Being pregnant was so much harder than I thought it would be. I've always struggled with body image and I've always worked really hard to try to keep a body that I'm semi-happy with, but when I got pregnant, I had no control. I know there's a lot of women that have a lot harder stories than I do about pregnancy, but it was so hard for me. I never want to do it again. Never. I was sick and nauseous the whole time. I survived on frozen pizza and Hot Tamales. I don't know how she came out healthy. People say, "Oh, you forget about it when she's born." But nope, I don't. I felt so miserable I was also afraid I wouldn’t bond with her. This fear stayed with me until I gave birth. I got lucky because I had the perfect labor. After my water broke, we got up to the hospital and I'm at the desk bracing through a contraction. The nurse is like, ‘Well, it might be Braxton-Hicks,’ and the whole time, I'm thinking, ‘If this is Braxton-Hicks, you're going to have to give me all the drugs in the world, because when the real thing comes, I'm in big trouble.’ But it was the real thing. They checked me in and I got in the shower with one of those big, huge blue bouncy balls. As soon as they turned the water on and I was like, "That's it, I've got to push. I've got to push." They were like, "No, no... You were only six centimeters at 5:30 in the morning, it's only 8:30." I was like, "This baby's coming now!" They didn't believe me but I was right... By 8:40 she was born. As soon as they handed her to me, I was like, "This is the coolest thing I've ever done. The coolest, coolest thing." My whole outlook on life changed. The nausea before or the fear of not bonding with the baby disappeared. It didn't matter anymore. It was just about surviving to keep this little human alive.
Delivery was great, labor was amazing, but then breastfeeding was… so hard. I was insistent because we had gone down to a single salary, and I really wanted to provide the milk for her. I was so engorged. My milk came in so hard, so fast, and I was in so much pain. I was hesitant to pump because I knew I would only make more. But I was in such pain and she also wasn't able to latch because I was so full. I had to relieve it. The second night, I ended up giving her a bottle of breast milk and she drank four ounces. The poor kid had been starving! I felt terrible. Giving her bottles was actually good and bad because her father could do it, but I also was up at two in the morning to pump, wash things out… Pumping is a full-time job! Around two and a half months, I tried a nipple shield and she was able to latch onto that, but she was also getting bottles, and my body just couldn't figure it out. By her fourth month, I had gone through two mastitis. The whole entire breast was inflamed, I had a fever, a headache… it was terrible. At that point, I said to her, ‘You've got to figure it out, kid. You're four months old and you're big enough to latch… so come on!’ And she did. I was okay with pumping, but you know you're tied to that stupid machine, and you can't go anywhere, and then you have to take bottles with you. When we got to finally breastfeed, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is life!’ We weaned by 11 months. She was eating full meals with us, so why should I keep dealing with it? I didn't need that connection anymore, it was okay. I wanted my boobs back. It was hard for me at the beginning, but in the end… that was enough. We were ready.
I’m a math teacher but I didn’t go back after I had her. I taught for four years in Washington state and I built up like 30 days of vacation time. When we moved in Virginia, I found out I could not transfer any of it and had to start from scratch. I was allowed my full six medical weeks, but only eight paid-days for my maternity leave... At the end of my sixth week, I told my husband, "I'm supposed to go back to work tomorrow. That's what normal women do." Normal women have to leave their six-week-old baby and go back to work. They just have to. But I thought "Why should I go back? Why should I go take care of other people's kids when mine is teeny tiny? I can't imagine. I just can’t." So I didn’t. My husband is in the military and we're just really frugal and really, really careful. We don't buy things that we don't need. I do a childcare thing in the mornings for other families. I also tutor from my house. This year has been a very successful year - and I have two or three kids a day. I still feel like I'm contributing to our family other than cleaning clothes and taking care of children. It’s good and the best is yet to come. I just feel like every stage is better. I can't imagine sending her to daycare every day. It just wouldn't be good for us. My husband is the best. I don't know how women do it alone. He's so supportive, so involved, so present. I think becoming parents brought us closer. I don't know if he'll agree when he reads this, but I think it made us different in the sense that we have this common goal now, whereas before, he had his life and I had my life, and we were kind of paralleled. We had a lot of common interests and we enjoyed being together, as a couple, but she has connected us in a way that we could never be unconnected.
Other than just being kind of fuzzy and sleepy, I feel like I loved my first year postpartum, and motherhood in general. I loved each new stage. It comes with its struggles, like sleep training - oh my gosh, what a great month... – but I just really have loved it. And she's going to be the only one. 100% sure. I took my husband to the doctor and drove him back home to make sure. Everyone says you love the second one the same, but I just don't know. I have met a lot of moms that I feel like they favor the first one over the second one. I would never tell them that, but I see the different treatment. It’s just not the same and I don’t want to risk it. Also, once she hit five months, we started going places and doing things, from swim lessons to story time. She was smiling and laughing. It made me feel so good to be able to interact with her… finally! I’ve talked to a lot of moms who miss the early stages, but I never have. She’s one and a half now, and we can go in the camper, travel with her. Her college is taken care of because my husband has it through the military. I’m pretty sure I'm going to homeschool. And when we finally leave Virginia and he retires, I think we’re going to end up traveling for a year or two. At that point, she’ll remember travels and it’ll be really cool. West Coast probably, Central California, to be outdoors. We both have a wanderlust! I’m excited!