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As I sit here writing at 34 weeks pregnant with my second baby, and indulging on some Nutella and pretzels, something I never actually ate until I got pregnant, I can’t help but think about the wonderful world of being pregnant.  I am sooo incredibly overjoyed and grateful to be pregnant, but there are so many crazy things that happen to us while we are expecting, it’s almost hard to narrow it down.  However, I think I’ve managed to put together a quite realistic list of more than what to “expect when you’re expecting…” Warning: this is not a composed list of how amazing you feel, because while you feel mentally wonderful, our bodies sure go through the ringer while growing these miracles inside us!  So, this is more of a list about the common discomforts women experience while pregnant.

The Top Ten Most Challenging Aspects of being Pregnant:

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1) Exhaustion: It’s a different kind of exhaustion that I can’t quite put my finger on, it’s not the staying out all night exhaustion or working a 12 hour shift exhaustion, it’s the exhaustion that comes from your body suddenly supporting not just one, but two living beings now. For no reason at all you will just want to camp out on the couch, bed, chair, nearest willing shoulder to rest your head on and just doze off into oblivion.  It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, if you had a full 8 hours of sleep the night before or if you just came out of hibernation, it will hit you, I promise!

2) Forgetfulness: Vitamin B12 anyone? Not only does your body suffer from sheer exhaustion, but you will start forgetting the most random of things while you are pregnant. Pregnant brain, mommy brain, becoming a total airhead, whatever you want to call it can be difficult to deal with.  This is coming from a woman who lives off her to-do lists and she suddenly finds herself wondering where it that she put that to-do list is or why she even made it at all?  The woman who thinks she has everything all set in the car before she heads out for the day and realizes she forgot her keys, only to find them later in the bathroom closet.

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3) Mood Swings/Extra Emotional: Yes, I understand that as women we are already pretty emotional, but something happens to your feelings when you find out you are expecting. The extra tears, fears, joy, pain, sappy love song or commercial, snappiness, wanting to punch random people in the face or even just give them a hug all has to do with one thing- HORMONES!  Please pass the tissues…

4) The Pains: Between back pain, breast tenderness and growth, acid reflux, gas, heartburn, carpal tunnel, TMJ, constipation, stretch marks, sinus pressure, chasing around your first child (if you have one), stretch marks, worsening allergies, cracking pelvis, swelling, or in my worst case scenario gross and terribly bulging varicose veins that require wearing compression stocking daily. Pregnancy changes your body in so many ways, so be sure to take extra good care of yourself as your baby growing inside you is quite literally sucking the life out of you, but trust me is adding a whole lot of love to make up for it!

5) Morning sickness: Not every woman gets this one, and if you aren’t I envy you! With my first pregnancy with my daughter’s it wasn’t so bad, I had it mostly in the morning and I am not one who vomits, but I had the feeling like I wanted to all through those AM hours.  During my current pregnancy with my second child I felt sick, morning, noon and worst of all at night during my first trimester.  I had to force myself to eat because while I was hungry, literally everything grossed me out.  For most women this nauseous feeling subsides or at least gets better by the second trimester, but for some never fully goes away.  I still get it some mornings and after certain things I eat…carbs and ginger ale help.

6) Frequent Urination: Before I ever got pregnant I didn’t think this started until the end of pregnancy, boy was a wrong. Not only do you make many more trips to the bathroom than you ever thought possible, but it’s also much harder to hold your pee.  When you do get to relieve yourself you expect it to be this huge amount (the kind my husband and like to call ‘A League of Their Own’ pee, you know you remember that scene when hungover Tom Hanks pees for about 6 minutes straight), but it’s not it’s usually quite as huge as you thought.  You leave the powder room scratching your head wondering how such a small amount feels so urgent, but not to worry you will be back there soon enough to forget.

7) Temperature Control Issues: Hot, cold, warm? All of the above?  Mostly hot for me, which left me apologizing to anyone I used to make fun of before who seemed much more on the warmer side, and I was usually the cold one.  Not anymore, though…you won’t always be hot, but for some reason it will be hard to regulate your temperature, especially when you sleep.

8) Shortness of Breath: It’s getting extremely hard to breathe now as I enter into the last six weeks of my pregnancy. Baby starts taking up too much room and sits on your lungs, ribs or whatever else they can find.  Sometimes I will find myself doing breathing exercises as if I just came off the treadmill for an hour, if only that were true.  Sitting upright helps, slowing down, putting your hands behind your head, taking deep breaths and drinking water helps.

9) Pressure: There’s a pregnancy waddle I’ve been sporting since somewhere after the 20 week mark. It’s kind of like a duck walk, except ducks have much leaner legs.  It’s not just because of the weight or because of back, hip or leg pain, it’s from the pressure you feel on the lower portion of your body and shifting your weight helps.  So you ultimately start to tilt and sometimes even lose balance because of it.  I actually twisted my ankle on my due date with my daughter due to losing my balance and mistepping, and then really had to stay off my feet until she decided to make her appearance four days late.

10) Getting ready for baby/life with baby: You’ve got the room set up, you’ve got your bag packed, you’ve got your birth plan all lined up, and have an awesome amount of diapers ready. Think you’re prepared for when that little bundle starts to contract?  Or that you are ready when your water breaks?  Or you’ll be able to handle this tiny little person when you’re blissfully on your way home with that little one from the hospital?  Think again, you will never be completely ready!  But the good news?  You will learn, there will be ups, downs, highs, lows, moments when you don’t think you can handle it, moments when you wonder what the heck you’ve gotten yourself into…but it will all truly be worth it!  Because with all the stress also comes a brand new outpouring of love that you’ve never experienced.  This love will fill you up and help you pull through and soon feel gleeful again when you hear that first little coo, or see that first little smile, successfully breastfeed, successfully burp, bathe or handle your baby all by yourself alone, or get more than four hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Having a child is a complete whirlwind and I am still learning, my daughter and 3 ½ and my son is due in a little over a month and I still get scared.  I still have days where I feel totally awesome and then days when I feel like a total failure.  I can tell you this though; IT’S ALL TRULY A LABOR OF LOVE AND A DREAM COME TRUE!  So to all my fellow preggers out there past and present, whenever you get a chance to, which can be very difficult, pat yourself on the back, sit back, put your feet up, smile and tell yourself you’re doing a good job.  😉  ~J

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Got milk???

Ahhh the joy of spending $30 a pop on a tub of formula…did we really have a choice in the matter though?  Actually we didn’t after a rough first 8 weeks with Juliette.  It’s a great debate…formula vs. breastmilk, and I have to admit I believed that breast was best.  My daughter did get breastfed at least for a little while, not as long as I had hoped, but there was reason for that.

Let’s back up a bit here, I believe in a woman’s right to choose in many ways.  Now, I am not going to go out on a limb (like Mr. Bloomberg did) and decide to take away formula from any place, but I will say that choices are there and they are made for a REASON, not just for convenience.  Unto the whole nursing issue, I was so very excited preparing for all of the things motherhood brought upon me, and one of the most important things was my ability to breastfeed (and my bigger cup size too might I add).

When I first started to breastfeed Juliette it was not easy as I had hoped, but I told myself that it was going to be ‘ok,’ I wasn’t expecting it to be.  A nipple-shield helped a lot at first, especially with that precious “liquid-gold” colostrum that comes in those first few days.  Then, as the milk came in, the shields were used less as Juliette latched on much better.  Unfortunately though, this is not where the story ends.  I so wish I was like one of those women who easily popped their baby on their boob and delightfully fed them on each side.  I envied those women!!  This was not the case for me…the first problem was, Juliette never seemed full, and was also quite colic after almost a week at home with us, especially at feeding time.  After one very worried trip to the ER, many pediatrician appointments, a meeting with a lactation consultant, and joining La Leche League, I began to also pump my milk.  They all agreed that, most likely, our somewhat discontented newborn wasn’t getting enough milk or and when she was, she wasn’t getting it fast enough.  Every new mom will learn that all babies lose weight once they come home from the hospital, but she wasn’t gaining any and loosing too much.

I admit that it was frustrating, (not to mention those very, very sore and leaky nipples to boot), and I was quite worried and felt somewhat inadequate.  But, I would not be defeated!!!  So, after her feedings, I would pump, then hydrate, try my best to replenish my insatiable hunger, and by the time this process was done I was left with maybe 15 minutes or perhaps 25 minutes, (if I was lucky), before her next feeding.  So, there I was exhausted, feeding her directly from the breasts, then offered her some from the bottle with pumped milk (if she was still hungry), then burped her (she was a very tough burper), followed by pumping, eating/drinking for myself, and then having barely any time left to do anything for myself, like brush my hair or go to the bathroom.  Still, I was not giving up, I was determined to do this.  By her next doctor’s appointment she seemed to be getting enough now, however she had begun to spit up a lot more and was having an even harder time burping.  On top of that, she still hadn’t gained much, but (AH-HA!) something was working because she hadn’t  lost any weight!  Unfortunately though, due to the gassy, non-burping and constantly spitting up baby Juliette had become after just a few weeks, they suggested changing my diet.  So, I gave up dairy first, which wasn’t too bad.  My husband stocked us up with many new types of food for my diet, after a week though, still no change, so then they suggested to try to soy free diet.  Well, I really feel very badly for anyone who can’t eat soy, because it’s in almost EVERYTHING!!  This diet was hard, but I pressed on and kept at it, sent Steve to the store almost daily to find something to eat that way soy free and filled me up…but still no change, and a lot more crying and spitting up.  Next up, I tried a soy and dairy free diet, this was the hardest one, but I was doing this for the better of my child, so I still didn’t give up!  Much to my chagrin though, no change with Juliette.  She was not so happy at feeding time especially, and the poor thing couldn’t keep anything down.  I went back to my regular diet and just exclusively on the breast and she would cry and cry and cry and not even want to eat.  What was happening?  Was she self-weaning already?  What did she want?  It was so hard to tell!!  Would there ever be a resolution to this?  Will I ever enjoy my new daughter?  Why can’t I just feed her my milk?  Bottle or breast is best?  Why does she cry every time she is nursing?????  So many questions and I NEEDED ANSWERS!!!

Finally, after six long and stressful weeks of this…she was diagnosed with ACID REFLUX, and with the right formula and meds, she was like a new baby!  I couldn’t believe it!!!  Why didn’t we know this before?  Apparently it is VERY common, and my younger sister and mother-in-law even had it when they were babies…who knew?  Finding the right formula and meds wasn’t easy either, and I even kept trying to sneak in my pumped breast-milk too, but every single time I did, she puked and had a sour stomach.  Plus, because as this point I was just pumping, my supply was going down.  So, I finally and unfortunately stopped breastfeeding after 8 weeks of putting my all into it!  It was very sad day for me, and I shed many tears over it, but no one could say I didn’t try, because I did everything I possibly could.  My loving husband was very supportive of the fact that I had to stop, and he was my biggest supporter through all of this.  In conclusion, I did not have a choice but to give up nursing my baby, unless I wanted to make her sick everyday…I think NOT!

I started to enjoy Juliette so much more, and from that moment on there was stress here and there, but nothing so bad that we couldn’t handle it.  Burp cloths, bibs, and wipes became my new best friends, and burping every 2 ounces was much better for my hard to burp baby.  As she became an adorably happy and, might I add, very full baby, who by her third month was in the 95th percentile for weight, and has stayed around that same mark since, we knew we did the right thing for her.

So, trust me, they made formula for a reason, not just for women who chose not to breastfeed (which if you chose that too, I have no judgment there either because breastfeeding, even if it agrees with them, is serious business), but it was also made for those babies who couldn’t be exclusively breastfed.  It was a long road, and once she started solids her acid reflux kept getting better, her spit-ups diminished, and she now loves practically all food.  Skip to the present time…today was her last day of her beloved soy formula, which took us so long to find the right one after those six weeks.  Today it’s all whole milk.  This was a 3-week milk  project, adding more whole milk and less formula every week…and I was quite nervous about it, because of all her problems feeding in the beginning, but I am happy to report that so far, so good!

So, all you new moms hear me out- DO NOT be too hard on yourself, if for whatever the reason, you can not breastfeed, because you do have choices.  I tried my very best, and still do hope to be able to breastfeed (for a longer period of time) with the next child, when that time comes.  But when that day does comes, if it doesn’t work out I am not going to be too hard on myself, because I have a very happy and healthy baby now.  And if you are successful in breastfeeding easily, congratulations to you, I am very jealous!

Got milk?  Yes, we all do, but it comes in many different shapes, forms, sizes, and brands, and yes you do have the right to choose!  Please remember that ladies, your baby’s health and happiness comes first, and don’t be too hard on yourself like I was…it’s unnecessary in the end! J

PS: Any questions about acid reflux, feel free to ask me anytime!  I had a hard time finding enough information out there about it, and while I’m no expert, I can try my best advice to help.