I went out without my baby for the first time and I hated every second of it.

So it’s been a long time since this blog has been updated, and I briefly wanted to address that, because I plan to post a lot about what has happened since I was last here. As of March 2022, I’m now a single mother of an eight point five month old little girl. When I started writing this blog, I was still engaged to her father, but we’ve since broken up. I’m gonna be honest with you; it felt weird to come back to this, knowing how different my tone would be. But, ultimately, I feel like I have to. I started this blog because I felt like my voice, one that talked about all of the hard and scary and dirty parts of being a mom, was missing from this genre of blogs and literature. And while that’s still true, I have renewed interest in being 100% honest about what life is like when you’re young, single, and the world feels like it’s out to get you.

So I’ve come back. And I’m excited to be on this journey with all of you. After this post, what you’ll probably see is primarily anecdotal back log of what’s happened since I was last active mixed with a few real-time updates until we’re all caught up. But this post? This post is about what it was like to go out without my kid for the first time ever.

Let’s start by introducing 17-year-old me, the dedicated party girl. I was never your traditional club girl. I was more of a sitcom adventure, the night never ends, what can we get into next? kind of girl. I was always down to meet new people, have new experienced, and just generally explore the world and all it had to offer. I had a reputation for being the drunkest, the loudest, and the highest person in any part, club, or miscellaneous activity. When I got to go out and have a good time, I was determined to have the best time, because 90% of the time I was working myself to disgusting levels of exhaustion and illness.

But even before I found out I was going to be a mom, I slowed down a ton. So last Saturday, when I decided that I was going to do something for myself for once and go out, it had been over a year since I had been out. In fact, I remember the last time I went out. It was right before my birthday, in the middle of summer, and I went to a massive party for a friend’s roommate. There were hundreds of people there. I was, in both my memory and my imagination at the time, the hottest bitch at the party.

I pulled up early, which meant that I was part of The Group. You know exactly what I’m talking about, too; a select group of people at the party who can get away with whatever they want because they showed up early to set up and stayed late to clean up. Outside of the birthday girl, I felt like a star. There wasn’t a single dull moment between the attention, the drama, the new friends, the chaos, or the booze and weed. For a while, I was even in charge of the music. At a party filled with musicians.

And, you know, maybe it just felt like that because it was so long ago, and because it’s something I’ll never be able to do again. But maybe, for a night, I was a sexy celebrity at a rager.

For this past weekend, I guess I went into it almost trying to recreate the magic of that night. That was mistake number one. My expectations were way too high. Especially if you consider the itinerary for the night: I was meeting a friend of mine for dinner and a play, and then she and I were going to meet another friend of mine downtown when the play ended around 11:00. My parents were set to babysit, and I had asked my mom a week ahead of time when she needed me to come home, but she’d encouraged me to stay out as late as I wanted. So I let myself get a little bit excited, thinking that this would be the perfect reset for me, a single mom who works three at-home jobs and takes care of her child full time.

Spoiler: I was so wrong.

Not even getting ready was a simple task. It took all day for me to do it. I had to make sure my house was clean and that my parents had everything set up for them; I prepared and refrigerated her bottles with warming instructions written out and taped to the fridge (I’m too poor for magnets, dude), made her little snack baggies for them to grab easily and conveniently, made her a dinner that they could easily feed her without having to do too much cleanup, gave her an early bath, set out extra clothes they may need, and even wrote out and texted them explicit instructions for how to use the TV. I also took a shower, decided on an outfit after trying on 35 of them, made a last minute decision to change my top, did my hair and makeup, and put on deliciously long sapphire blue nails.

I felt pretty, but I also felt nervous, anxious, and fat as f*ck. I’ve been struggling a lot with my weight since I had her. I’m not nearly as active as I was when I had a 9-5 job as an apartment manager and ran all over property all the time, and I gave birth to a ten-and-a-half-pound baby. It doesn’t matter that it was almost a year ago. It takes pretty much an eternity for a human body to bounce back from the trauma of birth, whether vaginal or cesarean. And, really, I should have been comfortable with my body. I’ve been this big before. I’ve gone out in tighter, more revealing clothes in a body pretty similar to the one I’m in now. And while I know that fact, and I know that I’m beautiful and sexy, it’s still hard to believe. Right before I got pregnant, I was at the lightest I’ve ever been in my life. I had lost over 100 pounds in about two years, and I felt good and looked incredible. And that was the body I had been going out in most recently. I felt like a frumpalump in comparison, disgusted by my belly tucked into my too-tight-to-sit pants and the intense purple stretchmarks peeking out under my crop top.

For reasons we’ll get to in a minute, my outfit was Mistake Number Two.

But I told myself everything was fine, I gave my parents the whole spiel about how babysitting was going to go, and then I left for the restaurant. I lost my first nail just getting into my car.

Dinner was actually okay. I didn’t feel like I could really eat anything, so I got a bunless burger and with fries and my friend Glitter and I shared two margaritas and just bullshitted about life. The thing about Glitter is that she has no children and actually goes out pretty often. At first, this seemed like a great idea! She would be like my personal guru. I was mistaken again, bringing our tally up to three.

While at dinner, I realized that I had gotten the date for the play wrong. It was 6:30, we couldn’t find a replacement play, and the only movie playing that evening was the freaking three-hour long Robert Pattinson sex tape new Batman movie. So we wasted time at the restaurant, where I lost my second nail in the bathroom, and went to a gas station. We bought red bull. And if you think that’s the most grandma thing that I did, you should start your own mistake tally.

It was around 8:00 or 8:30 when we got downtown and found a parking spot, which was great, because we found free street parking downtown on a Saturday. But the reason we found great street parking was because there was virtually no one there. We sat and talked in the car for a little while, until I suggested (stupidly) that we just go and find something to get into.

We walked up, then back down the strip, and the only thing that happened was my incessant jokes about how Glitter and I were elderly ladies and it was too early for us to look as good as we did, to which two elderly ladies screamed at us from across the street to tell us we were beautiful works of art. At one point, we saw some giant bubbles, which Glitter wanted to go see. On the way to the bubbles, I tripped over my own feet and fell, to which a kind stranger told me, “It happens to all of us!” as he passed by.

It took about two seconds for her to get bored of the bubbles, so she brought me to a cramped, loud tent that was set up behind a bar with artists selling their wares and live music that ended immediately after we bought our beers. They had speakers and heaters in the tent, though, and it was cold, and we had nowhere else to be, so we moved to find a spot to sit. I heard someone call my name, and saw that one of the artists was someone I used to coach in speech and debate back when I was in college and she was in high school. It was great to see her, but seeing how much better she was doing than I was, her old mentor, was a tiny dagger to the heart. I mostly felt pride, but I wasn’t feeling any of the alcohol and couldn’t help being a brat in my frustration. There was also a baby there, because it was still early, and it just made me want to be home.

We hung out there for less than half an hour and headed to the bar that Glitter really wanted to go to. I was cold, tired, missing my baby, and as we passed a group wearing sneakers and sweatpants, I realized that I might still be young enough to go to bars and binge drink, but I was too old to be wearing heels and uncomfortable pants. Suddenly, my crop top and tight jeans felt like they were putting me on blast, screaming to each passerby a detailed list of my insecurities. We stayed there until a little bit after 10:00. We bought a couple of drinks and sat at a table and screamed at each other over the music. The DJ was struggling. I sacrificed a third nail to their bathroom.

It was around this point that I really just wanted to suggest that we go back, but Glitter had come almost an hour (or an hour? more? I’m not sure because I am a bad friend) into town just to be there with me for my first night away from my baby. But she was trying to match my speed, and I was trying to match hers, and we were really struggling to meet in the middle. I was hoping that meeting up with my other friend would be a good change of pace, but I stopped hearing from him after 7:00 that night, and I wasn’t excited enough about being out to really pursue it.

We went outside. A stranger told me I looked like Sally from Grease. You know, cigarette-black-jacket, “Tell me about it, stud,” Sally. I was wearing black jeans, black heels, and a black crop top with a bring pink sweater with cherries on it. I tried to let that moment fuel me. We saw a pretty drag queen in nine-inch heels, then a girl who had already removed her shoes and was walking around the cold concrete barefoot. I decided I wasn’t drunk enough to take off my shoes, and that if everyone but that one girl could do it, I could power through, too.

So we walked up and down again. My feet were really starting to hurt. And then Glitter decided that she wanted to go into this other bar that had a line and a cover charge, and I knew in my gut that I didn’t want to go in. The bar we had just left was quieter and had a much better vibe. The bar we were going into would have been my scene three years ago if I was blasted and had weaseled my way out of my friend group to go on an adventure. In fact, at one point it had been one of my friend groups favorite places to sneak into when we were still underage. It had sense gotten much busier, and I wondered if anyone was still pulling the shenanigans we used to.

So we waited in line. We were disrespected by a gentleman who was way too juiced up to still be out in public. We paid our cover. And we squeezed into the bar. We bought drinks again, and then my phone immediately started ringing, so Glitter and I stepped outside. It was my dad begging me to come home because they couldn’t get my daughter to sleep and they refused to lay her in her crib and let her cry.

I felt many things when they told me this. I felt guilty because I had dragged Glitter out just to have a terrible night, largely free from adventure (I’ll never forget that I’m a work of art or the bubbles, at least), and was just about to tell her we had to cut it short. I was a little irritated with my parents, because if they couldn’t get my daughter to sleep, they could have told me before nearly midnight. And I was a little disappointed, because I was still holding out hope that the night might turn around at some point and get a little more fun.

But mostly, I was relieved. All I had ever wanted in that moment was to be back home with my baby, in sweatpants, without a care in the world. I got back as quickly as I could, held her tight, and we both went straight to bed.

And another piece of my old identity took its last breath. The night itself wasn’t that bad, so I’ve been wondering over the last few days why it felt like such a huge energy-suck. I went to sleep at basically my normal time. I never ended up getting drunk and certainly wasn’t hungover. But what I was in mourning. Again. For the girl I was before I was Mama. And sure, I’m beginning to love the version of me that’s emerging. There are strengths and wisdoms in me that I never knew I had, and there’s a much better version of me somewhere on the horizon. But I didn’t get much of a chance to love the old me while she was still around. I took her for granted and squandered my days of being a badass hottie thinking I was a loser, or awkward, or ugly, or fat, or not enough.

And there are moments still when I am one of those things, some of those things, and even all of those things. But I don’t want to look back on this version of myself in three years, devastated because she’s gone and I didn’t take the time to notice how amazing she was.

So my letter to you, if you’re a new parent, and you’re struggling with your identity after becoming a parent, is to think of the you in the future who wants to be able to look fondly on these times. Everything is temporary. I found out yesterday that, while I was having this weird revelation downtown, someone I knew back in high school passed away in a car accident. We only knew each other by name and maybe by gossip, but it hit me hard because he was so young. It was so quick. And he has a family who loves him who will never be the same. I have a baby who loves me unconditionally. One whose happy, healthy, and so much fun to be around and hang out with. One who wouldn’t have been here if I hadn’t listened to my body the week before she was born. And one who, like all of us, isn’t promised tomorrow. My job right now is to hold her close. To be a good parent. And to take each and every moment as it comes. Parenting is a difficult transition. If you’re doing your best, you’re doing just fine. Forgive yourself.

Proactively! And often! Literally tell yourself, out loud, when you start berating yourself, “You can’t talk to me like that, and I’m doing my best. I don’t deserve this.” Your kid will think you’re hilarious, and after a while, you’ll train yourself to let those negative thoughts pass you by.

Alternatively, do whatever helps you get by and remember to look into that beautiful baby’s face and remind yourself why you do what you do. You’re unraveling the mystery of who you are piece by piece. It’s a long, slow process. Parenting is constant.

Should you be looking for a new job while on maternity leave?

I waited until I was 22 weeks along to tell my boss that I was pregnant.

I knew immediately when I found that it would be a problem. My company had a pattern of firing women shortly after returning from maternity leave for “performance issues” I spent eight months paranoid, looking over my shoulder, worried that my work wasn’t enough. That I wasn’t enough. Knowing what would inevitably come.

Just over a month after my return to work, I showed up on a Monday morning thirty minutes early. My brother-in-law was watching Bean. I gave everyone their directives for the day, got my email under control, and took a walk around the property to ensure that all was as it should be. When I returned, my direct report, who was based out of state and who had not notified me that she would be traveling to property, was sitting in my office. I felt my limbs go numb. But I smiled, greeted her warmly, and told her I was happy to see her. Then, I gave her a quick run-down of my morning.

She said, “I’m on a call with the director of property management and HR.” I steeled myself for what was about to happen. She turned the computer to me, everyone said their hellos, and then the head of HR spoke.

“So, I first just want to say that it’s nothing personal. Absolutely not personal. But we’re going to go in a different direction because things just haven’t been working out the way we thought they would.” She quickly went over the technical part of what would happen next, told me to turn everything in, and then asked if I had any questions. I said no, said thank you, and that was it. I handed everything I had off to my manager, and without a word to any of my staff, I walked away.

It was devastating. I started at the property as a part-time employee, and then within four months was promoted to management, at which point I saw the property through 2 student housing turns, a head-to-toe renovation, several disasters both natural and manmade, three maintenance teams, two office staffs, and 3 resident deaths. I was made manager of the complex in the middle of the epidemic. I had no formal training, no real experience, and the opposite of guidance and respect from corporate. But I made it work because I cared about the people who lived and worked there.

What had gone wrong? I was producing results. I worked on weekends. I worked through the night. I worked when I took PTO. I worked while I was on maternity leave. I worked despite the toxic, degrading, clumsy culture and proceedings of the company I worked for. I went above and beyond not just in my position, but eventually as a mentor to employees all over the country. Before my pregnancy announcement, (and I know this because I was told this) I was slated for a promotion in the next year or two. But because having a baby made me less exploitable, made it harder for me to travel, and made a bunch of washed-up executives feel like I was going to focus more on my personal life and less on my professional life, I was terminated.

There were several other political reasons, too. I had been with the company longer than most of their other employees and knew too much, and was too vocal about their terrible ethics. The property I managed was failing because the issues I’d been bringing up for three years were consistently ignored by upper management until it was too late. The corporate team made dire mistakes that they could only seem to blame on the ground team, despite tooting their own horn constantly about how much they cared about their ground team.

But that, and what happened after I got fired, are for a different blog post. The most terrifying thing someone can be in a corporate environment is female. Women in the workplace get paid less, are treated as less-than and incompetent, and are heavily discriminated against during maternity leave, if any is given. What I regret the most about my pregnancy is that I felt safe enough to return to work with enough time to find a new position and leave on my own terms. Now, I’m a stay-at-home mom watching my husband do his best to hold down an entire family at a moment’s notice. The company I worked for didn’t care for one moment what would happen to me or my family. They wanted to cover their own behind.

And I understand that it isn’t like that everywhere. There are places that exist where maternity leave is a year or more with no stress that no one is filling in for you. Places where pay for maternity leave is more than 1/3 of what you normally make. Even places where understanding parental responsibilities is written into policies and procedures. But that’s not the place where I worked.

And that’s not the place where the majority of working mothers and mothers-to-be worked. I’m lucky because I have a pre-established clientele base and can make money writing while my baby sleeps. But that’s not the case for many parents. The NY Times published an incredible expose about workplace pregnancy discrimination in 2018 that is still incredibly relevant and potent in today’s workforce.

There are so many things I want to do. I was humiliated, robbed, and cheated. I wanted to scream, and send angry emails, and publish 1,000 awful reviews about the company, and sue them for everything they’ve got. I’m angry. But I can’t do any of that. I can’t afford legal counsel, and I can’t cut up because my loved one still works there and I can’t afford to jeopardize his job or his position with the company, though he’s equally miserable there.

But what I can do is post a warning. If you’re pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, or on maternity leave, think long and hard about looking for better, more fruitful opportunities. Even if you won’t get insta-terminated upon your return from maternity leave, you may just find an opportunity for growth and success that you didn’t know existed. And most importantly, you’ll be able to enjoy your time with your little one knowing that you won’t have to go back to work and look over your shoulder every day.

Mental Health in Pregnancy: What to Expect when part of the Expectation is Manic Depression (part one)

The more we paint parents as one thing (well-grounded, loving, perfect) and the less room we leave for the mundane and the ugly, the harder we make it for people to reach out and ask for help.

It’s 4:39AM on a Monday, and I haven’t fallen asleep yet. I just spent the last hour angry-cleaning my kitchen, which I hadn’t touched in weeks. I screamed at my dog for moving around in her noisy kennel as if she were a grown human adult banging pots and pans. I snapped at my fiancée for having the audacity to have a cough and back pain at 3:00AM. I’ve been back and forth from our bed to the couch three times through the night, and I have about 65 tabs open on my computer researching my credit score and ways to boost it, how to make my blog successful, how to find satisfaction at a job you hate, and the best ways to purchase a home. I have about 350 tabs open in my brain.

You could say that it was a rough night. And no, not all nights are like this. And yes, there was an identifiable trigger to this particular spiral. I’ve kind of danced around this subject, but I manage an apartment complex, and while that’s challenging to begin with, my property comes with its own set of problems that I get closer to ready to let go of every day. This weekend, a problem tenant had police on property because of gunfire. A vehicle was hit in the parking lot, but there was no bodily harm done to anyone. It’s the second one in both the two years that I’ve worked here, and in the last two months.

I don’t feel scared. I was making moves to get rid of these tenants already for other issues and concerns, but I do feel overwhelmed, like in much of the rest of my life. I feel like I’m not doing enough at work. I feel like I’m not doing enough personally. I feel like I’m not doing enough at home, or in my relationship, or as a future step-mom, and at times even as a daughter.

I feel like I won’t be enough as a mother.

Bean is kicking hard in my tummy because I over-stressed my body trying to clean, and I finally feel numb to the frustration and devastation bubbling over just at the edge of my consciousness. The longest, and most difficult battle that I’ve fought my entire pregnancy is, without a doubt, the one I’ve fought with my inner self.

So, I’d like to take this moment of clarity and lucidity to tell that story. This will be a much darker, more sober tone than the rest of my blog, so please feel free to click away. I sincerely hope that it’s a story you don’t need to hear, and advice that you’ll never need to take. But for those of you who will relate, let’s talk about how scary it can be to be a mom, or a mom-to-be, or an aspiring mother with mental health issues.

This is the real, and the biggest reason why I think it’s important to let people, pregnant women and mothers in particular, be real about the darker side of parenthood. The more we paint parents as one thing (well-grounded, loving, perfect) and the less room we leave for the mundane and the ugly, the harder we make it for people to reach out and ask for help.

In my life, I’ve gone through several extremes on my opinions about parenthood.

That is to say, for many reasons, I’ve flip-flopped on whether or not I wanted children at all. Originally, I was determined to have 5 or even 6 kids, to be a perfect mom and make up for the deficits I felt I’d experienced in my own childhood. Then, closer to graduating high school, I decided I couldn’t have children. I was terrified to become my parents, or worse – to become a villainous perversion of the monster I felt I was during both my highest highs and lowest lows as the demon that is manic depression reared its ugly head in full glory within me. I didn’t know then what she was called, much less how to – or that I could – tame the beast. Most recently, I was told that I would likely never be able to have children, and for a long time that allowed me to work diligently on myself, until about 5 months ago when I found out the hard way that I was absolutely capable of conceiving, and now, carrying to term.

I think that this is something that can be expected with young mothers. Remember, I’m only 24. As we grow, our ideas about parenthood, and what we want that to look like when we begin to make our own families, are bound to shift and change for many reasons like our relationships with our own parents and guardians, our stations in life, significant and/or traumatic events, and even global pandemics. And I don’t think that will stop even when I can hold Bean in my arms and begin to make decisions for her health and her future, not just as the idea of a little human, but as a growing being that I’m responsible for. I think that my ideas on parenthood, from the big things like whether or not I want more kids to the small things like how I deal with homework questions, are going to constantly shift.

But there are some things I can not allow to shift; my strength, my resolve, my love for her, my presence in her life. Bean needs me, and she will hopefully always need me if only in a small way once she’s grown and coming into her own. And I can’t be missing because I failed to manage my mental health. I was always afraid of that; I knew that postpartum depression affected women who had never had mental health problems before pregnancy, and I was terrified of what that would like in an amplified setting. In me.

If that’s the place you’re in now, and you’re scared of getting pregnant or having a baby because you’re not sure if your mind can handle the turmoil, you should know that you’ve already taken the first step to success.

I’ve been in and out of therapy a lot, and one of the most important things I’ve learned in every program and office I’ve ever been in, is that the first step to overcoming any obstacle is awareness of that obstacle. It truly is like they say: step one is admitting you have a problem. If you already know that you need to be prepared, then you will be, if only because you’ll be looking for the signs that you’re in too deep or that trouble is on the horizon.

Before I got pregnant, my mental health was largely self-managed. This does not mean that that is the answer for everyone, but I have a family history of addiction and drug abuse and an addictive personality myself, so I knew early on that I would not be choosing a medication route if at all possible. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t try it during the days when I was young, and management didn’t seem like a possibility. It never worked for me, and I was always too scared to fall down a rabbit hole I wouldn’t be able to pull myself out of.

So, instead, I cut off toxic relationships. My relationship with my family had been toxic, so most relationships that I formed thereafter followed that pattern. I cut them all out. I got rid of my nasty habits (or started to, as you know if you read my post about finding out I was pregnant, the last of them went more recently) one by one and cut that negativity out, too. I found a belief system, and rewarding hobbies that I could throw myself into and surround myself with when my mania hit. I educated myself as much as I could, using as many available resources as possible, about my mental health concerns and what coping strategies I could use. My suggestion here would be to research not just your diagnosis, but the diagnoses that are commonly associated with it. Some of your symptoms may overlap and it’s good to know strategies for each.

At some point, I realized that my diet and exercise habits were also toxic and I worked, and am still working, to correct that. It was a very long, hilly, and difficult terrain to traverse, and it is certainly a road that I will be on for the rest of my life. That was probably the hardest part to come to terms with in the beginning; I’ll be managing my mania and depression and anxiety all of my life. There will never be a day when I get to stop and say, “That’s it. I did it. I’m cured, and I can now go on to live a normal neurotypical life.” At first, it just added to the depression and helplessness, but I’ve learned to feel empowered by that fact.

When I was in college, I was in education courses, and I had a professor explain learning disabilities to me in a way that I’ve carried with me since then. Students who come into your classroom without the same advantages as your other students, whether it’s low SEO status or dyslexia or anything on the spectrum, are not necessarily awarded the same adequacy in tools. As many accommodations as you may make, there’s not a one-size fits all solution and that student will always have to work harder to achieve the same result, especially when they’re working outside of your classroom or for another teacher who’s a less adequate teacher.

I feel the same way about the extra measures I have to take to function as a human and in society. I will always have to work harder at happiness and fulfillment and general sanity than the average bear. Is it exhausting? Absolutely. Alienating? Constantly. But it also makes me that much stronger than the average bear, and it’s been the same experience in pregnancy.

Before I found out, I had actually visited a gastro about concerns for my gut health because my recurring stomach issues were getting really intense. Instead of listening to me or running any tests (much less a pregnancy test???), he prescribed me with anti-anxiety medicine pretty much the moment he saw depression and anxiety checked off on my chart. It was not an unfamiliar routine with new doctors, but it was still frustrating. So I was actually set to start taking another brain drug, and was going to go through with it if for nothing else than to convince the doctor that that was not my problem.

I shortly thereafter got pregnant and immediately stopped taking the medicine. I also had to immediately stop partaking in all of my harmful vices, which meant that I was totally sober and totally terrified going into pregnancy. The drastic changes in combination with flaring hormones just felt like a recipe for disaster, and I had no idea what to expect. Not only that, but my personal and work life were both definitely not in control, either.

Ultimately, I shocked myself. I was way more capable of handling myself than I ever thought, and sometimes I wonder if Bean came around (in part) to show me that I was doing better than I thought I was.

That is not to say that there have not been some rough times. I’ve hit walls where I wanted to give up on life. My fiancée has had to hold me, inconsolable, in his arms while I sobbed uncontrollably for seemingly no reason. Weekly I find myself with the sudden urge to completely change my life and lifestyle and start over. It’s been a bumpy ride.

Most days, though, I sing to Bean and count her soccer ball kicks and daydream about what life will be like when my perfect baby finally arrives. I’ve been at work every day (though that’s definitely another blog for another day), and I’ve learned to be more vocal and honest about what I’m feeling instead of ignoring or placating. I have a much larger arsenal of tools at my disposal now when it comes to manic episodes or depressive episodes and even high anxiety.

Saturday, we’ll talk all about what those are, but today I just want you to know this if you, too, are terrified of what pregnancy and postpartum may do to your brain: you are more capable than you think. Pregnancy has been many things, and has taught me more, but most importantly I’ve realized that I was stronger than I was giving myself credit for all along.

I was in the kitchen last week, slicing an avocado and getting dinner ready for my fiancée, his son, and his brother, and he smiled at me and said, “You’ve been looking a whole lot like a grown woman lately.” He tells me all the time how proud he is of how much I’ve changed (grown, really), and we both have. Life has been hard, and will continue to have difficult moments, but I have no doubt in him or myself that we have the strength it will take to overcome it all.

Pregnancy Pains: Every Little Reason to Keep Taking your Birth Control Every Day

While most of us (or we would like to believe most of us) are thrilled by the idea of the outcome, I’d like to authoritatively declare based on my knowledge limited to my own experience, that pregnancy is actually awful and the only reason women do it more than once is because a.) they forgot what it was like the first time or b.) they deeply enjoy being the center of attention for 9 months.

The single most damning sin that a pregnant woman can commit is admitting that she is not, indeed, enthused about being pregnant.

While most of us (or we would like to believe most of us) are thrilled by the idea of the outcome, I’d like to authoritatively declare based on my knowledge limited to my own experience, that pregnancy is actually awful and the only reason women do it more than once is because a.) they forgot what it was like the first time or b.) they deeply enjoy being the center of attention for 9 months.

And while women on the internet will pretend to be candid about their experience, giving details about all-day heartburn and midnight vomit, I think that women are also afraid to openly bitch about the experience for fear that they will, once again, be labeled a “bad mom”.

Listen, enjoying pregnancy is not what makes you a good mom. Hating and it and doing all the dumb shit you’re supposed to do anyway is what makes you a good mom. For example, prenatal vitamins make me violently itchy. None of the brands I’ve tried within my budget have not caused instant itching upon ingestion. Do I yell my baby every morning how much I’m sacrificing for her to have an adequate amount of folic acid in the womb, and loudly cry about it to anyone who will listen? Absolutely. Does that stop me from doing it? Unfortunately for everyone, no. It does not.

The worst part of the whole experience for me has to actually be the way the symptoms appear. Movies will have you believe that pregnancy develops gracefully over time. Alternatively, they make you feel like you throw up once, take a pregnancy test, and then just hang out for nine months until a watermelon belly suddenly appears and then you just pop the baby out a week later. Neither of those is true.

Every day I wake up with a new grievance. And I mean every day. Pregnancy symptoms arrive suddenly and without warning. Today, I woke up with lower back pain. Yesterday, my bump was suddenly two feet higher and I had to adjust the way I wiggled around. And I mean wiggle, because there is no graceful way for me to do anything anymore. My baby is probably like 2 pounds or something at this point, 25 weeks going on 26 weeks, but it feels like carrying around three bowling balls in a flesh sack. It happens rapidly and randomly. Just when you thought that you had escaped without one of the horrible things pregnant women have been listing off your whole life, BAM, it slaps you in the face like a drunk aunt going through your uncle’s phone for no reason at 10:00 at night during the family Christmas party.

So far, these are the biggest changes I’ve experienced personally:

  • Vomit – For the first three months, no matter what diet I tried, whether I ate or didn’t ate, my stomach would flip at least three times a day. Without warning, I would feel an awful sensation in the pit of my stomach like a black hole was suddenly opening up within me, and I quickly learned that that meant I had about 30 seconds to get to the nearest toilet, regardless of where I was. It made hiding my pregnancy at work harder than it should have been.
  • Teenager Skin – I know that everyone says that pregnant women glow, but I’m pretty sure that that’s just a lie the collective public decided to make up to make all pregnant women feel better about themselves. My skin has never been so tired, sallow, and explosive. I’m someone who’s never needed to do intense skin care, so pregnancy has forced me to deal with the dramatic acne that I always thought was fake in teen sitcoms. I’m, again, allergic to everything, too, so it’s cost me a lot of money to find products I can use that don’t have benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid (yep, allergic to BOTH acne miracle drugs) and which won’t upset or dry out my eczema or my psoriasis. I have yet to make the commitment to buying makeup that won’t upset my skin, because that’s expensive, so I just go to work looking like a bowl of oatmeal in a fun dress with great hair.
  • Heartburn – All I can say, is that if Bean doesn’t come out with a full ass head of style-able jet black hair like all of the old wives tales say, I’m going to be furious after dealing with a constant fire in my chest. I’m actually convinced that my esophagus will no longer exist at the end of this. Even plain oatmeal and ice cold water gives me heartburn at this point.
  • Poop – I will actually spare you all the gory details, but I’ve dealt with everything from 3-day constipation to explosive diarrhea. For one month straight, I would be woken up every morning around 5:00 in the morning sharp with intense gut pains because apparently my body was adjusting to the new shape and space my rectum was being forced to fit into. They didn’t always indicate that I needed to poop, either. Sometimes it was just my body having fun by torturing me.
  • Insomnia – This was one that I struggled with pre-pregnancy that has come and gone in waves. Fatigue is a constant, but two weeks on and two weeks off sleeplessness combined with it has been rough. If I’m not straight up just awake at 2:00 in the morning playing the Sims, I’m tossing and turning with anxiety dreams. My fiancée playfully deals with my morning grumpiness and I’m eternally grateful for him because I scream at him both while awake and in the midst of my nightmares.
  • Sweats and Farts – I’ve never felt grosser. I move, I fart, is basically the rule nowadays. I exist, I sweat, is rule number 2, and I spend all of my time perpetually concerned that I smell like a wad of men’s used underwear. It’s probably not one of those things where I’m just being paranoid, either. Pregnancy is actually disgusting. You know why pregnant women where long flowy dresses and tons of perfume? To hide the odor and air out our parts.
  • Swelling – Not only is my belly gigantic, but so are my milk bags, my face, my fingers, my ankles, my calves, and my feet. I know that this is one that definitely doesn’t affect all pregnant women, but no matter how I diet or how adamant I am about drinking an entire gallon of water every single day, I just seem to get bigger everywhere. It makes me tired and sluggish, and I notice all of the things that no longer fit way more than I probably should. From my office chair to my clothes and shoes, I just feel like a whale. It’s not as much of a deal about body image in the traditional sense as it is about feeling like I just can’t do what I used to do. My settings are on slow-mo.
  • Pregnancy Brain – It’s real, and no one really knows why, but it definitely makes life difficult. It’s like having to adapt as a student with dyslexia in an honors class without built-in accommodations. It affects everything from work to being able to keep my home and personal life organized.
  • Discharge – Yes, boys, it is time to look away if you’re uncomfortable with the by-product of the magical self-cleaning ovens that produce life. My baby maker has been through it in the last five months, and has gone through a ton of changes. My fiancée will absolutely let me know that it “feels” different every time he revisits, but the changes I’ve known are way more often than just daily. The odor, consistency, and frequency of discharge changes with the wind, and it all has me alarmed, Googling pregnancy symptoms and hoping I don’t have to call the doctor. For those of you in the same boat or soon-to-be in the same boat, I’ve essentially learned that if it’s not blood, don’t worry. And if it is blood, call your doctor just to be sure but that’s normal, too. Essentially, homegirl is just partying all day every day and there’s nothing you can do about it.
  • Mood Swings – I saved this one for last mostly because I didn’t even want to talk about it, because it’s so infamous. Sitcoms make it seem like pregnant women are constantly switching between enraged aggression and senseless sobbing while everyone around them tries desperately to calm them down. This is nowhere near reality. My moods jump around rapidly, on a massive scale, and it’s my job to ensure that I’m only ever projecting super positive, benevolent pregnant woman who’s never even heard the word “hormone”. Maybe it’s different for other women, but for me, pregnancy is no excuse to be anything less than utterly feminine, and I can only imagine that at least a few of you have been carrying the same burden not just in pregnancy but as women in daily life. It’s exhausting to smile to everyone’s face when all I want to do is sleep or punch irritating clients in the face.

I am so excited to hold my baby, and feel her wrap her little baby fingers around me, and watch her grow up into a strong and fearless young woman one day. Bean, if nothing else, will be very much loved and cared for, but I can’t wait for July 8th to get here. 15 weeks feels like an eternity away, and three months and two weeks sounds even harder to swallow. It is very much true that the first part of pregnancy flies by, and the third trimester (which, I’ll remind you, I’m not even in yet) drags on and on. I get less patient to meet her every day, because I desperately want to feel like myself again. I’m eager for my life to change, but I’m eternally frustrated by all of the changes my body is experiencing.

It isn’t common for women to get to voice how they feel without being judged or shamed for complaining. All I hear when I complain about the constant use of my uterus as a trampoline is, “Oh, but that’s good though! That means she’s healthy.” I’m aware of what it indicates, and in fact very happy that’s healthy. That doesn’t mean I have to be happy about every ache and pain I’ve been dealing with for now half a year of my life. It’s very important that we let pregnant women bitch all they want. We deserve to blow off some steam without being made to feel super guilty about it.

For those of you looking to get pregnant and wondering what to expect, it’s a wild ride. There are very high highs and very low lows, but you have to remember why you’re doing it at all times. For those of you are here with me, and especially for those like me without a sassy honest mom to keep it real with you as you go through this all, just know that I’m cheering you on. I’m doing it in a cracked voice from my incredibly uncomfortable spot n the pillow fort I’ve built on my sofa, but I’m still doing it. You don’t have to be the picture of positivity to be proud of yourself for building a lil life in your tummy. Every second you wake up and decide to keep going, you’re a superhero.

Judgment Starts at Pregnancy: What’s in my Hospital Bag and Why it Doesn’t Matter

Society wants moms to be prepared. We want moms to be patient, soft, dedicated, loving, and myriad additional qualities in order to be declared a Good Mother.

I’ll be 100% honest right from the start and admit that this is definitely just the excuse I’m using to write a what’s-in-my-hospital-bag blog, but I stand by the fact that this is something important to talk about.

As I write this, I am 24 weeks and 3 days along (though you won’t read it until after that!), meaning Bean, as of 3 days ago, has reached her first viability milestone, which I just had to Google the meaning of when it popped up on my pregnancy app today.

She could technically decide to appear at this point if she wanted to and survive outside of the womb with a lot of assistance and good luck. To be clear, I definitely want her to hang out for the remaining 16 weeks. I originally thought I’d (selfishly) be cool with an early arrival, but since learning about how much of a difference even those last two weeks can make, I’ve changed my mind. Cook, little Bean, cook.

The thing is, as far as materials, I would actually be ready for her (and the hospital). I haven’t checked off every item on my list, but I do have all of the essentials and would be able to accommodate her just fine. We have clothes (so many clothes), bottles, a crib, bibs, towels, blankets, sheets, a breast pump, and quite a bit more stockpiled. I even have 2 types of baby monitors to set up once she arrives. A lot of it I actually got for free, because I don’t mind spending a ton of time on the internet, so I’ll do a post about that later for anyone else looking to be a little bit extra and a lot a bit frugal. No worries; I did no prenatal dumpster diving to achieve my hoard like that one lady that abused that poor paint salesman on TLC.

I know some of you are at home wrinkling your faces and thinking words like “excessive” and “neurotic”, which I don’t mind. This is precisely the point of this post.

Society wants moms to be prepared. We want moms to be patient, soft, dedicated, loving, and myriad additional qualities in order to be declared a Good Mother. And we specifically want them to have and display those attributes in a manner which we deem respectable rather than extreme. We same Judgmental Judies then turn right back around and shamelessly criticize every aspect of individual motherhood, leaving no stone unturned and no parent (mothers in particular) un-attacked.

I, myself, am certainly a perpetrator of this. Though I try not to be judgmental, I still find myself doing it when I see YouTube moms cross certain lines of what I think, personally, is correct. Like having a baby with no medical assistance at home 43 weeks and 2 days along on purpose. Or letting your small children be present for a home water birth and even play around with the water a little (I’m really not about to parent in the middle of birthing; that seems like an extreme sport and I’m not into extreme athletics).

But the thing is that there is nothing wrong with any of those choices. (Please note that I don’t recommend the first lady’s choices and suggest you definitely talk to your doctor about that one.) All pregnancy, birth, and parenthood decisions are totally valid (so long as no one is hurting or harming any children). My problem is literally just that these aren’t my parenting choices, and that’s fine, because I’m not parenting all 7 billion people in the world.

I’ve seen equally scalding comments under videos of the likes of Honey Booboo’s Mama June as under Youtube’s Mama Doctor Jones (who, by the way, rarely even talks about parenting itself) the same way I would get just as much shit for being halfway through my pregnancy not owning a single baby item as I do now for being overprepared. Every decision you make as a parent is a double-edged sword. There are people waiting on both ends to burn you at the stake no matter what you decide.

Here are some of the things I’ve heard (or overheard) despite being incredibly private about my pregnancy:

“Are you sure you’re ready to do this unmarried?”

“It just seems like you only got engaged for the baby and you should know that I come from a divorced family and you’re better off single if that’s the case.”

“I wouldn’t name my kid that – you have to think about her being bullied in school.”

“Yeah I tried that – it’ll never work.”

For a lot of people, these comments, small as may the seem singularly, can feel like drowning under the pressure to succeed as a parent when they’re constantly piled on top of you. Parenting is one of the most high-pressure things you can do in life. And it’s impossible to please the masses. No parent has ever passed the Good Parent test by any of society’s arbitrary and ever-shifting “values”. All we can do is try our best – not to parent because we were already doing that. Try your best not to beat a hoe.

So I will happily continue to live my best life and provide my future child with hers, starting with linking for you all of the items in my hospital bag/that I’m bringing with me to the hospital, which I compiled ultimately after watching hundreds of hours of “What’s in my Hospital Bag” and “Reacting to my What’s in My Hospital Bag” videos on Youtube.

This is not something I did super with a lot of minimalism in mind, because it was an opportunity to treat myself in a time when I’m otherwise preoccupied with everyone but myself, so if you’re looking for a reason to do that, I highly suggest a treat yoself hospital bag. Otherwise, the links are unfortunately not super budget friendly, but all of these items are under $30 (or were, at the time of posting). If you’re looking to be more minimalist about it, pack clothes and toiletries only. The hospital will be able to provide you with everything else you need and there’s not a good reason to spend any money on it if that’s a stressor for you.

Ahem. Without further ado, my kind of extra go-bag:

  1. The Bag – I’ll be bringing all of my own items in this beautiful puma tote and all of Bean’s in this random bag I got on sale (although my mom is planning to gift me this much nicer one so we’ll see what happens). My tote is pretty small so it will be easy to carry while still fitting everything I need inside, but her bag (not the bag, but similar and price conscious) will be primarily empty except for a couple of items so I have extra space to bring home as much of the hospital “freebies” as possible. They’re not freebies. They’re on the hospital bill, so I plan to take advantage.
  2. A robe – I’ve pretty much gathered that I will almost always just be wearing this while at the hospital, so I got one that I felt like I could just live in for anywhere from 48 hours to a week. I will essentially be naked for my entire hospital stay and I’m super cool with that. I bought this early, so I’ve actually since learned that something thinner is probably preferable, but I get cold easily and I already have it, so in she goes.
  3. Coming Home Outfit – I will arrive to the hospital in whatever I’m wearing when Bean alerts me to her delivery time, deliver in a hospital gown, and live in my robe after that, before I finally take Bean home in a 5x Knee-Length t-shirt and maternity shorts. She can look good on our departure, but I just plan to be not-nude and comfortable. We did look at matchy matchy outfits for the whole family, but I ultimately reasoned that I’m not going to really want to take pictures (with her, I will take billions of her) until I’m home and feeling better.
  4. Rubber Slides – These are intended to be worn as shower shoes and in case I need to rinse accidental piss from me OR baby off of them at any given point. Also, I’ve always wanted some Adidas slides and the color is super cute.
  5. Toiletries – I just bought a travel pack so I wouldn’t have to pack my own, then added lip balm I already owned, face wash and cream, and hand sanitizer to it to ensure I can stay clean and comfy should I have the time or energy to shower. The pack includes deodorant, shampoo and conditioner, and a toothbrush and toothpaste among other things. Yes, the face cream is for babies. Yes, my skin is delicate like a baby’s. Let’s move on.
  6. A scrunchie – I refuse to have to live with my hair down and loose during labor and delivery. The one I’m bringing was also a gift from a friend (though I definitely considered buying some) so I can feel the extra support or some shit while I wear it. I also feel less bad about getting labor sweat all over a hand-me-down.
  7. A Big Ass Water Bottle – This is one of the two things that I will actually be grabbing on my way out of the door instead of keeping in my bag. I got a big gallon-sized water bottle complete with motivational milestones so I can practice being hydrated now, bring it with me to the hospital, and have to keep hydrated while breastfeeding. I actually love it; it’s great practice for carrying around a small semi-heavy object, as well.
  8. Sunglasses – I’m giving birth in July. I also enjoy the idea of me in a wheelchair holding my baby, wearing nothing but a t-shirt and sunglasses looking fly as hell. These are a pair I found that I didn’t even know I had, but this pair on Amazon is similar and also super cute.
  9. Hair Brush – I considered buying a pack of travel Wet Brushes, but I packed my old faithful instead. This brush is like 6 years old and got chewed up by the dogs and has since been replaced, but it still works and I’m not sure I’ll even feel like brushing my hair at the hospital, so I threw her in there. You can still find them for purchase online, though.
  10. Socks – I hate being cold, so thick fuzzy socks was a must. I’m bringing three pairs, again, in case of accidental piss. I’ve actually worn these since getting them (there were like 6 pairs in the pack) and I really adore them. They’re not too warm, for those of us living in subtropical climates, but they’re nice and toasty. And soft.
  11. Belly Band – This is the other thing I’ll be grabbing on my way out the door if it’s not already strapped to me. I’ve been wearing it daily to help with regular aches and pains, and so far it’s a life-saver, but I’ve also heard that these are a must to have post-birth to keep from feeling like your guts are actually just spilling out of you.
  12. XL Chargers – I have two 10-foot charging cables for me and T at the hospital for obvious reasons. Neither one of us is going to want to deal with a dead phone or having to run back and forth to get chargers. And then we will have ten foot chargers when we get back home for multitasking while holding Bean.
  13. 2 Nursing Bras – I bought a 5-pack of the kind that Nurse Zabe recommended on Youtube. They were affordable and checked off everything on my list for nursing bras so I grabbed them, and I’ve got 2 in my bag and have been wearing the others. At first, I just wanted to try them out, but I’ve since learned that they are the only bra worth wearing currently. They’re super comfortable, and I hardly feel like I have anything on.
  14. Pillows – This is something else that I treated myself with. I got two new pillows and identifiable cases so they don’t get lost at the hospital, so we’ll have nice new pillows to bring home with us to replace the two flat ones we have now. Yes, redditors, I have read that one thread about how you can wash your pillows and they’ll be fine, but I live in an apartment complex with communal washers and dryers that rarely work so until I have my own, this is how I’m living. I’m also probably going to bring my pregnancy pillow. I wasn’t going to at first, but the more videos I see about women saying they absolutely needed it during birth and to sleep in the hospital, the more I’m worried that I have to. This one was gifted to me, so I’m actually sleeping with a different one now and this one can kind of hang out by the bag until it’s time.
  15. For Baby – We’ll be bringing two swaddles (which I don’t have yet because I’m being gifted these), a newborn onesie, a 0-3 month onesie (same onesie just in different colors), and a plain white preemie onesie as well as the most adorable Minnie Mouse sweatsuit that T picked out to bring her home in with a hood with ears from Target. This seems a little excessive to me, honestly, but that’s all we’re bringing for her since I plan to breast feed and have been assured that the hospital will provide us with all of the rest.
  16. Snacks – These are for both T and I, though I’ve been assured that the hospital will definitely have some on hand. I wanted some healthier options because I’ve got a bunch of allergies like the freak that I am and I want to make sure I’ll have food I like on hand.

And that’s everything that’s in my bag, and everything I could possibly need at the hospital. In case you’re wondering, T actually refuses to bring his own bag because he insists he won’t need anything, so I’ll most likely pack a secret one for him at a later date with clothes and toiletries in addition to the pillows. Other than that, I ultimately chose to leave most baby supplies and postpartum supplies at home to take advantage of what the hospital will provide and to ensure I can pack light. The last thing I want is to be in a mad scramble to grab everything or to have to lug a ton of bags upstairs or send T back and forth to grab everything after we’re in the room.

Overall, I think I spent around $200 for everything. I bought or already had duplicates of almost everything besides the water bottle and belly band so I can be ready to go. And it makes me feel very safe and comforted to see my puma bag packed in the corner of the living room at all times, knowing I just need to grab my wallet, water bottle, belly band, and phone and leave when I’m ready. There are so many things about pregnancy that are unpredictable, like when she’ll show up, whether or not I’ll even make it to the hospital, if I’ll be able to have a vaginal birth, etc. So at the very least, I know that my bag is around. Call it my security blanket if you like, but preparation is how I’ve been coping.

Going to the Mama Doctor: Level Pandemic

There are several reasons why pregnancy is particularly lonely for me, but there is one factor that is affecting all expectant moms worldwide at the moment; a fucking pandemic. I could write a novel on how much more infuriating pregnancy has made the experience of COVID-19, but that’s for another day. Human behavior in general is much less tolerable since getting pregnant, so this is actually my apology to mamas of all types who I potentially inconvenienced, enraged, or otherwise scandalized at any point in my life prior. I was a little shit for personal reasons, not good ones. But my overly emotional pregnancy hormones digress.

Have I mentioned yet that pregnancy is lonely?

There are several reasons why pregnancy is particularly lonely for me, but there is one factor that is affecting all expectant moms worldwide at the moment; a fucking pandemic. I could write a novel on how much more infuriating pregnancy has made the experience of COVID-19, but that’s for another day. Human behavior in general is much less tolerable since getting pregnant, so this is actually my apology to mamas of all types who I potentially inconvenienced, enraged, or otherwise scandalized at any point in my life prior. I was a little shit for personal reasons, not good ones. But my overly emotional pregnancy hormones digress.

Allow me to preface the following stories with this; don’t let it scare you out of trying right now (unless, upon deep reflection, you just really feel the anxiety won’t ne worth it and you can wait because that’s totally valid, too) because 1. we could be here for a while and 2. you’re actually a very bad bitch and, like the many many strong mommy-to-be ladies I’ve seen, you can absolutely handle this. That, and every doctor experience will be different.

I fucking hate it, though.

First of all, there are no guests allowed. I’ve gone to every appointment alone, tired and stressed and confused. I just feel lost. It’s less the big, exciting but nerve-wracking event that I was promised and more like a traipse through dark and stormy woods that should have been familiar. I even did my anatomy scan without T.

I, so far, have taken the full day off for all of my appointments just because I found out very quickly that the mama doctor is an exhausting ordeal no matter what happens. This is coming from someone who works between 60-80 hours weekly at a highly demanding job; my doctor appointments are much more draining. They’ve all been between 9AM and 11AM, so I wake up with just enough time to brush my teeth and my hair (though I only actually got to my hair once), get dressed, maybe eat, and get out the door in a slight panic. Lately, I’ve been a lot better about getting a decent breakfast and some water in me before I leave. And listen – I just figured that out at five months pregnant, okay.

Once I get inside, wanting to spit on the “No Guests No Children” sign on the door, I’m forced to awkwardly navigate the crowded space at the check0in area. Crowded not with patients but with social distancing signs and barriers and dirty lime green “directional” tape on the ground. I can just imagine the terrified, confused nurse who had to clumsily lay it all down one day out of nowhere about a year ago when the CDC first decided that 6 feet was the distance of choice. The loud, sweet-but-apathetic woman at the desk checks me in. I’ve tried to make small talk before, but it just feels like delaying her process so I just answer her questions and quietly make my way to my doctor’s waiting room. My practice houses several providers, so up until my last visit I always needed help finding the correct spot.

I’m actually meant to go directly to her office restroom to piss in a cup and then back to the waiting room, but I never do. I would never be able to find it, so I just sit and wait. It’s usually very awkward for me. Everyone else just scrolls on their phones but mine is usually dead or dying because I never remember to charge it amidst my deep anxiety the night before.

Inevitably, I sit there and allow myself to be overwhelmed by how inferior I feel to all of the other pregnant ladies there and my perception that they are each perfect – the confidence, the stylish outfit/hair/makeup/shoes, the charged phone, and ease with which they navigate the office.

I compare them all to me; unbrushed hair thrown up in a bun, a t-shirt and sweatpants sometimes unwashed, exhausted eyes and dry and sallow skin. It feels like being a normal human stuck in YouTube land, though I know that I’m seeing all of them in varying degrees of put-together, depending on what’s going on in their lives. Not everyone wears their fear and isolation on their sleeve like myself.

And none of these women could give a shit about me and what I look like. They also infrequently outnumber the women who are there for things totally unrelated to pregnancy, but we all share one thing – whatever the fight, however small or large, we are there fighting it alone.

In case you’ve not figured this part out by now; I am just a little bit dramatic, before anyone comes to the conclusion that I have zero support, because that’s not at all reality. It’s just that the pandemic makes it feel that way for a few hours at the doctor. It’s the illusion of total isolation created by the coldness of the pandemic. While we as a society try so hard to forget what’s going on around us by taking measures to allow life to go on as normally as possible, there are some moments that highlight how disconnected life really can be. I have an immense amount of respect for the women before me (and the pandemic) and after who will be going it alone, COVID or not. I’d happily take off of work to accompany you and make sure you have someone next to you cheering you on the whole time, because I’m struggling to handle it.

At some point – the time always varies – I get called by a nurse (by my government name, which I struggle to remember to respond to because I’m one of those assholes who exclusively goes by a nickname) and she takes me back to collect my weight, blood pressure, and urine. I always get reminded to go straight to the potty and I always giggle and apologize for “forgetting” again. It is the charade of a lifetime and I’ll be happy to put it behind me.

The nurse then leads me to my doctor’s actual exam room. The first visit, I had to disrobe for a whole ass pap smear and breast exam, but since then I just take a seat and listen to generic office music until the busiest human in existence flits into the room, all calm and strong and ready to get on with the day.

At my first visit, I complimented her eerily photogenic children, pictured in two giant portraits on her wall and she kind of just blinked, provided me the requisite “they don’t act that sweet at home,” quip, and moved on with life so I’ve never attempted small talk again. I love her – am in awe of her, really. But that’s it.

She goes over my chart and I nod. She asks if I have questions and I shake my head no. We exchange very quick pleasantries and then I’m off to my house. I have this tradition of getting chic-fil-a on the way back and then taking a three hour nap. No cooing or excessive fretting. No celebratory family lunches or cuddle sessions with my fiancée while we dream about our future as the parents of young Bean. Just me, a pissed off fetus, and too much chicken.

Here are a few highlights across my last five months of appointments:

  1. I nearly passed out once because I forgot to eat (running late as usual) that morning, and unexpectedly had to redo all of my prenatal blood screens because the lab had lost it or something. It was taking a while to get my information in at the little lab room, so the tech just pulled as much blood as she could just in case so she could get me out of there, and I immediately started feeling woozy. I thought I was fine until I got to the checkout counter and had to sit down, but the lady working that day was very sweet and got me some water and got my card so she could check me out while I recovered on the bench.
  2. The ultrasound technician, whom I’ve encountered twice now, is the sweetest person I’ve ever met. She’s the one person who has a grasp on how to make the loneliness just feel like an everyday addition to the excitement, and made it that much more bearable to meet Bean for the first time and find out her sex without my fiancée there to celebrate.
  3. Last visit, I had to wait 30 minutes (extra) for my doctor once I was in the exam room because she had to leave suddenly to deliver a baby, and she just rolled back in with a flippant, “Sorry for the wait,” and went about her business like nothing had ever happened. I get that that’s just her daily life, but I really wanted her to come in and tell me the whole birth story vlog-style. Obviously, she’s not a gossip.
  4. I’ve not gained any weight between appointments besides the second to last time, when suddenly had gained 15 pounds in one month, to which my doctor just asked, “What are you doing?” I gave the truthful answer that we’d been eating out daily and the shame has reminded me that I need to change for mine and Bean’s future, so I’m trying. I bought fruit and oatmeal out the ass and it seems to be working, but to be totally fair I was so sick in the first trimester that standing up to cook or even microwave a bowl of oatmeal was absolutely not an option.
  5. I once forgot my own card and had to call and have my mom pay over the phone as my fiancée was at work and couldn’t answer the phone, and then found out at the following appointment that I had actually met my deductible already and now have a $113 credit on my account.

All in all, it’s been a surreal and scary experience. I’m always reminded while at appointments how easy it is to feel inadequate as a mom. It’s something society has programmed us to feel. But the thing about it is that all parents face harsh and unwarranted criticism all the time. So I’m taking these last 3.5 months to learn to be unbothered. You really only need three things to be a good parent, in my humble, step-mommyish/mom-to-be opinion:

  1. Love for your child.
  2. Willingness to admit when you’re wrong and learn to be better.
  3. A human to parent.

COVID will continue to be a challenge, as will my self-loathing and depression, but Bean is counting on me to be stronger than that, so I will be. when I can. And on the occasions that I fail, I’ll forgive myself and try again. And I suppose that that’s truly where the loneliness of parenthood stems from; at any given point, I am my baby’s final safety net if she needs anything. The days of relying on others are over for me, because someone now relies on me. And though it feels like I’m alone, in actuality it is just a remarkable measure of strength.

The unexpected discovery of a small bean inside

I was not at all expecting to get pregnant. Not just 5 months ago when I found out, but ever. I should also preface this with a light trigger warning; I will discuss (not in detail) sexual assault, abortion, and fertility issues. Not all of my posts will be this heavy, but if you don’t want to read about any of that, go ahead and just skip this one. Alternatively, I will be posting again on Thursday, so I won’t be hurt to see you then.

I was not at all expecting to get pregnant. Not just 5 months ago when I found out, but ever. I should also preface this with a light trigger warning; I will discuss (not in detail) sexual assault, abortion, and fertility issues. Not all of my posts will be this heavy, but if you don’t want to read about any of that, go ahead and just skip this one. Alternatively, I will be posting again on Thursday, so I won’t be hurt to see you then.

When I was 19, I was deeply struggling with my health. I worked full time and went to school full time, and was often on my feet for 10-18 hour shifts at the 24/7 diner I worked at and then headed to school right when I got off for 8:00AM classes, napping, and repeat. A combination of that and some long-term health issues I didn’t know that I had yet were causing me to randomly pass out. It was during one such occurrence, at home after a long day and a longer work shift, that I unknowingly conceived my first baby. I had never before, and never did again, consent to unprotected sex, but it was too late for both me and baby. A couple of weeks after, I found out I was pregnant, schedule an appointment, and found out that the pregnancy was not viable and would not make it to term, so I scheduled an appointment, had an abortion, and immediately broke up with my boyfriend of two years once he’d confessed to how I’d gotten pregnant in the first place. After a year of menstrual complications, I was told I would likely never conceive again and was even less likely to be able to carry a baby to term. This is a story I’ve actually told and retold throughout my college career over several pieces of writing, so if any of you are young and going through anything similar and would like to hear more about that, I’m happy to dig it up and do a longer post, but this is not the story I’m telling today. Just the background.

Somewhere along the line, my period slowly returned to normal. Instead of level 10 pain cramping, thick black blood that lasted for weeks, and a Hellish two weeks of existence every month, both my lifestyle and my periods started to even out and become more manageable. I was growing, and slowly starting to figure out how to balance everything. And it does happen like that – slowly. Even for me, as someone who experienced way too much as a child and was forced to grow up way too fast. Adulthood is not an easy adjustment, no matter how prepared you go into it. It’s okay if that’s the case for you, too. Especially as a young mom. It’s one of my biggest struggles now. But again, another story for another time.

I never really thought that the return of normal periods meant the return of my ability to conceive and carry a baby. I’d already spent 5 years coming to terms with the fact that I would never be able to have kids, and aggressively reminding everyone who kept telling me, “You never know! My mom/aunt/grandma was told the same thing and then…” that I couldn’t afford to think like that. Which I still stand by, by the way. Don’t tell your infertile friends about other peoples’ miracles. It doesn’t happen like that for everyone, and sometimes hope can be a more damaging emotion than acceptance. It was for me, and so I’d pushed it away violently. And then I met my now fiancée, who apparently has super sperm. He already has two children, and is seven years older than me, so he handled the infertility problem with a lot more grace and maturity than even I had in the past.

And then the quarantine hit. We were quarantined together with my two dogs (he loves them, but I want to be clear that they are mine and he is just their step-dad because they already love him more than me), but the quarantine brought a lot of unexpected changes. T lost both of his jobs, and I was forced to take over the management of mine because of a suddenly MIA boss. At one point I got terrible poison ivy on my legs and could barely move around. I still have horrific scars, but T took care of me through it all. We both spiraled out, and we actually ended up breaking up when the stay-at-home order lifted. We never stopped being friends, and as friends (though not with a lot of drama and heartache, I have to admit), we brought each other out of our mutual depression and are both doing much better than ever.

It was right when we got back together that it happened. T had moved back in and had been back for about two months. He actually knew before I did.

We were watching TV and having dinner together; we had ordered out some Vietnamese food, because, like most people, quarantine made us huge food delivery connoisseurs. For a second, I disappeared into the kitchen and came back with my dessert; the mochi I had ordered with Nutella on top. You should know that I’m not one of those people who eats Nutella with everything.

He looked at me, squinted his eyes suspiciously, and immediately asked, “Are you pregnant?” I laughed him off, but he actually talked about it for days. Finally, I started to realize that my period was late, so we went to CVS and bought a box of tests. I actually did the big girl thing and waited to take them until the next morning, convinced that I was just being paranoid because I was hardly a week late yet.

So I peed on the stick, we both nervous-danced around the living room for two minutes, and then I went to the back (that’s where my bathroom is) and checked on the stick.

“Holy shit,” was all I could say.

“What? What? Are you pregnant? What is it?”

I walked out slowly, a very awkward and stunned smile on my face – the kind kids give you when they think you’re being silly but can kind of tell that you’re telling a joke – and he repeated his question.

“I need to make a doctor’s appointment.” It was so out of the blue for both of us, that we were both in shock for the two weeks before I got an appointment with the doctor. There were so many mixed feelings and concerns.

On my end, would this ultimately end in a loss? Was I going to be okay? Would the baby be okay? Was it just a false positive? How was my life going to change? How would I tell my parents? Were we ready for this after having gotten back together so soon? Would he even want to be around or involved? This change everything.

And on his end, unfortunately, primarily, is Be okay? But secondly, is that my child?

Naturally, having gotten back together so recently, the timing was in question. I never doubted for a second that it was his baby – we’d actually been intimate the whole time, and I’d had two periods since last being intimate with anyone else. But at the end of the day, he had a past that gave him reason to be insecure and that included some dishonesty on my part. Like I said, growing up is a process, and we both did a lot of that while together.

I distinctly remember that we were at work one day, outside around the back together while I called the doctor and tried to set up an appointment. I was so unprepared: I had no ob/gyn, I was a chain smoker who rushed outside to the back for a joe every time my high-stress job pissed me off or stressed me out, we both drank and smoked ganja, and while we wanted to try to for kids one day, now was not exactly the time. We live in a one-bedroom apartment! We work together (same place, different departments) and aren’t exactly public about our relationship. We both just got promotions. We both just got our shit together, and as a couple just got our shit together. Essentially, we had to build Rome in a day to make this work.

I was terrified, and completely convinced that it was a false positive. As much stress as I was under all of a sudden, a part of me really hoped it was a false positive. The lady on the phone very nicely explained that I could go in to take a test at any point, and once I did that they would call me back about my blood work and if I was, in fact, pregnant, then they would schedule my first OB appointment.

I dragged it out for nearly three weeks before I actually went, so I was already two months in when I finally went to the doctor and got my blood drawn for my appointment. We told no one. We fought often. We were both incredibly stressed out, confused, and scared. Three days later, the doctor called back and assured me that I was definitely pregnant and my readings were consistent with the date I gave for my menstrual cycle. It took me another week to explain this to my fiancée in a way that made sense to him so that he knew for sure that this is his baby. And from there, everything slowly started to sink in. That, and I threw up pretty much everything all the time for those first few months so it wasn’t like we could deny it anyway.

We counted milestones, slowly, and with each week we relaxed a little bit more. We allowed ourselves to get a little bit more excited, but it wasn’t until about a month ago that I really started to feel like this is it; I’m really having a baby.

I announced it at 20 weeks, after my anatomy scan once I knew the sex. I started to buy things for her at around 16 weeks, when I was sure it was safe. And I still, and I’m sure always will, have a little nagging thought in the back of my head that I shouldn’t get too excited yet. That you never know what might happen. And Youtube is full of stories like that just as much as it’s full of “24 Hours with a Newborn Baby” and “What Baby and I Eat in a Day”. We waited a long time to pick names for her, but we finally decided at 24 weeks (the week I’m in while writing this) on what name we were going with. And I’m crying right now, thinking about it all, because it’s been an exhausting and humbling five months. We’ve both grown up so much. Despite the pitfalls of the early days, we’ve both made immense sacrifices to prepare to welcome this little girl into the world. And no matter what happens, I want to hold onto us in this space. Us, prepared and optimistic and happy. Us working through our issues together with calm rationale and love and support.

So in short, it’s kind of like I’m still finding out about the pregnancy. It gets a little bit more real every day, though I don’t think I’ll totally believe it until I’m holding her in my hands. And it truly is like they say; the closer you get, the less patient you get. I can’t want to meet Bean. I can’t wait to become a beautiful family together. That pregnancy test feels a world away, and that’s why I want to write and talk and maybe eventually vlog about everything we’ve learned together. I’m not the same person I was before I found out I was pregnant, and I won’t be the same person in a few short months when I’ve met my baby. I want to be able to look back to where I came from, and, to one day (when she’s older because this is not exactly kid-friendly content) show Bean where she came from.

Thank you for reading.

Welcome to Hell: What I’m Doing Here

Like many many many moms-to-be (at least I’m guessing, I don’t have a lot of irl mom friends), a big part of my nesting craziness is a brand new obsession with Baby Vloggers. I’ve consumed an unhealthy amount of content on birth, newborn prep, hospital bags, baby-led weaning, and so many more embarrassingly rabbit-hole topics since I first discovered how saturated the internet is with Mommy Content.

Like many many many moms-to-be (at least I’m guessing, I don’t have a lot of irl mom friends), a big part of my nesting craziness is a brand new obsession with Baby Vloggers. I’ve consumed an unhealthy amount of content on birth, newborn prep, hospital bags, baby-led weaning, and so many more embarrassingly rabbit-hole topics since I first discovered how saturated the internet is with Mommy Content.

While this was intensely entertaining at first, and while I definitely immersed myself in it to a degree that is probably unhealthy, I found something missing in all of it. While I loved seeing the super cute, flowery, positive-vibes-only baby hauls and day in the life videos, what I was really looking for was honesty: what will it actually look like when I pop out a screaming, pooping, needy little human and take her home with me? What is motherhood, really, outside of spending money on cute accessories and nursery tours? What does motherhood look like when you’re merging a mixed family, or turning a one-bedroom apartment into a comfortable space for a newborn and a five-year-old? How do I navigate the nasty, hurtful, and scary parts of life and still feel like a good mom?

The vacuum that this kind of good-stuff-only content creates leaves more than just an emptiness; it begs the question, “What makes me a good mom?” even with creators who claim to portray the opposite. When you strip motherhood of the difficult parts, of the embarrassing parts, you paint a half-picture that leaves room for doubt. And, don’t get me totally f*cked up here; not all YouTubers or bloggers do this, and many of them don’t do it intentionally. It’s certainly a byproduct of our society that we all feel that putting up such an impenetrable wall of positivity is part of being a good mom. That parents have to lose themselves in the façade of having all of their shit together. While entertaining and fun, it feels a little bit dangerous. Most importantly, it feels incredibly lonely, and if you’re reading this as a childless human, whether by choice or just because it’s not your time yet, you have no idea how lonely pregnancy and parenthood can be.

That seems counterintuitive. I know. But imagine you spent all of your life in one small town, and then you peed on a stick and suddenly you’re transported to a different town, with different rules, and different people and life is only vaguely familiar. An untouchable familiar. That’s how I’ve felt since I first peed on a stick, and as much as I’ve looked all over the internet in the five months I’ve been building a life inside of me, I’ve yet to find anyone I can really relate to. There isn’t much to account for unconventional families, or the acknowledgement of the challenges of having interracial babies, or people who don’t have super supportive families, or women who can’t afford all of the newest gadgets, or who don’t have a nursery to decorate.

But you get the picture. There’s a lack of realism, so to speak, to this new fold of the internet that I’ve discovered, and I’d just like to kind of put my big fat ass out there for the world–not to be judged, but to encourage other mamas and soon-to-be mamas to love themselves more. To find the normalcy in the mess and the chaos of motherhood.

That being said, if you are looking for some Youtubers who have some degree of real as opposed to the cookie cutter Millennial Martha Stewart impersonators that currently saturate the genre, this list is definitely worth checking out:

RawBeautyKristi – she gives a very honest and real depiction of what pregnancy, birth, and post-partum look like in a highly consumable beauty guru format that’s just really easy to hang out with. Kristi does not fit the mold, and you will love her all the more for it. Her story is dynamic and multi-fold and she tells it with clarity and love.

rnbfam – Bianca and her husband are equally fun and entertaining, and she does shed a lot of light on the grosser and more realistic side of life with a newborn (before, during, AND after), they do also portray an always-positive vibe if you need something that feels tangible but won’t get too heavy.

Laura Lee – I know that she is actually infamous, but she adopted her niece (maybe not legally? fact check me idk) and their parent-child relationship is a beautiful one to watch. She does also get into some of the more difficult parts of the conversation, so if you’re looking to adopt and thinking about a.) a family member or b.) an older child, she’s a good starter stop. There won’t be a lot of mal-adjustment discussed or behavioral issues, so it’s still pretty light.

Brittany Balyn – she’s a (very newly) single mom, and documents what it’s like to try to stay positive about your self and motherhood as a mother on her own. She is one that keeps things pretty sweet and sugary, so it’ll uplift your mood, but she’s goofy enough in a very endearing way that you don’t feel like she’s too unattainable. She could definitely fit into some of the categories I made fun of, but I have a sweet spot for her and her personality so check her out if you’re looking for something just a little bit “perfect”.

Marriage & Motherhood – okay, by now you’ve gotten the picture that a lot of these aren’t perfect in that they’re a little too perfect, but she’s just so charming and has the whole motherhood thing in the bag by now with all of her experience. She makes more practical videos and less showy ones, though you’ll never be lacking for aesthetics.

Sierra Schultzzie – Sierra has had a difficult road to pregnancy, and has been pretty candid about it, to the degree that she was able. She is also a very positive person, so don’t expect too much heartbreak or tears, but if you’re also looking to have a rainbow baby (or have had one), her channel is a great place to go for some mild honesty and instant comfort.

There are many many many other Youtubers to check out depending on your situation, but the main thing to remember is not to compare yourself to what you see on the screen. The one thing that all of these channels have in common is that they aren’t giving you everything. They reserve something for themselves so the content they put out on the internet seems at least a little bit picture perfect. That’s not what this blog will be, so go hang out with them for a little bit, and then come back so we can chat openly and honestly about your real feelings, real issues, and real life. Basically, if you’re like me and don’t have any mommy friends, I’m here for you, dude. Let’s be friends, and talk about real shit.

The blog will officially be live tomorrow and I’ll be posting every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday. You can also follow me on Twitter for live updates on how much I bitch about pregnancy as well as shitty comments about shittier reality TV. I’m hoping to eventually rope my fiancee into doing a weekly podcast to accompany the blog as well, and, if all goes well, potentially start a Youtube channel, too. I think everyone deserves a Shitty Friend and I’m happy to fill that gap for you all.

%d bloggers like this: