trust in your body’s ability to move through this pregnancy with ease.

If you’re having a hard time enjoying this pregnancy because you’re steeped in grief, it might be supportive to find new ways to honor your child who has passed. For example, instead of viewing your grief as the prime way to honor them, you can plant a memorial tree that you regularly meditate by, or write letters to the child. Whatever practice you’re drawn to can help you connect to that child, assuring you they’ll never be forgotten while also maintaining enough emotional space to give loving focus to your current pregnancy. Of course, you’ll still have moments of regret, anger, and sorrow, but they’ll no longer be the main channels of connection with your child who has passed on. You’ll now have a new channel that fosters emotional relief and evolution.

Get your copy today.

Uncategorized

I just found out my baby’s sex and am so disappointed. I desperately wanted a [boy or girl] and don’t feel like I can raise the opposite. These feelings are making me feel like I’m betraying my baby. How can I move past them?

Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

Let me tell you a story. I had already picked out outfits for her first Christ- mas, beach day, and birthday in my head. We had made a long list of girl names, and no boy names because we didn’t have to — we were sure we were having a girl. But no. At the twenty-week ultrasound the tech smiled and pointed, “Oh look, there’s his little turtle head!” No joke. There was a turtlehead inside of me. I bit down on the inside of my cheek, but the tears still came. Eric was shocked. I immediately felt detached from my baby. I had been connecting to the idea of a girl. I had been thinking about how I would parent a girl. I had been wanting a girl.

Eric had to go to work, so I was left alone to sob in bed. To mourn the baby girl I wasn’t having. Waves of disbelief washed over me. And then it happened. The guilt struck. I still had a healthy baby inside me. A sweet little boy whose parents were devastated he was not a she. I started crying again, apologizing over and over again to my boy.

When the tears stopped and rational thinking returned, I realized the sex of my child wouldn’t change the way I connect to them. It wouldn’t change the way I parent them. It wouldn’t change the fact that I was going to put them in ridiculous outfits. And heck, I didn’t know how I would connect with or parent them, regardless of their sex, because I hadn’t met them. I didn’t even know what the baby’s gender would actually be. If it had been a girl, maybe she would have identified as a boy, or as neither. Same for my boy. I just didn’t know. The only thing I did know was that I would love them completely. Whatever the sex, whatever the gender, whatever the personality, they were my child and I was beyond blessed they had chosen me.

But even after my realizations, it took a few days before we were ready to share the news. I didn’t want there to be even a tinge of disappointment in our voices when we said, “We’re having a boy!” (We practiced saying it at the same time but could never get in sync.)

So I feel you, mama. It throws us for a loop when we find out we’re having a baby who doesn’t have the sex we’d hoped for. And I don’t buy it when people say, “I don’t care what the sex is, I just want a healthy baby.” I believe every person expecting a baby has a sex they’re rooting for, even if it’s just a tiny bit and at a subconscious level. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Maybe you have two boys and desperately want a girl. Or maybe you grew up in a household of only women and want the experience of raising a boy. Whatever your reasoning, it’s totally understandable. You get to wish for a certain sex. And when it doesn’t come true, you get to mourn. You get to freak out. You get to wish the ultrasound tech got it wrong. And then you get to move past the regret and find peace.

What to do

Be upset. Get to a private place and cry. Or scream, “What the [bleep]!” Don’t hold back; let your honest emotions and thoughts flow. Write a letter about how friggin’ upset you are and rip it up. Then, begin stepping toward acceptance, and even joy, by trying the following:

  • Remember that you’re growing a unique human. As I mentioned before, no mother has any idea who her baby will be, or what gender they’ll identify as. Even if the sex had been the one you hoped for, your baby probably wouldn’t have perfectly fit into the visions you had of raising a boy or girl. Begin connecting to baby as the wholly unique person they’ll be- come by listening to the meditation at this link: yourserenelife.word- press.com/babys-gender/.
  • Explore the reasons you wanted a certain sex. As you envisioned your life with a boy or girl pre-ultrasound, you likely had fantasies of going on certain outings with your girl or boy, maybe guiding them through milestones or connecting over a shared love of literature, pop culture, or whatever your thing is. Write it all down. Then look over those dreams with a new lens — a lens that will help you realize that just because you’re having a child that isn’t the sex you had hoped for, doesn’t mean you can’t do the same things with them. The only exceptions I can think of are teaching a boy to not get urine everywhere and to put the seat down, and guiding a girl through her first menstrual cycles. Beyond that, there’s really no bonding experience you can have only with a boy, or a girl.
  • Write a letter to the baby. If guilt over your disappointment hits, write a letter to your baby explaining how much you love them. Gush over how excited you are. Do whatever you need to do to fill your womb with love as you explore your feelings on the page.

Know that your disappointment will fade, but it may take a while. For many, the disappointment after That Ultrasound will dissolve in a few days, after you get used to your new reality. However, some mothers may feel lingering regret until they deliver their baby. But when you’re finally holding your baby in your arms, you’ll be shocked you ever wanted anyone who wasn’t that exact child.

Get your copy today.

Uncategorized

I have an STD (sexually transmitted disease). I don’t think it’s one that impacts pregnancy, so do I have to tell my care provider?

Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

You do. But while the thought of that conversation probably makes you cringe, you have every right to feel no shame about sharing this information. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there were 2,457,118 reported cases of STDs in the United States in 2018 — and many go unreported. That’s a lot of people. And I can guarantee all those folks aren’t irresponsible miscreants. People contract STDs. It happens. It’s something that should obviously be avoided as much as possible through safe sex practices, but despite our best efforts they still occur all the time. This is especially true when we’re teens and more prone to in-the-moment “I can’t find a condom, but whatever” behavior. And if we contract something like herpes — an STD that can never be erased from the body — we have to deal with those super-normal, yet unfortunate, teen-decisions forever.

Note: Most care providers recommend testing for human immuno- deficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B, chlamydia, and syphilis during the first prenatal visit.

Although your care provider will provide the most up-to-date in- formation on how your STD could impact pregnancy and what the best course of action will be, here’s the lowdown on STD risk factors and the STDs that pose the greatest threat during pregnancy:

  • Can pass to the fetus during delivery: Without certain medications, chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes, and cytomegalovirus (CMV) can be passed from mother to infant as baby moves through the birth canal.
  • Can infect the fetus during pregnancy: Syphilis, HIV, and CMV can pass to the fetus.
  • Pregnancy loss: Syphilis, gonorrhea, HIV, and herpes can all increase the chance of pregnancy loss if left untreated.
  • Chlamydia: This STD can increase the risk of preterm labor, and eye infections or pneumonia in the baby.
  • Gonorrhea: Eye infections, pneumonia, or infections of the joints or blood in the baby can be caused by gonorrhea.
  • Syphilis. Syphilis can cause a slew of serious issues for mother and baby, which is why it’s often treated with antibiotics during pregnancy.
  • Genital herpes: Herpes exposure during delivery could lead to problems in baby, like brain damage. Women who have been diagnosed with herpes but don’t have active sores will be given medication to prevent an outbreak during delivery. Those with active sores will receive a C-section.
  • Hepatitis B: As hepatitis can cause serious liver complications, the baby of a woman with this STD will receive the hepatitis B vaccine within twelve hours of birth, in addition to a treatment, called immune globulin, that helps prevent a chronic hepatitis infection. Some women might also receive antiviral therapy during the third trimester.
  • CMV: Cytomegalovirus is a common virus (related to herpes) that often goes undetected. Serious illness could occur if it’s passed on to the baby. It’s usually managed by giving the mother antiviral medications.
  • HIV/AIDS: This STD is often managed by giving the baby the medication zidovudine for four to six weeks after birth. In addition, the mother will likely be advised to continue her standard medication regime during pregnancy. A C-section is often recommended if there’s an elevated amount of HIV present in the body in the third trimester.

While these risks sound scary, many can be prevented if your care provider knows about your STD as soon as possible and gets you the necessary care.

What to do

Remind yourself that you’re not the first pregnant woman to tell her care provider she has an STD. Many women have come before you. Then re- mind yourself that your care provider is legally obligated to zip it when it comes to everything you tell them — no one else (beyond members of their staff with the clearance to see your chart) will find out, unless you tell them. And because preparation often does wonders for minimizing nerves, think through how you’ll tell them the news. As you do this, your head might be filled with visions of your care provider looking at you in horror, or shaking their head in disappointment while making that annoying “tsk tsk” sound. I can almost guarantee they’ll do none of the above.

Something else to consider is that you might have omitted this information in numerous prior visits. For example, I’ve worked with women who have seen their OB-GYN for years, and because of (undeserved!) shame, never told them about their STD. In all cases, the women received treatment for their STDs at a Planned Parenthood. Fast forward to their pregnancies — now they not only had to tell a person they saw as an authority figure that they had an STD, but also had to let it slip that they had been holding back key medical info for quite some time.

If you’re in the same predicament, you might feel the amplified anxiety and embarrassment these women all reported. However, it’s important to know that — just like the millions of people who also have STDs — there are likely also hundreds of thousands of other humans who have felt too embarrassed to share this info with their primary care physician. In addition to knowing that you’re not alone, know that if your care provider is worth their salt, they won’t bring up the fact that you’ve been keeping this from them. They’ll simply mark the info in your chart and discuss how it will be managed. Just another special circumstance. No biggie.

Get your copy today.

Uncategorized

I can’t stand my medical care provider, but I’m just weeks from my due date. What should I do?

Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

This is one of the most frequent questions I receive. As our culture sets doctors up to be authority figures (something that can be comforting in many cases), we often feel like we’re stuck with the first person we receive treatment from after we pee on the stick. Most of the time, that person is the OB we started going to because our insurance covered it or a few friends recommended them. But then we start learning about pregnancy and childbirth and might find we’re feeling less aligned with that OB — feeling less comfortable asking questions or expressing how we want to navigate pregnancy and childbirth. Under normal circumstances, we would find a new care provider, but discomfort at the thought of firing the person who’s been administering those lovely Paps for so long can seem more than our pregnant emotions can handle, especially when we’re nearing the end of pregnancy. But the alternative is often a birth experience that is a far cry from what we actually want.

In addition, most of us feel incredibly vulnerable during pregnancy, so when we have a care provider talking with great authority on what we should do, we wonder if we’ll be doing ourselves or our baby a disservice if we change care providers. So we stick with them. But this decision is often based on fear rather than on a genuine desire to receive care from the person in question. It’s also important to note that some care providers present opinions as fact. They state their views on induction, for example, as gospel, making some women feel silly for having a differing opinion. If you conduct the care provider interviews recommended in the following pages, you’ll find that almost every candidate will have a slight (or significant) difference of opinion on almost all pregnancy and childbirth topics. In many cases, a lot of what they say is based on their personal experiences, not on science-based research.

I have a birth story packed with disappointing moments because I didn’t feel comfortable being open with my care provider. At the time, I didn’t have the courage to find a new one. When I discovered a fertilized egg had landed in my uterus, I went straight to the lady who had given me a painful endometrial biopsy the year before. She was an authoritative grandma type and a high-risk OB. I knew nothing about pregnancy and childbirth and figured it would be good to have a doctor who was well trained in everything that could go wrong. What I soon learned was that she seemed to always be looking for something to go wrong.

I started feeling unsure of my body and my ability to make decisions, and I rarely shared my thoughts on what I wanted my birth to look like. The one time I summoned some courage and told her I didn’t want to be induced and didn’t want an epidural, she just stared at me. Fast forward to labor. I had not developed any special circumstances that warranted the watchful eye of a high-risk doctor, so I was primarily left under the care of the L&D nurses, who were happy to let me birth without intervention. Things were moving along fine when my doctor came in and decided to break my water. There was no medical indication for this — she just wanted to speed things up. And of course, I didn’t talk back. So that happened . . . and soon after I was ready to push. I began trying out positions I learned in my birthing class and did a combination of deep breathing and pushing to avoid the burst-a-blood-vessel, high-octane pushing commonly recommended in hospitals. My doctor stood in the corner and watched skeptically for about ten minutes before telling me to put my feet in the metal stirrups and push the way she wanted me to push. Three exhausting hours later Hudson was born. We were healthy, and I had my unmedicated birth, but I didn’t feel empowered. I felt like I had been railroaded.

Looking back, I recognize my doctor wasn’t “bad,” she just wasn’t the right fit for me. I wish someone had told me what I’m about to tell you . . .

What to do

If you’re not jiving with your current care provider, find a new one. I can guarantee you won’t be the first person to move on from them, and you won’t be last. I can also (almost) guarantee they won’t be offended. They have plenty of patients and likely prefer those who happily follow their suggestions, not someone who seems hesitant about their care. So really, you’re doing both of you a favor. To find a care provider you gel with, consider the following:

  • Conduct interviews. These interviews can be done fairly quickly, and sometimes over the phone. You can usually find good suggestions for candidates by asking friends or family members who had the type of birth you’re hoping for, or your childbirth preparation educator.
  • Meet with your top choices. After the initial interviews, have consults with three or four of your favorites, sharing the type of birth you want and paying attention to how they respond. If they seem like they could maybe, possibly support what you want, they might not be a good fit. If they’re enthusiastic about your birth preferences and talk about things you can do to set yourself up for your ideal birth — if they make you feel like they’ll be your champion — they might be a really great fit.
  • Check in with your gut. The most important indicator that someone is the right care provider for you is feeling instinctually comfortable with them and excited at the prospect of receiving support and guidance from them. They should be someone you feel you could trust, ask anything of, and tell anything to.

This process can be done at any point during your pregnancy, even a few weeks before your due date. I know a midwife who started caring for a mother the day she went into labor. I also know a woman who had a breech baby and one week before her due date decided to switch from a doctor who was insisting she have a cesarean birth to a care provider who performed breech deliveries.

Above all, you deserve to have a care provider who makes you feel empowered, safe, and capable. And you have every right to hire and fire as many care providers as you need until you find that golden match.

Get your copy today.

Uncategorized

Pregnancy has made me so irritable I can barely stand being around people. Will I always feel like this? How can I stop being so mean?

Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

“I hate all of them,” my client Shelly said. “First it was just all the people that aren’t pregnant and can bend over, and poop, and eat more than crackers. And then I started hating all the pregnant women too. They all glow more than me, yet sweat less. There’s no way they’re as scared, or angry, or tired as me. And then there’s my husband — he really sucks. I hate that! I hate all of them, but I can’t stop it. And…and…and…” Shelly went on for a while. I felt for her. She was taking my childbirth prep class and had stayed behind to talk.

Shelly said the moments of excessive annoyance began almost as soon as she peed on the stick. But the rage didn’t fully blossom until the beginning of her third trimester. She couldn’t tolerate being in public because she couldn’t hold her tongue — she couldn’t stop her eyes from giving away how dumb she thought everyone was. “I got a foot massage last week and asked the woman if she was trying to do a bad job. I could barely feel her hands, but still, I was such a bitch. She teared up. I’m not usually like this. Before I became pregnant I was that person who struck up conversations with strangers in the checkout line. I would leave waiters big tips even if they did a horrible job. I think I’m possessed,” she said. She was possessed. But not by the Spawn of Satan, just by the Hormones from Hell — and a few other pregnancy demons.

What Shelley experienced was an extreme version of the mood shifts many women have during pregnancy. The changes in estrogen and progesterone throw your neurotransmitters — the chemicals in the brain that help regulate your mood— for a loop. Like a giant, nauseating roller coaster loop. In addition to the hormones, the fatigue, the stress of pre- paring for a new baby, and the changes to your metabolism contribute to the whole “other people are insufferable” thing. While this is all normal, it doesn’t feel great, and each time you see red it can cause a surge of the stress hormones epinephrine, cortisol, and adrenaline, in addition to a constriction of blood vessels.

A study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology found that pregnant women with chronic high levels of anger had high levels of cortisol and adrenaline, in addition to low dopamine and serotonin levels, and that these women tended to have babies with high cortisol and low dopamine levels. These babies also had issues with sleep, orientation, and motor maturity after birth. The good news is there’s a lot you can do to minimize the spike in these rage hormones, as well as the dips in your happy hormones.

What to do

Avoid other people. Seriously. While I’ll get to ways to manage your irritation when you have to be around other humans, I want to stress your right to honor your needs — even if those needs include being a hermit for a few weeks. Maybe your irritable mood is a much-needed invitation to step out of the social scene and spend more time connecting with your baby — a person who, at the moment, cannot talk back and demands nothing of you (beyond most of your nutrients).

If you’ve always felt like you’d rather stare at a blank wall than interact with other humans, this may be a sign of social anxiety, chronic depression, or other common conditions, which might be something you can explore with the support of a mental health specialist. But if this is a state of being that popped up with pregnancy, it’ll likely subside after baby comes and the hormones chill. So instead of stressing about other people stressing you out, give yourself permission to avoid people as much as possible. Give yourself permission to retreat in ways like these:

  • Pop on your headphones when you’re at work (or anywhere) so people aren’t tempted to talk to you.
  • Tell your partner you need alone time and slip into bed with a good book or the remote.
  • Pull the pregnancy card when friends ask you to go out, or an invite to a family gathering arrives.

If any of your people are offended, be straight up. Tell them pregnancy hormones are making you exceedingly irritable, so you’d rather avoid people than be mean to them. You can also remind them (and yourself) that you’ll be back to your more social self after your hormones regain equilibrium. Until then, just send your regrets. #SorryNotSorry

However, there will be times when you just can’t avoid interacting with fellow earthlings. To make those situations less infuriating, try the following:

  • Discover what relaxes you, then do it. Analyze all the activities you engage in, or want to engage in, and pinpoint what makes you the most relaxed. For example, maybe a walk every morning, a nap in the afternoon, or a massage once a week pushes your reset button. Or maybe your thing is binging on Dr. Pimple Popper or knitting baby booties. Or whatever. Just do what soothes you at least once a day, as this will fill you with a greater capacity to deal with irritants when you have to leave your bubble.
  • Follow the healthy norms. I know eating nutritious food and not being a total couch potato is talked about ad nauseam, but it’s for good reason. These activities help combat the factors that can make you susceptible to anger and irritation, like fatigue, headaches, and bloating, while also pumping you full of endorphins.
  • Walk away. When someone triggers you and you feel a red-hot response on the tip of your tongue, swallow it and walk away. Go some- where private (the bathroom or car are my favorite choices), and let your rage spill out there. Say everything you wanted to say to that person. Bang your fists. Let it out. This helps avoid the escalation of interactions that don’t need to escalate, and prevents you from saying something you’ll later regret. If you need to return to that person, wait until your anger has subsided so you can engage from a calm space.
  • Pull the pregnancy card. If those red-hot words spill from your mouth and you wish you could shove them back in, blame it on the baby. “I am so sorry I said that. These hormones are out of control.” However, if that person deserved those red-hot words, skip the excuse, and as the singer Lizzo would say, do a hair toss and walk your fine self out the door.
  • Intentionally rage. Release your inner pressure cooker on your terms by finding activities that allow you to express your anger without hurting anyone. For example, I’ve been known to scream into pillows, pound said pillows, or write a scathing letter to someone I’m mad at, then burn it. Find your thing, then do it as often as needed.
  • Practice nostril breathing. Most people hold their breath when they get mad. Pull yourself out of this state by practicing the very strange, yet effective, technique of nostril breathing, also called the “subtle energy clearing breathing technique.” To do this, close your right nostril with your thumb, then take a deep inhale through your left nostril. Next, close your left nostril with your finger, then exhale through your right nostril, and then inhale through your right nostril. Now close the right nostril, and exhale through your left nostril. That’s one cycle. For optimal results, do it for five minutes. It may sound confusing, but it gets easier with practice.

Safety Note: Stop this breathing technique if you begin feeling lightheaded.

  • Practice muscle release. In addition to holding their breath, people tense their muscles when they’re mad. So when you feel anger coursing through your muscles, counteract it by envisioning a warm, euphoria-inducing liquid being poured into the top of your head and flowing down through every muscle, nerve, and cell in your body until it reaches your toes. Track this liquid as it slowly moves through you, feeling your muscles relax as the euphoria moves through them. Keep repeating this visualization until you feel the anger subside.

Get your copy today.

Uncategorized

I used an egg (or sperm) donor to conceive and still haven’t told anyone. Do I have to share this information?

Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

Nope. That decision is super personal, and you can do whatever you like with it. In the age of oversharing, some people feel it’s their right to know all your business, which can make you feel pressure to share it all — even the aspects of yourself you want to hold close. This can even result in you feeling like you’re lying or inauthentic if you’re not completely open about your journey to conception. I don’t want that for you. I want you to feel free to choose who you do and do not share this intimate information with, and to know that you’re not less-than if you don’t feel like shouting it from the rooftops.

You might also still be processing how you feel about using a donor. Maybe you’re exploring what it’s like to be pregnant with a child who is not biologically related to you. Or maybe you’re supporting your partner through that journey. It can muddy the emotional waters to share information you’re still unpacking.

On the other hand, you might also be yearning for a few special people to talk with about your donor decision — a few people who won’t judge or ask insensitive questions. Creating this carefully curated group can give you a pillow of support when you do tell people who might not be as understanding as they should (for example, uptight parents or in- laws) and your child, when they’re old enough to understand.

What to do

Think long and hard about the people you trust implicitly. The people who never raise their eyebrows when you tell them something deeply personal. The people who have your back no matter what. Make a list of names. If you have a partner, make this list with them. Then do the following:

  • Tell those people. I recommend having a private meetup with each of the individuals on your list, where you share your exciting news. You can also request that they don’t share this information with others until you give the go-ahead.
  • Request support. If you’re struggling with emotions around your genetic connection to the child or are nervous about telling certain people, ask your core group if they’d be willing to support you through this process. They’ll likely appreciate you being up front with your needs and will probably jump into action to make you feel held.

With this team of ride-or-die confidants in place, move on to phase three…telling the family members you’re not excited to tell.

  • Having the tricky talks. Before we dive into this, I want to note that it’s not absolutely necessary to tell anyone — even family members. I cover how to share this information with family because many women feel it’s easier to tell them than to try and preserve the secret. But of course, whatever choice intuitively feels right for your unique situation is the right one.

If you choose to share your decision to use a donor with the family, make a loose script for what you will say, writing down any information you’re willing to provide and what you’re keeping to yourself. You can also create a script for what to say if they ask questions you don’t want to answer or are judgmental. For example, if they start hammering you about why you used a donor instead of doing X, Y, or Z, clearly tell them that you’re not there to discuss your reasoning and have no obligation to do so. Express that you’re telling them out of courtesy and do not need them to agree with your decision. State that you’ve shared every- thing you’re willing to share, and request that they find a way to support you. This might seem harsh, but I want you to remember that you don’t need their approval. You’re an adult who is following the path to parenthood that is right for you and, if applicable, your partner.

If you’re really nervous about having these conversations, ask someone from your support group to accompany you so they can back you up, or pull you out if the situation gets toxic.

You are a champion for moving through the intense journey of conceiving with the support of a donor. It’s a long road, and you deserve to be honored for your commitment to bring a new life into this world. Don’t let anyone dim your light.

Get your copy today.

Childbirth, Video

Essential Guide to Your Rights During Childbirth

Discover what your rights are during childbirth, and how to advocate for them.

Listen to this guided meditation to tap into your inner power source: yourserenelife.wordpress.com/birthing-rights/

If you would like more information about these topics, check out my book “Feng Shui Mommy: Creating Balance and Harmony for Blissful Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood” – https://www.amazon.com/Feng-Shui-Mommy-Childbirth-Motherhood/dp/1608684717

P.S. My new book Asking For a Pregnant Friend : 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Ashamed or Scared to Ask About Pregnancy, Childbirth and Early Motherhood is coming out June 1, 2021 🙂

Uncategorized

I have a friend who is devastated because she can’t get pregnant. I’m afraid to tell her I’m pregnant. How should I handle this?

Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

A friendship can get tricky when one friend’s pain intersects with another’s joy. The emotions experienced by someone facing infertility, miscarriage, or stillbirth can be truly understood only by those who have navigated the same sorrow — it cuts deep and can feel like a cruel joke. I speak from experience, as I’ve had a miscarriage.

While every woman who experiences this painful journey will do so in her own way, a common thread is feeling frustration, desolation, and even resentment when they see babies and pregnant bellies, or hear about the healthy pregnancies of their loved ones. Being around pregnancy can be so triggering. Because of this, it’s fair to feel nervous about sharing your amazing news with someone who will understandably see it as a reminder of what they don’t have. It’s not a fun conversation. But it has to happen.

While it’s normal to want to hide this information because you don’t want to cause pain, you’ll actually cause more by hiding it. I have a close friend (we’ll call her Megan) who experienced a late-term stillbirth that rocked her world. I was devastated when I heard about her loss — so I can’t even begin to piece together how she felt — and still feels. Then one of Megan’s friends (we’ll call her Anna) became pregnant, and had a get-together where she shared the news with all their mutual friends. Anna did not invite Megan. Sharing the news with Megan was left to her husband, who heard about the pregnancy secondhand, and this made Megan feel that a secret was being kept, like Anna would rather hide than face Megan’s pain. She felt betrayed. If Anna could have pushed past her discomfort, they would have had a potent opportunity to connect, as one of the main things Megan wanted was for people to be willing to talk to her about her child who had passed. To be willing to hear about her pain. She wanted people to not be scared of her story and her grief.

So in some ways, the situation you’re in with your friend is a gift. It’s an opening, an opportunity to let her know you’re there for her no matter how uncomfortable her emotions and life circumstances make you feel. While initially uncomfortable, this conversation could be one of the most unifying and transformational encounters you’ll ever have. It will force you to summon your strength and compassion, and connect with another human in a raw, deeply authentic way.

What to do

To start, don’t post anything on social media or have a big pregnancy announcement party until you’ve spoken to your friend. News travels fast in the age of instant information, so hold it close. Then consider the following:

  • Make a plan for when and where you’ll tell her. First, think of a day and time that will give both of you plenty of time to talk and allow room for decompression before either of you step into another activity. Next, figure out a private, safe space for her to freely express whatever emotions might arise. (Her house might be a good choice.)
  • Figure out how you’ll tell her. To get started, write down some ideas about how to deliver the news. For example, you can preface the news by telling her you’re fine with any reaction she has, as this can make her feel safe to express sadness or frustration if that comes up. In addition, knowing that you didn’t come into the conversation with expectations about how she should respond will likely make her feel emotionally held.

You can also write a reminder to remain neutral when you tell her you’re pregnant. While it’s natural to want to gush about how happy you are and share all the details, know that such a reaction might exaggerate her pain.

Below is an opener I helped a client write. You obviously don’t have to say this verbatim, but it can provide a starting-off point. You also don’t have to walk into the convo with the script, but it’s helpful to review it beforehand to ensure you don’t forget the most important points.

If you feel your friend would rather receive the news via email, compose a letter along the lines of what’s written below, and end with an invitation to talk whenever she feels ready.

Sample Script for Informing a Sensitive Friend

“I want to start by saying how much I love you and appreciate our friendship. Before I jump into my news I also want you to know I have no expectations about your reaction — you should feel safe to express whatever comes up. With that said, I want you to be one of the first people to know that I’m pregnant. [Pause for reaction.] I can’t even begin to understand what you must be going through, but I want you to know I’m always here for you. I promise we absolutely do not have to talk about my pregnancy when we hang out. You are an amazing woman, and it’s an honor to know you.”

Determine how to manage your emotions. An important aspect of preparing for this talk is recording ideas (see energetic shield exercise in the following pages) about how you’ll man- age your own emotions or triggers if she doesn’t seem happy for you. She’s moving through a challenging experience, and it’s natural for her to not be excited about your news. Her reaction is not personal — it does not mean she doesn’t love you or thinks you don’t deserve to become a mother.

  • Actively listen. After you’ve said your piece, allow her to lead the conversation, and practice active listening. Avoid going into details about your pregnancy, like due date and birth plans, unless she asks, and for the love of uteruses, do not offer any advice on conceiving or drop fertility platitudes. “Everything happens for a reason,” “It will happen for you when the time is right,” and other such sayings are not helpful.
  • Protect yourself. Something else to consider as you plan for this conversation is that your fears could be triggered. For ex- ample, if your friend experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth and wants to talk about it, you could begin wondering if the same will happen to you.

To protect yourself, create an invisible shield before you meet by closing your eyes and envisioning a golden light around you. Allow this light to represent energetic protection from whatever your friend says. Remind yourself that this conversation is for her, and that all you need to do is be there for her — you don’t need to absorb her pain or fear. When I went through this exercise with a client she asked if it was selfish, saying, “Shouldn’t I be willing to feel her pain and really go there with her?” The thing is, “going there” with her sucks energy away from your ability to support her. If you spiral into the what-ifs of your own journey, you’ll have little concentration, or even willingness, left for nurturing her. In addition, gifting yourself this energetic protection can pre- vent you from becoming defensive or angry if her response is hurtful.

  • Keep reaching out. After you have the talk, avoid the temptation to ghost her. It’s normal to want to hang only with people who lift your mood and are cool talking about baby stuff 24/7, but continuing to give friendship-TLC to her can be good for both of you — she feels supported, and you’re reminded of what a solid friend you are. (Just don’t talk baby unless she’s the one bringing it up.) With that said, she might request space from you. She might find it’s just too hard being around you during your pregnancy and that she needs to take a step back. While you want to honor her choice, it doesn’t hurt to continue checking in on her occasionally, letting her know you’re thinking of her and are there if she ever needs anything.

Get your copy today.

Uncategorized

What To Do About Extreme Irritability During Pregnancy

Discover why many pregnant women experience extreme mood swings and occasional rage, and what to do about it.

If you would like more information about these topics, check out Feng Shui Mommy: Creating Balance and Harmony for Blissful Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood – https://www.amazon.com/Feng-Shui-Mommy-Childbirth-Motherhood/dp/1608684717

P.S. My new book Asking For a Pregnant Friend : 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask About Pregnancy, Childbirth and Early Motherhood is coming out June 1, 2021 🙂

Uncategorized

I’m no longer with my baby’s father and am so nervous about all the questions and judgments that will be coming my way. How should I handle it?

Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

First off, if you left your partner because you were in an unhealthy relationship, you are my hero. It takes Wonder Woman strength to stand

up for your well-being and get out of a relationship that isn’t good for you, especially when faced with impending parenthood — a journey that makes many yearn for a partner. But as you probably know, being partner-free can be better than having a toxic relationship.

If you broke romantic ties with your partner because you realized the two of you are better friends than lovers, kudos to you, too. It’s really easy to convince ourselves to stay with someone we don’t want to be romantically involved with if they’re a good person and friend. By beginning to create a new structure for your relationship now, the two of you can hope to have a solid system and healthy dynamic by the time baby arrives.

And now for one of the trickiest types of separations: If you were left by someone you still want to be with, this split might be one of the most painful things you’ve ever experienced. Being abandoned by the person you probably thought would stay by your side no matter what can feel like an insurmountable betrayal. And if cheating was a factor, you can heap another pile of pain into the mix.

Regardless of the nature of the separation, you’re likely navigating a maelstrom of confusion, loss, and maybe anger and fear. The last thing you need to worry about is how others will react to the news. But whether we like it or not, reactions will come. Hopefully, your people will under- stand and do nothing but offer comfort and support. But some might have a hard time accepting your situation, making your life even harder.

Oh, mama. You’re dealing with so much. I wish I could wrap you in my arms and make sure you get all the love and support you deserve. I hope I will have the privilege of doing that someday, but for now, here’s a strategy for moving through this super tricky time in a way that nourishes your mental and emotional health.

What to do

Build your support system. Think of the people who will understand your situation and won’t do that thing where their face gets really judgy when you tell them about your new relationship status. Find these people, and ask them straight up if they’d be willing to be one of your rocks. If they agree, make a plan together for how they can support you during pregnancy and early motherhood. Be really specific with your needs, so they can be really specific about how they can help.

During this vulnerable period I also recommend scheduling regular times to connect with these support people. When we’re struggling and in pain, it’s all too easy to hide and not reach out. So it’s important to prepare for this by scheduling regular check-ins. If you and your sister, for example, plan for her to come over every Wednesday evening to talk, and for her to call you every morning to boost your morale, it’s going to be a lot harder to resist support.

Once you’ve set up this solid support network, you’ll likely feel braver and more assured in your decision to leave your partner, or more secure in the single status that was thrust on you. Now, with confidence and enhanced calm fueling your creativity, write a loose script for what you’ll say to acquaintances when they ask about your baby’s father. Then, think about what you’ll tell close friends and family members — likely you’ll offer them a more extensive breakdown of what happened. If you fear they’ll urge you to question your decision, or to try to get your partner to take you back, add an addendum to your script where you lovingly tell them you’ll request their advice if you want it. To fortify your nerves for the family-and-close- friends conversations, bring along someone from your support system who can back you up, or get you out if anyone is hurtful.

Get your copy today.

Childbirth, Video

Is It Okay To Be Nude During Childbirth?

What to do if you think you’ll be most comfortable naked during childbirth.

If you would like more information about these topics, check out my book “Feng Shui Mommy: Creating Balance and Harmony for Blissful Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood” – https://www.amazon.com/Feng-Shui-Mommy-Childbirth-Motherhood/dp/1608684717

P.S. My new book Asking For a Pregnant Friend : 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Ashamed or Scared to Ask About Pregnancy, Childbirth and Early Motherhood is coming out June 1, 2021 🙂

Uncategorized

I don’t like the idea of my partner watching naked women in birth videos. Should I ask them to not watch the videos with me?

Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

When I first watched a birth video with Eric I immediately wondered if he was lusting after the woman’s bare breasts. They were full and round and probably four cup sizes larger than mine. However, the only part of the video that seemed to faze him was the liquid pouring out of the vagina as the head popped out. I asked him about the boobs, and he said he didn’t notice them. Whether or not he was fibbing doesn’t matter. What matters is that I was forgetting why we watched the birth video. We didn’t watch so I could compare myself to other women, or fall down the rabbit hole of doubt about whether my partner thought I was attractive — we were watching to expand our knowledge of birth and prepare for our journey as parents.

That’s my long way of saying I relate to this question. It’s normal to have a slew of insecurities during pregnancy, when our bodies are under- going rapid-fire changes. And naturally, these insecurities can bleed into our romantic relationship. It can come to a head when we’re watching a video of a beautiful naked woman handling birth — a process we might not think we can get through — like a pro, all while our partner looks on. So. Many. Triggers.

While it’s absolutely okay to avoid watching birth videos with your partner, I also think it’s a missed opportunity. Watching birth videos that depict an empowered, peaceful birth can help you and your partner realize that such a birth is possible for you. As a childbirth educator, I can talk for hours about how wonderful birth can be, but few parents really get it until I show the videos. This visual depiction of birth allows all the information I’ve shared to really sink in.

Of course, it’s most important for you to watch these videos, but get- ting your partner in on the action helps them develop a more positive perspective on birth. This shift in perspective will support them in bringing an enhanced, trusting, serene energy to your pregnancy and birth experience. And let me tell you, the energy coming off your partner makes a big difference, whether you’re aware of it or not.

What to do

First, figure out what it is about watching birth videos with your partner that makes you uncomfortable. Is it just the idea of your partner looking at naked women? Or is it more than that? For example, I was afraid Eric would be thinking, “There’s no way Bailey is strong enough to birth like that lady.” (A thought that was my own, not his.) Write out your particular triggers, then follow one of my all-time favorite recommendations — talk with your partner.

Sharing your concerns gives your partner the chance to assuage many of them — because in most cases, the partner is not at all thinking about the naked woman, they’re just worried they’ll pass out when they see the blood. So this conversation allows you both to get out your questions and concerns so you can move into the exciting process of watching birth videos with confidence and a fortified sense of partnership.

How to find the right birth videos: Because all birth videos are not created equal, I recommend an internet search for “calm birth videos,” “gentle birth videos,” or “HypnoBirthing birth videos” to help ensure you discover encouraging videos that won’t strike fear in your uterus.

Get your copy today.

Childbirth, Video

What’s The Deal With Pooping During Childbirth?

Learn how common it is to poop during childbirth, and what will happen if you do poop.

If you would like more information about these topics, check out my book “Feng Shui Mommy: Creating Balance and Harmony for Blissful Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood” – https://www.amazon.com/Feng-Shui-Mommy-Childbirth-Motherhood/dp/1608684717

P.S. My new book Asking For a Pregnant Friend : 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Ashamed or Scared to Ask About Pregnancy, Childbirth and Early Motherhood is coming out June 1, 2021 🙂

Uncategorized

I feel certain my partner is going to stray while I’m pregnant. They’ve never shown warning signs, but I’m still terrified it will happen. Should I talk to them about it? Should I just ignore the fear?

Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

There’s bad news and good news. The bad news is that 10 percent of males cheat when their partner is pregnant, according to the book What’s Your Pregnant Man Thinking? by psychologist Robert Rodriguez. Many other studies have mirrored these findings. While there’s not much research on infidelity in same-sex female relationships during pregnancy, studies done on general infidelity have found little difference between same-sex female and heterosexual couples.

So what’s the deal with prenatal cheating? Some suspect two primary factors at play in this unfortunate statistic. First, some women have a big drop in their libido during pregnancy, or are so physically ill that the only thing they want to slip under the sheets for is sleep. It’s also believed that this cheating might stem from the partner’s unmet emotional desires, as many women are navigating so many changes during pregnancy they don’t have room for their partner’s emotional needs. Of course, neither is an excuse for cheating. But these factors do provide a good jumping-off point for the conversation we’ll get to in the “What to do” section.

The good news is, you’re not a statistic! You and your partner are individuals who make autonomous decisions. It’s not a foregone conclusion that infidelity will play a part in your pregnancy. Your partner might even be one of the folks who’s incredibly turned on by your pregnant body and can’t get enough of you. Or because of a drop in testosterone (something that commonly happens to males during their partner’s pregnancy), they might have a diminished sex drive. Remember that your relationship is unique, and that there’s so much you can do to bypass infidelity.

What to do

Talk to your partner ASAP. In many situations, so much grief can be avoided if partners summon the courage to be candid with one another. Here’s how to navigate the conversation:

Kick off the conversation. When you’re in a good headspace — for example, after you’re well rested, well fed, and not distracted by to- dos — ask your partner for a sit-down. Preface the convo with a re- minder that you’re not accusing them of cheating. You can even blame me: “This book I’m reading was talking about infidelity rates during pregnancy, and I just thought a chat would calm my fears.”

Then, you can share some of the catalysts for cheating I listed: lack of sex or need for emotional nurturing. Ask your partner straight-up how they feel about those aspects of your relationship. If they try to shrug it off, remind them that opening up is one of the best ways they can help you have a more relaxed pregnancy.


Navigate challenges. As you get deeper into the conversation, some challenges might come up. For example, your partner might say they feel like you’re not attracted to them. Or maybe it comes out that both of you feel emotionally detached from the relationship. Whatever it is, resist the urge to blame, and instead commit to making a plan. If sexual connection is the issue, discuss ways to reignite the spark (covered in this book!). If the emotional glue is dissolving, brainstorm ways to fortify it. As you wrap up the conversation, I encourage you to commit to re-engaging in this honest sharing anytime either of you feel your lust or emotional intimacy slipping.

Consider counseling. If this talk makes you realize how much you don’t trust your partner, it could be a sign that you need to seek additional support to discover how to move forward. I recommend reaching out to a therapist in a private practice, or utilizing complimentary counseling services through a local pregnancy support organization. This mental health professional can help you determine where your concerns are coming from, and if further action is required.

Even if you’re not questioning your relationship, seeking some form of counseling can seriously nourish your pregnancy journey. This healthy outlet allows you to explore all the layers of your experience that pregnancy is exposing and to receive the emotional support you might not be getting enough of at home (which is so normal, even in the healthiest relationships). This release in a counselor’s office might also give you more patience and desire for nurturing your partner’s emotional needs, thus sidestepping that second aforementioned infidelity trigger. And while it’s hard to encourage someone who isn’t asking for help to see a counselor, it could be a good gentle suggestion to make if you see your partner struggling with emotions you don’t feel equipped to handle.

When I was pregnant, I had a lot of therapy — for many reasons. But a big one was the fear of infidelity. Eric couldn’t get enough of me, but I was still terrified he would stray. We became pregnant early in our relationship, and he had an ex who reached out more than I liked. That was enough to totally freak me out. Even though he showed no signs of straying, “What if?” kept scrolling through my mind. Even though my therapist urged me to talk with him, I hid my thoughts, thinking I would seem “hysterical” if I gave them a voice. I didn’t realize holding them in was what made me hysterical.

It all bubbled out the day before our baby shower. We were making a Costco list, and suddenly fat teardrops distorted the words “brownie mix” and “Metamucil.” A three-hour conversation, with lots of hugs, commenced. The results: a promise to encourage said-ex to cool it on the communication and a commitment to share our fears and concerns, no matter how out of place they seemed. While we still have plenty of issues, we’ve become obsessed with communication, piping up when anything feels off in our relationship. And I still frequent therapy.

Childbirth, Video

What To Do When You Don’t Believe You Can Give Birth

How to move past doubt in your birthing abilities, replacing it with confidence + empowerment.

If you would like more information about these topics, check out my book “Feng Shui Mommy: Creating Balance and Harmony for Blissful Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood” – https://www.amazon.com/Feng-Shui-Mommy-Childbirth-Motherhood/dp/1608684717

P.S. My new book Asking For a Pregnant Friend : 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Ashamed or Scared to Ask About Pregnancy, Childbirth and Early Motherhood is coming out June 1, 2021 🙂

Uncategorized

My partner and I are fighting all the time. Can the baby hear us? Are we emotionally scarring them?

Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

When I was pregnant, I wrapped a blanket around my stomach when Eric and I argued, figuring this would protect Hudson from our un-perfect relationship. I soon discovered I didn’t need to be as worried about what our son heard in utero as about the stress hormones he was exposed to. And before we all get stressed about being stressed, know that it’s impossible to have a completely stress-free pregnancy, where only rainbows and unicorn smiles pass through the placenta — stressor hormones are a normal part of life. But regularly elevated levels of said hormones don’t have to be.

So why do so many women experience elevated stress during pregnancy? As this Q&A implies, tension with a partner can be a big factor. As your body and many aspects of your life (and your partner’s) change — or prepare for change — it’s common to argue about finances, shifting priorities, intimacy, wet towels on the floor (oh wait, that’s always), and so much more. For many, our partner is our rock — our numero uno for emotional and physical support. So when it feels like they’re our adversary, we can crack.

When I was in my second trimester and Eric was in the throes of graduate school, he had a meltdown one evening while I was partaking in a joyful perineal tissue massage. He started sighing really loudly, which is usually my cue to say, “What’s wrong?” But I didn’t — I was focused on stretching out my vagina so a head could fit through it. His sighs turned to grunts, and I snapped. “Just say what’s bothering you!” I barked from the bathroom. And then it happened. He erupted in tears, complaints, and infuriating raised eyebrows. The pressure of school, working full time, and having parenthood looming in his near future was too much. He didn’t think he could do it, and he was terrified.

Usually, I would see this as a cry for help and let him vent as I fur- rowed my own brows and nodded. But not this time. I was pregnant, and he wasn’t. In that moment I believed he was just trying to make my life harder — that he was implying pregnancy was more difficult for him. I went off. We yelled, cried, and blamed…then he left .It was the worst fight we’d ever had, and I was a puddle. I convinced myself that he was never coming back, and that Hudson and I would have to forge ahead alone. I was shaking, and Hudson was going crazy in my uterus.

Something had to change. While Eric and I would obviously argue again, I had to make a plan for keeping things civil. My body and baby were giving me clear signals that what had just happened was toxic for all.

After Eric and I reconciled, I made a list of how to avoid that toxicity in the future —you’ll find it in the “What to do” section. I also researched the effects of high levels of stress on a fetus. It’s not great. When a pregnant woman is regularly in “fight or flight” mode, cortisol, adrenaline, epinephrine, and other stressor hormones flood the body. According to a study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, a fetus’s exposure to these hormones could potentially cause symptoms of anxiety, depression, and increased stress reactivity later in life. In addition, a study published in Women & Birth found that maternal stress could increase the risk for preterm birth. The final study I’ll drop, published in Obstetric Medicine, reported that prenatal stress could result in low birth weight and impact the child’s learning and memory. For mama, high levels of stress can lead to anxiety or depression, headaches, nausea, cramping, digestive issues, and sleep issues.

When I read about these risks I was overcome with guilt, certain that my blowout with Eric had led to irreparable baby-damage. But hold up. While studies like this can be frightening, they’re not saying our babies are doomed to a challenging life just because we’re occasionally stressed. After I chilled, I saw the potential risks as encouragement to do everything I could to limit my stress, work that list I made, and remember that while prenatal stress isn’t dire, it should be avoided as much as possible. So how do we do that? We do that by empowering ourselves to take back some control over our stress levels and creating a more harmonious relation- ship with our partners.

Note: If the fighting you’re experiencing contains even a thread of emotional or physical abuse, seek support. The National Domestic Violence Hotline (thehotline.org) offers guidance and referrals for women who are experiencing domestic abuse or wondering whether certain aspects of their relationship are unhealthy. It’s best to seek help now. As much as we want the birth of a baby to heal a deeply fractured relation- ship, it often does the opposite. You and your baby deserve an environment of emotional and physical safety and support.

What to do

Make a list of everything that stresses you out. When you get to how your partner stresses you out, be really specific about the topics you often argue about and the triggers you both have. This exercise takes the mystery out of your relationship stress and gives you a jumping-off point for resolution and eventual maintenance. With your list in hand, try out the following argument- and stress-reduction tools.

Pause. When you feel your anger sparked, resist the urge to vent. In- stead, take a pause. Go to a private space, take ten deep breaths, and look at what’s going on. Is your partner being a total jerk, or are you just reading into what they’re saying? Are they doing something that requires a talk, or can you let it go because your reaction’s coming from something else that’s going on with you? Take a hot second before you pounce on the opportunity to argue. (I used to be so bad at this.) This feels super awkward the first few times you do it, and if your partner’s not used to it, they may respond by trying to get you to react immediately. But if you stick with it, you can likely keep those stress levels in check and avoid unneeded disputes.

  • Fill your partner in on what it’s like to be pregnant. So many of the fights I had with Eric revolved around him not getting what I was going through. I thought he should just know what it’s like to have cankles that feel like they’ve been injected with Play-Doh, to feel bullied by the constant shifts of the hormones responsible for regulating my emotions, to be freaked by the idea of pushing a human out of my vagina. But he didn’t just know. So finally I told him. Do the same with your person. Tell them the nitty-gritty of what you’re experiencing, and then get specific about how they can help. Remind them that this is an incredibly tender time for you, and you’re going to need a lot of slack to be cut.
  • Give compliment sandwiches. Partners can be irritating and sometimes incredibly hurtful, which means there will be times when you need to speak up. And because all humans have sensitive egos (even those who swear otherwise) you can avoid critique-backlash by using the trusty compliment sandwich. Here’s one I remember recycling often when Hudson was a baby: “Hey babe. I love your dedication to surfing — it’s awesome to see how happy you are afterwards. While I definitely want you to keep having time to do that, it would be great if you could shorten the surf sessions. Maybe you could try to be back in two hours instead of three? Hudson and I really love having you around and it would be amazing to see more of you on your days off.” Kind of cheesy, but it usually worked. The times I forgot about this sandwiching technique and threw out, “It’s selfish and ridiculous how long you spend surfing!” he would usually peace out for even longer, and then we would fight. #SayYesToTheSandwich
  • Practice gratitude maintenance. The longer we’re paired with another human, the easier it is to see their annoying qualities and the harder it is to see their lovely ones. This natural phenomenon breeds contempt.

One of the quickest ways to replace contempt with appreciation is for you and your partner to make a list of ten things you appreciate about one another. It can be really specific, like, “I love the way you make a smoothie” or “You’re really skilled with your tongue” (never hurts to throw in some kinky gratitude!). When you have your lists, read them to each other. Don’t follow this up with lists of the things you don’t appreciate — just sit in the space of gratitude for a few minutes. Whenever you feel the contempt creeping back in, repeat the exercise. Give hugs. It’s really hard to hold on to stress and be mad at someone you love when you’re engaging in a long, warm hug. While it’s beautiful to embrace after you’ve resolved a conflict, you can also do some- thing wild and initiate the hug mid-argument. If you feel yourself spinning out or notice an argument is becoming unproductive, step forward, ask your partner if you can hug them, and then do it. Make it a long one. Hold the embrace until you feel them soften. This can be one of the simplest and most effective ways to hit the reset button.

Regarding the other life-stuff that stresses you out, try the following when the going gets gruff:

  • Sing. Music helps control cortisol levels. So when you feel stress escalating, turn on your favorite jam and belt it out.
  • Decompress. Even when all seems merry and bright, pregnancy hormones can dump a load of stress on you. When this happens, wind down from the tension by meditating, taking a warm bath, getting a prenatal massage or acupuncture, listening to good old Enya, or doing anything else that helps your mind and body release.

And finally, ask your partner to do any or all of the above. As much as we try to shield ourselves from our partner’s moods, they still impact us. So getting your person to utilize some of the same argument-soothers and stress-relievers you’re trying can help you both land in emotional equilibrium.

Childbirth, Video

What To Do If You Don’t Like Your Labor + Delivery Nurse

How to figure out what type of labor and delivery nurse you want, and how to ask for a new nurse if the one you’re assigned doesn’t make you feel calm and supported.

If you would like more information about these topics, check out my book “Feng Shui Mommy: Creating Balance and Harmony for Blissful Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood” – https://www.amazon.com/Feng-Shui-Mommy-Childbirth-Motherhood/dp/1608684717

P.S. My new book Asking For a Pregnant Friend : 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Ashamed or Scared to Ask About Pregnancy, Childbirth and Early Motherhood is coming out June 1, 2021 🙂

Childbirth, Video

Childbirth Support For Survivors of Sexual Trauma

Discover ideas for navigating childbirth if you’re a survivor of sexual trauma, and how to determine what type of birth you feel most comfortable with.

If you would like more information about these topics, check out my book “Feng Shui Mommy: Creating Balance and Harmony for Blissful Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood” – https://www.amazon.com/Feng-Shui-Mommy-Childbirth-Motherhood/dp/1608684717

P.S. My new book Asking For a Pregnant Friend : 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Ashamed or Scared to Ask About Pregnancy, Childbirth and Early Motherhood is coming out June 1, 2021 🙂