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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 🙂

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Why do I think my partner is the most irritating person in the world? How can I start liking them again?

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

Don’t tell my husband, but I was pissed he didn’t have to live off saltines for three months, didn’t have an always-aching groin, and didn’t have to do the whole push-a-baby-out thing. Pissed. I felt enraged by the injustice of his simply having to contribute sperm. Beyond that, just about every- thing else he did irritated me. Left a drop of pee on the toilet seat . . . Aargh! Didn’t shut the silverware drawer all the way…Why, I oughta! Didn’t get the right kind of ice cream…I won’t even go there. There was a lot of rage. But I never talked about it. I didn’t want to be seen as the irrational pregnant woman who stirred up conflict for no reason. But it turns out there was a reason.

When we’re pregnant, our bodies flood with a confused cocktail of estrogen and progesterone that can make our emotions range from crying over a Hallmark card to wanting to pop the tires of that guy who cut in front of us at the grocery store — all within a sixty-second span. It’s a lot. And we shouldn’t feel wrong, or out of control, for having this cacophony of feels — it’s all part of the journey.

Because your partner is likely the person you feel emotionally safest with, they get the brunt of the more unpleasant emotions stirred up by those hormones. But those emotions aren’t always the hormones talking — sometimes our partners are just really freaking irritating.

A potential cause for this irritating behavior is the changes your partner is going through. Both of you are navigating a massive shift — a rite of passage our culture doesn’t appropriately acknowledge or support. Men are often especially inept at processing this change because most of them were raised to believe they should manage their emotions on their own. And then society tells them they shouldn’t complain because they’re not the one growing a baby (something I’ve been guilty of saying to my husband). Sometimes men aren’t even aware of how impending fatherhood is molding their behavior — they don’t see how their fears over losing their autonomy or masculinity are making them extra selfish and annoying. Their subconscious mind might be saying, “I will not bend to parenthood. I will still be me. Here look, I’ll show you!” (Cue the annoying behavior.)

I speak from experience when I tell you that this mix of hormones in us and aggravating behavior in our partners can make us feel rage…

and fear…and sadness…and more rage. While you have every right to feel these feelings, I’ll also take a wild guess and bet it doesn’t feel great to always feel like you and your significant other are on opposing teams. During this time, more than any other phase of life, we crave companion- ship and harmony. So it can be frustrating when our emotions offer up the recipe for the total opposite.

What to do

First off, let yourself feel the emotions. When irritation pops up, resist the urge to talk yourself out of it or ignore it. Go to a private space where you won’t be tempted to unleash that irritation on your partner, then let your- self go. Talk smack about them in the mirror, stomp your feet, do a silent scream. Then count to ninety. People much smarter than me have found it takes any emotion ninety seconds to pass through the mind and body… if we do nothing to shut it down. So let it flow. Then…

  • Take a few moments to examine what just happened. Look at what triggered you. In the case of your partner pissing you off, determine whether the offending action is something they do repeatedly that you would really like them to stop doing — like if they said something that was offensive and that warrants an apology — or is something that really wasn’t a big deal and can be let go of. Because you’ve re- leased the emotions around the event, you’re able to make a more logical, objective decision about how to move forward. The gist: give yourself alone time when your partner makes you steam.
  • Check in with your partner once a week. When you’re both well rested, not distracted, and in a good head space, sit down for a talk about how you’re both feeling. Before you begin, lay some communication ground rules — for example, avoid name calling, don’t cut off the other mid-sentence, and be dedicated to finding solutions and common ground instead of trying to prove that you’re right. Airing your feelings on a regular basis can keep you from feeling like a pow- der keg, and it will help you feel more heard and connected — all things that will make your partner seem way less irritating.
  • Assign parenting tasks. During one of those weekly check-ins, break down the impending parenting responsibilities and decide who will tackle what. Because a hunk of the stress you and your partner are feeling probably stems from all the unknowns of parenthood, this planning session can be a surprisingly effective salve, helping you get clear on what to expect from parent-life.

To start, make a list of everything that needs to be done when you have a baby (e.g., diaper changes, feeding, cooking meals, taking out the trash, washing dishes, doing laundry, setting up health insurance for baby, paying the bills, researching childcare, etc.).

Then, go through each item and discuss who will take responsibility for it. If you decide to share responsibility for a certain task, break down what that will look like. Make sure to write down your decisions so there’s no confusion when your brains are eventually possessed by parenthood and no sleep.

In addition, make sure your name isn’t next to 75 percent of the tasks. Women often have to put in double the work to be seen as an equal contributor. That’s a BS social dynamic we need to change. Split the tasks evenly because you deserve equality in your home just as much as you deserve it at work…and everywhere.

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Why Won’t People Talk to Me About More Than Baby Stuff?!

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

I’m really sick of everyone talking to me only about pregnancy, childbirth, and babies. How can I still have conversations about other aspects of my life and be seen as more than a pregnant woman?

Talk about an identity shift, right?! One day you’re viewed as a woman unique for her special sauce of personality traits, talents, and interests, then the next day your belly is blooming and most people lump you into the pregnancy/mommy crew, assuming you just want to talk about labor positions and the merits of cloth diapers over disposables. It’s frustrating. And sometimes it’s identity crisis–inducing. Most women already have that little voice, constantly worrying about how they’ll change as they wander into motherhood, so it’s understandable that they freak when folks seem to stop perceiving them as dynamic individuals and see only the generic “mom.” (I don’t care who you are, you’re not a generic mom — you’re a badass individual.)

But before we start ragging on those nameless folks, it’s important to note that most people don’t actually think of you as a generic mom; they are simply latching on to something about you they can relate to. More than almost anything, humans want to connect and feel understood, so when we see someone showing visible signs of something we have experience with, we want to talk about that thing. I’ll bet that if people find out you’re an architect (for example), and they have a passion for design, they’ll happily shift the conversation.

It’s also common for women to feel guilty about not wanting to always talk about pregnancy, birth, and the mama-hood when they’re in the thick of those experiences. Some feel like it’s a betrayal of the baby to be irked when someone asks yet again whether you’re planning on having a vaginal birth. But let it really sink in: you have every right to feel like you’re more than a vessel for new life — because you absolutely are. You are a well- rounded woman who will be a better mother because you are committed to holding on to the things that make you feel like you. A dedication to the nourishment of your whole self will teach your child that they also deserve a life in which their personal interests and needs matter.

What to do

When someone starts chatting you up about everything your belly makes them think of and you’re not feeling the mommy-talk, try one of the following:

  • Come up with a go-to question or response for changing the subject. For example, you can describe how pregnancy is impacting your career, or how you’re concerned motherhood will change your interests. This will hopefully inspire the other person to start talking about similar experiences, allowing you to learn what their interests are and giving you golden material for a new topic of conversation. “Oh wow, so you worked in the circus before you became a parent? Did you know the bearded lady?”
  • Straight-up tell them you don’t feel like talking about birth or babies. “You know what? I’m usually so down to talk baby stuff, but I feel like that’s all I’ve been going on about lately. Can we talk about something else? Maybe some Bachelor Nation gossip?”

Besides navigating tricky conversations, it’s also good to remind yourself that you have many fascinating layers. So add the following to your to-do list:

  • Commit to putting yourself in situations that stimulate your favorite parts of who you are. For example, taking a class or joining a club that’s devoted to one of your interests will allow you to hang with people who are probably more interested in the activity or topic you’re there to explore than in what’s going on in your uterus. And spending time with colleagues can help you connect to the side of you that’s passionate about your career, as it’s easy to find not-baby-related common ground with these people.
  • Nurture your dynamic layers after birth. When baby is born, you can hold on to parts of your pre-pregnancy identity by making a plan with your support team for engaging in the activities you love. For example, maybe you’ll schedule your mom to watch baby for an hour every other day so you can work on a passion project.

Something I found so amazing about motherhood was that after I got through the first few months of postpartum chaos, I was filled with inspiration. I started writing the book proposal for Feng Shui Mommy, crafting and pitching a TV show I’m now so grateful never graced the small screen, and volunteering for a cancer resource center. It was like my newfound purpose as a mother awakened all these other sources of purpose. And I’m not unique. Most moms I know began their most exciting endeavors soon after having a baby. I’m not telling you this to make you feel like you need to change the world while you’re still trying to figure out how to get your boobs to stop leaking. I just want you to feel hopeful that your best self and life might be yet to come.

Get your copy now.

Uncategorized

Asking for a Pregnant Friend – Intro

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

Hey, mama. I see you. I see the questions you push away in embarrassment at your prenatal appointments. I see the wariness you feel over the bombardment of emotions you’ve been navigating as your belly blooms. I see the dark thoughts you have about motherhood. I see you doing everything you can to lead a healthy, happy, and informed pregnancy but still feeling confused, like there’s a big chunk of information and support missing from the sea of guidance on pregnancy, childbirth, and early motherhood. I see you wondering if you’re the only one who feels this way.

I see you because I am you. When I was pregnant with my son Hudson, there were so many deep, murky layers of the baby-making journey I found perplexing and, in many ways, shame-inducing. This confusion and shame stuck because I didn’t think I could talk to anyone about what I was experiencing. I felt like I was hiding. Hiding my insatiable lust. Hiding my kinky dreams. Hiding my swollen labia (you’re welcome, world). Hiding my “Should I have gotten an abortion?” question. On the outside I looked like a bloated, fairly content, baby-grower with shiny hair. On the inside, I had pulled out all that shiny hair and was cowering in a corner while judgy fingers pointed at me.

To soothe my fried nerves and scrambled brain, I tried to secretly find candid answers to my questions, especially those society has labeled taboo.

(I also developed a “Clear Browsing History” obsession.) I thought that if I could just find an online resource or book that named what I was feeling and told me it was normal, I might stop feeling like I was broken. But I didn’t find it. I found only watered-down answers to the G-rated cousins of my questions, and lots of books that told me how to glow during pregnancy, not die during childbirth, and breastfeed during motherhood. Sure, they were helpful, but they weren’t what I was looking for. And so my pregnant brain logically assumed everyone else just magically knows about the super strange physical changes of pregnancy, that no one else has morbid, scary thoughts about childbirth, and that all the other ladies have the whole postpartum sex thing figured out.

I didn’t discover how wrong I was until I started teaching childbirth preparation classes and my clients pulled me aside to ask questions. Their questions were my questions, and I was thrilled. I wasn’t alone! I wasn’t broken. Hearing other women name many of the unspeakable queries I had on my journey into motherhood emboldened me to start asking physicians and mental health specialists these questions. The answers I received were fascinating and liberating. Turns out there were totally legit reasons for every thought, physical phenomenon, and emotion that had made me feel different or unfit for motherhood. I started adding this in- formation to my classes, and the response has been awesome. When I talk about how orgasms during pregnancy won’t hurt the baby, or what all the weird smells from all the places mean, women light up (and men often blush and shuffle off to the bathroom). They’re getting answers to the questions they were praying someone else would ask. But the coolest part is, my bringing up these topics often gives them the confidence to share their experiences with said topics. We get into some really interesting con- versations.

These moments of sharing and connection in my classes caused me to become That Lady at dinner parties, conferences, back-to-school nights, and heck, pretty much every other social situation, who asks unsuspecting women about all the stuff they never thought they could talk about during pregnancy and beyond. Sometimes people slowly back away, but most of the time they open up.

I’ve learned that we’re part of a massive secret society. There are thousands of us slipping away from prying eyes to scan chat rooms and forums, flip through books, and make our fingers numb with Google searches as we look for answers to the same things you came to this book wondering about — maps to the same paths you’re wandering. But I don’t want you to feel like tracking down answers is a full-time job. I want you to have all the answers in one place, from a friendly, accurate source. I also want those answers to come from a friend who would never judge or make you feel like a weirdo for asking that “TMI” question.

So… can we be friends? Can I be the person who never judges you and is always up for talking about sex, smells, scary thoughts, feeling like you want to lock your partner out of the house, and all the other stuff we deal with as we make, birth, and nurture babies?

It’s my hope that during this friendship you will be freed from many of the barriers to a joy-filled journey into motherhood. I also hope that this friendship will bolster your confidence so that you can begin speak- ing more freely about the “underbelly” of your motherhood experiences IRL. And I hope you start finding women you trust and talking with them about the things they’re also worrying about or confused by. But hey, even if you just talk to this book, I hope the experience fills you with relief, and compassion for your amazing self, who is doing the best she can.

Where Did These Questions Come From?

These questions have been sourced from women just like you over the past five years. Even when I wasn’t aware that I was collecting these questions, I was collecting these questions. They’ve come in whispers after childbirth classes, from girlfriends who look over their shoulder at the cafe to make sure no one is listening, or from my YouTube viewers and social media buddies who email their questions because they don’t want them seen on public forums. And when the idea for the book was sparked, I began asking everyone who would talk to me what their hidden questions were during the wild entry into motherhood. People talked, fascinating discus- sions were had, and juicy questions emerged.

Why Are These Questions So Embarrassing?

The questions are embarrassing because they require that we come to terms with the fact that we don’t have it all together, they force us to develop a new relationship with our bodies and sexuality, and they often uncover emotional or mental challenges. This is big stuff. It’s stuff we innately shy away from because it’s usually really uncomfortable to take an honest look at who we are and how pregnancy and motherhood are changing us. Sometimes we shy away from these questions so fiercely we don’t even know they’re our questions until we see or hear them.

But the beauty of shared questions and experiences is that they often wipe away the grime of embarrassment. Think about it: If you’re walking down the street and you trip in front of a group of people, you’re probably going to feel embarrassed. But if another person trips just as you’re getting up, much of that embarrassment will dissolve because, hey look, you’re not the only one who trips! It’s all good! That’s what this book is, all us ladies tripping through pregnancy, childbirth, and early motherhood together, then helping one another up.

Who Is Answering These Questions?

Mostly me: Bailey Gaddis. I’m a mother, the author of Feng Shui Mommy: Creating Balance and Harmony for Blissful Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood, a childbirth preparation educator, birth and postpartum doula, and certified hypnotherapist. As I answered the 101 questions in this book, I also drew on the experience of midwives, OB-GYNs, and doulas I’ve worked with over the years, and my lady buddy, Meghan Rudd Van Alstine, PhD, who is a licensed psychologist. Insights from peer-reviewed studies were also a big piece of the puzzle. I bundled all this wisdom together into a book of science, intuition, and experience-based guidance for ladies who are ready to be liberated from those taboo curiosities and crippling fears that keep them up at night.

So here they are, the juicy and totally legit things a woman would only ask that treasured friend who never, ever judges. The questions some women get brave enough to ask online but are then flayed by trolls about and never ask again. Welcome to the first step in leading a shame-free and super empowered journey into motherhood.

Pregnancy, Uncategorized

What to Do If You Don’t Like Your Pregnant Body

Discover how to release guilt about not loving your pregnant body, and how you can start feeling good about your shifting appearance.

Email me at BaileyGaddis@yahoo.com if you have any questions about pregnancy, childbirth or early motherhood that you would like answered on this channel 🙂

If you would like more information about these topics, check out Feng Shui Mommy: Creating Balance and Harmony for Blissful Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

Parenting, Uncategorized

Guest Post: Essential Equipment for Disabled Moms and Dads

By: Ashley Taylor of DisabledParents.org

Parenthood is a blessing and a responsibility, a profound lifestyle change that places a premium on self-sacrifice and preparedness. For disabled individuals, preparing to care for a child means preparing your lives for a new routine, a new home environment, and sourcing sometimes difficult-to-find equipment that helps make an often-demanding job a little easier to handle.

If you’re a disabled parent, focus on making sure your home is readily accessible, safe for you and your child, and has the parenting equipment you need. If your home just isn’t up to the challenge, you should be prepared to research houses that suit your budget and physical needs.

You can research home prices for your area in the comfort of your living room, and find the best deal to accommodate the needs of yourself and your growing family.

Safety Above All

Every modification you make should be done with safety in mind, first and foremost. Be sure that all heavy furniture is firmly anchored to the wall, have safety gates installed in all stairways, and add special cupboard locks at floor level. Some of these precautions may seem a little premature for a family just bringing home a newborn, but getting used to a fully kid-proofed home is good practice for everyone.

If you or your spouse is in a wheelchair, add threshold ramps between rooms to ensure there’s no obstacle that might prevent you from reaching your child quickly. Hallways should be at least 36 inches across and doorways a minimum of 32 inches wide (add expandable hinges to create easier access).

Pay special attention to the bathroom, one of the most dangerous rooms in the house where more falls take place on average than in any other part of the home. Grab rails should be installed in the bathtub and in the wall next to the toilet. Slips can also be prevented with skid-resistant flooring strategically placed around the sink, tub and toilet.

The Right Stuff

A well-modified home is an important part of preparing to be an excellent parent. The other part is having the right tools on hand, preferably ones specially designed to make parenting with a disability as easy as possible. Someone with a physical disability is apt to experience difficulty dealing with a traditional crib or getting a child in and out of a car safety seat, a demanding task for any new parent. This is another area where diligent online research can pay dividends.

For example, side-entry cribs are available, but finding one that’s right for you may take a little work. Swiveling child safety seats are a bit easier to find but no less helpful when it comes to easy accessibility and convenience. Being in a wheelchair doesn’t mean you can’t take your child for a walk in a stroller. A careful application of velcro connecting the stroller handle to your wheelchair allows you and your child to enjoy the fresh air together whenever you like.

Self-care

Even the most effective home modifications won’t keep you from getting tired and feeling worn down periodically. Disabled parents require enough down time to recharge their batteries and enjoy some R and R. Prioritize your own free time so you have enough to set aside for yourself. Be prepared to say “no” at work and with acquaintances when you need a little “you” time.

Your time should include activities and a self-care routine that’s yours and yours alone, and these should be kept sacrosanct to make sure they take place. Arrange it so you and your spouse both have some time to yourselves. If you’re a single parent, reach out to a friend or relative who can babysit so you can run errands or enjoy a coffee out with friends.

Becoming a parent is a transition, and it takes time to get used to a new lifestyle. For disabled individuals, there’s a lot of adjusting to do to make your living space safe and accessible for a young child, but don’t neglect your own needs. To be a good parent, you need to be well-rested and energetic, which means taking time for yourself when needed.

Uncategorized

The Invention That’s Making Breastfeeding Mamas Rejoice

It was 2am and I was sitting on a toilet seat in an airport bathroom, crying as a noisy machine sucked breastmilk out of me. I had a three-hour layover and I was pretty sure my boobs would pop if I didn’t pump. But, the only private space (that also had an outlet) available to me was the dingy handicap stall in the public bathroom. I felt ashamed and embarrassed over the 20-minutes I was sequestered in that stall – especially when someone pushed on the door or commented on the sound of my milk sucker.

Luckily, the ingenious ladies at Mamava saw me. Well, not me specifically, but all the women like me who are forced to submit themselves to embarrassing conditions each time they need to pump in public.

Their solution? Mamava Lactation Suites, which provide private, comfortable, and sanitary spaces for lactating ladies to feed their child, or drain that milk. The use of the pods is complimentary, as they’re purchased by the facility that’s offering the pod. I had the pleasure of speaking with one of the founders of Mamava, Sascha Mayer, about the rights of breastfeeding women and how the pods can help.

Sascha w Mamava (2)
Sascha Mayer

Bailey Gaddis: What inspired the idea for Mamava?

Sascha Mayer: I was inspired by an amendment to the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act that protected working moms from having to use their breast pumps in a bathroom. [According to the Mamava website, “The law mandates that employers provide reasonable break time and a private lactation space this is not a bathroom.”] We were also continuing to see women struggling with finding clean and comfortable spaces to breastfeed when they were out of their home and I just said, “this is broken and I have to fix it.”

Bailey Gaddis: What are features of the Mamava pods that make them so conducive to pumping and breastfeeding?

Sascha Mayer: The pods were designed with our two audiences in mind – the pumping mom and the breastfeeding mom. Moms want privacy, so the pods have a locking door. We also have an app that women can use to locate and unlock the pods. Inside, it’s very much like a kitchen with a bench, good lighting, and a fold down table that’s easy to wipe down. There’s also an outlet for the pump and a USB charger, because so many moms are multi-tasking. While the pods were specifically made for pumping moms, they’re also a nice private space for moms to breastfeed.

We also wanted to make sure that the pods made it easy for facilities to do the right things and provide this space for moms. So, they’re easily placed and can be installed in 2-3 hours, can be rolled to various locations, and are low maintenance.

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Bailey Gaddis: Can you tell me more about the legal rights of breastfeeding mothers?

Sascha Mayer: The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act is a mandate that states that if you’re an employer with more than 50 employees you have to provide a space that isn’t a bathroom for women to use a breast pump. Some of the more progressive states have richer legislation that protects a breastfeeding mom’s rights even further. In San Francisco, for example, businesses have to provide a lactation room.

This is so important because now, moms don’t always have to be advocating for themselves. It’s hard enough if you’re a mom that has to go back to work – it’s important to have legislation that protects your rights.

Bailey Gaddis: How do you hope the Mamava pods shift the conversation around breastfeeding?

Sascha Mayer: We hope that our Mamava pods create more of a conversation around the lines of “oh, breastfeeding happens!” We want moms to feel celebrated and supported through these pods.

I hope our units being out and about also sparks a dialogue about the choices moms have in feeding their babies. If their choice is to breastfeed, they should be supported in that. Moms should do what they feel most comfortable with. And, we don’t want women to feel like they need to pass on the option of breastfeeding because our culture doesn’t make it easy to do when they are out of their homes.

Bailey Gaddis: What advice would you give to breastfeeding mothers who work in a space without a comfortable and private space to pump, who would like to broach this subject with their employer?

Sascha Mayer: I think it’s important for women to remember that it’s in their employer’s best interest to keep them healthy and happy, rather than risking the potential of losing them and having to find a replacement. So, women should feel confident that it’s within her rights to feel comfortable talking about it and asking for what she needs. It’s also important for women to remember that they’re not alone and can find support through places like Facebook groups. Over 3 million women are breastfeeding every year – there’s a lot of support our there.

Mamavanursing.jpg

Bailey Gaddis: How do feel that millennial moms are influencing the conversation around lactation rights?

Sascha Mayer: We’ve found that millennial moms are driving the conversation around lactation rights. They’re very different from Gen X moms and are empowered by the Times Up mentality. And, millennial moms speaking up about their rights inspires facilities to purchase Mamava pods.

Uncategorized

7 Ways The Thomas Fire Forever Changed My Marriage (For The Better)

Sometimes, it takes a natural disaster to make things clear.

When an out of control wildfire chars over 242,000 acres, destroys 972 structures, and forces 88,000 people out of their homes, many couples are forced to come together in ways that leave lasting imprints on their relationship.

My husband and I spent a week holed up with our four-year-old in a hotel room escaping the flames and smoke of the Thomas Fire while obsessively checking our phones for updates and praying that our house survived. Our relationship was tested, but we came out of it with an appreciation for how we were able to show up for each other when things got real.

We were not the only ones. Many of the couples I spoke with post-fire reported significant shifts in their relationships after the shared experience of a natural disaster.

Read more on Your Tango

Uncategorized

The Feminism Being Woven Into Commonly Male-Centered Media

When I walked out of my bathroom last Halloween, dressed as Marvel’s Black Widow, the first thing my son said was, “Wow mama, you look strong.” And I felt strong.

Dressing up like a female character that needed little saving, and instead claimed her power to protect herself and heal her own emotional wounds, made me have a highly coveted proud mom moment.

 

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I never thought much more about superhero gender roles (a course that should be offered in universities?!) until I recently previewed the new Marvel Universe Live Age of Heroes show brought to life by family entertainment juggernaut Feld Entertainment.

What I discovered was a feminist sub-culture in the Marvel Universe, full of butt-kicking, norm-hacking, damsel-in-distress rejecting badass chicks showing the boys how it’s done.

This show included Marvel women (that even I was privy to) like Black Widow and Guardians of the Galaxy’s Gamora, but new (to me) female empowerment heroes like the witty Wasp, and sexy villains Black Cat and Nebula were also present. And, when mixed with a fleet of popular male characters, guess who was keeping their cool when the boys were lashing out with often-ineffective action? That’s right – the ladies.

 

Black Widow
Photo Credit: Feld Entertainment

 

While the existence of these characters is no surprise to Marvel devotees, they were unknown to me: a fresh Marvel enthusiast who now plans to dress up like a different female superhero every Halloween, and maybe every birthday as well, because why not.

But, more noteworthy than the feminine characters (who are writing a new definition of feminine) are the female fighters, dancers, motorcycle wizards, and more who are bringing them to life. These ladies are just as buff and skilled as their male counterparts, and are so savvy in conjuring the essence of heroes that many play some of the male characters. These women left me slack jawed and inspired to learn some motorcycle tricks… or maybe just take a kickboxing class.

 

 

There’s even a performer, Louie Musselman, who is such a savant she can play every female role in the show, which translates into countless kicks, jumps, motorcycle flips, and more. I wouldn’t mind being her when I grow up.

 

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Lou Musselman (Stillman Valley, IL) – Female Super Swing

 

I would assume that an action heavy show such as this would be brought to you by men, but no, a petite powerhouse, Juliette Feld, is the force behind the show, working with her sisters Nicole and Alana Feld to run the largest family entertainment business in the world, which includes other productions I used to equate with super charged testosterone: Supercross, Arena Cross, and Monster Jam.

Beyond Marvel’s team of women, there are other female superheroes stepping into public glory – ever heard of a little movie called Wonder Woman? It seems brands that commonly focus on the men have finally come around to the realization that women are just as capable, and often more complex and interesting, than the dudes, making them prime candidates to be the stars of these multi-million dollar franchises.

With the increasing unease I’ve felt with the American culture, I’ve been heartened by the fortified power and sense of purpose women like this (both fictional and real) are unapologetically splashing into the world. Members of this phenomenal gender are creating this change through words, images, acting, business decisions, and a multitude of other ways they’re allowing their intricate, ballsy (or “womby”?), and paradigm shifting roars be seen, felt, and heard.

You go girls.