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I have never given birth, but I watched my partner labor and deliver three babies. The human body is an incredible thing, and so is the pregnant person’s spirit and mental toughness. Because holy shit, childbirth really is next level.

My first child was positioned sunny side up, or posterior, so my partner had nearly 24 hours of excruciating back labor as my daughter’s head pressed against her back and tailbone instead of her stomach. To relieve some of the pressure and pain, the obstetrician recommended laboring in the bathtub in the delivery room.

My partner was skeptical because a water birth or any water treatment was not in her birth plan. But that heated tub was the only thing that offered any relief. So into the tub she went.

Water is a natural soother, and water births can be amazing for both the birthing parent and the baby. But it’s important to know the risks too.

My partner instantly relaxed once she settled into the hot water. Even though I was not the one with a baby trying to escape my body, my partner was visibly more comfortable in the water than out.

The buoyancy reduced the weight she was carrying and allowed her to move more easily so she could reposition herself in ways that felt more comfortable. Water’s buoyancy also improves blood circulation, which means more oxygen for the uterine muscles and the baby, and water births can reduce pain and anxiety for the person in labor, which allows for a more focused birth. Bonus.

myrrha/Getty

Water births can also make the delivery more comfortable as well. Water causes the “perineum to become more elastic and relaxed, reducing the incidence and severity of tearing and the need for an episiotomy and stitches,” according to the American Pregnancy Association. Dear God, why don’t more people sit in a pool of water before attempting to push a baby out of their vagina? Take all the reduced tearing you can get.

Even though water births are a wonderful option for some people and can have numerous benefits, there are still risks involved.

Water births can be particularly risky if they are done at home. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a home birth carries a risk of neonatal death two to three times higher than babies born in a hospital.

One of the biggest risks for water births is infection. Even with proper cleaning protocols, there are more bacteria in birthing tubs than on birthing beds. And even the most sterile water and tub will naturally become contaminated as soon as anyone gets into the tub. Let’s just say water births are not clean births. Trust me — I saw this first hand. Blood, urine, and feces quickly turn sterile water into a breeding ground for bacterial infections that could be inhaled by the baby in certain situations.

I affectionately called this water “birthing stew.”

And speaking of poop, if a baby has their first bowel movement before they are born, the meconium in the amniotic fluid creates respiratory problems if it gets caught in the baby’s airways. If the amniotic sac breaks in a tub full of water, the midwife or doctor may not have seen that there was meconium in the fluid.

Babies have a “dive reflex” that instinctively closes their airway and prevents them from breathing in water, but if the baby’s head breaks the surface of the water before the rest of their body, the dive reflex is negated and there is a chance the baby will ingest poop water. Yup, lots of poop happens during childbirth.

Recently two babies in Arizona contracted Legionnaires’ disease—a serious and potentially life-threatening form of pneumonia—after their water births. In one case, the tub had been cleaned, but tap water had been used to fill it, and it’s suspected that the Legionella bacteria had been in the plumbing system. The other case involved a rented Jacuzzi tub that had been sitting at 98 degrees for a week. Anyway, this ready-to-go heated tub created the perfect petri dish for bacteria to grow, and days after the birth, the baby spiked a fever and it was confirmed that Legionella was found in the baby’s lungs.

(Side note: Anyone else picture a frat party or movies like Old School when Will Farrell went streaking when they read the words “Jacuzzi tub?” Just me? Okay then, I digress.)

Another risk of water births is a tear in the umbilical cord. Because a baby is brought quickly to the surface to facilitate breathing, there is a chance that the cord can snap. Dr. Weix, a Texas OB-GYN says, “A snapped umbilical cord can be life-threatening, as the fetus can bleed freely until it is stopped. It is usually easily managed by clamping the cord. It leads more often to neonatal anemia than anything else.”

Folks have a lot to consider when it’s time for baby to make their way into the world, and there are plenty of professionals ready to give their opinion on the how and why of labor and delivery. Joseph R. Wax, the chair of the ACOG Committee on Obstetric Practice, stated that the opinion of the ACOG is that laboring in water could be beneficial, but recommends that delivery happen outside of the tub.

ideabug/Getty

“Immersion in water during the first stage of labor may offer some benefits: It may shorten labor and is associated with a decreased use of epidurals,” Wax said. “However, it is important to differentiate between laboring in water and delivering in water. There is no evidence to support delivering a baby in water has benefits to the baby.”

There are risks with any birth, of course, and creating a birth plan is a very personal process for many. It’s best to consult with your doctor or other medical professional to be sure you are all comfortable with the plan, and aware of the pros and cons of each scenario.

Make a plan that feels right to you, but be ready change that plan at the last minute. The ultimate goal is to keep the parent and baby safe at all times.

The post Water Births Are Amazing, But It’s Important To Know The Risks appeared first on Scary Mommy.

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Wake up? Pee on a stick. Afternoon time? Pee on a stick. Bedtime? Pee on a stick. Everyday moments in between? PEE. ON. A. STICK.

This is the obsessive life of women who are desperately trying to conceive. Why isn’t it discussed more amongst us? I’m honestly not sure. It’s weird that we don’t, because I’m almost 100% positive (no pun intended) that every struggling-to-conceive woman has taken more than one pregnancy test per day whilst trying to get pregnant.

Maybe the first test was squinted at with “line eyes,” and you swear there’s a second line somewhere on there if you squint long enough, tilt your head just right and rub your belly at the right speed (okay, I added that last one). Maybe you saw one of those super pesky and overly annoying evaporation lines leading you to question the validity. Or maybe, just maybe, you really, really want a baby, and you can’t wait until the next morning to pee on a stick again. Because, ya know… it didn’t show up two hours ago, but it just MIGHT now.

For many women, it’s exhausting and emotionally draining.

That’s why Amber Dalton, graphic designer at Mom After God’s Own Heart and mother of four, created this sticker to tear down the barriers associated with infertility. It reads: “This stick does not define your worth,” and we are so here for this positive affirmation.

In a recent Facebook post, Dalton wrote:

“I consider myself a fairly fertile person. God has blessed me with four beautiful children (and one beat me to heaven). However, I would be lying if I said there were not months when that one line on that stick did a number to me. So if you find yourself tonight anxiously awaiting the morning so you can pee on one of these sticks or maybe you already did multiple times today and continued to get the same result, know this: That stick does not define your worth.”

Dalton’s words sparked a movement with mothers trying to conceive, and you may be able to find some of her stickers stuck to the pregnancy test aisles in stores. These little reminders are a way for women to join together and say, Hey, I know you’re driving yourself to the brink of madness desperately trying to conceive a baby, but you are still you even with one line… and you are enough. 

“That night before you go to bed, you’re like, ‘Okay, I’m going to wake up in the morning, and the first thing I’m going to do is pee on this stick,'” Dalton tells Scary Mommy. “Either I’m going to be so elated or I’m going to be so depressed.”

When Dalton’s photo of this sticker began circulating around social media, many women, including one of her acquaintances who had been trying to conceive for six years, reached out about the relatability of her words. With over 31,000 shares, it’s fair to say that Dalton’s long-time acquaintance wasn’t the only one who was touched and needed to hear this message.

“People need to remember that not everyone can have children. My husband and I tried for ten years and it became very expensive and very exhausting,” one commenter stated. “This [is] a good reminder for everyone to remember that just because you don’t have children doesn’t mean you don’t have a family to care for or you’re not a complete woman.”

We need to stop predicting future outcomes for those families who are struggling to conceive, and we need to just love on them during these brutally trying times instead. Because out of every eight women that we see in this world, there is one among them suffering (often times in silence) through the bitter monthly cycle of infertility.

Courtesy of Caila Smith

When you wake up to get your kids out of bed in the morning, there are countless mothers all around the world frustrated with seeing yet another lone line on their pregnancy test. Instead of offering cliché phrases that really don’t soothe the soul, how much more empowering would it be for us to say to these hurting women, “This stick does not define your worth?”

Because it doesn’t, and it never will.

That doesn’t mean the crushing process isn’t painful, and it doesn’t mean it comes and goes without the most sorrow.

These women already know that there are “other ways to make a family,” so stop reminding them of that. Sadly, IVF, surrogacy and adoption aren’t viable options for everyone. Your reminder likely only enhances their soul-crushing disappointment. Don’t be that person.

Remind women who are struggling to conceive of their worth, not their options. Follow Dalton’s lead.

The post How This Sticker Is Helping Normalize Infertility appeared first on Scary Mommy.

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People: “Is this your second?”
Me: “No, it’s my fourth.”
People: “Huh? Ohhhh. Wow. Uh…”
Me: “Don’t worry, my condition is not contagious.”

Being pregnant with baby #4 has garnered some personal, awkward and downright hysterical questions and comments from “The People.” Here are some examples:

Was this one planned?

How old are your other children?

Do you stay at home with them?

What does your husband do?

Is this your last? 

Wow! College will be fun! 

If we currently had three boys or three girls, I’m sure the first question would be:

You gotta be hoping for a girl.

I bet your husband desperately wants that son!

I’ll start by answering the questions some people have had the guts to ask and some of you may be wondering.

Was this one planned? Yes, this child was planned. My husband would love 8, we have settled on 4.

How old are your other children? 6, 4, and 2.

Do you stay at home with them? I do. I work from home writing and running my own social media business, and I absolutely love it.

What does your husband do? Haha. I’ll let him answer that one. And no, he isn’t a doctor or doing anything illegal.

Is this your last? Absolutely, yes. Lord willing. My body has been through a lot in 6 years, and I’m too old for this ish.

Wow! College will be fun! Never too soon to push for those scholarships, eh?

I will be the first to admit, four children isn’t exactly common in this day and age. In fact, I can’t think of anyone else in our neighborhood who has four kids. Two and three children seem to be the magic numbers.

Our family takes evening walks to the park, and as we pass, friendly people will look at my growing belly and then take a mental headcount of our children. Usually, they smile and walk on. Sometimes, they stop and chat. The same thing happens at Chick-fil-A and Target. I know, four is a little unusual and it generates some questions.

Hey, I’m not throwing stones at all. I’ve been in your shoes too!

The other night my husband and I were sitting on a bench while the kids played on the playground and we noticed a large van parked in the parking lot. My husband is one of seven children. Breathe that one in… it gets a lot of mixed reactions. Especially him being a child of a large family and wanting a large family in return.

He mentioned to me that the van looks like a newer model of the one they had growing up. Our conversation shifted to something else until we noticed the playground starting to clear out.

There was a mom and dad standing next to a double stroller with a bunch of kids swarming them. We quickly did a headcount. There were six girls, possibly seven. The one in the stroller was too covered to tell if it was a boy or girl.

Me: Wow, that’s a lot of girls!
That poor dad.
I can’t imagine the weddings.
I wonder if they kept trying for that boy and it never worked?
That poor mom.
She looks pregnant again.
No, that’s just a belly that’s carried six lives.
OMG, the oldest looks like she’s 9.
Are there twins in there?
There have to be twins.
I wonder if she stays home?
She has to stay home.
I bet she homeschools.
That has to be their van.
That’s a really nice van.
I wonder what their jobs are?
Imagine that grocery bill!
Oh, and college, ouch.
I want to talk to her.
I want to ask her so many questions.
No, that’s rude.
She probably feels like a freak show.
I’m going to sit and be quiet and stare and smile and stare some more.

You see?! Guilty as charged!

I’m only 20 weeks with baby #4, but this pregnancy is preparing me for the gawks and stares and comments that are to come. Honestly, I enjoy it and maintain a good sense of humor about it. I wasn’t kidding when I told you my response to other moms is not to worry and that my condition isn’t contagious.

As I’ve mentioned here before, I am an only child and as a kid I constantly received comments like:

Oh, you must be so spoiled.
Why didn’t your mom and dad have any more kids?
Who do you play with?
I’m so jealous you get anything you want.
I bet your family is so rich.
Oh, you fly to vacation, we have to drive.
Do you get to eat out at restaurants a lot?
I’m so jealous.

I hated being an only child. And I can’t even imagine the comments my parents received.

That being said, if you’re a mom of one or a mom of seven girls, embrace it! Every single child is a gift. There are moments throughout the day when I will selfishly think, how on earth can my heart handle one more child to love? How is it possible to have four children to feed and bathe and wipe tears and kiss boo-boos? Will I ever sleep again? Will I ever get my body back from carrying babies and breastfeeding? How am I going to manage all of this chaos? How will we survive?

But I know the moment this last baby is born, I will burst into tears of joy, and tears of sadness…that this is the last hurrah in my great pregnancy journey.

The post All The Sh*t You Hear When You’re Pregnant With Your 4th Kid appeared first on Scary Mommy.

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“Cesarean babies make for lost souls. Those babies are never actually born so they can never be grounded.” Have I got your attention yet? Have you ever heard such crap? This sentiment was actually shared with a beloved client of mine, one who went on to have a cesarean birth. Can you imagine how she feels when she remembers those words? I want to talk about cesarean birth. More specifically, I want to talk about the language used with cesarean birth.

Recently, I’ve found myself a part of several different conversations in which someone claimed that cesarean birth is, in fact, not birth. Each time, I’ve been flabbergasted. Claiming that cesarean birth is not birth creates a whole mess of hurtful problems. Parents who are asked, “When was your baby born,” would have to respond, “Oh, they weren’t actually ever born.” Cesarean-born children wouldn’t actually ever have “birth”days. And the most problematic of all is the sheer mental and emotional burden that is placed on cesarean birthing parents.

Petri Oeschger/Getty

Arguments have been made that we need to change our semantics to shift birth culture back towards physiological birth. While I agree that birth culture continues to need an overhaul, I do not believe that the revolution will come simply by renaming cesarean birth something other than “birth.” The wise woman and fellow birth photographer Monet Nicole shared the question “Is birth only a physical experience? Or is it also an emotional and spiritual one as well?” I believe the latter. For most, birth is about becoming a parent, welcoming a child into their lives, having their hearts transformed forever. This transformation occurs regardless of how a child enters the world. This transformation is birth.

Westend61/Getty

Where I do think semantics should be shifted is in how we refer to cesarean birth. I cringe every time I hear someone say “c-section” or “section.” Seven years ago I was expecting my first child and was enrolled in a childbirth education class at a local hospital. The instructing nurse was the first person to challenge my mindset around the terminology used to describe a surgical birth. She pleaded earnestly with each of the expecting families to use the words “cesarean birth,” emphasizing the fact that if their babies were born via cesarean, it would still be birth and it could still be a beautiful experience. Her words cemented themselves in my heart and, several years later, as I find myself deeply immersed in birth work, I find them to be truer than ever. To me, the terms “c-section” or “section” feel harsh, strictly medical, and they disconnect many parents from their birthing process.

As a birth doula, I have supported families in cesarean birth and I have seen parents struggle with that disconnection–not all, but many. These parents deserve better. I could go on and on about ways in which cesareans can be improved for parents (ahem, allow their support persons in the operating room with them–a problem for many patients with doulas), but one of the simplest ways in which they can be improved is by what we call them. Let’s call them birth. Because that’s what they are.

I would love to see care providers also shift their language. I’ve heard the kindest, friendliest of doctors, midwives, and nurses prepare their patients for “sections.” However, by simply saying the word “birth” when preparing a patient for a cesarean can help reconnect the parent with the fact that they are about to meet their baby, that they are giving birth. It can make the process feel more humanized and less scary. Heck, maybe a language change will also help other care providers in the room remember that a birth is about to happen and that it is emotional for the patient! (i.e. don’t chitchat during the birth, don’t tell patients that their newborn looks like an angry alien before they even get to see their child–yes, a doctor used those words when speaking to a client–, etc.) What a simple courtesy we can offer cesarean parents.

Westend61/Getty

So as the nurse pleaded to me years ago, I, too, implore each of you to be intentional in your language when speaking about cesarean birth.

We are Scary Mommies, millions of unique women, united by motherhood. We are scary, and we are proud. But Scary Mommies are more than “just” mothers; we are partners (and ex-partners,) daughters, sisters, friends… and we need a space to talk about things other than the kids. So check out our Scary Mommy It’s Personal Facebook page. And if your kids are out of diapers and daycare, our Scary Mommy Tweens & Teens Facebook pageis here to help parents survive the tween and teen years (aka, the scariest of them all.)

The post Cesarean Birth Is BIRTH, And That’s Final appeared first on Scary Mommy.

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There are two things that take exactly three and a half minutes to cook: Kraft Easy Mac and a pregnancy test.

Being a fairly efficient lady, I figured I could execute both at once; I’d enjoy my tasty cheesy noodles following the assurance that my period was on her way. I don’t want to give away the ending but the test was positive and I found the fully-cooked Easy Mac cup in a tupperware drawer three days later.

Shame. Insecurity. Guilt. Embarrassment. These are some emotions that many of us mamas feel when we divulge this social taboo: my child wasn’t planned.

Courtesy of Nancy Patterson

Being a first-time mom-to-be, I wasn’t prepared for the intrusive line of questioning I would be subjected to after announcing our impending bundle of joy. I couldn’t even tally the number of people who asked me such nosy questions:

“Was this on purpose?”

“Weren’t you on birth control?”

“What are you going to do?”

After answering these questions, I thought — does it create validation for my child’s existence? Is my pregnancy somehow ratified? Or are they curious if he slipped one past the goalie? As far as I was concerned, the intentions behind my recent fertilization were none of anyone’s bleeping business.

Courtesy of Nancy Patterson

For those of you who don’t know, we are not married. We didn’t have plans to get married prior to learning that we were going to be parents and we didn’t make plans to do so after. James and I had reconnected one year prior, after a two-year split, which was preceded by a three-year relationship. Yet, I felt the need to defend my pregnancy by reiterating things like:

“We probably would have done it sooner or later” and “When it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be”

I’m screaming at my then-pregnant self to stop. Why was I feeling the need for everyone’s approval on my decision to have a baby? To become a mom? It was unfair to my unborn baby girl to have to legitimize her existence.

She’s knocked-up

I’ll admit, I felt a little silly referring to the father of my unborn child as my “boyfriend.” I hated the reflex glances at my naked left ring finger from acquaintances and strangers after they noticed my bump. At times, I felt sad that I wouldn’t share the same last name that would link my daughter and her father. There was a part of me that felt like another statistic; I was conceived in an out-of-wedlock relationship (although my mom will reiterate that they were “planning to get married”) and am the product of divorced parents. I had to get past the shameful feeling of bringing my daughter into a relationship that lacked the foundation of marriage.

While most of our family members and several friends were supportive of and elated over my pregnancy, I was still subjected to comments about out-of-wedlock-born babies — marriage and babies are not mutually exclusive. People around me made comments about women who “got knocked up” or men who “got” their partners pregnant in reference to unwed couples. I’d like to take a moment of silence to acknowledge all of the wives out there who were able to bear their husbands’ children without him “getting her pregnant.”

{Inserts awkward, but short, silence}

We assume that married couples plan out ovulation dates and projected due dates, start college funds, fill out private school applications, budget for the nursery (trust me, you’ll need one) and childcare arrangements before having their own children. Or, at least, that’s what I thought. I have several unmarried friends who’ve chosen to have a baby before marriage for reasons varying from the rising (and criminal) costs of hosting a wedding to aging ovaries.

Courtesy of Nancy Patterson

Statistically, nearly 45% of all pregnancies are “unintended.” Demographics do play a role in this number, but it exemplifies that so many of us were not a exactly scheduled to arrive when we did. But the point is that… it doesn’t fucking matter.

Can you say –– defense mechanism?

Over the past decade, I went through a wide range of emotion about having children. At times, I wanted nothing more than to quit my job and raise 10 babies; I dreamt of early mornings, making lunches and after-school crafting. My 20-minute commute became dreadful as I obsessed over the baby that wasn’t growing in my belly. On the other hand, there were times I couldn’t fathom sacrificing a disposable income, leisurely weekends and spontaneous travel; sending my dog to doggy daycare for the week was about as much “daycare” as I was capable of handling.

When life hands you… a pee stick

Courtesy of Nancy Patterson

Some of the best parents I know never planned to become one. I’m not saying that anyone should rely on a baby to change them, but I do know several people who found purpose in parenthood and discovered the better parts of themselves in the process. It doesn’t matter how, when or why our babies got here — what matters is how we show up as mothers and fathers.

At the time we found out that we were going to be parents, I was living in Oregon, flying to California twice a month for clients and living my dream life of work/leisure balance. James was recovering from an extensive knee surgery that would require six months of rehabilitation and recovery. I was ecstatic at the idea of becoming a mom, but had no clue how I could make this work out in “real life.”

James was in shock for months; I threw a wrench into the equation when I surprised him one night with a gender reveal cupcake that would confirm we were not only having a ‘baby,’ but a daughter. He walked around aimlessly and zombie-like repeating things like “oh God, periods,” “PMS,” and “oh no, a mini-you,” thanks. I’d touch more on how he would later fall in love with this 6-pound baby girl the moment she emerged from my body, but I think the photo takes care of that.

Courtesy of Nancy Patterson

A part of me felt it was unnecessary to touch on this subject; I haven’t heard a lot of women discuss their feelings surrounding assumptions about their pregnancies. But anyone who is a mom, particularly, has assuredly experienced some form of this judgment. Whether you’re a young mom, single mom, older mom, not in a relationship with the dad or even unsure of the paternity of your child, that baby is a miracle. We made, grew, sacrificed our bodies for, and birthed these little humans who have made us all mothers.

To the mamas and the papas who continue to show up to their best ability, this one’s for you.

The post I Didn’t Plan On Being Pregnant And Unmarried, But Here We Are appeared first on Scary Mommy.

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It was the call we didn’t want to make. One more month, we said, calculating time on our fingers.

When my husband Matt and I arrived at the fertility specialist’s office in January 2017, I sized up the other couples waiting around us, taking a long look at the woman alone on her cell phone.

I was escorted into an exam room for ultrasound where I stared at the monitor like television, even though nothing was on. After various tests we returned to meet with the doctor, a man past retirement age who pronounced the word “sperm” with gravitas.

“I would recommend IVF,” he told us.

Before we even made the appointment I told Matt I wasn’t sure I wanted to do IVF. It was one thing for us to simply get pregnant, for the decision to be made for us, but now we had to decide and invest in the mere chance of having a child. For months, I had been dreaming how I’d announce our pregnancy to our parents, but now we had something else to tell them, that a grandchild was very much not on the way. We cried. We avoided the subject. We contemplated what it meant to bring a child into a world that was growing increasingly warmer, with all of its dangers.We talked about adoption. Matt joked about getting into expensive aquariums. I went to a psychic to ask about my purpose — was this a sign I should be doing something else, living somewhere else, being someone else entirely?

It was all too overwhelming, so we hit pause. Maybe in six months, I thought, after Googling fertility supplements, consulting with yoga instructor friends, changing up my diet and trying acupuncture, we wouldn’t need IVF. Maybe this would be one of those cases of, “And then they stopped trying and magically conceived!” Time passed and nothing changed.

The second doctor we visited told us our issue was not as severe as we thought and there were several steps we could take first. I started taking oral hormones, which made me incredibly depressed. I found myself, usually a too-busy-for-my-own-good type A personality, despondent on the couch for entire weekends and crying in my car. I’d scroll Instagram and watch friend after friend announce her pregnancy, and force myself from under the weight of my blanket to type, “Omg congratulations!!!!”

We moved onto IUI (intrauterine insemination, or the turkey baster method). We were confident veering on cocky due to the precision of the procedure, which entailed my husband contributing his part early in the morning, followed by a special team separating out his best and brightest and preparing them in a syringe that would be inserted directly into my cervix later that day.

I made way too big of a deal over this, taking the full day off from work, heralding it as a sacred ceremony in which I WOULD CONCEIVE. Matt accompanied me and sat in the corner of the room playing Words with Friends while a nurse presented me the syringe labeled with our names like a bottle of wine. I was left in the room with an egg timer and instructions to rest for 10 minutes. Matt and I left the facility holding hands, my free hand resting on my stomach, feeling cramps but mentally willing them into a life.

The two weeks between ovulation and your period is an eternity where any small change in your body is misinterpreted as the real deal. In this waiting game, even without synthetic hormones, your emotions and worldview are all over the place.

And this time, our story wasn’t over.

I went alone to the second IUI in the middle of a busy workday. I kept my phone near the egg timer so I could catch up on email. As soon as I got home, I jumped on a conference call. I had become the jaded woman in that initial waiting room.

During this time, I connected with friends who were going through something similar. Like snowflakes, no two infertility stories are alike, and it was these women who saw deepest into my particular brand of sadness. Never since my pre-teens were so many people interested in whether I got my period. I was finally starting to feel hopeful again.

And then, one week before Christmas 2018, the doctor told me I had endometriosis.

It was already too much. I got the news at work and sat in an empty meeting room and sobbed. I knew a bit about endometriosis from high-profile cases. I knew it was a condition characterized by pain, and I didn’t think I had any of its symptoms. “Your baseline is your baseline,” a nurse told me. “Maybe you can withstand a high threshold of pain, and you just think of it as normal.”

Jacek_Sopotnicki/Getty

The bizarre thing about endometriosis is it doesn’t show on an ultrasound unless it causes other issues, so we needed to schedule surgery to both confirm I had the condition and clean it out. According to the doctor, this would be an easy fix (if you count abdominal surgery as “easy”). Once I was recovered, we could go back to trying.

When I woke from surgery there was a nurse hovering over me fussing with various cords. “My vagina bone hurts,” was all I could articulate to her. Matt was ushered into the room and held my hand as he explained they found stage two endometriosis, his other hand holding extremely high-definition photos of my uterus. I spent the next few days on the couch bleeding out the blue dye they had used in my fallopian tubes onto a maxi pad just like in the commercials.

Is this the end of our journey, or just the beginning of an even more trying path? All we can do is carry on, staring at the screen on the Clear Blue test each month, patiently waiting for the moment our lives are changed forever.

The post The ‘Two Week Wait’ Is The Hardest Part appeared first on Scary Mommy.

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If I were to advise a woman considering having a baby through in vitro fertilization with a donated egg, I would tell her to do some research, but not too much. Read blogs on the subject, but not too many. Give your mind just enough to think about without overwhelming it with all the differing opinions on the subject. Pick an issue and find two opposite reactions to it. Then stop researching and let your mind go to work.

One of my biggest concerns when contemplating having a baby with another woman’s DNA was whether I would bond with that baby. I did a little reading. I remember glomming onto Desperate Housewives star Marcia Cross’s comment, “When a woman gets older, they get donor eggs, which doesn’t make the baby any less beautiful or perfect.” While she hadn’t admitted to using an egg donor to conceive her twins, I was comforted by this statement. I also read a blog by a woman whose quote I have used many times, paraphrased: “Who says my genetics are so superior? Maybe I’m doing my children a favor by borrowing genes.”

But then I read a blog from a woman who was having difficulty bonding with her baby conceived with a donor egg. She said she kept seeing the image of the donor in the face of her child. It’s been four years since I read that blog, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized how my mind dealt with that information. When I received pictures of the donor we eventually chose, I looked at them briefly, appreciated them, and then put them away, never to look at them again.

Now, when I gaze into the faces of my three beautiful children who were conceived with the help of that donor, I do not see the physical characteristics they share with the egg donor. I see my husband, and I see my children. I even see a little of myself.

Courtesy of Laura Edwards Nunley

After all, our DNA mixed in my womb. During mammalian pregnancy, in a process called fetal-maternal microchimerism, the mother and fetus exchange DNA and cells. A study of women who had died in their seventies found that over half of the women had male DNA in their brains, presumably from when the women’s sons were in the womb. Male DNA was also discovered in women’s blood samples. Not only have fetal cells been detected in the mother, but maternal cells have been found in the fetus.

I know every mother’s experience who has a baby with donated eggs is probably different. I had the advantage of having one of my own genetic children to compare with the experience of having babies conceived with donated eggs. Is there a difference in how I feel between my oldest son and his three younger siblings? Yes.

Probably the biggest difference is the genetic mirror my oldest son holds up and in which I can see myself. Although he doesn’t look much like me, so many of his behaviors and attitudes feel familiar. I instinctively know how to handle some of his more difficult moods because I, too, have experienced them. I know when to encourage certain interests because they are my interests.

My interaction with my two daughters and youngest son is different. While the genetic mirror is missing, what I have with them is a deep appreciation for the interesting and bright people they are, so superior to me in many ways. My three-year-old daughter is very clever and talented with language. She is also incredibly capable physically. Her younger brother is a total powerhouse and has an ability to look anyone in the eye without a blink or a flinch. Their sister is the sweetest spitfire I have ever come across, so agile and perceptive.

With my older son, I feel a sort of possessiveness. With my other three children, I feel tender respect — and so much gratitude. I feel tremendously privileged that I get to be their mother, to be a guiding force as they grow, and to participate in their already amazing lives.

Besides that, I still connect on a very intimate level with my youngest children in the way that human beings naturally relate to each other. My oldest daughter has a need to rebel, not in a malicious way, but in a way that gives her energy and vibrancy. I understand that. My youngest daughter needs a lot of affection. I understand that too. My youngest son demolishes everything, thinks it’s fun, and looks to the faces of his parents for confirmation that they think it’s fun too. Yup. I get that.

Tannis Toohey/Toronto Star via Getty Images

When we just had two children, one who is my genetic child and the other who is not, sometimes I would worry about my bond with my daughter, the younger child. When talking to my friends and family I would refer to the egg donor as my daughter’s “biological mother.” But, uncomfortable with the phrase, I thought about how my daughter grew in my womb, and how, without me, she would not exist. I started calling the egg donor “the egg donor.” Words matter.

Now that my daughter is older and I have two more children conceived with the embryos created from the first round of IVF, I no longer need to reassure myself. I am these children’s mother, and only I — and my husband — can give them the understanding, cuddles, discipline, and love that they need. There is not one jot of difference between how much I love my genetic child and how much I love my other children. I love them all intensely and with equal strength.

Courtesy of Laura Edwards Nunley

While I never see the likeness of our egg donor on the faces of my children, I believe our donor’s character is evident in my children’s personalities. According to the egg donor coordinators at the fertility clinic, our donor’s greatest motivation was to be of service to others. They described her as vivacious, witty, and energetic. I sense this young woman’s magnanimity, sense of humor, and intellect in my children as they grow and develop. I feel incredibly fortunate to have gotten her genes in my family.

Every single one of my pregnancies, while difficult in my forties, was full of delicious anticipation. Every single one of my deliveries was the best experience of my life. Holding all four of my babies on my chest in the hospital was more sacred than any religious ritual. I now have four children, ages five and younger, and it is not easy. But it is more profound and fulfilling than anything I ever could have imagined.

In my single days, I never knew that when you have children, you receive as much as, or more than, you give. Each one of my four children, whether genetically related to me or not, is my teacher. Each child loves me without reserve, whether I deserve it or not. I can no longer sweep my frustration, anger, and anxiety under the rug because it affects my relationship with my children. My laughter has more than quadrupled, and my general level of happiness is a sweet contentment. To me, four of the most beautiful creations on this planet are my children.

In my mind, there is no question. If you can’t have babies using your own eggs, you either adopt or you undergo IVF with donated eggs. The net gain is so much greater than any kind of cost. And when you are snuggling your baby to sleep every night, you will thank your lucky stars you have such immeasurable riches in your life.

So, to the woman who is considering egg donation, do your research. But stop before someone else’s negative perceptions damage an otherwise optimistic outlook regarding your own possibilities. Armed with the information you do have, thank the universe for modern science and go forward with courage and confidence. Only life’s most precious experiences await.

The post How Egg Donation Made Me A Mom Of 4 appeared first on Scary Mommy.

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I knew the exact date I conceived my first born son — it was sort of under the Christmas tree on a December evening.  The reason I know this is because it was right after I convinced my (then) husband that it would probably take a few months to make a baby and if we wanted to start a family, we should get on it. I felt my clock tick-tocking away and we both wanted a few children.

However, after exactly one shot, we were with child. When I marched into my OBGYN clutching my belly because I was over the moon about the bun cooking in my oven, she told me my due date would be on September 6th. Perfect — let the planning begin. I was ecstatic.

I went home, and slept for what felt like four months straight. I ate a shit ton of food and felt all the hormones racing through my system. I got sick, my baby grew, and I couldn’t wait to find out the sex. When we discovered we’d be having a boy, I went out and bought lots of striped clothing, converse high tops (because of course), and every plush stuffed animal I could find. You know, the necessities.

I painted the nursery and set up the crib. I came home after my baby shower, washed all his tiny clothes, and felt so extremely blessed I couldn’t stand it. As my belly and boobs grew to epic proportions, I loved walking around in my maternity clothes showing them off.

If strangers asked me when I was due, I eagerly told then, “September 6th!” I adored being pregnant and talking about my child and had no doubt things would go as planned.

And my plan was to have him home and then get the house cleaned and decorated for fall as he slept in his bassinet and the leaves fell gracefully from the trees while I lit Spiced Cider candles.

Everyone planned on coming to see him the weekend after Labor Day and I wanted to be on. And by that, I mean into my new fall jeans and sweater as I baked leaf-shaped cookies just in time for everyone’s arrival.

Are you rolling your eyes yet? Because in retrospect, I sure am.

As the days dragged by and his due date came and went I thought, Okay this isn’t so bad. He’s a few days late, it happens.

Then the phone kept ringing and everyone wanted to know why I hadn’t had the damn baby yet and when could they meet the baby and was everything okay with the baby and “OMG! YOU HAVE NOT HAD THAT BABY YET?”

So, I stopped answering the phone.

I kept eating Doritos and cheese sticks dipped in ice cream because I might as well live up this never-ending pregnancy, right?

I kept pissing my pants a little bit every time I stood up, bent over,  sneezed or coughed. I ate the spicy foods my mom told me about. I came on to my husband every night and called him while he was at work every day and asked him to come home and get this baby out of me. We tried all the positions and I began to wonder if we were scarring our child with all of our sexual shenanigans. Maybe he’d decided to stay my uterus so long because his parents were sex freaks and he was frightened.

I went for long walks and while I thought I was cruising, I am sure I was just waddling along. But I kept at it because at least one thousand people told me walking is what made them go into labor so you bet your ass I walked until I couldn’t walk anymore.

On September 16, I cried in the bathtub. I was so uncomfortable I couldn’t sleep. I had to get up to pee every 5 minutes and was seriously considering adult diapers. I would wake up in middle of the night ravenous, eat something, and then be jarred out of a delicious dream two minutes later because my heartburn was so bad. I was on my 4th month of not being able to breathe through my nose because of pregnancy-induced rhinitis. I had already bought all the stores out of nasal strips. I was exhausted, uncomfortable and DONE.

I thought for sure this child was taking over my body. There was no room for my food, no room for my pee, and dammit all to bloody hell, there wasn’t a pair of unders or maternity pants that would fit me any longer.

You could feel the nip of fall in the air, but I was a freaking furnace. On the morning of September 18, I got out of the shower and saw frost on the ground so I walked out on my deck naked to air myself out. I didn’t care if anyone saw me, I mean, there wasn’t much to see because my stomach and boobs hid all my other body parts and the most important thing to me in that moment was to get some relief from the damn hot flashes.

But there is no such thing as being comfortable when you are overdue with a child, I don’t care what anyone says. You can take your advice and shove it up your non-pregnant ass. None of it works anyway, and the only thing you can do is wait with that child folded up inside of you until they decide to come or your doctor advises an induction.

I went from wanting to tell the world about my pregnancy, to wanting to punch them in the face when they asked me if I was having twins. I took my phone off the hook and had fantasies of threatening my doctor if he told me one more time I would go “any day.”

Any day wasn’t good enough for me. I’d lost my mucus plug, I was dilated and walking around with a head between my legs. I’d done all the things and he wasn’t budging.

On September 19 — almost TWO WEEKS past my due date — I had an appointment scheduled. I told my child during our morning stroll he needed to come out because I couldn’t carry him around inside me any longer. It was time for him to start pulling his own weight.

I saw my doctor and didn’t even sit on the bed covered with paper. I said, “I need to have this baby right now.”

A few hours later they were hooking me up to Pitocin and within a few minutes, my water broke.

Being pregnant past your due date not only makes you incredibly anxious and emotional, it’s hard on your body. No one wants to be pregnant longer than they are supposed to be no matter how much fun it is in the beginning, yet about 40 out of 100 women get to experience this special kind of hell, 5 out of 100 women have the agony of going two weeks past their due date.

While the reasons for your child not wanting to rear their head is unknown, having a baby born after the 40th week of pregnancy is rarely harmful ,but your doctor or midwife will want to check on things  to make sure your placenta is working properly, your baby isn’t stressed, and your fluids are at a healthy level. This is why most doctors recommend inducing labor in the 41st-42nd week of pregnancy.

If you child isn’t budging and wants to stay in the depths of your uterus, it’s incredibly uncomfortable and you want nothing more than to get that human out of you and kick all the people who keep questioning you. As someone who has been there I can offer this: milk it for all its worth because people really do feel sympathy for you, and you can hold this over your child’s head when they are older and you want them to do special favors for you.

I still remind my 15-year-old son he put me through hell that last week so he owes me big time.

The post The Hell Known As An Overdue Pregnancy appeared first on Scary Mommy.

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Aside from having a C-section when I wanted to go all-natural, my second and third births were everything I wanted them to be and more. My OBGYN has always been incredible, and I give him a metophoric gold medal for a job well done. But let’s be honest, the doctor isn’t what makes or breaks your birthing experience; it’s the labor and delivery nurses.

The good ones hold a spot in my heart that was and will always be near and dear to me. And the bad ones…. well, the bad ones have left a very bitter taste in my mouth.

There was Delaney, who grazed my hands in comfort during my spinal tap and carried my daughter to my husband with a beaming smile and a “she’s beautiful” shortly after.

Mary, who crocheted my newborn a Minnie Mouse hat and made a scrapbook page for our family.

The middle of the night nurses (Lord, forgive me for not remembering their blessed names), but they never made me feel bad about the fact that my vagina gushed blood all over their seemingly brand new, WHITE shoes.

And then there was Kathy, the hoot and a holler, who constantly gave me shit (in a loving, joking manner) for me pressing the call light.

These labor and delivery nurses made my hospital stay and birthing experience joyful, and I can’t say there will be a day that I’ll ever forget their kindness amidst my vulnerability. But in every good story, there is always a bad one.

We will call her Cruelle De Vil Susan. She wasn’t reassuring during my spinal tap, and she wasn’t comforting during my C-section either. My twins were born at 35 weeks, and my son came out first seemingly healthy whereas my daughter was immediately taken to the NICU due to a low Apgar score, partially from inhaling amniotic fluid. My son and I began skin-to-skin in post-op when he began shaking and shivering excessively despite being covered by a heated blanket and snuggled into Mama’s warmth. I uncovered him for a moment and noticed his fingers, hands, toes, feet and lips were turning bluish-purple. 

I immediately asked the nurse if it was normal. But being the Susan that she was, she only took a quick glance before glaring back at her computer screen. Still, I knew better, and my mama instincts insisted that the neonatal attending doctor be brought back to the floor.

When the specialist came in, my son’s oxygen levels were in the 80s, and he was immediately taken to the NICU where his sister was already being poked and prodded. As if this wasn’t enough, my pain was starting to take an even heavier toll as my spinal tap began to quickly wear off. I innocently asked Susan if I could be experiencing more discomfort because I delivered multiples or if this was something my provider needed to be notified about. But she just snapped back and argued, “No. I’ve had three C-sections. You’re supposed to be in pain.”

*sarcastically groans*

Well, bitch… did I ask or do I care about your previous C-sections? NOPE. 

I’d love to tell you that I put my foot down right then and there and asked for a new nurse. That I advocated for myself and my wellbeing. But sadly, I didn’t, because I truthfully didn’t even know that I could. And even if the thought did somehow occur and then slip past me, I feared ill-mannered treatment from new staff if they were listening to what was being said by my previous labor and delivery nurse.

Once I could slightly move my tingly and somewhat numb legs, I was urged to stand up and try walking to the bathroom to hopefully get the recovery process moving along. Being the “not a quitter” that I am, I agreed despite the horrific pain. I was about to stand up when she delicately grabbed my hand like she was assisting a royal into the back of a limousine…. not like she was hauling my limp, twice-her-size ass to the bathroom for the first time post-op.

“You got me?” I questioned.

“Yep.”

And CRASH. Big mama (that’s me) took a full-out rumble and tumble onto the hard floor.

I was her responsibility for the shift, and she failed me. Many times. She failed to comfort my anxious fears, she failed to look after the wellbeing of my newborn, and she failed to notify anyone of my fall… which could have resulted in a serious injury if it hadn’t been for a rogue hospital pillow that barely broke my fall. She offered me no physical, mental or emotional support. She shamed me and dismissed my concerns.

I should’ve been more bold. I should’ve stood up for myself. I should’ve demanded a new labor and delivery nurse. But in all honesty, I didn’t know that was an option. Now, I know better. Now, hopefully, you know better too. Though C-sections and vaginal births are incredibly routine, it doesn’t mean that they are risk-free, and it doesn’t mean you and your new baby (or in my case, babies) don’t deserve the best level of care.

If you’re unhappy with your labor and delivery nurse, demand a different one. Express your concerns to your OB/GYN, the charge nurse, whoever you need to. Make your voice heard.  Kick the Susans of the maternity ward to the curb, and find yourself a Mary, Delaney or a Kathy.

The post If You Hate Your Labor And Delivery Nurse, Ask For A New One appeared first on Scary Mommy.

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As of today, it’s been six weeks since my son was born. This is when most birthing mothers in the United States are considered “healed.” This is often the end of maternity leave for working moms. This is when we have our (first and only) follow-up appointment with the OB-GYN after having experienced immense trauma to our body.

These have been the hardest six weeks of my entire life, physically and emotionally. There is so much about this experience that no one ever prepares you for—partly because we live in a society that undervalues women and their health, partly because it’s considered taboo to talk publicly and candidly about the harsh realities of childbirth and post-partum life.

Yesterday was the first day I didn’t have to wear a pad in six weeks, because I had finally stopped bleeding. I still wear my mesh hospital underwear some days because I just want to be as comfortable as possible. I’m afraid to inspect too closely what I look like now after tearing and being cut and getting stitches. I finally ditched the cleansing water bottle and started wiping fully about a week and a half ago, and it was terrifying. I still have hemorrhoids that won’t go away, so even though I’m not bleeding vaginally I’m still bleeding anally. Up until a couple weeks ago, I couldn’t even enjoy the nicer weather because I couldn’t walk right due to persisting pelvic and leg pain. I still feel pain and discomfort in places I can’t even properly identify. (What the hell is a perineum, anyway?) I can’t even fathom using a tampon, let alone having sex.

And those are just the physical parts.

On top of that, there was the surge of hormones those first two weeks that had me weeping every day, wondering if I had made a huge mistake and if I was really cut out for this. There was the panic of not feeling bonded with my baby immediately because no one ever talks about how it doesn’t always happen right away. There were the intrusive thoughts, like envisioning myself tripping and falling and his head hitting the floor, which prevented me from feeling comfortable holding him while standing up for nearly a week. (I still have those thoughts.) There’s the despair of anticipating another sleepless night and of waking up in the morning exhausted with the entire day ahead of me wondering how I’m going to make it through hours that feel like days until my husband comes home and I’m no longer alone trying to keep a newborn (and myself) from crying.

Things don’t feel as dire as they did in those first few weeks. I’m learning to adjust to this new normal. I have a few amazing friends who are also new moms who I’ve texted with almost daily and learned that I’m not alone in any of this. I’ve been going to weekly support groups where it’s further reinforced that everything I’m going through is NORMAL. Everyone’s experience may not be like mine, but a lot of people’s are.

Women, and especially mothers, are expected in our society to be martyrs who silently endure. It’s uncomfortable to see these harsh realities publicized and normalized because it bursts those bubbles of carefully curated perfection by forcing people to acknowledge that sometimes even the things that are supposed to be the most beautiful and sacred in this world (childbirth, motherhood) can frankly really suck.

And that’s okay. Life is complex and we all contain multitudes and two seemingly contradictory truths can exist simultaneously: I can love my baby and also really hate many parts of this experience. I can marvel at seeing him grow and change every day while also secretly wishing that I could hand him off to someone else for a few months until he’s less fussy and sleeping better.

I don’t know how I’ll feel another six weeks from now. Honestly, that feels like years away. But I’ll keep talking openly about my experience, the good and the bad. And hopefully, eventually, the former will outweigh the latter.

We are Scary Mommies, millions of unique women, united by motherhood. We are scary, and we are proud. But Scary Mommies are more than “just” mothers; we are partners (and ex-partners,) daughters, sisters, friends… and we need a space to talk about things other than the kids. So check out our Scary Mommy It’s Personal Facebook page. And if your kids are out of diapers and daycare, our Scary Mommy Tweens & Teens Facebook pageis here to help parents survive the tween and teen years (aka, the scariest of them all.)

The post It’s Been 6 Weeks Since My Baby Was Born And I’m Still Not ‘Healed’ appeared first on Scary Mommy.

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