Conor’s Birth Story

I have been meaning to do this for a long, long time, but not had the time. And while I needed to type out Gregory’s story, to try to purge myself of the grief of it, Conor’s is cathartic in a different way – thinking of it always makes me smile. Sometimes, when he’s quiet, I even tell it to him.

The lead up was unpleasant, of course – nerves about the C-section, ineptitude at Swedish regarding a test I did? did not? need to have before the surgery, so that even the morning of, when I arrived at the hospital, there was confusion and running around. When I went in to have the C-section, it was a totally different experience that with Gregory, of course. Planned, calm, no labor pains, no emergency, my own doctor, etc. When they gave me the epidural I immediately began to weep – not because it was especially painful, but because I was scared (remember, they didn’t know if I might have placenta accreta, which would have resulted in a hysterectomy) and sad (I didn’t want to have my baby so far ahead of his due date). After I was lying down, the nausea began – partially as a reaction to the anesthesia, partially, I’m sure, because of my vasovagal response. They gave me anti-nausea meds and oxygen, and soon I was fine.

The doctors and nurses chatted with me as they performed the procedure. Julian sat at my shoulder, holding my hand. Finally, I heard it – Conor’s first, hearty cry. So different from Gregory’s weak squawk. My heart sang. They did what they needed to do and then brought him to my face, where I kissed his little head. Julian cut the cord and in what felt like mere moments he was on my chest and we were being wheeled into recovery. Such a far cry from the hours I waited to see my little Greggy!

As soon as we were in post-op, I offered my breast to Conor, who was so tiny that his head was actually smaller than his food source. He nursed immediately, expertly, and did not stop doing so until he was 11 months old and self-weaned. The first night he slept for four hours straight.

And that’s it. That’s the birth story. In this, as in so many other ways, Conor and Gregory could not be more different – much like Julian and I. And I could not love either of them more than I do.

Love and Loss

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I know it has been a long time – too long – but with two little ones under 2, it’s hard to find time to do everything, and unfortunately, blogging doesn’t even rank right now. But when I am heartsick, when I am sore on the inside, writing is the only remedy I know.

Urban chickens – have you heard the term? I guess raising chickens in cities has become quite the trend. For me, though, it wasn’t about being trendy, or even about the eggs – it was about adding two new family members, because I am fond of animals, and I can never have too many pets. Recently someone told me shelters are being flooded with chickens, because people stupidly adopted them not realizing quite how short a time they lay eggs (sometimes only a year or two) versus how long they live (sometimes up to 20 years!). As far as I am concerned, that is far more a blessing that a curse – when I adopt a pet, the longer the lifespan, the better.

Growing up we had everything from guinea pigs to budgies, lizards to ducks, as well as the standard range of dogs, cats, and rodentia. My father, a grumpy hardass in most respects, was tenderhearted to a fault when it came to animals, and I inherited that trait from him in spades, to the point that I’m even vegetarian. Besides pets, we also took in strays and rescues, releasing them back into the wild when they recovered, burying them somberly when they did not. So when, as an adult, I made a friend who had a small flock of chickens, I was delighted by the idea of adding two feathered friends to my own menagerie. She happily obliged me by “surprising” me with two chicks for my birthday, though it was my husband who was more surprised – and maybe not as delighted.

I hand-reared Cocoa, a feisty brown Americauna, and Sugar, a docile while leghorn, from two weeks old. They lived in a Rubbermaid bin in our living room, and sat in my lap as I watched TV. When they were old enough, they were moved outside to a coop, but they never forgot their roots, and any time the back door was open, they would charge inside. Cocoa invariably found me, followed me, and as soon as I’d sit, would hop into my lap, cleaning her feathers as I stroked her.

Over the years, we lost a few hens (did you know “chicken” is actually the term for their meat? While alive, they are chicks, pullets, hens, or roosters). Sugar was taken by a raccoon when we carelessly and naively forgot to lock their coop one night. Her replacement, Betty, was snatched while rooming at a friend’s while we were on vacation. Cocoa’s third and final roommate was Pepper, a Black Rock. Cocoa was initially aggressive with Pep, who was a chick when I adopted her, so I got Pep a friend – Josie – who turned out to be a rooster. “Joe” now lives on the farm where I adopted him, protecting a flock of his own. By the time I realized he was a rooster, both he and Pepper were full grown, and Pepper was able to hold her own against Cocoa. So Joe departed, but Pepper stayed. And for the last couple years, the Cocoa and Pepper have been inseparable.

Gregory, my 22 month old, loves the hens. He knows their names, and they’re not afraid of him – he’s able to walk right up to them, and more often that not he squeals with glee when he sees them. My husband and I have often remarked how fortunate we are to have the hens, and to be able to have our children grow up with such a diverse example of life and companionship.

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Last night, my husband went down at 9pm to lock the hens into their coop while I nursed our 4 month old. I knew something was wrong when my cell phone rang and it was him.

“Cocoa’s not in the coop,” he told me.

“I’ll be right there,” I answered, laying Conor down and hurrying outside.

Pepper was in the coop; Cocoa was not. I called, “Cocoa! Cocoa bird!” but there was no answer (she would, at least, reply by softly clucking when I called her – during daylight hours, she would run to me). We prowled the yard with flashlights but could see no sign. Suddenly, we heard a rustling down in the lower yard, in the brush. After some looking, we saw it – a fat raccoon.

I asked my husband, who was by the coop, if he saw feathers – a tell-tale sign if a hen has been snatched. Initially he said no, but after further looking around, he said yes. He locked Pepper in, and we let Georgia, our dog, down to chase the raccoon off.

I began crying in the yard, knowing the worst without having to see it with my own eyes. Although we didn’t see blood, and the amount of feathers we saw was survivable, there were too many factors to indicate Cocoa was gone. When I gathered myself, I sadly returned to the house. As I climbed the stairs to my bedroom, I heard a soft sobbing coming from Gregory’s room. I entered to see if he was okay and discovered he was crying quietly in his sleep.

I messaged my friend who had the small flock and asked if she could take Pepper indefinitely. I knew Pep would be lost without Cocoa, and I don’t have the time or energy to raise another chick right now. She was sympathetic and agreed immediately, letting me know she could pick Pepper up today.

I woke this morning and immediately looked out into the yard. Although I knew we’d lost Cocoa, hope, as they say, springs eternal, and some sliver of my heart prayed that perhaps she’d somehow dodged the reaper yet again. I went down to the yard as my kids had breakfast, but there was no sign of her, and the coop and run were covered in muddy raccoon footprints – they’d come back to try to get Pepper.

Again this afternoon I returned to the yard, this time with Gregory in tow. Pepper was hiding in the coop, which is very unlike her – she’s clearly shaken up and lonely. Gregory asked for Cocoa numerous times, which of course caused me to begin crying again. As we climbed the stairs back up to the house, he said, “Bye bye, Cocoa. Bye bye, Cocoa.” And when we got back inside, with absolutely no coaching or input from me, he said, “Bye bye, Cocoa. All gone.”

I have always known that the more creatures you allow yourself to love, the more likelihood there is of being hurt. Loving a prey animal is especially hard, and loving an animal that others do not see as a pet, but rather as food, is its own unique problem. When I tell people I have hens, they don’t ask their names, or how long I have had them – they ask if they lay eggs, or how long they live. But the fact is that Cocoa was not just an egg layer (in fact, she really only laid for one year), and she certainly wasn’t food. She was a cherished, beloved member of our family, with personality and charm. She was smart, affectionate, feisty, and sweet. She loved snuggling and being petted, and would run to greet me, whether I had seen her the day before or a month before. She was unique and irreplaceable, and besides being heartbroken over losing her, I shoulder guilt for not having locked her safely in at twilight, as I should have, to protect her from predators.

Cocoa, you funny little firebrand, I will miss you so very much. You were my first girl and my number one bird. Thank you for being a part of our lives and a member of our family. I hope you’re chasing Ollie around heaven.

Brief(ish?) Update

My cousin correctly pointed out that I have not updated this blog in some time and therefore if there is anyone following who is not on Facebook or my friend on Facebook and who actually cares what is going on with this pregnancy, s/he is likely in the dark! So here you go.

I had the pelvic and abdominal MRIs to determine whether or not I had placenta accreta. I may have mentioned that even with the MRI there is not 100% certainty, but based on the radiologist’s observations, it looks like my placenta has a normal attachment to the uterine wall! This means that we still won’t know for sure until they cut me open, but as of now, it looks good for me keeping my uterus. Score!

I still have complete placenta previa, which I guess is no good. The positive is that I have had no bleeding, even spotting. The negative is that every day the baby grows, it becomes a stronger possibility that bleeding will start, since the baby will continue to drop toward the placenta and put pressure on that whole area. Bleeding would then be an indication of possible abruption, which is bad news both for me and the baby.

So I went in for one of my regular prenatal exams, expecting to schedule the C-section for two weeks ahead. (As a reminder, we had initially planned to go into labor, then go in for the C-section at that time; however, because of the possibility of complications/accreta, my OB wanted to schedule the C for two weeks before my due date. My due date was June 26th, so that would have made delivery on or about June 12th. I was hoping for Friday the 13th!) When I went in she told me that she actually wanted to deliver at 36 weeks, so on or around June 5th. I was pretty blindsided and didn’t ask any questions – just scheduled the amnio, which will determine if baby’s lungs are mature, on the 5th, and the C for the following day, the 6th. Then I got home and FREAKED out.

I made some calls and was lucky enough to chat with both my doula, Ashley, as well as with Penny Simkin, who was our amazing childbirth educator with the last pregnancy. I also chatted online with a friend’s mom, who is a nurse. The cumulative effect was me feeling a lot better, and being able to organize my thoughts so that I was able to verbalize my concerns to my OB when she was back in the office the following Monday. These are my questions, and her answers.

1. We are bombarded every day with information that delivery before 38/39 weeks is dangerous and not ideal. Will there be any long-term effects from delivering my son early, growth or otherwise?
No. There is a very small growth advantage to waiting to deliver the baby at 38/39 weeks, but it is minimal. There will be no impact on his long-term growth. The danger of me beginning to bleed far outweighs the risks of delivering him at 36 weeks.

2. What are the chances he will have to be rushed to the NICU, as Gregory was? I felt cheated by the fact that I was not able to hold Gregory at all for four days after his birth and dread the thought of facing that again.
Very small. There is always a chance, but since we are doing the amnio to test for lung maturity the day before, we should know what condition he will be in. The C will not move forward if the amnio does not indicate proper lung maturity.

3. (a) Will I be able to hold him immediately after he is born?
It depends on the situation with my uterus and what my bleeding is like.

3. (b) Will my husband be able to hold him if I am not?
Yes, absolutely.

So that’s it! After talking to my support team and then conferring with my OB, I feel pretty confident about delivering June 6. Fingers crossed for no bleeding before then!

C-Shaming

C-Shaming. Cause everything’s -shaming nowadays, isn’t it? Slut-shaming. Fat-shaming. We’re in a culture where somehow we feel not only the right but the obligation to tell other people how to live their lives, and exactly what we perceive all their flaws to be.

This post has two prongs: my feelings about having had a Cesarean and planning to have another, and the overuse and consequent shaming of Cesarean sections in this country .

First of all, if you don’t know me, or haven’t read my blog, a C-section was never in my plans. I am 6′ tall, I have AMPLE hips, and I planned to have my first child in a tub at a birth center, without doctors or pain medicine. This is not to say I judged anyone else for their birth choice; I honestly had no ill thoughts about women who chose to birth at home or in a hospital, or who scheduled a C-section. The only thing I can say about the latter is I always knew it was not the right option for me. I believed my body would let me know when it was time for my baby to come, and that it wasn’t up to me to tell the baby it was time. But this, like many of my personal choices and beliefs, was just that – PERSONAL.

I always knew that in any birth, a C-section becomes a possibility, and as such, I included a short section on it in my birth plan. Here is how that section read:

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If I require a cesarean, I would like to have 2 support people present if possible – [my husband] and my doula. If my mother is in town, she may also be present.

I would like to be kept in the loop regarding the steps to my baby being born. Please tell me what you are doing and involve me in the process. I would like to try to hold the baby immediately but in the event I am unable to do so, Julian will. Please allow me to breastfeed in the OR if my baby shows signs of readiness to eat.

My birth, in point of fact, went so far astray from my plans that even this section did not apply. After unexplained bleeding precipitated my transfer to the hospital, my son’s failure to progress – the cause of which was never understood or discovered – resulted in me being rushed into an emergency C-section delivery after 20 hours of labor. I was only allowed to have my husband in the room with me, along with a huge staff of doctors and nurses. No one talked to me or explained to me what was going on as they tried to save my son’s life. In the end, when they finally were able to wrest him from the birth canal, he had two collapsed lungs and was rushed across the room to the NICU team. I heard one tiny cry. I didn’t see him. Neither of us got to hold him. And then I was under general anesthesia. He was intubated and we were not allowed to hold him for four days. They say the best way to make God laugh is to make a plan, but in this case, I can’t imagine God was doing much laughing.

Flash forward a year and – surprise! – we are pregnant again. It wasn’t planned, but we’re embracing it, and our next son is due June 26. Unfortunately, we have had some issues with this pregnancy from the start, which you can read about in detail in previous posts if you’re so inclined, but which I will summarize here. From the initial ultrasounds, it was clear that my placenta was quite low in my uterus, which can be an issue for women who have previously had C-sections. The reason is that the placenta can adhere to the C-section scar (placenta accreta), and because scars do not produce as much blood as normal uterine tissue, the placenta will sometimes burrow deeply into the uterine lining to find an adequate blood supply. Obviously, if the placenta is unsuccessful, this is dangerous for the baby (no worries there – everything looks good for him), but can also be very dangerous for the mother. First, in rare cases, the placenta may sometimes continue to burrow until it exits the uterus and attaches to an internal organ for blood (again, looking good – no sign of that). More commonly, the placenta adheres so strongly to the uterus at the scar site that when the baby is delivered (via planned C-section), a hysterectomy is generally performed to protect the mother from infection and reduce chances of hemorrhaging, as it is VERY difficult to separate a placenta in this situation from the uterine wall. Essentially, think of it as the difference between a Colorform being stuck to the window and a heavy-adhesive sticker being stuck to the window. Wait a few days, and try to remove them. The latter is the placenta at the scar site.

Two ultrasounds ago, they discovered I had had partial placenta previa, which is when the placenta partially covers the cervix/cervical opening. Because I was only 4 – 5 months along and barely showing, AND had this with Gregory and it resolved, my doctor was very nonchalant and felt the chances were good that as the uterus expanded, the placenta would be carried visibly away from the scar site. I went for my most recent ultrasound last week, and that has not happened. My placenta remains low, and I now have complete placenta previa. I am now meant to go get an MRI next week. Blah blah blah see my previous blog for more info.

ANYHOW, back to the point of this blog, which is that initially we were planning a repeat C anyhow, since they never determined what caused all of Gregory’s complications, and we really didn’t want to take any chances. However, my doctor was okay with me waiting till contractions started and then coming in for the C. Now, because of the current situation, I may have to have a planned C, two weeks before the due date, and if they operate and discover I do in fact have accreta, a hysterectomy. The MRI may shed some more light on the situation, but also may not. We just have to wait and see. No matter what, I almost certainly no longer have the option of a VBAC, because of the complete previa.

I began looking on Amazon for books regarding preparing for and recovering from a C-section. There definitely are quite a few, but peppered in are titles such as Cut It Out: The C-Section Epidemic in America and a host of books on preventing C-section. A Google search turns up an article titled, “Are Women Having Too Many C-Sections in the United States?” Other articles reference women being “selfish” by scheduling C-sections to fit their busy lives, and in fact, in my birth class, taught by renowned doula Penny Simkin, she related to us the story of a woman she knew who scheduled a C-section for each of her children because she was a doctor and wanted to be able to book her time around a certain due date. I recently read a stat – totally unrelated to pregnancy – that C-sections are the most common surgery performed on women in the United States.

I believe in education. I believe in science. And I believe in knowing all the facts before you make a decision. But I think making an “issue” out of how women choose to birth their children is not okay. I fully realize that many advocates of natural birth are bringing this argument to the forefront because they feel doctors – not mothers – are the ones choosing to perform C-sections, and I too believe this is wrong, which is why I had a birth doula for my first son and will again use one with this birth. Having an educated, informed advocate is absolutely invaluable and I STRONGLY recommend it to all pregnant women (and have a recommendation if you’re in the Seattle area and happen to need one). But what I think they don’t realize is that, by “demonizing” the C-section, they are casting a shadow on those of us who did not have a choice, or who choose C-section based on other factors. Much like with the whole “skin-to-skin” movement, which seems to wholesome and intelligent, unfortunately it makes those of us who are not ALLOWED to hold our babies for days after their births feel like inadequate failures. Essentially I felt we were told that the absolute most important gift you could give your baby was to hold it immediately after it was born and as often as possible for days thereafter. We did not have that choice, and as a result, I worried what this lack of contact was doing to my infant, and still do. Will he have attachment issues? Abandonment issues? Mommy issues? Will he be less inclined toward physical contact? Less bonded to me? The idea behind the movement is good, but the way it’s presented is very harsh for those of us who face situations in which it’s simply not a possibility, and the same goes for the scheduled (or unscheduled) C.

Back to my point in writing this: I feel like a failure. I feel like I did not “give birth” to my son, in spite of my best intentions to do so. I feel like I must have done something wrong. I went through EMDR to resolve the feelings of guilt and depression associated with my birth, and it really helped enormously, but there is a lingering feeling that I am not normal, and that I was unable to complete the task of bringing my son into the world. Sixteen months later he is beautiful, healthy, smart, and loving, but the doubt about my own capabilities remains. And now I am facing another C-section and asking myself, “Have you done everything you can do?”

I guess, in conclusion – I was chatting with my therapist the other day about something unrelated, and spoke of my constant preoccupation and worry about what other people think of me. She told me that she believes that everyone’s lives and circumstances have brought them to where they are now, and it’s not her place to judge them, because she has not lived their lives. And it struck me as so poignant and true, and something we should ALL apply to ourselves. First of all, no one should judge me, because no one truly knows my life, my childhood, my heart. And second of all, I should not judge others, because I have not been in the positions they have been in, or been faced with the choices they have.

So can we stop the -shaming? Let’s just focus on making ourselves better, on understanding that our choices are our own and not to be judged by others, and in turn, stop telling other people how they should live their lives, raise their children, or run their families. I think the world could use a lot more of that.

Previa, Accreta, and My Continuing Complicated Uterus

I am going to try to make this brief, both because I don’t have a ton of information and also because I don’t have a ton of time. But it definitely deserves an update.

I previously talked about potentially having placenta accreta, which is not a good thing. At all. I finally got to go in for my followup ultrasound on Monday, and although we were hoping to hear that my placenta had moved way up and we were out of the danger zone, this did not turn out to be the case. In fact, I went from having partial placenta previa to complete placenta previa. I saw my doctor yesterday. At our last visit she was very blasé about the possibility of accreta and seemed confident that everything would be fine. This time she actually said she was nervous regarding the current placement of my placenta. We were already planning on a repeat Cesarean section to minimize risk, since they never determined what caused the complications with Gregory’s birth, but as of right now, VBAC isn’t even an option because of the complete previa. Still, we were planning on waiting till contractions started before going in.

As it stands now, it is unclear if I have accreta or not. My OB is sending me in for an MRI to see if they can determine whether or not the placenta is attached at the scar site. If it CLEARLY isn’t, we can move ahead as planned. If it is – or if it’s impossible to tell, which could very likely be the case – we need to schedule the C for two weeks before due date. If, when they perform that C, they discover that I do in fact have accreta, I will then have to undergo a hysterectomy.

Not going to lie – there were some tears when the H word was put out there as a strong possibility. J and I were already considering a third child, for one thing, and for another, who wants to have her uterus removed? I mean that is a very integral part of me.

I managed to regroup and come to several conclusions. 1) There’s nothing I can do, so stressing is pointless. 2) I have one beautiful, healthy baby boy, and another on the way, so I need to focus on gratitude – I really am so very lucky. 3) If they do have to perform a hysterectomy, we could always adopt a child, or possibly find a surrogate. 4) If I get a hysterectomy, does that mean no periods or birth control for the rest of my life? Because I mean, there has to be a silver lining, right?

I won’t ask for prayers or good vibes this time because what’s going on in there has already happened and we can’t change it. But I do appreciate all understanding, support, and camaraderie as I face this. Hoping to get the MRI scheduled for next week, then another doc appointment the following Monday (the 21st), so should hopefully have at least SOME more info then.

Thanks for reading, and for all the love.

Just a Housewife

Recently, my friend Dawn – who, incidentally, is the hardest working single mother I have ever known and has never, in the 11 years I have known her, had fewer than 2 jobs at any given time – shared this essay with me:

A Husband’s Amazing Response To ‘She’s A Stay-At-Home Mom? What Does She DO All Day?’

When I first got pregnant with Gregory, I was a dog walker. I had started walking dogs part-time while I was going to school to become a teacher. A variety of family tragedies befell my husband and I over the course of a year, and then we got married, and it interrupted school, so I ended up, eventually, walking dogs more or less full time. Before I walked dogs, I was an executive assistant, and before that, I was a legal assistant. I have a BA in English from George Washington University in Washington, DC. I have toiled at jobs I hated and jobs I loved, I have had awful bosses and wonderful bosses and yes, I even worked retail for quite some time. But back to when I got pregnant with Gregory, my amazing boss, Joan, was worried that as I got more pregnant, I would quit, and so she moved me from dog walker to marketing and client relations for our company. While I was pregnant, I worked hard and got quite a bit done, but after Gregory… well, let’s just say the part in part time has become more and more the operative word.

Still, I struggle when people ask me what I do. I always answer that I do marketing for a pet-sitting company part time from home. But if I do ten hours of that a month, it’s a good month, so can I even really call that my “job” now? It’s almost more of a hobby. And speaking of hobbies, I don’t have a lot of those, either. I blog when I can, I socialize with friends when I can find the time, I make (super awesome) mix CDs now and then. So what DO I do with my time? Especially since we have part-time in-home help?

Well, I run errands – the bank, the post office, the drug store, the grocery store, whatever needs to be dropped off, picked up, delivered – that’s me. I do all the laundry, from start to finish – gathering it, sorting it, washing it, drying it, folding it, and putting it away. I unload and load the dishwasher, every single day. I make sure we always have the staples – milk, diapers, wipes, butter, bread, eggs, toilet paper, tissues. I make sure as well we have the non-staples – shampoo and conditioner, soap, laundry detergent, fabric softener, vitamins, pain relievers, lotions. I tally up our bills on a spreadsheet and write checks, entering everything into accounting software, categorized accurately. I keep and maintain our social calendar, purchase tickets, make reservations, and secure childcare when necessary. I am in a constant battle to clean and organize our house, which I lose a little bit each day, because my 1-year-old tornado can destroy faster than I can repair. We are currently remodeling our basement to make room for Baby Number 2, and at the same time, we are doing repairs on our old house so that we can finally sell it. I am the point of contact for both of these efforts, as well as for the actual sale of the old house. So I spend a lot of time replying to emails, texts, and phone calls. I take care of our four cats, our dog, and our hens, ferrying all of them to and from the vet when necessary, as well as administering any medications they might need when they are ill. I make all health-related appointments for my son, my husband, and me. I make much of Gregory’s food from scratch, and attempt to cook and bake for my husband and me as well. I keep our houseplants alive (sometimes). I sort through and then recycle and/or file our mail. I sort and file our paperwork. I have an actual inbox on my home desk. It is never empty. I send flowers, cards, and gifts to our family and friends for birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and when I know they need a pick me up. I am sure I am missing a variety of other tedious tasks I tackle on a day-to-day basis, but by now, you get the idea. I am an admin, I am a CEO, I am a chauffeur, I am a veterinary nurse, I am an accountant, I am a bookkeeper… yet in my head, I am just a housewife.

The worst part of this is the fact that my ENTIRE LIFE I have praised my mother to others for being a stay-at-home mom. I saw how hard she worked and how little gratitude she received. We relied on her every single day for every single thing, and she never complained or asked for thank yous. She just did. My father took her for granted, and so did we, but ever since I left the house, I have seen her as a saint, an ideal to achieve in the world of momdom. Not only was she supermom, not only did she do and do and DO for us, but even my friends adored her, because she did for them, too. And I always knew that if I needed to come home sick, or I forgot my lunch money, or I left my English book at home, Mom would be there in a flash with whatever I needed, sometimes giving me a look, but never really complaining. And she didn’t have help – no nanny, no housekeeper, nothing.

Yet here I am, afraid to tell people I’m a stay-at-home mom, a homemaker, a housewife. Afraid because I have help, afraid they will judge me incompetent, or lazy, or stupid. And suddenly the other day, I had a revelation: who cares? Really, if people are going to judge me for staying at home to take care of my children, and for having help while I do it, so? Let them. I know I am not lazy. I know that while the help is here I am doing everything I can to empty my inbox, and when they’re not, I am a full-time, fully-involved mom.

I am grateful for my husband, I am grateful for my son (soon to be sons), I am grateful for my house, I am grateful for my life, and I am grateful for my job: HOUSEWIFE. And from now on, I’ll say it loud and proud.

Pregnant & Sick – How Do You Cope?

Sick and pregnant – what a drag. There’s hardly anything you can take, and if you’re lucky like me, you might have another little monkey at home in need of your attention. So what can you do? Baby yourself whenever possible. Here are some tricks I’m picking up as I slog through.

Cold & Flu Shower Burst
I got a package of these Shower Bursts from my friend Erin a few years ago for my birthday and have loved them ever since. You set them in your shower in a place that gets splashed but not directly hit by water, and they slowly melt and scent your shower – and whole bathroom. I don’t know if it actually HELPS with your cold/flu, but it does make your bathroom feel a little bit more like a sanctuary.

Eucalyptus Oil
Used this in my shower this morning – a couple years ago when I was very first pregnant with Greg, I came down with a cold on vacation and my friend Amber recommended I put a few drops in a hot bath to clear me out. Found them in my medicine cabinet this morning and splashed them around my shower like a priest with holy water – on the walls, on the floor, into the shower stream. Then I ran the shower ä hot as I could take it and breathed in the steam. It was great, and felt very relaxing and clearing.

Puffs Tissues Plus Lotion
If you are as congested as I am, these are a necessity. I was blowing my nose RAW until I sent my husband out for these. My nose is still not in the best shape, but it’s a marked improvement over a couple days ago. Definitely helpful.

Face Lotion – Expensive and Not As Expensive
So, as mentioned above, my nose was completely raw, dehydrated, and painful from the constant running and blowing. Saline + friction = miserably sad nose. I figured out that if every time I blew, I put moisturizer on directly after – and not just a little, I mean really coated my nose in it – then the next blow was less painful AND my skin started to heal. Because of my recent skin issues, I had a lot of lotions around, so I started trying them to see what worked best. First of all, AVOID FRAGRANCE LIKE THE PLAGUE – it will make your poor nose feel like it’s on fire. The first one that worked well for me was Perricone MD Hypo-Allergenic Nourishing Moisturizer, but it’s très cher, so unless you’re looking to invest in a new moisturizer anyhow, maybe not your best choice. Or if you’re just a millionaire who spends money like water. Whatever. Anyhow, the other one that seemed to work well was The Body Shop Soothing Aloe Day Cream. At about a quarter of the price, it still does a great job and doesn’t sting. I also tried an unfragranced Murad moisturizer and it BURRRNED so obviously fragrance is not the only issue. But these two worked for me.

Vicks Personal Steam Inhaler
I actually have not gotten to try this one yet as I JUST ordered it from Amazon, but let that be a lesson to you: if you are pregnant now and NOT sick, maybe get some of this stuff in advance in case you GET sick. Because I wish this thing was here yesterday, and I think it won’t come till tomorrow. I will update on helpfulness, assuming I am still sick when it arrives. Gets good reviews.

Mucinex DM
(I feel like this goes without saying but I AM NOT A DOCTOR. Consult with your GP or OB before taking any medication while pregnant.)
Mucinex DM is on the “safe” list of OTC meds you can take while pregnant. It doesn’t make me drowsy, but does make a marked improvement in both my nasal congestion (after taking it I can breathe easily through one nostril) and my coughing. It absolutely does not fix me or put me anywhere near 100%, but I’d say it takes me from 30% to 50%, and given that I am on day 6 of this cold/flu/whatever it is, that is an improvement I will take. Combine it with some Extra Strength Tylenol and you almost don’t want to die. Also, it’s pretty cheap! I mean a lot of times cold meds run you like $25 and then you open the package to find 12 caps, and you’re meant to take two at a dose. This is under $25 for 42, and you take them every 12 hours. For the mathematically uninclined (comme moi) that’s a 3-week supply! Not too shabby.

Clinique Superbalm Lip Treatment
This balm is the bomb (see what I did there???). My lips have been dry and cracking from all the mouth breathing, and this stuff really healed them right up. No funky taste, smooth application, not sticky. Fantastic. If you’re more of a stick person, I also recommend Sprout Vegan Lip Balm in Peppermint – super soothing and soft.

Hot Water with Honey and Lemon (grocery store)
A half-teaspoon of honey and a splash of lemon in a mug of hot water (or chamomile tea) somehow feels so comforting. You can have as much as often as you want. Every time I do, I feel like I am taking care of my poor sore throat and aching sinuses just a little bit.

Force Your Significant Other to Baby You (sorry, you can’t buy this on Amazon, although I’m pretty sure you could find it on craigslist for the right price)
If you don’t have a significant other, hopefully you have a good friend. For the first couple of days of this bug, my husband didn’t seem to “get it.” I don’t know if he was just regularly forgetting that I was sick every few minutes or if he thinks I’m magic, but he seemed to expect me to be able to function at or above my normal level. I am not much of a whiner when I am sick, but after a couple days of this, I started whining. He just seemed to require a constant reminder that I AM REALLY SICK. On top of the whining, when he would ask me to do something, I would often cough at him or moan. By day 5, he finally seemed to understand, so I have finally been able to cease the whining, and am getting appropriate care. You are pregnant. You are sick. Demand the treatment you deserve.

That’s all I got. It’s not much, but hopefully it will make your time sick just a little more bearable. If you have other tips, I’d love to hear them!

Now stay warm, snuggle in, and have some soup!