You Are Not Alone

Blessings: knowing that we are not alone and we are not crazy

In my journey of trying to understand the new me, the postpartum me, I’ve discovered Dr. Ashurina Ream, AKA Psyched Mommy. She is a licensed clinical psychologist with advanced training in perinatal mental health. I cannot begin to tell you how incredibly helpful are her Instagram posts and online course called Keeping Mommy in Mind. Btw, this is not a sponsored post. I have no stake in Dr. Ream’s practice. I don’t even know her. But I do know that she has been a lifeline for me during this time. I think what has been most helpful is that all of the emotions and thoughts that I’ve been grappling with, Dr. Ream addresses head-on in her social media and in her online course. It was this ah-ha moment for me to know that my feelings aren’t unique, every mother goes through this, and we need to give ourselves some grace as we transition into motherhood… because the transition doesn’t just happen overnight as soon as we give birth to our baby.

As part of the online course, we learn that transitioning into parenthood can bring up feelings of loss, grief and mourning… losing the predictability of our pre-baby lives. Dr. Ream encouraged everyone to write a letter to their grief and share what elements we feel we’ve lost and what emotions that brings up. So in an effort to remain transparent about my life and my journey in being a mother, here is my letter to my grief.

Dear Grief,

For the longest time I wanted to be a mother. I had a vision and an expectation of what that would like, mostly based on how I perceived my own mother’s experience with me and my sister. But now I’m here – almost 6 months postpartum. I love my little boy so much. I didn’t know how much I could truly love him until he was here. And it feels like that love is growing bigger and stronger every passing day. However, I didn’t recognize that there would be a transition into motherhood or that I would be a different person on the other side.

I no longer feel in control of my life. It’s scary for me because I’ve always been cool, calm and collected, able to manage multiple stressors in my life at any given time. Now I don’t know if I will sleep at night. I don’t know if Aayden will be in a good mood. I don’t know how I will respond to noises, lights and too much activity all at once – sometimes I’m ok with it and other times I have panic attacks. It’s just plain scary to me to be out of control. But I’m trying to learn to let go.

I don’t have a village. It is said that it takes a village to raise a child. Our village is nearly non-existent because of the pandemic. While the transition into motherhood is not at fault here, this is a huge area of disappointment and grief for me. The pandemic started soon after I found out I was pregnant so I couldn’t share my pregnancy with others like I had hoped and expected. No one rubbed my belly. We didn’t have a baby shower. I feel like we missed out on a lot. Now that Aayden is here, we’re not able to share him with our family and friends. We don’t have support because we can’t welcome just anyone into our home and lives for fear of spreading COVID. My stepmom has been hugely supportive and helps us out during the week. However, we don’t see anyone else. It’s disappointing and depressing. It doesn’t seem fair that the happiest time in our lives can’t be shared with our closest friends and family.

I can no longer be spontaneous. In part this is because of having a baby, but also I think a large part of that is because of the global pandemic that is ongoing. I can’t just pop in and see some friends. I can’t physically depend on friends and family helping out because of taking extra precautions around COVID. I don’t have friends dropping by to check on me or the baby. I can’t run to the store when needed. I can’t even pee or eat when I need to. More importantly, my husband and I aren’t able to become intimate when the feeling arises. This makes me sad and stressed out.

Things have changed with my partner. At the best of times, we had to use caution when talking about “big” or “heavy” topics. I pride myself on being an open book and readily sharing my feelings. However, now that I’m postpartum so many topics are a trigger for me and cause me to react unlike myself. I’m quick to anger. My husband is constantly on edge and stays far away from serious topics because he doesn’t like to talk about feelings. Even more so now, he’s unsure of how I will react. I don’t feel a connection with my husband anymore. It feels like we are co-parenting and co-existing but not in a partnership anymore. As a result, I feel like I don’t have the emotional support that I need and crave.

I feel like I was robbed of my birth experience. Admittedly I was scared of the pain and of the birth process. But I also was anticipating it. Even wanted it. I wanted to have a vaginal birth. I wanted that experience. But in the end, I had to have an emergency c-section. While it was the right thing for both me and Aayden, I’m grieving the loss of not having the experience that I expected and wanted. I’m disappointed. But I’m also scared. What if I become pregnant again? Can I even hope for and try to have a vaginal birth? Do I have to have another c-section? I hate that the idea that a future pregnancy scares me, but it does.

I lost confidence in my body – but not in the traditional sense of “oh my body doesn’t look the same.” I lost confidence in my body’s ability to support a healthy pregnancy and childbirth, which seems silly because I had a relatively healthy pregnancy and childbirth (in the end). I’m afraid my body will fail me even worse in the future. Like I’ve damaged any healthy parts of me by going through this first pregnancy. And I really want more children. My father likened my pregnancy and childbirth to a war: you won the war (e.g. I have my baby) but there were casualties along the way (e.g. my ongoing physical, emotional and mental issues postpartum).

I didn’t know that I would be feeling all of these things once I had my baby. I didn’t know that my hormones would be all over the place. People acknowledge pregnancy hormones and emotions, but I never heard anyone talk about postpartum or the changes to expect at that time. So I’m grieving and now I’m mourning.

I’m hoping that things get better. I’m hoping that as I educate myself, I can recognize what’s happening and be more even-tempered in my emotions. I am hoping that I can process this grief and mourn appropriately and then move on. However, this is a journey, and I can only take one step at a time.



Despite my letter to my grief, Aayden continues to be the best thing that has ever happened to me.
I had no idea how much I could love someone until he arrived.

The Day (4 of 4)

Blessing: Julie, our doula at Peace and Birth

September 4: It was just after midnight, and my epidural was administered about 30 minutes prior. The rush of pain relief and overall body relief was like nothing else. I was blissed out. I could still feel the contractions but I also felt totally and utterly relaxed. I fell asleep and it was the best sleep I’ve had in forever. Alex was sleeping on the pullout bed near me and Julie, our doula, was sitting in the corner. We all were able to finally catch some Z’s. 

Then at some point later I started shivering uncontrollably. I remember the shivering, but I wasn’t completely conscious. My eyes were still closed, but I could hear Julie speaking with the nurse. I was unable to open my eyes, and I just kept shivering. I heard Julie say to the nurse that they needed to check me because the shivering didn’t seem normal. (Apparently women can start shivering during “transition” due to hormones.) They checked my blood sugar and it was very low, 54. By this time, I had become more conscious. I drank some apple juice and they rechecked my blood sugar again, and it was up to 76 – on the low side of normal – but I was still shivering. During this episode, my heart rate increased to 130-140 BPM, about what you would expect during rigorous exercise. However, Aayden’s heart rate was over 200 BPM. They continued to monitor his heart rate, and it would decrease a little bit (around 180 BPM) but then it would spike back up again. It was clear that he was in distress but no one knew why.

Dr. Piparia did another cervical check. Yay – my favorite! (Cue eye roll) I was still only 5 cm dilated. After all of that. Given where I was in my labor and how long we’ve been going at it (60+ hours already!), given that Aayden was clearly in distress, Dr. Piparia suggested a C-section. In talking it through with her, she mentioned that if it were her, she would have the C-section with all the facts presented at the time. So we quickly made the decision to go with that.

In the span of 5 minutes, I was whisked away into the OR and the team started prepping. It was just before 7am, which is shift change time. Another point to note, it was Friday morning at 7am. Apparently most c-sections are scheduled for Friday so that the doctors don’t have to worry about those births over the weekend. My understanding from the nurses and my brother-in-law (who happens to be an OBGYN) is that Fridays are back-to-back c-sections all day. Therefore it was imperative that if we were going to do a c-section that we get it done before all of the scheduled c-sections got started soon after 7am.

So given the time of day, I had the benefit of having both the night and day shift staff in the OR. I was lucky that I already had the epidural because it meant that they were able to move quickly and use the same line for the spinal block, and I was able to be conscious during the C-section. Alex and Julie were allowed to be in the room with me, which was comforting because all of the emotions were running through me. During COVID times, doulas aren’t allowed in the OR but for some reason my doctor made an exception. I was scared, nervous, excited – mostly scared though. And the shivering. The shivering would not stop. It was uncontrollable teeth chattering, bone chilling shivering. 

I was strapped to the OR bed with the straps going from my abdomen over my shoulders. The doctor kept testing me to see if I could feel anything after they administered the spinal block. I could still feel the first few pricks so they kept giving me more anesthesia until I couldn’t feel it anymore. It was such a crazy experience to know that you are being cut open and hearing everything but not feeling pain, although I could feel everything the doctors were doing. Dr. Piparia announced when she made the incision and I heard her say something about my placenta. There was some shoving and then some major tugging. I made noises every time I felt them trying to pull Aayden out. Alex kept flinching but I kept reassuring him that I wasn’t in pain but I could feel everything. And my mantra… “I can do hard things.” I just kept repeating it. My yoga instructor, Lisa, would say that all the time during yoga, and it stuck with me. I can do hard things. 

At 7:07am on September 4th, Aayden was born. Alex got to see him first. He was standing about 3 feet away with his hands behind his back, and the nurses had to tell Alex that the baby was his and he could touch him. The nurses cleaned off Aayden and brought him over to me and laid him on my chest. I’m thankful for those moments but I wish that I was in a better state to completely absorb and appreciate it. I was shell shocked. I just had major surgery. I was still shivering and couldn’t control my body. I was splayed open on the operating table and strapped down to keep from moving. I had a baby! He was here. He was really here. There was just so much coursing through my body, physically and emotionally. 

What we found out later was that I had a placental abruption, which means my placenta pulled away from the uterus. In that case, the only way to deliver Aayden and to ensure that we both made it through delivery alive was to deliver via a c-section. The placenta delivers all of the necessary things to the baby, like oxygen and nutrients. If the placenta isn’t attached to the uterus, the baby could die very quickly because it would be deprived of oxygen. Additionally, in the case of a placental abruption, if delivering vaginally, the placenta will usually try to be delivered first, in which case this could cause a hemorrhage for the birth mother and she could likely die. If you follow Chrissy Tiegen and John Legend, this is what Chrissy had during the course of her pregnancy and ultimately caused her to deliver her stillborn baby at around 20 weeks. I’m forever grateful that this didn’t occur during my pregnancy and only during the delivery process, in which we could do a c-section and both Aayden and I survived. 

In addition to the placental abruption, as if that wasn’t enough, I ended up with a uterine infection. At the time of Aayden’s birth, I had a 104 fever. So pretty soon after, I was being treated with a whole bunch of antibiotics and IV fluids. 

And to top it all off, Aayden was born with super low blood sugars. This isn’t uncommon for babies that are born from mother’s with gestational diabetes. Aayden’s blood sugar was so low that the nurses were convinced that he would be going to the NICU. We immediately had to begin supplementing him with formula to get his blood sugars to go up… especially since my milk hadn’t come in. The nurses were doing regular blood sugar readings and he needed three in a row above a certain level to keep him out of the NICU. The lactation consultant came through and instead of teaching me how to breastfeed, she showed me how to pump because it seemed like that was going to be my only option if Aayden went to the NICU. Long story short, he was strong and rebounded quickly. Each blood sugar reading increased and then Aayden was finally in the clear. 

The whole rest of the day Alex took care of me and Aayden. I was too out of it from the anesthesia to do much, and I couldn’t get out of bed for the longest time because I still had a catheter in me from the epidural. Plus, hello… I had just had major surgery. Still days later, it was still difficult getting in and out of bed because of the c-section. 

Alex feeding Aayden when I couldn’t

In the end, both Aayden and I were healthy. And truly that is what matters. However, it was quite the road to get there.

After the c-section in the recovery area before getting moved to the Postpartum unit

Reflections: I’m four months postpartum as I write this, and I feel like I’m still processing so much of the labor and childbirth experience. I’m disappointed because I feel like my body failed me in so many ways along this journey so far – I couldn’t get pregnant naturally, I couldn’t give birth naturally and then I couldn’t feed my baby naturally. So far, nothing really met my expectations of pregnancy and childbirth. In some ways, I feel like I was deprived of so many things that I was looking forward to. However, in speaking with Dahlia, she reminded me that my body did show up and worked for me. I was able to get pregnant via IVF. I had a relatively smooth pregnancy. I was able to deliver Aayden with minor complications but in the end, we both are healthy and happy. And I’m able to feed my baby, and he’s growing at just the right rate. He seems like a happy and content baby so far. There are many blessings for which I have to be grateful. And while I wasn’t able to follow a single element of my birth plan, I was able to organically go through the birthing process as long as I did, which most people wouldn’t be able to claim. I have 60 hours under my belt of induction, labor and delivery. My body did for me what it could, and I’m grateful for that. 

Despite all of this and rationally knowing the blessings I have, I am afraid of another pregnancy and childbirth. I don’t want the same experience. The fear causes a hitch in my throat and I have to catch my breath. I wasn’t afraid going into the first pregnancy, and I don’t want that to be the dominant emotion when I become pregnant again. All I felt the first time around was joy and wonder (mixed with a little grief because of COVID and not being able to share this experience like I would have liked). Postpartum has been tough as I battle against anxiety and OCD, which manifests itself in anger, frustration and tears. I’m nervous that another pregnancy could be much more complicated and/or harder on me physically and mentally. I fear that emotionally I can’t handle another child. Initially I thought for my next pregnancy, I will have a scheduled c-section and remove the guess work. Then last night, I dreamt that I was pregnant and gave birth vaginally (also known as a VBAC). That was a terrifying dream for me because of Aayden’s birth. And despite all of this, I know I want another baby.

I’m constantly analyzing and checking in on how I’m feeling, and here’s my current thoughts… I’m a fighter. I rise up to challenges. I like to learn, grow and push myself to be better. I know that I will persevere when the time is right. I’m putting it out there to God and the universe to open up the doors when it’s time for me to continue forward on this journey. Until then, I will continue to analyze and process this whole experience and try to emotionally and physically equip myself for the next time. Because I do have faith that there will be a next time… after all, we have one more viable embryo waiting for us.

Happy family, the A-Team
Our sweet baby Aayden right after he was born
Aayden and me a few days before Christmas
The star and light of our lives

The Day (3 of 4)

Blessing: it sounds silly but the veggie burgers and fries at P. Terry’s

September 3: After the first round of Pitocin, I got a one-hour break and was able to eat. Then we started round two. I only went up to 22 units this time when the doctor decided to give it a rest. Ultimately you can use too much Pitocin and overload the receptors and then it may not work in the future if needed. Keep in mind, while on Pitocin you’re not allowed to eat – assuming you go into labor, there might be a need for surgery and therefore they want your stomach to be empty. I was ravenous! During my break, I had my husband go get P. Terry’s (a local burger place in Austin), and I took a shower. I almost felt human again… except for the IVs hooked up to me and the hospital gown and the little human still inside of me and the super uncomfortable bed because no one expects a woman to be in Labor & Delivery for that long.

The next OB on call, Dr. Piparia, did a cervical check (another mind blowing, painful experience but slightly better than the last one). I was still 0.5-1.0cm dilated. She suggested that we try the foley bulb again. We did and this time it stayed. Just like the Cervidil, they leave the foley bulb in for up to 12 hours. A foley bulb is a catheter that is inserted into the cervix and is inflated with saline solution. It puts pressure on the cervix and encourages dilation. Once you’re dilated to around 4cm, it can be pulled out. After 5 hours, it came out, which means I was 4 cm dilated! We didn’t have to wait the whole 12 hours. This seemed super promising! 

At this point, Dr. Piparia suggested to manually break my water to further encourage labor to kick start. In addition, she was putting me back on Pitocin. It sounded like all of this combined could finally be what we needed to get labor going.

As mentioned previously, I hadn’t planned to use any pain medication during my labor. I wanted to use natural methods and techniques to manage the pain so I could move around during labor. Alex and I specifically took birthing classes to support this and purchased every tool under the sun to help – birthing ball, massage tools, massage oils, tennis balls. We practiced meditation. My doula, Julie (will definitely share more details on Julie later – she was my guardian angel) totally supported this and was aware of my birth plan (I now roll my eyes at the birth plan). She was there to support us throughout this process and make sure I didn’t bite Alex’s head off during the process. 🙂 However, earlier in the day Julie mentioned that I might want to consider an epidural at some point just so I could get some sleep since we were already on day 3 and getting close to night 3 in the hospital and I hadn’t properly slept. 

The Pitocin started again and I started having real bonafide contractions this time. I realized how truly exhausted I was and how ill equipped I was at that point to rationally manage the pain of the contractions. So I opted for the epidural. The process of putting in the epidural was so NOT fun. And the anesthesiologist was in a rush to get to a C-section so we had a very small window in which I could get the epidural. It was around 11:30pm.

At this point as we neared midnight, Alex and I recalled a previous conversation I had with my sister. Before I had an induction date scheduled, we were guessing Aayden’s birthdate. My sister said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if Aayden was born on Sept. 4? He and Emma (my niece) would be exactly six months apart to the day!” Alex and I half jokingly raised an angry fist in the air just as the clock hit midnight, cursing my sister for predicting Sept. 4 and blaming her (not really) for causing us to have such a long labor and delivery. At that point, both Alex and I knew that Aayden would be born on Sept. 4.

Anticipating my epidural

The Day (2 of 4)

Blessing: my husband for demonstrating real love everyday

September 2: So it was just after midnight, and almost immediately I was uncomfortable and in pain from the Cervidil. I writhed in pain all night and got very little sleep. Furthermore the monitors strapped around my stomach were very sensitive, and every time I moved, Aayden was no longer on the monitor. So along with being uncomfortable from contractions and the bed, I had the nurse in the room all the time adjusting the monitors. Between tossing and turning and being disturbed by the nurse, it made for a very fretful night and morning. The Cervidil stayed in for 12 hours. Finally at 11:30am, the nurse removed it and then the doctor came in to do a cervical check to see how much I was dilated. I don’t even know how to put into words how excruciatingly painful the cervical exam was. Not to be too graphic but I’m going there anyway… I was literally fisted by the OB as she jammed her fingers up inside me and couldn’t reach my cervix so she kept digging. Relax they said. It will make it easier they said. When the OB pulled her hand out, a significant amount of blood fell out of my vagina and splattered on the floor. They had to mop it up. The OB suggested to try to insert a foley bulb, which would manually dilate my cervix with a catheter. The OB tried twice and the catheter wouldn’t stay in. Then there was more blood. Alex told me later that he nearly passed out when he saw all of the blood. 

After that horrific experience, the doctor started me on Pitocin. Oh by the way, after the 12 hours of Cervidil and the cervical exam, I was 0.5cm dilated. If only you could see my expression right now. Ridiculous. So we started the Pitocin. One of the things I like about the OB practice I picked is that they go “low and slow” with Pitocin, so that they don’t overload the body with too much, too fast and it also allows the body to naturally support the labor process (if that happens). I felt some contractions initially but nothing as intense as when I had the Cervidil. Then nothing – no pain at all. I did one round of Pitocin (36 units) over 12 hours and then got a 1-hour break. 

Day 2 was rather uneventful, other than waiting and hoping to feel some contractions. As you can imagine, I was also pretty hungry. I don’t think I’ve had so much bone broth, sugar free popsicles and sugar free jello in my life (also known as a “clear diet”). Another graphic moment but one worth sharing was that I had to poop. However because of the intense back pain that I had due to the hospital bed, I couldn’t wipe myself. Embarrassing. I had to ask Alex to wipe my ass. He was gracious and did it. I told him that was the sign of real love. As he stood up from bending over the toilet to help me, he smacked his head on the cabinets that were above the toilet. I’m pretty sure he saw stars. His head bled profusely. He still has an indentation on his bald head. Poor guy. So that takes us into Day 3.

Loving those sugar free popsicles

The Day (1 of 4)

Blessing: my rockstar husband for always thinking of food!

Words matter. I care about how I tell a story. I take a great amount of time to write and read and then re-read what I write to make sure it conveys exactly what I want to say. I mentioned in my last post that I would share Aayden’s birth story. I need to share his birth story for my sake, so I can process it. I need to pull it out of my body and put it into words so I don’t have to keep it inside of me anymore. It feels like if I get his birth story written and out in the world, I can focus on the positive aspects of it and let go of the scary bits. I’ve written and rewritten this blog post(s) because each time I read through it, I realize it doesn’t quite capture what I want it to…

…the anticipation of welcoming my first baby into the world after the journey we went through to get pregnant…

…the slowness and sometimes the exasperation of the induction process…

…the fear of what was happening at the time and of what was yet to come, although completely unknown in the moment…

…the complete and utter exhaustion of trying to force my body to kick start labor when it just wasn’t ready, and Aayden wasn’t ready…

…the physical pain – not from contractions but from all of the measures trying to induce the contractions…

…the shock of ending up in an operating room and realizing one of my biggest fears of childbirth – being conscious and splayed open on an operating room table…

…the overwhelming joy and relief that Aayden was alive and healthy…

…the enormous love for my husband as I saw him become a father…

…and the immense and all-consuming love I had for Aayden the moment I set eyes on him…

…just to list a few of the highlights over the 6.5 days in the hospital.

Part of me just wants to hit the Publish button and put this blog post behind me and move on. The other part of me feels like it’s really, really important that I get every detail correct and explain it. I’m not sure why I feel so strongly that I need to capture that week just right. It’s probably part of my postpartum anxiety and my OCD that seems to be cropping up now and then. So here I am…still reading and revising how I convey Aayden’s birth story. I tried my very hardest to summarize the journey so this could be one post… but alas I’m too verbose and so this will be spread across four different posts. So buckle up! 

As a little background info, I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes when I was 30 years old so I had been managing it for almost 10 years when I became pregnant. All throughout my pregnancy, I was crazy neurotic about managing what I ate, creating a food log of every single thing I put in my mouth…even down to the individual almonds (yes, I counted them out). I didn’t eat any refined sugar. I actually didn’t eat much fruit either because it would cause my blood sugar to spike for my hourly blood sugar readings that I was required to take by my perinatal doctor. I ate very little carbs. I was hell bent on not being put on insulin, as I was threatened with this during my first perinatal appointment at 13 weeks despite having great blood sugar readings at that time. At around 26 weeks pregnant, my primary care physician ordered my normal blood work and my A1C came back at 5.4%, which isn’t even considered pre-diabetic… it was totally normal! Despite my OCD and despite the fact that I kept fairly active throughout my pregnancy, walking everyday and doing prenatal yoga three times per week, I started struggling with my hourly blood sugar readings during the last 8 weeks of my pregnancy. I learned from my doctors that your A1C is an indication of your overall health but the hourly blood sugar readings are more indicative of the baby’s health. So regardless of what my blood work showed, the hourly blood sugar readings are what counted. So it was at that time that I was put on insulin. That, combined with my blood pressure that slowly but steadily increased throughout the course of my pregnancy, caused my doctors to decide to induce me. So I was scheduled to be induced on Sept. 1, which was 11 days prior to my due date.

September 1: Alex and I arrived at the hospital at 5pm, our appointment time for checking in and beginning the induction process. When I went to my last OB appointment 5 days prior, I wasn’t dilated at all. So we knew that we would likely be starting from scratch for the induction. Despite arriving on time, it was a full moon and Labor & Delivery was still full of women giving birth so a room wasn’t available. We waited in the lobby for 4.5 hours on couches that looked like plenty of women had broken their waters on them. At 9:30pm we were finally taken to our room. After the COVID test (hello, you touched my brain with that test!), all of the paperwork, background info and everything was finalized, it was around 11:30pm when the nurse administered Cervidil – a vaginal insert (kind of like a tampon) that is placed against your cervix to help encourage dilation and softening. I was told that other induction methods would be used later on (e.g. Pitocin), and I wouldn’t be allowed to eat once I started that. So Alex fed me one last meal in the hospital before getting started. Btw, we packed more food and snacks for our hospital stay than anything else. (We didn’t pack too many clothes and at one point several days later, Alex had to go back to our house and get more clean clothes for himself.)

Once the nurse inserted the Cervidil (btw not the most comfortable experience), I was also outfitted with all of the monitors – one for the baby and one to monitor my contractions. I went into this process thinking that I would do it without pain management drugs because I wanted to be able to move around during the birthing process. I have struggled with chronic back pain since my early 20s and one of the key ways I manage that pain is through movement. So it was really important to me that I be able to move around during the birthing process, especially knowing that women can feel contractions a lot in their back (also known as back labor). What I failed to understand was that because I was being induced, I would have very limited mobility because of the monitors. I had to be constantly hooked up to the machines. It became immediately evident that I would not be moving much from the bed, and I was laying in the most uncomfortable bed but anticipating what was to come. Nerves and excitement – it was finally happening!!

Baby, I love your way

Blessing: Aayden Alexander, born September 4, 2020 at 7:07am

This is long overdue. I started this blog as a way to document my pregnancy and share my experiences – especially because I didn’t have a traditional path to pregnancy or parenthood. However, life happened and the world seemed to crumble around us. The pandemic certainly threw me, as it did to all of us. But being pregnant during the pandemic was especially hard. Then as I progressed along in my pregnancy, I got a pretty severe case of carpal tunnel which prevented me from doing much with my hands, let alone typing for long periods of time. It even made work especially difficult because I sit in front of a computer all day, everyday. And I’m still dealing with the carpal tunnel! I will share details around the rest of my pregnancy at a later time. And I will definitely share details about the birth, as I’m still processing it. But today I want to celebrate the birth of my son, Aayden, and start a discussion about postpartum.

As of this very moment when I’m writing this, I’m 11 weeks postpartum, which means Aayden is 11 weeks old! (By the time I published this blog, Aayden made it to 13 weeks.) He is everything to me – my sun, my moon, my stars. I tear up just thinking about the enormity of being his mom and how much I love him. I’ve heard other parents say these words, or something similar, and I was like, “yes, yes, children are the greatest gift.” The experience of parenthood for yourself changes everything. When I met my niece, Emma, I thought there is no way I could love my own child more than I love her. I assumed the love would be equal. Because when I met Emma, it was definitely love at first site. At the time, I shared my thoughts with my sister and she said, “Wait until your baby is born. You have no idea.” And she was right.

I didn’t know that Aayden’s grin would light up my whole world and melt all of my stress away. I also didn’t know that his cries would become my cries and that I would feel physical pain when he’s in pain. *Cue the waterworks as I write this.* Let me tell you – his circumcision and first round of vaccines were worse for me than for him.

At 11 weeks old, I can already see a resilience in Aayden. He is so strong – physically and seemingly emotionally. He is sweet – just wants to be held and loved on. And he’s already being sweet with his furry siblings – “petting” them when they are nearby. Aayden is smart. He knows when we are changing him and he grins from ear to ear at a clean diaper and fresh clothes. He knows the sound of us making his bottle and responds. And he already sleeps through the night! He’s been sleeping through the night since he was 8 weeks old. (I have some thoughts as to why he’s already sleeping so well but I’ll save that for another day too.) Aayden isn’t perfect, though. He gets fussy but we eventually figure out the reason why. And when we address the issue, he’s a happy baby again. When I look at my son, I feel like there is this cocoon around us and all is perfect in the world. We are in our own little bubble together.

Despite my wonderful son, postpartum has been a bitch. There’s no other way to say it. Leading up to Aayden’s birth, my husband and I took every class that was offered to us – two different birthing classes, newborn care class, child safety/CPR class, breastfeeding classes. Everything during pregnancy prepares you for birthing your child or basics on how to take care of your child. But there aren’t any classes on how to care for yourself or what to expect postpartum. It’s like this black box, this gray area that no one talks about. And I feel slightly disillusioned and disappointed that as a society we don’t discuss this openly. Nor do we have a system in place in the U.S. for postpartum women.

Postpartum depression is briefly mentioned during classes. And it seems like at the 6-week postpartum appointment with the OBGYN, the doctor is specifically looking for signs of depression. However, I feel like there is a HUGE gray area that isn’t really depression but it isn’t normal or pre-baby behavior and emotions either. Additionally, the dynamics in all relationships change – your relationship with your partner, relationship with your mother and father, relationship with friends. It seems like all of the sudden there’s this change and you weren’t prepared for it.

For me personally, (I think) I’m dealing with postpartum anxiety (it’s totally self-diagnosed). I’ve become extremely overwhelmed with the small things – my husband trying to have a conversation with me as soon as I walk in the door from a walk, something not being put back in the right place, finding projects half finished around the house (e.g. laundry), too many activities/appointments in one day. When these situations or any number of others occur, I lose it. I get angry. I cry. I feel overwhelmed and out of control. I’ve joked in the past that I was OCD about things, but now it’s starting to feel like it’s true. I’ve never experienced this before. Originally I thought it was linked to a lack of sleep. And trust me, I was definitely sleep deprived in the beginning. Once I realized that many of my emotions were tied to sleep deprivation, I started making an effort to get more rest. And my emotions improved with more sleep, but they are still there. Everyday is a struggle to remain calm and “normal” without having a meltdown. It takes a lot of effort, and it’s exhausting trying to keep it together. It’s also exhausting when I completely lose it. Ironically my child is more even-tempered than me right now.

When one of my episodes is beginning, I get hot and I almost feel these vibrations throughout my body. There’s this energy that starts surging through me, and it feels like there’s no where for it to go. So I yell. If I’m by myself, I throw things. Feeling these emotions is downright scary because I don’t recognize myself in those moments. That’s not me. That’s not who I used to be before I had a baby. So why now? And how do I not feel like this? What are the tools to help me better manage these emotions? I recognize that I need professional help at this point so this is still a work in progress. However, I’m still left with the question… why didn’t anyone talk about this? And why isn’t there a class to help prepare you for what’s to come after the baby arrives? It’s even more difficult to rationalize these emotions with the immense and overwhelming love I have for my son.

In addition to my foreign emotions, my relationships have changed. For some relationships, things have changed for the better – I have a much better appreciation for my mother and the depth of the love she must have had for me and my sister. I can also see how, as her child, I must have caused her so much worry, panic and distress unknowingly. I think that’s the plight of motherhood – you are always doomed to worry about your child(ren)’s wellbeing. Furthermore I’m moved to tears when I think about Aayden’s future and how I don’t want to miss a single moment with him, and I want to be with him and protect him forever. So now I understand my own mother just a little bit better, which is nice. On the other hand, my mom continues to give me advice on breastfeeding, which is unwanted and unhelpful. (More on my breastfeeding journey later on.)

Additionally, my relationship with my husband has changed considerably, and it scares me because I’m so afraid that it has irrevocably changed. I think my postpartum anxiety has a lot to do with the shift in our relationship. I mentioned that I don’t recognize myself at most times, but I think sometimes Alex doesn’t recognize me either. Additionally Alex is not very comfortable when it comes to discussing emotions. And he’s definitely not one to proactively address situations that make him unhappy or uncomfortable. For whatever reason, he assumes everything is his fault and internalizes EVERYTHING. At the best of times, it made it difficult for him to discuss our communication with each other or share his feelings. Now he totally shuts down, walks into another room if he sees me crying or just ignores me all together. He does this because he assumes that my emotions are triggered by something he’s done. So he avoids me as a way to try and diffuse my emotions but it usually makes me more upset. He can’t seem to wrap his mind around the fact that I’m not the same person I was prior to giving birth to Aayden. And as my partner and the father of our child, no one prepared him for this change or gave him any advice on how to best deal with his emotions, my emotions and the joy and challenge of being a new parent.

While our situation and emotions are unique to us, I believe that there’s a way to prepare new parents for these changes. I think we fail every single new parent every second of everyday by not openly discussing it and creating educational tools to help parents prepare for this aspect of their life. Change isn’t a bad thing but we need to be equipped to know how to best adapt to some of these changes that are expected and happen to every new parent. How have you and your partner dealt with postpartum?

The ‘Rona

Blessing: silver linings during the “Times of Rona.”

I started this blog post almost a month ago. It’s been a struggle to finish this one up. It’s been hard to focus my thoughts. But just like with everything else we’re faced with right now… I’m gonna push through.

I had a whole list of various topics that inspire and help me feel blessed. Yet I would be remiss and completely obtuse if I ignored and didn’t acknowledge what’s going on around us in the world right now…COVID-19 and how this global pandemic has totally upended life as we know it. Like many of you, I’m stressed. I’m full of anxiety. It’s hard for me to relax. And on top of everything else, I hold my stress in my body, usually in my back and neck, and my body is telling me that I’m at my threshold now. My chiropractor confirmed that I’m really messed up and out of alignment.

The entire situation is further compounded for me personally because my father is in complete disbelief of the situation and thinks everyone (literally everyone in the world) is overreacting. Therefore he’s not taking any necessary precautions to safeguard his own health, let alone the health of others around him. My father moved my grandfather, who has dementia and is 89 years old, down to Texas to live with him about 5 months ago. However, because of my dad’s lackadaisical approach to COVID-19, we took my grandfather into my home and my husband and I are taking care of him for at least two weeks. It’s been straining and difficult to say the least. I think my husband and I end up in a screaming argument at least once a day over something to do with grandpa. It’s exhausting. In some ways, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been but so much more stressful than I imagined.

Then, of course, there’s the “shelter at home” aspect to the whole situation. I’m a person who works from home when I’m not traveling for work. And what I learned in the last 2.5 years working from home is that I’m a little more introverted than I would have initially described myself. Previously, I avoided going to grocery stores. If I went to one social function per month that was a big deal. I’m generally happy being at home with my dog during most days and evenings… and then with my husband on his days off. However, there’s something about NOT having the option to do anything that makes a person go a little stir crazy.

In addition, there are a number of other stressful elements that are affecting us right now… just like with everyone. My husband was furloughed and we’re on one income. Work seems a little uncertain on the best of days, considering my job previously focused on a lot of events. So now we’re all pivoting to a new strategy, new skillset, new way of thinking and all the while trying to prove that we’re still providing value to the company. I’m diabetic and pregnant – and anyone who is familiar with gestational diabetes understands that sometimes you can’t control it no matter what you do with your diet and exercise. Now with the stress of this global pandemic, I feel like my blood sugar is even more erratic than “normal.”

However, despite all of this (and probably a lot more that my overwhelmed mind can’t even think of or process at the moment), there are so many little things that I’m incredibly thankful for… things that would have never happened if not for the pandemic.

  • Reversal of some major climate change issues, like clearer skies in LA, Mumbai and China and sea life thriving again
  • My neighborhood has suddenly become the friendliest place on earth; everyone says hi, smiles, waves and actually asks you how you’re coping with everything going on
  • Quality time with my husband. Prior to the pandemic, I was voicing my concern to my husband that I didn’t want to go through this pregnancy alone and experience all of these new things by myself; I wanted him around more. Now, everyday, it’s like we cherish each other more than the day before and I feel more in love with him now than ever. We’re connecting, truly connecting and it makes my heart so full and happy.
  • Incredible fresh homemade meals everyday. I’ve mentioned before that my husband is a chef, right? I feel so lucky at this moment. We sit down for dinner together every night – half the time at our dining room table, which never happened previously. And we have “date night” once a week – we dress up and put on music (instead of the TV) and spend the whole evening just chatting.
  • More time outside. Just like everyone, we go a little stir crazy being inside our home so we’re making conscious decisions to get outside more. Long walks, quiet time, hearing the birds chirping in the morning.
  • Practicing prenatal yoga three times per week with Lisa Young at Austin Prenatal Yoga. I had previously gone to some classes in person prior to everything but now that I don’t have a commute to class, there’s no reason for me not to practice. If the lockdown ends before I go into labor, I know I will make the necessary time to continue my yoga practice in person. It has been so physically, mentally and spiritually uplifting during these times.
  • Morning meditation and prayers. I started meditation as a way to help manage my fasting blood sugar in the morning, meditating before I take the first reading and trying to calm my mind and my body. During the course of my meditations, I found that I wanted to speak to God as well. I think it’s been 20 years since I’ve prayed. I’m finding it peaceful and calming.

Most likely, this will not be the last time I reference the pandemic and the lockdown and it’s continuing effect on us mentally/spiritually/physically. And I acknowledge that my journey through this is not the same as everyone else. I recognize that we have it a little easier than some because of my job and being able to support my family on my income alone during a time like this. Additionally, COVID-19 hasn’t hit close to home for us, our close friends and immediate family – it feels like it’s happening around us but not to us. My heart breaks wide open for those who have experienced more significant impact – whether through the economy, job loss, health and not to mention the front-line workers who are faced with this stress every single day.

However, I would like to leave this last thought out there that someone had posted on Facebook recently. If you’re able to take one breath and one moment, maybe looking at the silver lining will help you and/or others feel more in control and less anxious than before.

What if the universe is trying to get us to slow down? To stop producing. To stay home and let the earth breathe a little without all the extra pollution we cause daily. To take a step back and realize how we really impact earth and one another. That we aren’t as significant or in control as we think we are. A virus can come through and wipe us all out but earth will still be here. We are all connected. Just like we can spread a disease, we can also spread love, kindness and positivity. Use this time for reflection of your contribution and the life you’re living. Slow down and finally hear yourself again. The universe is always speaking to us if we are willing to listen.

–Author Unknown, from

How are you coping right now?

Baby Emma

Blessing: my sister just gave birth to her first child, Emma Elizabeth.

My sister, Brianna, went into labor two weeks before her due date. That’s not very common for a first-time mother. So I received a text from her around 10pm last Tuesday that said she was having “uncomfortable contractions” and she think she’s going into labor. I quickly changed my flight to Indiana and got on a plane 7 hours later.

Months ago my sister asked me to be with her when she gave birth. I was so honored and touched. I wanted nothing more than to be by her side during that special moment. Nevertheless, no matter how quickly I was able to adjust my flight and be on my way, I wasn’t there in time. (Cue the waterworks – I was so disappointed!) By the time I arrived, my sister had already given birth to a healthy baby girl, Emma Elizabeth. I have not spent a lot of time around newborns but it seems like most newborns aren’t that cute. However, my niece… she’s the cutest! (I might be a little biased.)

While any new baby is a blessing – they are so innocent and sweet – I’m so grateful for the time with my sister, niece and brother-in-law because it helped me with the thought of becoming a mother soon. Seeing my sister and brother-in-law settle into their new roles with Emma made the process for me seem so much less daunting. Even the idea of childbirth seems much less stressful than what I was anticipating. Of course, it’s my understanding that my sister’s labor and delivery went much smoother than most first-time mothers. And everyone is different. However, I’m taking this positive thinking and running with it.

Regardless, Brianna is a champ! There’s no other way to describe her. By the time she got to the hospital, she was already 6cm dilated. She pushed for all of 15 minutes and little Emma came into the world. I can only hope that my own labor will be half as easy. Baby Emma was born at 7lbs 15 oz and 21 inches long. A perfectly healthy and happy baby. And she’s such a dream!

Baby Emma and my sister Brianna

I am eight years older than Brianna. My mother gave birth to her in our home, and I stood at the end of the bed next to my father and watched the whole thing. I saw my sister come into this world. I held her carefully on the sofa only an hour later as we watched The Smurfs on Saturday morning cartoons. And now it’s amazing to see her as a mother with her own baby girl. Emma made my sister a mother, and I am so grateful that I could be there to witness Brianna’s transition into motherhood.

The Crew

Blessing: my closest girlfriends, all from high school. We call ourselves The Crew.

I went to a boarding school for high school. No, I wasn’t a bad girl. No, it wasn’t a prep school. It was a small, religious boarding school in South Texas that focused on strong education, valuable work ethic and foundational faith-based beliefs. I truly had an unforgettable experience. The biggest thing for me coming out of boarding school were the incredible friendships that I made. Ones that have lasted for 26+ years.

When you move away from your parents at age 13, I think one tends to form even stronger relationships with those who are in their lives on a daily basis. I had a lot of friends in school. But there are four special ladies who are my ride or die. Those girls, now women, created my family and have been with me through life’s ups and downs.

The Crew circa 1997
Back row: Kisha, Alycia, Ellen, Josie
Front row: Kendra

We met in 1994 during our freshman year in high school. At one point or another, we were all roommates with each other. After high school and college, we drifted apart. For many years, we weren’t in constant contact – especially in our 20s. I think that happens with any long-time friendships… there are ebbs and flows. But we reunited in our 30s and make it a point every single year to get together with all five of us. Our weekend together is my lifeline, it’s the single weekend I look forward to the most each year. And in 2020, I expect that we’ll be getting together a little more frequently for a number of reasons… each one of us turns 40 this year! Plus I’m having a baby!

This past weekend the first of us turned 40. We said we were having a “Galentine’s Weekend,” but secretly we were planning a surprise birthday party for Kisha. I’m not gonna lie – trying to be stealthy and organize a party amongst four incredibly productive yet busy women was not the easiest. However, it turned out amazing! Kisha was surprised… and she even cried a little over our gift. (She’s not a crier at all.)

The Crew circa 2020
Alycia, Kendra, Carl (Kisha’s dad), Kisha, Josie, Ellen

We laughed so hard that we cried. Sometimes we cried, which led to laughter. What I realize when I’m with The Crew is that it is so important to connect and open up. And as I get older, I realize it’s harder and harder to be vulnerable with new friends. Everyone is busy and coordinating schedules is difficult. It’s challenging to invest the necessary time to get to know someone and, in return, be able to openly share with them. That’s why having friends who know you, truly know you, is precious. I feel privileged that even though time and distance can keep us apart, the time we have together is unlike any other friendships I have… and that means the world to me!

Happy wife, happy life

Blessing: my husband… no truly, I mean it. Definitely blessed by my incredible husband.

Throughout this pregnancy so far, I’ve been pretty even tempered. Really. It’s true. But to be fair, going through IVF really had me on an up and down roller coaster of emotions. Feeling crazy, crying at everything – even a stupid car commercial. I think I was so high and so low during IVF, that pregnancy feels normal… even to my husband.

But last night was different. I was overly emotional about everything. I don’t think it helps that I’m sick and I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I went to a walk-in clinic a few days ago and was told to take a Claritin. Ummm… this isn’t allergies. My throat hurts. I have post-nasal drip. I’m coughing (both wet and dry cough if that’s even possible). My ears are constantly popping. And I’m completely drained of energy. But in visiting the walk-in clinic, I informed them that I’m pregnant. Apparently that’s scary information. My OBGYN, Dr. Courtney Wiener, (btw I really recommend her – she’s been incredible so far) said that everyone is afraid of a pregnant woman and doesn’t tend to provide the same level of care or diagnoses as with a non-pregnant woman. But I digress…

So I’m not feeling well… and by that, I mean that I’m feeling downright rotten. So I guess it’s not a huge surprise that I’m overly emotional. Poor Alex. He was cooking dinner (ahhhhmazzing!!!). The dog came in from the backyard and it was raining all day so we needed to wipe his paws before he came in the house. Alex stopped what he was doing to wash/wipe Apache’s paws. As Alex washed his paws, he spilled water all over a new rug that I got for the back door. Immediately I’m angry and I’m crying… over spilled water. Then Alex made dessert. (And yes, he’s that incredible of a man.) He made homemade meyer lemon panna cotta with a berry puree… except he drowned the panna cotta in the amazing puree that he made, and I wasn’t happy about that. So I told him so. Ugh. I was so awful. So I stopped eating and went to brush my teeth.

Yes, I’m painting a horrible picture of me because I was horrible. In the moment, I couldn’t control my emotions or the words coming out of my mouth. Alex was so hurt. Then he started saying how he’ll redo the panna cotta. So I yelled at him…obviously. I told him not to touch anything. “I’m pregnant! Can you just let me be pregnant and have pregnant emotions?!?!” Yep. I said it.

Alex tried to give me a kiss, and I responded with, “Not now. I just need a moment,” as we lay down in bed for the night. In the darkness, Alex reached across the bed and grabbed my hand and squeezed it. Because in that moment, he was a much better person than me.

This morning, Alex continued to be sweet as ever, giving me lots of hugs and kisses and letting me know that today is a new day. I’m incredibly blessed for the prince in my life… who is genuinely kind, caring and loving even when I’m not at my best.