He's here!

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Meet Clark Wilder, born at home on July 29 at 12:31pm and measuring 7 lbs, 5 oz and 20 inches long. He is the most adorable addition to our family and a fun little sidekick. We've spent his first 11 days cuddling, giggling and getting to know each other. I'll be back here to reflect on the third trimester, what it was like giving birth 19 days after my due date (at almost 43 weeks pregnant!), and to share a little bit about Clark's birth at home. It may take me awhile, so in the meantime you can follow along on Instagram, where it's easier to post updates with one hand while nursing :)

Pregnancy survival list

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In light of officially being 40 weeks pregnant, I figure I have some standing now to offer my very own "pregnancy survival list". There are a lot of helpful ones out there, filled with goodies to buy and sneaky tricks to try, but here are the things that actually helped me get through the past 9-10ish months.

Awesome midwife. Yeah, this is a really personal decision, but our choice in care provider completely shaped my pregnancy. We chose a wonderful home birth midwife with incredible experience, an awesome team, supportive community and a birth philosophy that totally fit ours. Her vibes infused my pregnancy with a sense of calm and confidence, because she helped us see birth as a natural, healthy and empowering experience.

Prenatal yoga. I found a six-week series at a local studio and absolutely fell in love with the class and the wonderful instructor (who is also a doula and probably a fantastic one). Every Sunday for a little over an hour we met and talked and stretched and strengthened and rubbed our bellies. Signing up for the class was one of the best decisions I made during pregnancy, because it guaranteed time each week that I was focused just on me and the baby. I slowed way down, tuned in and finally felt proud and connected with my pregnancy. So often throughout this journey I've shrugged off the epic nature of growing a human, but at yoga I was all in. I loved the first series so much that I signed up for another six weeks even though I'm pretty sure I'll have the baby before it's over.

Chiropractor. One of the many perks of our midwifery practice is that they have two chiropractors hold hours at the office for expecting mamas. I had never seen a chiropractor before but a bit of sacroilliac joint paint prompted me to check it out. I saw a lovely Webster technique pregnancy-certified chiro every few weeks and think it helped me avoid much of the common pregnancy pains. Just a quick 15 minute adjustment to keep the aches away.

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Water. You need to drink so much damn water when you're pregnant. Trust me on this one. So many of the discomforts associated with pregnancy ease up when you're hydrated (swelling, Braxton-Hicks contractions, round ligament pain, itchy skin). Get yourself a new water bottle and started chugging.

Lemonade. Couldn't get enough lemonade. Pounded it by the gallon when I was sick of water.

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Granola bars & string cheese. Don't get caught without snacks. Granola bars, specifically Kind Bars, and string cheese were my go-to snacks that I kept with me at work and on the go. You'll feel totally fine and full one minute and seconds later be about to pass out with hunger. Stash your bag, car and desk with some nibbles to prevent a total meltdown.

Naps. Naps are great, take them often.

Desserts. Love dessert, ate as much as I could. I'm probably going to birth a big doughnut or ice cream cone instead of a baby.

Overpriced lotion. I know they say that cocoa butter and fancy lotions don't help prevent stretch marks, but I bought expensive lotion just the same because it made me feel pampered and less itchy. Treat yourself.

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Clown shoes. My feet got HUGE. Look at those ankle rolls! I bought a new pair of Birkenstocks and a pair of Toms in a whole size bigger than usual. These were the only things that fit on the bread loaves at the bottom of my legs. Get big, comfy shoes and own your new fat feet. #noregrets

Knee high, striped compression socks. Again, my feet and ankles got huge. I'd say they were the biggest discomfort during pregnancy for me. I didn't realize how tender swollen feet can be or how the tops of your feet hurt as much as the bottoms because they're all maxed out with fluid. There wasn't a lot that helped them, but at night I'd slide into ultra-sexy knee-high, striped compression socks and found some relief in them.

I'd also like to say that it's absolutely worth it to invest in some nice maternity clothes. You'll sausage yourself into regular clothes for awhile, but I felt much better once I bought a nice pair of maternity jeans, work pants and at least a few shirts. As I got bigger I bought a few more pairs of pants, more shirts and a few cute dresses too. Your options will likely still be more limited than you're used to in the mornings, but having some clothes you feel good in and that fit is essential. Trust. 

pregnancy, the second trimester

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The better trimester! If you read the pregnancy books, they say that you will feel like a superhero in weeks 14 through 27. Your skin will glow, your hair will be unstoppable and you'll have all the energy in the world. You will be a glowing, healthy goddess ready to take on the entire universe.

Well, sort of. I did start eating more than just cereal and went for a few more walks than usual. I also didn't throw up once this trimester, so yeah ok I was basically a glowing goddess.

Around six months I finally thought I looked pregnant, and with that realization came a lot of EMOTION. No longer just secretly pregnant. No longer able to get by with a loose shirt and unbuttoned pants. Now you are pregnant pregnant, and the world knows it. Cue an epic pregnant meltdown!

One of the most surprising things about this journey has been how at peace I am with my body. I was worried about it, about how it would change and whether it would become a public topic of conversation. Of course it's changed a lot because its growing a damn baby from scratch! Of course people talk about it! But I've had very few rude or unwelcome comments come my way and the ones that have I've collected mostly as a source of amusement and indicators of the commentators' social awkwardness. Mostly, I've been loving this little growing baby bump. I love feeling him move around, seeing my belly wiggle along with him and having a fantastic excuse for letting it all hang out. There's a baby in there! Life is so weird!

It's been a hoot. I've gained a good amount of weight, and not just in the belly, but I'm feeling strong and healthy. My feet are unbelievably swollen, but I try to think of them as badges of honor instead of memory foam pillows attached to my cankles. The second trimester was fun because we actually let ourselves read baby books and prepare to welcome a new little one to the family but we weren't close enough to the due date to feel rushed. Laid-back second trimester, you were pretty great.

Highlights

  • Telling more people, including my colleagues.
  • Flying to Raleigh for a leadership course graduation (with accompanying lowlight of getting stranded at Newark airport with no flights out until the next evening, with no access to my luggage and deciding to rent a car and drive home at midnight)
  • Finding out that we're having a boy!
  • Feeling the baby kick
  • Not puking
  • Presenting at a conference in Atlanta (and not getting stuck at any airports)
  • Signing up for an awesome prenatal yoga class

Pregnancy, that first trimester

I'll admit, pregnancy made me nervous. Apart from the fear that we would lose this one too, I had a lot of worries. Would I gain too much weight? Would I morph into a different person during pregnancy? Would this be the start of my loss of identity?

I was also uncomfortable with how much my body would be in the spotlight. I dreaded that people would be checking out my bump and sizing me up. What if it wasn't a perfect little basketball? In fact, I hated that the pregnancy would be in the spotlight at all. That it would be the first and only topic some people would ask me about. That I'd be expected to discuss it with all sorts of people with whom I don't regularly discuss such womb-related matters.

First trimester

The first trimester can be lonely as hell, right? We told our parents and close friends early on but kept the pregnancy quiet from most everyone else until the first trimester was over. Our miscarriage made us realize the importance of having a support team but we were also not convinced that this one would actually stick. Still, it was nice to have a small group of people excited for us even though we were mostly just scared and in disbelief.

I was flu-level tired, nauseated and sort of out of it. I obsessively checked websites and apps that would give me some sense of what might be happening inside my body, while constantly reminding myself that this could all go away. I'd leave important meetings and get sick in the bathroom or parking lot and hope that was a sign things were going well with the little babe.

The excitement of being pregnant was constantly put to the test by the anxiety of that early pregnancy stage. You don't feel quite right, but you aren't recognizably pregnant yet. Your world is drastically changing, but most people around you have no idea. It wasn't all magic. It wasn't terrible either, though, not by a long shot. It just took me awhile to embrace this pregnancy and to allow myself to dream and plan and imagine life with a little baby.

But soon enough, you hit that second trimester and things start feeling LEGIT...

Highlights

  • First ultrasound and hearing the heartbeat! 
  • Being secretly pregnant at major work events, including two big press conferences
  • Telling family & friends
  • Having a good excuse to nap on the couch
  • Celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year's for the last time as a family of two

The last time i was pregnant

A heads up & note of explanation: This post is about my last pregnancy and my miscarriage. Happily, all is well with this one! I've been wanting to publish this post for a long time now and today on Mother's Day, I thought it appropriate. Happy Mother's Day to all of those who are mothering in any form, and an extra special hug to those for whom this day is painful. xo.

In December 2014, Chris and I found out I was pregnant. A baby! Due in the dog days of summer on August 28, 2015. We planned and plotted and imagined our new future. We met with our midwife. We were elated. In late January, I miscarried.

It was scary. It was confusing. It was surreal. Miscarriage didn't seem like something that we would ever face. We had already told our immediate family and many of our close friends that we were pregnant, and telling them about the loss was hard. I wanted to wrap myself in a bubble with Chris and stay there until the pain left.

If, as a culture, we don’t bear witness to grief, the burden of loss is placed entirely upon the bereaved, while the rest of us avert our eyes and wait for those in mourning to stop being sad, to let go, to move on, to cheer up  -Cheryl Strayed

I've privately written pages and pages about losing that pregnancy, and the ways in which the experience has surprised me. I've written about how the miscarriage was much harder on my body than I thought it would be. I've written about how my love for Chris grew with each day of grieving. I wrote about that terrible morning, our short drive to the emergency room, the waiting, the tests, the blood and the shock as we realized it was really over. I've describe how trapped I felt in my slightly-chubby-but-no-longer-pregnant body and I've written about the guilt I felt for carrying on at work and in public as though nothing had happened when I was so heartbroken. I've wrestled with feeling like the miscarriage wasn't "bad enough" to grieve, with knowing that so many women have faced pregnancy loss and that, relatively speaking, we were lucky because at least I was still in the first trimester. I've written about my unwavering conviction in reproductive rights and the right of women to control their own bodies, because it is all comes down to choice. That's what we all want. When we choose to be pregnant, we want to get and stay pregnant. When we choose not to be pregnant, we want to have access to the knowledge and decisions to make that possible.

I've scribbled lists of what was helpful to hear or read or think about and lists of what sucked to hear, in hopes that I can be a better witness for those who will inevitably suffer after me. (Hint, a great place to start is with this line of miscarriage empathy cards, which includes one for Mother's Day.)

But in those moments when disappointment is washing over us and we're desperately trying to get our heads and hearts around what is or is not going to be, the death of our expectations can be painful beyond measure.   -Brené Brown, Rising Strong

The questions and comments that people fling at every woman of childbearing age struck me as even more inappropriate and hurtful after my miscarriage.

So, no kids yet? Better get started! Are you two planning to have kids anytime soon? I don't know what we even thought about before we had kids, everything else seems so trivial. Trust me, you haven't really known love until you've had kids. Hey! You guys should have a baby! Just a seltzer? Are you pregnant?

The woman you are saying these things to may be: pregnant but not sharing the news yet, grieving a miscarriage or neonatal loss, struggling with infertility, not interested in getting pregnant now... or ever, or simply not interested in sharing the private details of her reproductive choices with you.

I've written about it all, but what I can share now is this:

You are not alone. You are not damaged. The miscarriage was not your fault. It didn't happen because your job is stressful or you went for a run or you snuck a cup of regular coffee in one morning. You didn't miscarry because you have complicated feelings about motherhood and identity. You didn't lose your pregnancy because the universe lost its faith in you as a mother. Miscarriages are common. Sometimes the knowledge that you are not alone will help you to heal but other times you will rightfully shout that your experience is unique and you will know in your heart that this is your pain to bear. This experience will make you stronger and more compassionate. Please don't be ashamed or embarrassed. Speak out. Remove the stigma. End the silence. (If you want to, that is. You don't have to do anything.) You don't have to bury your grief just because you know things could be worse.

You don't have to feel guilty if you aren't as sad as you think you should be. You don't have to feel guilty if you aren't as okay as you think you should be, even after many months have passed. You can and you will recover. You will rise stronger than before. Chances are you are already mothering someone or something even if it's not the baby of your dreams.

I made the decision to share publicly about this heartbreak because I hope it can help. I always knew I would share my story, our story, but I also knew that I need some time and distance in order to really process my feelings and the impact the miscarriage had on me. In fact, that's how I'm most comfortable sharing many personal things:  after I've processed and reflected on them privately. I hope it can shine light on an experience so many women and couples share, but are rarely given permission to discuss. I hope my story and the thousands others like it serve as a reminder that pregnancy is a wild unknown. I hope maybe, just maybe, people grieving a pregnancy loss, infertility or even just the lonely first-trimester blues can find comfort in the shared experience. I hope our openness to be vulnerable helps you do the same, so we can dare greatly together. Hugs to those of you suffering today, and any day.

A few resources that I found helpful (though they may not be helpful for everyone)